26/06/2017 Newsnight


With Emily Maitlis. New revelations about the fire in Grenfell Tower. Plus the latest on Europe, the DUP, the London Bridge attack and the anniversary of Harry Potter.

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Tonight, we reveal how the organisations we trust


to maintain standards in the construction industry have


The reason why so many high rises have failed to pass fire safety


tests in England is that the building industry has been writing


rules for itself. We'll hear from the former


Housing Minister. Hate you. Oh, come on. Hate you


Richard. Why did Anjem Choudhry invite us?


Richard Watson's been following the activities


of the notorious Islamist group Al-Muhajiroun for the last 16 years.


In light of London Bridge, has the state failed to realise how


widespread the influence of such groups has been?


The figure of 23,000, which has recently been released by MI5, has


been people they're concerned about being involved in some way in


jihadist activity. It's probably the tip of the iceberg. It is a huge


number. And on Harry Potter's


20th birthday, we talk to the original book publishers -


who replaced Joanne Rowling with JK. For the first six months, until she


was interviewed on Blue Peter, so she was revealed as a woman, all the


fan mail had been addressed to "dear Sir" Because I opened it.


The Government has confirmed today that samples of aluminium panels,


from all 75 buildings that had been sent for fire retardancy


And tonight, Newsnight can reveal how the organisations tasked


with enforcing building regulations are in fact helping contractors


The revelations point to a systemic failure of the very structures put


So the big thing to understand here is that the Government has written a


big set of regulations that cover tall buildings. They've set out one


very simple rule really with cladding. Specifically, they said


that basically everything you bolt to the outside of a building has to


meet basic fire safety tests. They have to be of grade A 2, what A 2


means it has to be either limited combustibility or better, not


combustible at all. What we found is that the building industry has been


writing guide lineds to assist -- guidelines to assist builders as


they interpret the rules. The guidelines don't say these are the


minimum standards. They often effectively allow you to go beneath


the standards. For example, we've revealed tonight in a film you're


about to see a problem, a vulnerability in the regulation as


rising from the fact that one of the major bodies that enforces building


regulations has written a rule set that says - we know the Government


says A 2 is the standard of material you're usually required to put on a


tall building, you know what, if you use B category cladding and B


category insulation, that is to say stuff that is less fire proof than


the minimum standard allowed by the Government, that's going to be fine.


We'll sign that off. That's quite troubling. Actually, it points to a


larger problem. It helps explain why so many of these buildings are now


failing fire tests. I've made a film that explains some of these issues


more fully. Cladding is starting to come off building across England,


because it's not to code. In Islington the external panels of


this council owned property are coming down already because they


were deemed insufficiently fire proof by an official Government test


and they're hardly alone. I can inform the House that as of mid-day


today the cladding from 75 high rise buildings in 26 local authority


areas has failed the combustibility test. The Government's official


building regs lagss are set out in approved document B. That says that


inhalation products attached to the outside of buildings more than 18


metres tall must meet stringent fire standards, specifically they must be


of materials that are non-combustible or limited


combustibility. That is what these tests are all about. How then can it


be that buildings have been fitted with cladding that doesn't meet that


requirement? Building inspectors don't always rely directly on the


rules set by the Government. The inspectors, who these days are


largely privately employed, use guidelines to the rules written by


professional bodies representing the sector. It's been some time since


the relevant regulations were updated and the industry has to keep


up with changing technology, changing customer demands. It has to


turn to its specialists to consultants for advice on these


issues because it can't depend on the regulation as loan. These sector


You rig up your proposed cladding as it would be used and then see what


happens when it's exposed to fire. If the system as a whole performs


well, it's signed off. Even if individual parts would fail on their


own. So some of the cladding failing tests right now may have been


rigorously tested as part of a system. There are, though, rather


less rigorous routes. If no actual fire test data exists for a


particular system, the client may instead submit a desk top study


report from a suitable body stating whether, in their opinion,


combustibility criteria would be met. That's guidance from the


building control alliance, the BCA, a body representing the great and


good of building. Builders can use data from old tests to get


combustible signed off in new scenarios without doing further fire


tests. This opaque process is a vulnerability in the compliance


process. Newsnight has found another weakness in the regulation. This is


a piece of guidance from the NHBC, a sector body and a major supplier of


building inspectors. What it says is that rather than everything needing


to be A 2, you can use B grade cladding and B grade insulation


material without even needing a desk top study. That is because, they


say, there have been so many desk top studies and so many fire tests.


In essence, they've decided that the Government's rules are too strict.


NHBC said this guidance was issued...


They also stressed that thorough assessments by inspectors haven't


allowed the use of plastic cord cladding, such as used at Grenfell,


under this guidance. Earlier tonight we learned that one of the


insulation products with B grade cladding is actually C grade


insulation. That guidance takes us a long way from A 2. Does it much


matter legally that builders follow sector guidelines not Government


rules? Well, yes. In the event of a civil case, the sector guidelines


would matter. Yes, it does, because breach of the regulations would be


very strong evidence in a civil claim against a builder. However, in


the absence of up to date regulations, in the absence of


clarity, then general guidance, compliance with general guidance


could be a defence. So the building codes are a mess. And the Government


is slow to update its regulations. But had contractors just stuck with


them, they would now be pulling less cladding off high rises.


David Lammy is the Labour MP for Tottenham.


He lost a friend, the artist Khadija, in the fire at Grenfell.


He claimed at the weekend that the published estimate of 79


deaths in the fire is "far, far too low" and that a failure


to provide updates of the true number that died is feeding


suspicion of a cover up among survivors and local residents.


I asked him earlier if he himself believed the authorities


The 79 figure which has now stood for a week does not accord


with those who lived down there and say but the survivors...


in one flat alone, people say there were up to 40 people gathering


There are lists you can use, DWP lists for those on benefits.


For the local authority, you can assess how many kids have


showed up for school or not showed up for school.


You can speak to the mobile phone company.


Who's been on their phone at 12 o'clock before the fire started?


There are ways in which you can assemble lists


When you have tragedies of this kind that could have been prevented...


We know from Hillsborough and other affairs in our national life,


that governments, local authorities, big corporations, companies,


That's why I raised issues around the documentation.


Have the police seized documents yet?


In this case, we know nothing about whether that's happened.


And it doesn't really matter what I think.


It matters what people on the ground think.


It does matter what you think because you are


For example, you have tweeted that dozens of people, residents,


saw dozens of people, jump from windows and nobody has


Nobody has found more than that outside.


Emily, I am being honest about what people have said to me.


I was not standing outside of Grenfell Tower, watching my


neighbours jump and burn to death but I've heard those people,


and we should validate what they are saying.


If you're saying I should say nothing, I'm afraid


I'm just trying to get to the bottom of whether you actually think


it's a cover-up and, if so, why would authorities


What people say is if you put the numbers out early,


there could be civil unrest, that's what they say.


I'm just saying, by repeating it and by tweeting it,


you are giving people a sense that that is where you stand -


I'm going to walk alongside those people.


Do you think that K and C is trying to cover up the numbers?


Do you think the police or fire and emergency services are covering


up the number of people that jumped out of that tower on that night?


People on the ground say they saw more than has been suggested.


And do you think the number of dead is not being revealed


because you worry it will lead to civil unrest?


The truth is, the media cycle is now beginning


What people say is, in two, three weeks' time, if you start


to reveal the numbers, things have moved on.


You could turn round and say, I understand how painful


You know better than I do that some of the homes were sublet.


Some people have not been as happy to come forward,


even if they have survived, even if they know people survived,


because they may not have a legal status either in the building


This is the sixth richest economy in the world.


If we have not assembled the list of the landlords


in the building, then what the hell are we capable of doing?


If we can't put together a benefits list, a school's list,


ask local hospitals, GPs, who also have their list.


That's what the Government is trying to do.


I've not heard that communication from government.


If you have, thanks for enlightening me but I haven't heard it.


So, is it that you just need to hear them saying we're doing this now?


Presumably that is the work that's going


Two major deals were put before the country today:


one concerning the UK's relationship with Europe and how Europeans


are allowed to settle here after Brexit, the other an act


of self-preservation for the Conservative Government itself.


Theresa May signed a ?1 billion deal - or ?100 million for each


of the ten DUP votes needed for her Government to reach


the majority needed to secure its position.


The Tories will be hoping this down payment to the whole


of Northern Ireland will give them a lifeline now and the chance to get


But there's deep unhappiness around many of the UK's nations and regions


Our political editor, Nick Watt, is here.


The criticism really revolves around two key points. The deal has the


potential to destabilise the Northern Ireland peace process. The


point you are saying, it runs counter to the settlement dating


back to the 1970s, known as the Barnett Formula, designed to ensure


fair funding in the four parts of the UK. There have been complaints


from Scotland and Wales. On the funding, the UK Government is saying


the same called Barnett consequence. The process ensuring the fair


funding, that is triggered when extra spending is committed in


England. It doesn't happen in reverse. They also say there has


always been special funding in exceptional circumstances with parts


of the UK. They are saying this process has funded city deals in


Scotland and is now being used to build up infrastructure and the NHS


in Northern Ireland, which obviously the spending fell behind during the


troubles that Sinn Fein has welcomed any extra money for Northern Ireland


but Gerry Adams has made very clear that, as far as the peace process is


concerned, Sinn Fein will be looking very clear -- carefully to make sure


there is nothing going forward that favours the DUP in dealing with the


legacy of those Troubles. We also got clarification on the EU citizens


still stop some of the details came through. Theresa May outlined what


she called a tremendous offer to the EU citizens living in the UK, in the


hope of guaranteeing the 1 million UK citizens living in the rest of


the EU. We learned those 3 million EU citizens living here will be


eligible for settled status which will allow them to enjoys similar


rights to which they have now. If they have been in the country for


five years and an unspecified cut-off point where they can apply


for that status. Not been here for five years they can go on a path to


get that status. That will mean having a formal identity card. David


Davis campaigned against those the year ago. These will be virtual ID


cards with that data stored in a Home Office computer. The EU chief


to go shader is not happy for them he says it does not go far enough.


He says projection and oversight by the European Court of Justice. That


is a step too far for the UK. Trying to work out what the settled status


meant. Earlier I spoke to Brandon Lewis, the Immigration Minister.


He's the Immigration Minister and previously served as both


Housing Minister and Fire Services Minister.


I began by asking what "settled status" would mean.


Settled status will be lifelong. We are going to bring forward an


outline of what the process will be next year. It will be very light


touch, probably using digital technology as much as we can. We


want to have a very simple system for people. Not being caught up in


terms of documents was make it very light touch. Is that you ruling out


an ID card system? It is me rolling out an 85 page document. We wanted


to be easy, simple and light touch. It could an ID card? It could be. If


there are French parents living in London with a daughter studying in


Paris, will she be able to join her parents? How much will this extend


to family members outside of the UK? It depends when they apply for


social status. If the family has been here for five years they can


apply for social status and they will have that for life. If they


have not been here five years they will have an opportunity to stay


here for five years to get it. After that they would broadly have the


same rights as a UK citizen. If somebody goes abroad without have to


be looked at in light of the immigration rules at that time. Talk


to me about the opposition rules on immigration. I is sticking with the


tens of thousands? Is that the aim, the objective? We're going to be


talking to sectors, from business, agriculture and universities, which


I will be doing as was my colleagues across government. We want people


here to stay here. That is what the Prime Minister was outlining today,


to contribute to our society and economy. We have heard government


after government tried to hit tens of thousands. Are you still aiming


to get the number under tens of thousands or has that gone? What we


have said is we want a level. That is what we want to work towards. We


want to get it down to sustainable levels, which we do believe it is


tens of thousands. We cannot put a timescale on it because we have not


yet left the European Union. In the meantime, work with universities and


business sectors across the country and across government has a system


that works for everyone. You are of course the housing minister and the


fire minister as well. As we think about lessons learned from the


Grenfell Tower fire, you said building developers should not be


forced to fit sprinklers. Your department declined to bring in


regulation forcing them to fit sprinklers. That is not correct. I


was not the housing minister at the time of that speech and I am not an


expert on building regulations. That speech was when I was the fire


minister. That speech was a speech I made in favour of sprinklers. I was


outlining the importance of the benefits of sprinklers. I was saying


there are a whole range of fire safety measures, our whole range of


fire sprinkler systems. It is not for the Government to choose a


specific system. Whether it is a social housing owner in a high risk


building or a high-rise or a low density buildings to look at what is


appropriate. They have the duty of care to people in the building. Did


you not say the cost of fitting a sprinkler system may affect


house-building, so we must wait to see the impact? I was saying we want


to make sure we are building more houses. New-build homes have been


increasing over that period of time and have more increasing levels of


fire safety. We brought in a requirement to have smoke detectors


for private landlords. Is it not conceivable that some of those


decisions which came under your departments, either in fire or


housing could have been taken very differently? Do not have regrets


about the decisions taken? Any of us who have been involved in politics


when the buildings were built will be looking at what went wrong at


Grenfell Tower. You spoke about regulation. You said an argument


from the first government to reduce regulation. Your culture was about


cutting red tape. That was the kind of red tape we now see could have


saved lives. It is about looking at regulation across government. Not


just around these issues. We will all want to learn lessons about what


happened at Grenfell Tower. It should not have been allowed to


happen. We must get to the bottom of it. Thank you.


In the wake of the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London,


M15 let it be known that 23,000 people living in the UK


have potential links to violent extremism.


Now Newsnight has learned this may just be the tip of the iceberg.


The former chair of the Cobra Intelligence Group, which advises


the Government on intelligence matters, has told this


programme that, for years the intelligence community,


and successive governments, have been "far too tolerant"


in attitudes to extremist groups, in particular the Islamist


Newsnight's Richard Watson has been following Al Muhajiroun


for 16 years and in this extended film reveals


how the group became a crucible of home grown terror,


from the 7/7 London bombings, to the recent London Bridge attacks.


His report contains some strong language.


Three Islamist terror attacks in three months.


Five murdered at Westminster Bridge, 22 dead at the Manchester Arena,


The security service MI5 has revealed there were 3000 people


with current connections to violent, Islamist extremism, and another


23,000, it's worth pausing a second to think about that figure.


That's the population of a small market town.


23,000 potential jihadists in our midst, willing to kill


Break the psychology of the occupiers by hitting back


Much of the blame falls on this man, the founder of the now notorious


Omar Bakri Muhammad created the group in 1996.


For 20 years it's poisoned thousands of minds.


Support for al-Muhajiroun is often a common thread


From the fertiliser bomb conspiracy in 2004,


the London bombings of 2005, right through to the recent


Using all its own artilleries to suppress...


Bakri wound up al-Muhajiroun in 2004, before it was banned.


But the network continued under different names.


In 2005, this is what one of Bakri's supporters told me


about the 7/7 London bombers, just after they'd


15 every day in Iraq against the British and Americans.


What's shocking for many is that it took place on their own doorsteps.


But, hopefully, it will make many wake up and smell the coffee.


Colonel Richard Kemp has spent his career fighting terrorism.


He chaired the Government's Cobra intelligence group, responsible


for briefing government on secret intelligence.


He has a very good insight into official thinking


about al-Muhajiroun at the highest level and says


It was a major failure and we've seen the consequences.


We've seen Lee Rigby, who was chopped to pieces


We've seen the latest London Bridge bombing led by one of their network.


We've seen numerous other murders carried out by their members


in different places around the world.


The leader of the recent attacks at London Bridge


Here he is on TV last year with his jihadi mates.


So, why was this group allowed to operate so freely in the UK


and do al-Muhajiroun supporters still have potency today?


I've been investigating al-Muhajiroun and its supporters


for 16 years, since before the 9/11 attacks.


I witnessed their hatred of the West, their supremacist world


If they saw you in a dark alleyway...


If they saw you in a dark alleyway...


Here we've been invited to film with the new leader


of al-Muhajiroun, Anjem Choudary, who took over from Bakri after he'd


Choudary was convicted of terrorism offences last year.


In 2007, we tried to interview this man...


He was accused in court of providing military supplies


for an al-Muhajiroun network in Pakistan, for


In 2004, I was invited to attend an al-Muhajiroun meeting in this


I was following a British convert to Islam.


They knew the cameras were rolling but even then their views on Western


The time Blair came out, Bush came out at the same time.


He said, you're either with us, or you're either with them.


The only other ideological belief which is around now, not a religion.


This man, Abu Uzair, an engineering graduate


When the two planes magnificently went through those buildings, OK.


And people turned round and said, hang on a second, that is barbaric.


You described the 9/11 attack, the plane flying


into the Twin Towers, and you said it was magnificent.


How can you justify that, whether you're a Muslim,


If you start the war, we will continue.


The actual killing of innocent civilians, it can't be right.


According to Islam, it's absolutely right.


We understand that Abu Uzair has never faced legal action in the UK.


New laws ban the glorification of terrorism and there have been


many more successful prosecutions over the last decade.


Critics say, from these seeds, domestic terrorism has grown.


Our own action in the period before and soon after 9/11


was extremely dangerous because, the networks and the individuals


involved in them, saw that we were weak.


They saw we were wanting to appease them and we wanted


They exploited that in terms of developing and building a network


which would eventually be turned against us.


establishment watched, Bakri Muhammad got on with the job


In the late 1990s, the leader of al-Muhajiroun,


Omar Bakri Muhammad, targeted Muslims in the unlikely


In amongst the well-kept houses and green, leafy streets,


he found a ready audience for his narrative of extremism.


The idea that the West was at war with Islam.


Omar Bakri's extremist network was so poorly


understood and unchallenged, that he even managed to get himself


invited to talk about Islam to six formers at one of Crawley's


At the time, our involvement with him was simply to promote


religious tolerance and understanding, and inclusivity.


And so we invited him into the school on those grounds.


And I will put my hand up now and say that was


At the time, I didn't understand what he represented.


Meanwhile, critics say the security establishment


There was an element of complacency among those people who were


That, essentially, I certainly heard words used, like blowhard


and windbag in relation to some of these prominent


And I think they felt, basically, in some cases, anyway,


that we are looking at people who talk a big war,


don't actually fight it, and don't pose a really big threat


The former head of counterterrorism at the Metropolitan Police,


Peter Clark, told me he'd never heard the term, blowhard used,


and said the threat was taken very seriously when plots were uncovered


The 7/7 London bombings in 2005 they were devastating proof


that British jihadis were targeting the UK.


The leader, Mohammad Sidique Khan, had links


Fast forward to 2017 and the London Bridge attacks.


The lead attacker, Khuram Butt, was a committed


He trained in a fitness centre in Ilford, East London.


CCTV images recorded Khuram Butt and two others


meeting outside the gym five days before the attack.


OK, we're about to go into the gymnasium here.


Newsnight was given exclusive television


access to the gym after the police had raided.


I'm inside the actual gym, where the leader of London


Bridge attackers Khuram Butt trained.


He was a long-term supporter of the extremist group


We've also linked very firmly this gym to another man


called Sajeel Shahid, who's been a leader


He's linked to two of the UK's most notorious terrorists, Omar Khayyam,


the leader of the fertiliser bomb plot and Mohammed Sadique Khan; the


leader of the London bombings on 7/7.


From what we saw, the fitness centre looked like a ramshackle


Attendance was recorded by hand in this exercise book.


The man who appeared to be in charge was


known as Abu Ibrahim and that's a pseudonym for Sajeel Shahid.


We found out that Sajeel Shahid's name


appears on the planning documents from 2011.


Sajeel Shahid used to be a key leader in Al-Muhajiroun in the


He was one of Bakri Muhammad's most trusted men.


To understand his role, we have to go


right back to the late 1990s, when Bakri launched a branch of


Al-Muhajiroun in Pakistan became a clearing house


For Bakri, Pakistan was to be the crucible


In September 2001, just after 9/11, an American called Mohammed Junaid


I'm willing to kill the American soldiers, if they


enter into Afghanistan with their ground troops,


I'm willing to kill the Americans and if the Americans


use Pakistan soil as its bases, we will kill them here in Pakistan too.


Three years later, Junaid Baber became


a jihadi super grass, testifying against his old friends.


This is the confidential transcript of the FBI's interview with Mohammed


On page two it says that Sajeel Shahid was the leader of


Much later, a British jihadi source told


me more than 200 recruits from Britain flowed


On page 72 of the same document, it says that Sajeel Shahid probably


coordinated explosives training for recruits in Pakistan.


In early 2003 the jihadi supergrass said that he and Sajeel Shahid


travelled to Pakistan's north-west frontier looking for a place


to train recruits with guns and explosives.


They found an ideal camp near the town of Malakand.


Mohammad Sidique Khan the future leader of the London


So did Omar Khayyam, the future leader of the fertiliser bomb plot.


Several years later, I traced Sajeel Shahid to an Islamic


exhibition in London, where he had a stall.


I wanted to ask him about the training camp


Richard Watson from BBC Newsnight here.


We've been trying to contact you to ask questions.


The question we want to ask you really, were you involved


You're a leader of Al-Muhajiroun, weren't you?


You were, it's clearly on your website?


Were you helping terrorist suspects in Pakistan?


Were you leading Al-Muhajiroun in Pakistan.


We're told you were leading Al-Muhajiroun


So Al-Muhajiroun and its successor groups prospered in the UK right up


Well, Islamist extremist networks are very well established and it's


been made far worse by support for the so-called Islamic State.


Has the failure to grasp the nettle early enough left the UK


I think the figure of 23,000, which has recently been released


by MI5, as being people they're concerned about being involved


in some way in jihadist activity is probably the tip of the iceberg.


Many of the idealogical extremists featured in this film were later


Others like Sajeel Shahid have never been charged with any offence.


There's no suggestion that he had a hand in directing the attack


but in an ideological sense it does connect the present threat


with the old extremist network of Al-Muhajiroun.


And this network tolerated for so many years is part


of the story behind the unprecedented Islamist terror


Richard Watson there on the ideology behind the London Bridge bombers.


Once upon a time, there was a little boy who lived


in a cupboard under the stairs, in a book no-one had seen.


His author once commented that had it not been


for her publisher, Barry Cunningham, he would have stayed


That author was JK Rowling, that boy was Harry Potter,


and this evening, I spoke to Mr Cunningham and Rosamund de


La Hey, who were both instrumental in getting it into print,


You're a wizard, Harry. I'm a what? A wizard and a thumping good one I


wager, once you've trained up a little. No, you've made a mistake, I


mean, I can't be a wizard. I mean, I'm just... Harry. You have to


consult the inner child. We have very good inner children. We consult


at children we were to make our decisions. You had a special way of


wanting to get everyone to read it. Well, yes. Someone told me that you


have to get editors' attention because they're deluged by endless


material before an editorial meeting. I wanted to make it


different. We wrapped it up in a tube and stuff today with smarties


and made it look like an academic scroll so it would spill on the desk


and they'd have to pay attention and hopefully read a bit at least. Isn't


it funny now to think, it was famously turned down. What do you


think other publishers didn't get? What was scary about it? Well, it's


interesting because when I got it I didn't know that everybody else in


the universe had turned it down. With the boarding school setting,


just everything made it feel like it was perhaps too 1950s to the current


Goose bumps and Babysitters trend now. What you look for in an author


is someone who cares and is obsessed with everything to do with their


creation, just like their readers will be hopefully. She was totally


obsessed with Harry and his world. We took the big risk alongside her


with having Harry grow up with every book. I had a meeting with her and


famously said that, you know, all the stories about her of course are


true, she was a single mum. I said that she needed to get a day job


because she wouldn't make any money out of children's books. Is it true


she was encouraged to keep the initials so that it didn't put off


boy readers? We have a revelation between us tonight, because people


always said it was my fault. I cannot remember ever advising her.


Tonight, we were talking, and Roz has a big admission. Really


initially the very first cover was proofed saying Joanne, at the time


Jacqueline Wilson, still is, riding high. She was probably the biggest


name in kids' books at the time. Her name being Jacqueline felt too close


to Joanne and made me think her market is a female readership, a


young girl readership. I would only say it's quite interesting the proof


I have to say, I think, is in the pudding in the sense that for the


six months, until she was interviewed on Blue Peter, in


November, I think it was that year, when she won the smarties prize, she


was revealed as a woman. All the fan mail had been addressed to "Dear,


Sir." I opened it, it definitely was. Do you ever wonder what would


have happened if you had missed, if you had passed it on? Do you have


the middle of the night, thank God we got it? Jo said if I turned it


down, I was almost the last stop for Harry. What a thought! It would


maybe never have happened. All those parents, grandparents, adults and


all the generations, you know, wouldn't have enjoyed the phenomenon


that is Harry Potter. Well if you're sure... Better be... Griffin corps!


That is all -- Griffyndor! That's all for tonight, Evan is back


tomorrow. From all of us, very good night.


Hello there. Plenty of rain in the forecast for this