07/07/2017 Newsnight


07/07/2017

With Evan Davis. Did the Grenfell Tower firefighters have the right kit in time? Plus Trump and Putin meet at the G20 and is economics too important to be left to economists?


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Transcript


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Grenfell Tower - tonight we have the story of how

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the fire fighters - sometimes inadequately

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equipped - tried and failed to control the flames.

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It's the truth worth retelling that firefighters rushed into harm's way

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that terrible night. They were heroes, no question. But was their

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kit up to scratch and did it arrive in a timely fashion? Jo

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It was the worst fire disaster since the war

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and the biggest challenge to the fire fighting profession.

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We'll ask what lessons need to be drawn.

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Also tonight, a handshake the world has waited to see.

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Did the two of them grasp the opportunity to reset

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President Putin and I have been discussing various things and I

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think it's going very well. We've had some very, very good thoughts.

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And is economics too important to be left to the economists?

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A new generation of economists is taking on the academic

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So much is known about the fire at Grenfell Tower -

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Enquiries will undoubtedly focus on the issues now familiar -

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the cause of the fire and the cladding which spread it,

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the building regulations and inspection regime,

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the concerns of the tenants and the inadequate response

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of the Kensington Chelsea Council afterwards.

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But there is another important area, where the lessons

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It's how London Fire Brigade fought the fire.

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It was a night of unquestioned bravery, of individuals who risked

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everything to rescue those inside and control the flames.

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But were they equipped to deal with disaster of that magnitude

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Could it have been doused more successfully, for example,

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if an aerial platform had been summoned earlier?

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Well, Newsnight has uncovered evidence of a series

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of failings on the night, that no fire fighters

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A warning, there is quite a bit of bad language in this piece.

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Inside the tower, it was like a war zone - dark heat, pitch black, toxic

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smoke, but in the worse possible circumstances, London's firefighters

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did their best. I saw firefighters who I know are extremely fit,

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marathon runners... Firefighters have been banned from

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speaking to the media. Newsnight has gathered anonymous first-hand

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accounts through an intermediary. We've also obtained the incident

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mobilisation list, the document which details when every London Fire

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Brigade appliance was sent and when it arrived. We have pieced together

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a picture of the battle to fight the Grenfell fire and identify the

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series of failings that made the desperate task even tougher. 12. 55,

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two fire engines from North Kensington fire station get the

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call-out. They're on scene in four minutes. Two more fire engines from

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Kensington and Hammersmith arrive shortly after. They've been called

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to a fridge fire on the fourth floor. What the firefighters on the

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inside couldn't see is what was happening on the outside. The

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firefighters went to the fire on the fourth floor and they were pretty

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confident they'd got on top of it. Then something bad happens,

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something weird on their radio. They're hearing it's a four-pump

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fire, that means four fire engines. Then it's a ten-pump fire. That's

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bad. Then it's a 20-pump fire, that's a catastrophe. They don't get

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it because they're on top of the fire. Then they realise the fire is

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growing on the outside. Grenfell Tower on fire, fire brigade and

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everything. Look. Whoa look. At 1. 15am, five more appliances are

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called out from Paddington and Hammersmith. The fire's spreading

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up. This footage, shot on a mobile phone, shows the fire hit the

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cladding and rage up the side of the tower. Firefighters try to tackle

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the blaze from the ground. 1. 19am, 24 minutes after the first crew is

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dispatched, the first tall ladder or aerial is assigned to the fire. 1.

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19am, 24 minutes after the first crew is dispatched the first high

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ladder or aerial, call sign 8213, is assigned to the fire from

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Paddington, it arrives at 1. 32am. If anything could have stopped the

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fire spreading to the outside, it might have been a high ladder and

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pump. So why weren't they sent immediately? The PDA is the

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predetermined attendance, that's what the Fire Rescue Service plans

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for different locations. Aerial appliances were not on the original

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PDA. In this case there was some half hour or so before the aerial

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appliance arrived. Whether that would have made a difference is

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something that needs to be looked at. I have spoken to aerial

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appliance operators in London, who drive and operate those appliances

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and attended that incident, who think that having that on the first

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attendance might have made a difference, because it allows you to

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operate a very powerful water tower from outside the building onto the

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building. Are you OK? By the time the high ladary rived, it was too

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late. The London Fire Brigade told Newsnight that the PDA has been

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changed after Grenfell, so with an aerial appliance and extra fire

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engine will attend fires in high rise buildings. Inside, firefighters

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were battling the worst fire in Britain since the Second World War.

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The stair wells and tower blocks are supposed to be smoke free. In

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Grenfell, the stair well was yet another hazard. It was seriously

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heavy smoke locked floors... Fighting a fire with toxic smoke,

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some of the Grenfell fire retardant, based on cyanide, like deep sea

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diving. The firefighters had 23 storeys to climb, but they had to

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keep enough air to keep back down again. Very soon, far too soon, they

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were running out of air. More than an hour after the first

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crews were sent, the mobilisation list shows the fire chiefs on the

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ground called in every single extended breathing set in London,

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from places like Wandsworth, Islington and Tower Hamlets. In

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terms of the compressed air breathing apparatus, the - clearly

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more would have been helpful. We have to say this was an

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unprecedented fire. So what became clear in this instance is that the

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extended duration sets is what was increasingly required and more of

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those clearly would have helped. I think that raises questions about

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whether there should be a review this afternoon. On the night of the

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fire, we're told there was a big problem with water pressure. If

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you're a firefighter tackling an inferno, that's not good.

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Newsnight understands that the fire brigade asked Thames Water to boost

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the pressure. Even after that, we're told, the problems with water

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pressure continued. When approached by Newsnight, Thames Water would not

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comment directly on whether they were asked by the Fire Service to

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boost pressure. But they did issue this statement:

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In thick smoke, in raging heat, something else went wrong too.

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Firefighters complained their radio communications weren't working

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properly. They weren't punching through ten storeys or more of

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concrete and there was so much traffic on the air waves they

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couldn't understand what was being said. Some of the them weren't just

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fighting blind, they were fighting deaf too.

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There's always been a problem in high rise buildings that anything

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above a certain amount of floors you have a problem with it. We've always

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had a problem. When I was in the brigade we had a problem with the

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radios or hand held radios and the breathing apparatus radios. I can

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imagine the amount of teams putting in, there each team will have been

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given a call sign and then you will have had one or two breathing

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apparatus control officers trying to manage all the messaging backwards

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and forwards. The firefighters spoke of the fire as a war zone, of ways

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of attack and retreat. By 4. 30am, crews from every part of London -

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youon, Ealing, barking -- Sutton, Ealing, barking, Lewisham are

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mobilised. The scale of the response is unprecedented. The highest aerial

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platform in Britain is in Surrey. It arrived hours after the fire was

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hours out of control. Would that have helped? The machine is at full

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stretch here, we're at 61 metres high. Only a few metres off the full

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height of Grenfell Tower. The question is: Had one of these

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machines or something like it been available from the get go on that

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terrible night, would the story of the tragedy of Grenfell fire ended

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quite differently? The London Fire Brigade told Newsnight:

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The firefighters who had been trained to fight the wrong kind of

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tower block fire and at the heart of this was the advice to residents to

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stay put until rescued. The controversy over stay put will

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continue to rage. But with Grenfell fire's death toll as high as it is,

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the policy must surely be reviewed. One of the last residents to be

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rescued from Grenfell was at 6. 30am. More than 200 people survived,

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but more than 80 people didn't. It's a truth worth retelling that

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firefighters rushed into harm's way that terrible night. They were

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heroes, no question. But was their kit up to scratch? And did it arrive

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in a timely fashion? We won't know the full answers until the public

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inquiry. But already, it's safe to say, that those in charge of keeping

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the capital safe from fire have serious questions to answer.

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There were failures, but London's dark monument also stands testament

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to extraordinary bravery against the odds too.

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John Sweeney there, who compiled that report

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Of course, the fire fighters had not encountered anything

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as serious as Grenfell, and it behaved in ways

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Let's talk through some of the points raised in that

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He was Chief Fire Officer at Mid and West Wales Fire

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and Rescue Service for 20 years and also worked in

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He also serves as an advisor to MPs on the All Party Parliamentary

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Good evening, a quick initial reaction to what we've heard there

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and these firefighters' accounts of what they encountered on the night?

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Yes, we have to say that what firefighters have said is obviously

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very concerning and it always occurs after a major incident. This is very

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much a major, major incidents. London Fire Brigade has been in

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business since, well, 150 years now. I'm sure that every incident

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develops new policies. Their policies that currently exist are

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because they are predicated on the fact that a building like Grenfell

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Tower is compliant with building regulations and if this was

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compliant with the building regulations, then certainly there is

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something seriously wrong with the regulations. If it wasn't compliant,

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then there's something seriously wrong with the procedures. Let's

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look at one or two of the more specific things. An aerial platform,

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is it your view on what you've seen that if a platform, particularly a

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high one, had been available much earlier that fire could have been

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controlled and douses out even with all the cladding and issues we know

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about. ? I represented the families of the deceased at Lacknell house

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during the inquest. I recommended to the QC leading that investigation

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that London Fire Brigade may wish to review its aerial policy on the

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basis that the platforms there were within yards of the actual rescue of

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people from the balcony and from the flats affected, but just didn't

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quite make it. They just didn't quite get to that point. Is it your

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view that you should send out an aerial, a high ladder straight away

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if you know the fire is in a building that's tall? The initial

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predetermined attendance for many fire brigades are that wherever

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there's a special risk, they automatically send a vehicle, a

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special appliance, like an aerial platform to that special risk. I

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hear and I'm not privy to the investigation, of course, the

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criminal investigation, and of course, the inquiry, the public

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inquiry, will get to the bottom of what policies were in place. But if

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we work on the assumption that the policy was not to send an aerial

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platform to this it would have been on the basis that they've evaluated

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its usage over a period and how many times does it get to work and how

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many times is it called out and returned not used? I'm sure that had

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something to do with it, but again, until we see the inquiry, and the

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results - There were problems with breathing equipment, particularly

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the more enduring breathing equipment, one interpretation of

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what happened is - they just didn't really know how bad this fire was

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going to turn out to be, because it ripped up the side of the building.

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The other is that they are just underequipped maybe because there

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have been spending cuts, that mean they haven't invested enough in

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equipment. Which of those two interpretations would come closer to

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your view on what you've seen? London Fire Brigade are one of the

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best equipped, if not the best equipped, in the country. I would

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not want to criticise any policy of London Fire Brigade, those

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firefighters did a marvellous job with the equipment that they had.

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Yes, of course, we are hearing from your story that some of the

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firefighters have made claims. Those claims will be thoroughly

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investigated. But clearly, you can't accept that they have rescue

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appliances that carried this additional breathing apparatus,

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extended duration sets, they are strategically placed and all of them

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were used, so all of the available duration sets in London were

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mobilised to this incident and used, as they were, at Lakmal house. Is

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the problem ultimately that they did not have plan B? They knew what kind

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of fire they could cope with in a tall building, where the fire could

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be contained in a couple of apartments and they would get

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everyone out after putting it out? Is the problem is, they did not

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imagine that you could have a fire like this, or the building

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regulations were wrong, they did not have it in the mindset that it could

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be that bad? I think the timing of the fire in the early hours, you

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heard about the water pressure being low, water companies do reduce

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pressure in the evening and later because it saves on leaks to the

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mains. I'm not saying that Thames Water did that, but when the fire

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brigade asks for an increase pressures, they come. Those

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pressures are increased. We will find out if that was the case or

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not, I'm sure that will come out in the public enquiry. Whether

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firefighters themselves were justified and ought to have

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anticipated a contingency plan for such an event, I think that is very

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difficult. Not very people -- not many people in this country have

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seen a block of flats at that time in the morning on fire like that,

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when people are asleep, and seen the consequences. I don't think they

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could have been contingency plans, our buildings should be safe in the

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first place. All of the firefighting operations are predicated on

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firefighters fighting the building from inside, not outside. Obviously,

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it is excellent to be able to have an aerial platform ready

:19:29.:19:35.

strategically placed for such an event. But, in reality, they will be

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standing idle for long periods. Rodney King, thank you. We

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appreciate that it is much easier in hindsight to make all of these

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observations. Thank you. So much has been written

:19:48.:19:49.

about Trump and Russia, it's hard to believe that

:19:50.:19:51.

President Trump and Vladamir Putin Now a lot has been written

:19:52.:19:53.

about Trump and handshakes - the non-shake with Angela Merkel,

:19:54.:19:58.

the firm grip of Emmanuel Macron - but here is the footage of the one

:19:59.:20:03.

that really matters - Some commented that Putin cleverly

:20:04.:20:06.

got Trump to reach out to him. Personally, I'd say

:20:07.:20:13.

it's pretty uneventful. This was not for the media,

:20:14.:20:15.

it was filmed only on a mobile. Again, you can probably read

:20:16.:20:21.

something into it, if you choose to. Well, the two presidents

:20:22.:20:27.

did actually meet, for longer than expected -

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two hours and 20 minutes. Some wondered whether some kind

:20:30.:20:35.

of major announcement might come out of it: peace in Syria,

:20:36.:20:38.

a deal on Ukraine. Nothing that dramatic,

:20:39.:20:40.

so what did emerge? What did come out of it? Well, look.

:20:41.:20:53.

They did come to an agreement about a ceasefire in southern Syria. The

:20:54.:20:57.

complexion, US and Russian sources have been getting close to potential

:20:58.:21:02.

combat there. I guess that is a positive tech. Also, to appoint an

:21:03.:21:07.

American representative to the Ukraine, the so-called Minsk

:21:08.:21:10.

process, some forward movement there. They were frank on the fact

:21:11.:21:13.

that they could not agree on the way ahead with career, there were not

:21:14.:21:19.

willing to agree on sanctions with North Korea but everyone wanted to

:21:20.:21:23.

know what happened when President Trump tabled the issue of hacking

:21:24.:21:28.

and the elections, and what the US intelligence community says is clear

:21:29.:21:32.

Russian state-sponsored meddling in their election. The Americans say

:21:33.:21:36.

that they put it out there to start with. The Russian version of what

:21:37.:21:41.

happened, I think he spotted, that Sergei Lavrov, when telling

:21:42.:21:45.

reporters about it afterwards, said they assured him that the Russian

:21:46.:21:48.

leadership had not ordered such a thing. That was a curious form of

:21:49.:21:53.

words, chiming in with some things that President Putin said, implying

:21:54.:21:58.

that maybe... Someone else had! Frankly, the American attitude was

:21:59.:22:04.

pretty much look, can we move on? That was expressed by the Secretary

:22:05.:22:05.

of State, Rex Tillerson. OK, so Rex Tillerson there in that

:22:06.:22:29.

recorded clip, saying that we need to think on other things. A lot of

:22:30.:22:34.

people obviously in the US will be unhappy about that... Let's move on,

:22:35.:22:40.

sort of thing! In terms of the reset being thought about, anything...? Of

:22:41.:22:46.

course, he campaigned on this. President Trump comes a look I

:22:47.:22:48.

promised better relations with Russia. I've got to deliver it. A

:22:49.:22:54.

lot of people think he is sensitive on how this will be received. This

:22:55.:23:01.

narrative that he is Putin's pawn is popular among enemies. He doesn't

:23:02.:23:05.

care what they think. But there is another problem, who actually shares

:23:06.:23:10.

his objective? Especially on things like sanctions, of rolling them back

:23:11.:23:15.

and helping President Putin, building the stronger relationship.

:23:16.:23:19.

Here is the former Secretary of State official, Jeremy Shapiro.

:23:20.:23:23.

He has no one in his own government who shares his opinion of Russia,

:23:24.:23:27.

For whatever reason, he did not appoint anybody

:23:28.:23:30.

he could do that for him and this is why, so frequently, we see him

:23:31.:23:35.

saying something about Nato, for example,

:23:36.:23:37.

and the next day one of his

:23:38.:23:38.

cabinet members comes out and says, pay no attention to what the

:23:39.:23:41.

President of the United States said - that is not our policy.

:23:42.:23:48.

Mark, thank you very much. We will follow the G20 summit and everything

:23:49.:23:53.

more in the next few days. Experts in general have got a bad

:23:54.:23:57.

rap in the last 18 months. None more so than economists,

:23:58.:24:00.

who have actually had a bad decade, what with the crash

:24:01.:24:03.

that wasn't foreseen. And now the knife is well and truly

:24:04.:24:08.

stuck in to the profession, in a new book written by three young

:24:09.:24:11.

economists from the University of Manchester, who are proposing

:24:12.:24:14.

the subject opens its mind But also, the authors propose

:24:15.:24:16.

that it is altogether too important Politics is increasingly framed

:24:17.:24:21.

in terms of economics in a way that excludes the public and damages

:24:22.:24:27.

democratic culture and process. Trying to make democracy more

:24:28.:24:30.

meaningful will clearly necessitate They call the economic

:24:31.:24:33.

elite the econocracy, Well, we have one of the authors

:24:34.:24:41.

here, Joe Earle, and an economist, Diane Coyle, a professor

:24:42.:24:47.

of economics at the Good evening to you both. Joe, tell

:24:48.:24:57.

us the basic thrust of the critiquing the book in a few

:24:58.:25:01.

sentences? Thank you. It is the story of an international student

:25:02.:25:07.

movement called Rethinking Economics, we have groups in 22

:25:08.:25:11.

countries across the world and it is essentially ask coming to a

:25:12.:25:14.

university independently wanted to understand the world and influencing

:25:15.:25:18.

it, arriving it and feeling that our economics education was not

:25:19.:25:22.

preparing us to do that, it was not fit for purpose. At the same time,

:25:23.:25:26.

having friends and families going, what is going on with the financial

:25:27.:25:31.

crisis? The Eurozone is falling apart, feeling embarrassed... You

:25:32.:25:35.

had nothing to say about it! Exactly! Diane Coyle, what do you

:25:36.:25:42.

agree with in the book? Quite a lot of it, the headline you gave was

:25:43.:25:45.

actually nonsense, you would not take the chemist out of chemistry

:25:46.:25:51.

that putting people in economics is important, I agree with that. Part

:25:52.:25:55.

of the problem is that most economists do not do the stuff that

:25:56.:26:01.

is about financial crises, and austerity, so one. Most of us do

:26:02.:26:04.

much more small-scale economics which is very different. Is it

:26:05.:26:11.

perhaps too mathematical? It isn't particularly, it's more numerical,

:26:12.:26:17.

looking at how markets work, empirical decisions, how people make

:26:18.:26:21.

decisions. What do you disagree with? Manchester students have been

:26:22.:26:24.

the Severus in this, and you teach there. What do you disagree with?

:26:25.:26:29.

What I do disagree with is the idea that all of economics is political.

:26:30.:26:34.

I think it is a mixture. I think Sun is inherently political, you must

:26:35.:26:37.

acknowledge that and economists in the past have not been opening

:26:38.:26:43.

enough about that. But some of it is not. It is much more scientific. You

:26:44.:26:48.

cannot have a Marxist theory on how students may respond to certain

:26:49.:26:52.

incentives to go into education or not. There are politics involved in

:26:53.:26:57.

it but there are also science and numbers involved. So, explain the

:26:58.:27:01.

point. You do think it is basically politics hidden in a technical

:27:02.:27:06.

model? It isn't about narrow left and right wing politics, it's about

:27:07.:27:14.

being taught a particular way of thinking, and so, for example, in

:27:15.:27:19.

the response that Diane just gave, she was talking on Marxist economics

:27:20.:27:22.

but also incentives. It's a particular way of looking at the

:27:23.:27:26.

world and that has a particular view of human nature and a particular

:27:27.:27:30.

view about markets, and being the right way of organising things.

:27:31.:27:35.

Also, not... But Diane did not say that the market was the right way of

:27:36.:27:38.

organising things? But the assumption is that most of what we

:27:39.:27:46.

look at is markets. Again, a lot of economists today believe that

:27:47.:27:49.

markets do not work and need to be regulated better. But it is not

:27:50.:27:56.

studying institutions, for example. I disagree, it studies institutions

:27:57.:28:00.

a lot. It is about collective decision-making about the use and

:28:01.:28:03.

allocation of resources and markets are part of that. In the graduate

:28:04.:28:08.

quarter, in the undergraduate courses, they don't do much about.

:28:09.:28:11.

You need to get to advanced levels before you begin on that kind of

:28:12.:28:16.

thing? In mind, they certainly do, I think the curriculum has changed a

:28:17.:28:19.

lot over the last few years, particularly thanks to people like

:28:20.:28:24.

Joe. It is important to note that Diane is an exception, she always

:28:25.:28:27.

comes to debate with us and her course at Manchester is a very...

:28:28.:28:34.

They will be shocked by the state of economics education. Did you agree

:28:35.:28:38.

with Michael Gove, when he said that we had enough of expats? There's

:28:39.:28:42.

quite a bit of that critique there? We are the next generation of

:28:43.:28:46.

economists, and we believe... Isn't he saying the same thing as you? No,

:28:47.:28:51.

we believe experts need to change so they are trusted again and listened

:28:52.:28:55.

to, because Brexit clearly showed that people did not trust economic

:28:56.:29:01.

models, and predictions. But you don't want them to trust them...? We

:29:02.:29:06.

want economists to not only communicate better, that is what we

:29:07.:29:11.

are doing ourselves. We have a website called economy. Oh, which is

:29:12.:29:17.

all about communicating economics in an accessible way, not just assuming

:29:18.:29:22.

that people agree but our way of thinking on the economy does not

:29:23.:29:26.

represent the experience of people in the country -- economy.org. Do

:29:27.:29:29.

you accept the criticism of economics, that it became too close

:29:30.:29:33.

minded? It did not have a broad enough range of models? Whatever you

:29:34.:29:39.

want, it did not somehow...? I think it became close minded a long time

:29:40.:29:42.

ago and the high watermark of that kind of economics for me was in the

:29:43.:29:49.

mid-19 80s and 1990s. Understanding the psychology of how people take

:29:50.:29:53.

decisions and using new methods like randomised control trials and

:29:54.:29:56.

experiment methods has been happening for 20 years now. I think

:29:57.:30:00.

the big failing, we let down students, it took too long to change

:30:01.:30:04.

the curriculum to introduce that. Jo is quite right in saying that when

:30:05.:30:08.

the crisis happened, undergraduate courses were not equipping people.

:30:09.:30:13.

You can go to any technical area, people who set the traffic lights

:30:14.:30:17.

for pedestrians versus cars, there are political decisions built into

:30:18.:30:21.

everything in society? There is a very big difference, economics is

:30:22.:30:26.

about our lives and who does what, who gets what. These values are

:30:27.:30:32.

really important. We are just asking for people, economists, to go out

:30:33.:30:36.

and listen and really get their shoes dirty. Jo and Diane, thank you

:30:37.:30:38.

very much indeed. That's it from us tonight,

:30:39.:30:39.

for this week indeed. Have a good weekend

:30:40.:30:41.

in the meantime.

:30:42.:30:45.