07/07/2017 Newsnight


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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Grenfell Tower - tonight we have the story of how


the fire fighters - sometimes inadequately


equipped - tried and failed to control the flames.


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


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


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


It was the worst fire disaster since the war


and the biggest challenge to the fire fighting profession.


We'll ask what lessons need to be drawn.


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


Did the two of them grasp the opportunity to reset


President Putin and I have been discussing various things and I


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


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


A new generation of economists is taking on the academic


So much is known about the fire at Grenfell Tower -


Enquiries will undoubtedly focus on the issues now familiar -


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


the building regulations and inspection regime,


the concerns of the tenants and the inadequate response


of the Kensington Chelsea Council afterwards.


But there is another important area, where the lessons


It's how London Fire Brigade fought the fire.


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


everything to rescue those inside and control the flames.


But were they equipped to deal with disaster of that magnitude


Could it have been doused more successfully, for example,


if an aerial platform had been summoned earlier?


Well, Newsnight has uncovered evidence of a series


of failings on the night, that no fire fighters


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


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


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


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


marathon runners... Firefighters have been banned from


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


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


mobilisation list, the document which details when every London Fire


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


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


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


two fire engines from North Kensington fire station get the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


for different locations. Aerial appliances were not on the original


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


appliance arrived. Whether that would have made a difference is


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


appliance operators in London, who drive and operate those appliances


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


ground called in every single extended breathing set in London,


from places like Wandsworth, Islington and Tower Hamlets. In


terms of the compressed air breathing apparatus, the - clearly


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


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


extended duration sets is what was increasingly required and more of


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


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


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


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


Newsnight understands that the fire brigade asked Thames Water to boost


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


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


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


boost pressure. But they did issue this statement:


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


Firefighters complained their radio communications weren't working


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


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


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


fighting blind, they were fighting deaf too.


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


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


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


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


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


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


apparatus control officers trying to manage all the messaging backwards


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


quite differently? The London Fire Brigade told Newsnight:


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


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


stay put until rescued. The controversy over stay put will


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the capital safe from fire have serious questions to answer.


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


to extraordinary bravery against the odds too.


John Sweeney there, who compiled that report


Of course, the fire fighters had not encountered anything


as serious as Grenfell, and it behaved in ways


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


He was Chief Fire Officer at Mid and West Wales Fire


and Rescue Service for 20 years and also worked in


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


develops new policies. Their policies that currently exist are


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


Tower is compliant with building regulations and if this was


compliant with the building regulations, then certainly there is


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


predetermined attendance for many fire brigades are that wherever


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


results - There were problems with breathing equipment, particularly


the more enduring breathing equipment, one interpretation of


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


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


The other is that they are just underequipped maybe because there


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


equipment. Which of those two interpretations would come closer to


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


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


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


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


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


firefighters have made claims. Those claims will be thoroughly


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


appliances that carried this additional breathing apparatus,


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


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


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


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


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


be contained in a couple of apartments and they would get


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


brigade asks for an increase pressures, they come. Those


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


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


firefighters themselves were justified and ought to have


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


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


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


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


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


first place. All of the firefighting operations are predicated on


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


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


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


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


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


observations. Thank you. So much has been written


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


President Trump and Vladamir Putin Now a lot has been written


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


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


that really matters - Some commented that Putin cleverly


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


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


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


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


did actually meet, for longer than expected -


two hours and 20 minutes. Some wondered whether some kind


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


a deal on Ukraine. Nothing that dramatic,


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


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


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


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


American representative to the Ukraine, the so-called Minsk


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


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


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


know what happened when President Trump tabled the issue of hacking


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


and helping President Putin, building the stronger relationship.


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


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


For whatever reason, he did not appoint anybody


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


saying something about Nato, for example,


and the next day one of his


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


economists from the University of Manchester, who are proposing


the subject opens its mind But also, the authors propose


that it is altogether too important Politics is increasingly framed


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


democratic culture and process. Trying to make democracy more


meaningful will clearly necessitate They call the economic


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


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


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


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


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


movement called Rethinking Economics, we have groups in 22


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


university independently wanted to understand the world and influencing


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


acknowledge that and economists in the past have not been opening


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


decisions and using new methods like randomised control trials and


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


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


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


the crisis happened, undergraduate courses were not equipping people.


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


for pedestrians versus cars, there are political decisions built into


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


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


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


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


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


for this week indeed. Have a good weekend


in the meantime.


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