In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Evan Davis.
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It was going so well
for the Prime Minister, then this.
The ayes to the right, 309.
The noes to the left, 305.
A vote on a vote.
And it didn't go
the government's way.
Hours before a Brussels summit
that is supposed to ease
Brexit talks through to part two,
Tory rebels tonight managed
to force the government to give MPs
a meaningful vote on Brexit,
after a fractious debate that
exposed division and distrust
within the Conservatives.
Clause nine is not about
implementing leaving the European
Yes, it is. Read it. And sit
A parliamentary defeat for the
A parliamentary defeat
for the Prime Minister.
A humiliating setback
for the government -
but what might it change?
The man who used to run MI6
gives us his first ever
with a surprising take on terror.
You know we need to keep
a sense of proportion
about what we are dealing with.
I mean I don't think terrorism
in its current form presents
a systemic threat to the nation.
A giant mouse and a shrinking mogul
- Rupert Murdoch gets ready
to downsize his empire.
What does Disney's expected takeover
for fox mean for the media, and for
And we know something
went wrong with building
regulations at Grenfell -
now Chris Cook reports on concerns
over the fire safety of furniture.
Well, after a run of good headlines,
and just hours before she travels
to the European Council in Brussels,
the Prime Minister suffered
her first proper defeat
of this parliament tonight.
A vote on Amendment 7
to the EU Withdrawal Bill,
giving MPs the power to vote
on the withdrawal deal
when it is ready.
The government says that could
derail a smooth and timely Brexit,
but it was a sign of how finely
divided parliament is, the MPs
split almost down the middle.
But also a sign that
the Conservative party
has enough rebels -
11 this evening - to obstruct
the government's plans.
What a day it was in the Commons.
Would she be so good as to accept
the right honourable and learn a
gentleman's Amendment seven in the
spirit of unity for everybody here
and in the country?
I find it
entertaining that somebody who
criticise me for speaking my mind on
this matter are individuals who
appear to have exercised the luxury
of rebellion on many occasions.
idea that somehow undermined the
referendum decision is just a load
She talked about a delay
of a couple of months. But if the
treaty is not right in the eyes of
this parliament than a couple of
months could turn into a couple of
years and indeed some cases people
would like it to be a couple of
The ayes to the right 309,
the noes to the left 305.
has asserted itself, the Prime
Minister tried a power grab, tried
to push through a bill without
proper Parliamentary scrutiny.
proper Parliamentary scrutiny.
The vote came after
seven this evening.
One of the rebels, Stephen Hammond
had been sacked from his job as
vice-chair of the Conservative
Party. Dominic Greene is a former
attorney general, whose amendment it
was. Bernard Jenkin is a Brexit
supporting colleague of his from the
Our political editor,
Nick Watt, is with me.
It was quite a moment. Quite a cock
up somewhere in the way the
government manage the whole
There are a lot ministers
been very critical of their own
government this evening. One said we
had very clumsy and stupid, late
concessions by the government.
Another said the whips should have
known how very close this was. A lot
of criticism tonight of the Chief
Whip Julian Smith. One Cabinet
minister said, rule number one for a
Chief Whip is no how to count.
Another one told Julian Smith
earlier this week, you are going to
lose this vote unless you make major
concessions ahead of the vote. It is
important to say this is the second
slip up in two weeks by Julian
Smith. A lot of people are saying
that had his predecessor Gavin
Williams been in place who had close
contacts with the DUP, the Prime
Minister would not have been so
exposed to that meeting in Brussels
For the people who
wanted to remain, what is their take
on how important this is?
I saw one
remain minister this evening who I
could say had at best crocodile
tears. Another figure said this is a
very significant moment. This person
said to me, this is the canary in
the coal mine. This is the moment
when the government needs to accept
there is no majority in this
Parliament for a hard Brexit. There
is no majority in this Parliament
for no Deal Brexit and the
government should now be working
with the majority in parliament, not
one side. And there is a big vote
next week and the government will
seek to put on the face of the bill
the date of Brexit, the 29th of
There was a lot of
injured Tory party hostility today,
there was not a love in the room
between the two sides. A lot of
anger with the rebels.
There is fury
within government with Dominic
Grieve. I spoke to one minister at
the heart of this or said, Dominic
Grieve will field the chilling
hangover of what he has done and
what he has done is he has weakened
the Prime Minister on the eve of the
European Council in Brussels
tomorrow. This minister said, there
are two options. One, it is not
worth the candle, let's just the
amendment passed. The second option
is to say to Dominic Grieve, you
said earlier if you're amendment was
accepted, you would agree to a
negotiation at the report stage
about a compromise in which both
sides can be happy, presumably your
offer still stands.
Let's talk to my
political guests. Dominic Grieve has
been talked about whilst sitting
there very patiently. The knives are
pretty much out for you, aren't
I doubt it, I am not concerned
about knives be out for me. I am in
parliament to do my duty by my
constituents and for my country.
Knives can be anywhere, I will not
be bothered by that in any way at
all. What I am is intent on trying
to support the government in doing
the right thing and the right thing
is carrying out Brexit in an
orderly, sensible way which has a
proper process to it and which
enables the right decisions to be
made at the right time. That is what
I will continue to do. I am sorry to
hear if colleagues think so ill of
me. But it is not going to affect
what I do one bit.
You will vote
next week against this idea of
having a fixed legal date for
I hope it will not be
necessary. I am sure the government
will be defeated and I have no
desire to defeat the government for
a second time. I have been in
parliament for 20 years and apart
from HS2 I have not rebelled before.
Are you open to negotiation and
compromise on the way the issue of
the votes are handle?
My whole life
is negotiation. I tabled these
amendments over a month ago, I have
had a very sensible dialogue with
government ministers about what
their purposes, sometimes probing,
sometimes teasing out, sometimes
pointing out flaws. So far until
this evening we had always managed
sensible outcomes which improved
legislation and kept everybody
broadly happy. I am sorry the
negotiations foundered, it was a
spectacular foundering, I cannot
deny that. There appears to have
been a complete breakdown within
government as to how to answer
perfectly legitimate points which is
worrying, but people will learn from
experience. I also noted I have
colleagues who work pro-Brexit and
much more supportive of the
government who were pointed out that
the legislation was in a very bad
condition and could not be allowed
to stay in the condition it was in.
You learned the Brexiteers and the
government think all of this is a
back door way of giving the MPs a
chance to impose a soft Brexit,
something closer to Norway, if the
government comes back with something
closer to Canada. That is possible
because you now have that veto power
at a late stage in the process.
Correct or not? The exact terms of
Brexit are matter for negotiation
for the government. It is right that
I will not have the closing down of
options, I have said that on many
occasions. The impression we have
had is of options being closed down
and that is not acceptable.
this make a soft Brexit more likely?
Is it meaningful in that sense?
may be misreading this. This bill is
about process, not outcome. It is
true that process matters, but this
bill is about how you carry out a
process rather than the negotiation
itself. I have been studious in not
trying to interfere with the
government's negotiating strategy. I
have hardly asked a question because
I think Parliament's ability to
interfere with a negotiating
strategy is limited. But I am of the
view that it is in the country's
interest that we keep a close
relationship with the EU or suffer
serious consequences. I would like
the Brexit that minimises risk and
Let me turn
to Bernard Jenkin. I know you do not
want to have an on-air, blue on blue
fight here in the studio. Do you
think this gives MPs some back door
away of imposing a softer version of
Obviously some people think
it does, but it does not change the
price of fish very much. The
government has been frank that this
is only about how you implement the
If it does not change
the direction of things, what is the
What it means is because
these powers will now not be
available to the government to use
until another act of Parliament has
been passed, it may mean that we
have to pass an extra act of
Parliament very late in the day at
the very top speed and I do not
think that is necessarily the better
outcome. But it is life. The problem
is the act of Parliament that
implements the withdrawal agreement
may not finished going through
Parliament until after we have left.
It is all very complicated and very
obscure. What was sad was that
however clumsily, the government was
offering concessions at the last
minute and some of the rebels were
just shouting, too late, too late,
which sounded a little petulant.
many times have you voted against
the Conservatives? Probably scores
of times. Is it not rich to be
haranguing the people who voted
against the government?
I was not
haranguing anybody today, I was
engaging in honest debate.
disagree with Nadine Dorries who
said there should be deselected and
should never be allowed to stand
Yes, I do, that is not very
helpful. I rebelled to try and get a
referendum. I rebelled years ago on
the martial treaty when they refuse
to have a referendum. I rebelled
when powers were being taken away
from Parliament did not even touch
the ground when legislation was
being made in this country. All of
these powers are commendable and
controllable by Parliament and
ultimately they are only temporary.
We have had a referendum. If the
majority of MPs took the view they
wanted a softer Brexit than the one
currently being talked about, is it
legitimate for them to impose that
on the government if some
Parliamentary way of doing that can
Is that legitimate? Nearly
everybody voted for Article 50. The
reality is you try to negotiate the
withdrawal agreement and a free
trade agreement, but if an
acceptable arrangement does not
emerge, you are still leaving. I
personally do not want that, I hope
we get the agreement. Some people
are trying to reverse... We are
going to hear a new phrase.
Brexinos, where we have all the
regulations impose upon us and we do
not have the freedom to do trade
deals with other countries. Some
people say it is a soft Brexit and
Theresa May has called it a
We have to leave it
If you ever want to meet
someone who personifies
the British establishment,
you won't do better
than an encounter
with Sir Richard Dearlove.
He may have a low personal profile,
but he had a long career
in the intelligence services
and was put in charge of MI6
for five years under Tony Blair.
That makes him M if you like your
Bond movies, although actually
they used the letter C
for the boss in real life.
In his time at MI6 in its famous
building on the South bank
of the Thames he had to handle 9/11,
the build-up to the war in Iraq,
and the controversy over
the so-called dodgy dossier
that exaggerated the certainty
of the intelligence
for Iraq having WMD.
He was actually criticised
in the Chilcott report for adding
weight to a report that had not
been properly evaluated.
He went on to be on a master
of a Cambridge college,
so in short he is the kind of man
you might either see as a public
servant who has helped
keep the country secure,
or as part of a deep state that has
been getting everything wrong.
But while Sir Richard
is an establishment insider,
he has taken a different view
from most of his counterparts
on Brexit - he's in favour.
He's just written an open letter
to President Macron in France,
explaining why it's in the EU's
interest to let us go, so the 27 can
get on with the integration
they need without us
getting in the way.
Being a former head of MI6,
he's kept away from
But given where we are
with Brexit, he agreed
to his first one with Newsnight.
I asked him why you thought Brexit
was a good idea. -- why he thought.
I am looking more generally I think
than the average person at Europe.
We have always been skin deep
members of the European Union.
We have believed in
a shallow political union.
Quite honestly if Macron
is determined to integrate Europe
politically as he states, he really
does not want us to be part of it
because we would be very effective
in stopping his progress.
So what I am arguing
is that we are offering
continental Europe and opportunity.
We can be very supportive
of a united Continental
Europe which will serve
our interests closely.
There is no disaster
about the UK returning to
a mid Atlantic position which is
the one that we have
You have used a very interesting
phrase, we can go back
to our mid Atlantic position.
A lot of people would
say, yes, the mid
Atlantic position is lovely,
except with time as president.
-- with Trump as president.
Something really big has
changed, the US is no
longer what it was.
Trump is president,
and that is a large element of
Trump is only going to
be there probably for
another three years.
I think we need to
think more broadly.
We have a very close
relationship with the
United States, not only in defence
and security terms, but also in
I mean, I think I could make
a convincing argument
that in some respects Trump's
administration, in terms of the
relations with the UK,
have not been altogether
as difficult as Obama.
Well, that's an interesting
one, isn't it?
Obama was closer to the centre
of the values of the UK, probably.
Yes, certainly in
value terms, I agree.
Trump has been unreliable
as well, hasn't he?
I'm thinking particularly
on intelligence, your old industry.
After the Manchester bombing, photos
were sent to American intelligence
and they appeared in
the New York Times.
He has done some unpredictable
things, but I don't
think you should necessarily judge
the intelligence relationship in
terms of Trump's Tweets.
Do think they are a reliable
ally for intelligence
purposes at the moment?
I think there are still a very
reliable ally for intelligence
purposes, and I'm sure if you asked
that question of the head of CIA he
would give you a very
positive and true indeed.
Do you believe the Christopher
Steele dossier on Trump?
This was the document
which said some salacious...
I'm not going to get into that.
But you knew Christopher Steele.
I won't confirm or deny
that I knew Christopher.
I think that there is probably some
credibility to the content.
I wouldn't put it any more
forcefully than that.
The other superpower,
or would be superpower
that Brexit affects our relationship
with, is Russia, isn't it?
And many people are
worried that what Brexit
is doing is undermining
the cohesiveness of Europe.
In offering a forceful counterweight
to Russian mischief.
Well, I disagree with you saying
that the EU necessarily
offers that counterweight.
The EU doesn't have
the military capability
or power to balance Russia.
And what's interesting
is we have seen a
considerable revival of a Nato.
A revival in Nato?
I thought of Trump was
busy questioning it.
He did question it.
But I think his recent statements
show actually that the American
commitment to Nato is not
fundamentally in question.
And I think that one
of the ancillaries of
Brexit should be an increase
in our defence spending.
On Russia, some have
argued that basically they
interfered in the Brexit referendum
because they felt that it was in
their interests for
Britain to vote out.
Are you convinced
by those arguments?
No, not at all.
I mean, I don't think,
I've not seen anything
that can convince me
at all that the Russians intervened
significantly in the Brexit
But they might have
intervened in the US?
I don't think there's
any question they got
involved in the US election.
I think probably on
Putin's part that was
OK, so I sort of understand
the geography of your argument.
On terror, you said it's
Now is that what marks you out
from your successors?
I believe strongly,
personally, in the
issue of proportionality.
What I mean by proportionality
is we have a lot of serious social
problems to deal with,
and the chances of
in a terrorist attack,
even when the terrorist
attack is quite high, are
The problem is that
when attacks happen they are
And of course you get
a massive media
reaction to them.
Too much of a media
reaction, do you think?
Yes, I think so.
We've had this debate.
I know, and I'm not
blaming the media
for the world in which we live.
It's what audiences
are talking about.
But we need to keep a sense
of proportion about
what we are dealing with.
I don't think terrorism
in its current form
presents a systemic
threat to the nation.
It presents the possibility
of horrible happenings, which we are
learning how to deal with.
And of course,
at the moment there is
unquestionably going to be
a heightened risk as we have got
more returnees coming back
probably from Afghanistan as well.
I want to come back
to this issue of trust.
Do you feel...
You may say it doesn't
explain Brexit, but do you
feel the establishment is viewed
with a kind of anger and distaste?
I mean, it could be the expenses
scandal, it could be the financial
crash, it could be Iraq.
I think that is a dangerous
Evan, I really do.
I mean, you were
involved in the Iraq
Do you think responsibility
was taken for the
mistakes made at that
time, the dodgy dossier?
We're not here to discuss
Iraq, and if we start on
that track we will be
here for hours.
But just in general, do you see that
as an area where some of
the rot set in in this relationship
between the government and the
governed in this country?
No, I don't think so.
So much as subsequently
happened in the Middle
East that that would
be a facile argument.
Can I ask one last one?
Talk to a lot of people, mostly
Remainers but not exclusively, who
think the world is going
to hell in a handcart.
What's your sort of analysis?
Is this a 10-year process
of turbulence, our be talking to
years of turbulence?
I would have thought
probably nearer five.
I think we can emerge from that
in a pretty strong position, if
we do not lose self belief
Sir Richard Dearlove,
thank you very much.
Evan, thank you.
Tomorrow could be a decisive day
in the history of Rupert Murdoch
and his enormous media empire.
For over half a century he has
been building it up.
If reports out of America are to be
believed, tomorrow could see a very
because Disney appears
poised to takeover
a huge chunk of it -
20th Century Fox.
A huge deal that would leave Murdoch
controlling a much smaller and more
focussed group of news businesses.
But what does this tell us
about the media industry -
and what could it mean for Sky,
and particularly Sky News in the UK?
I'm joined from New York
by Shannon Bond, the US
for the Financial Times.
And in the studio by David Yelland.
He's the former editor of the Sun
and knows Rupert Murdoch very well.
Is it right to view this as Murdoch
retreating a bit into the area he
knows and loves, news?
anybody would have been surprised?
Months ago to think Rupert Murdoch
was going to be a seller. He spent
decades building this empire. It
does seem to be a bit of a retreat
to his origins in the news and in
sports here. It is not going to be
the sprawling empire that Fox is
Is this an era semiretirement
for Rupert Murdoch?
I don't think it
is retirement of any kind. He is
retreating to news. But I don't
think that is the right word. I
think this is about the next ten to
15 years. Apple is six, seven times,
well, four times the size of Fox and
Disney together. Amazon is $560
billion. The West Coast companies in
the US and the Chinese will control
media in ten years' time. There
would be to Chinese giants, for US
giants. The only one that will
survive will be Disney now.
Basically it is just racing to get
big and be safe?
I think he has
accepted he has not got the scale in
the digital world to be one of the
top one or two.
Is that your view of
it in terms of the bigger picture of
the entertainment scene in the next
I think that is absolutely
right. It is an acknowledgement that
Fox does not have the scale for the
future of entertainment. It is true,
we see these enormously disruptive
forces coming out of silicon valley,
are also changing the way that media
is produced and consumed. Who paying
for it, who is watching it?
here we think it quite a lot about
Sky. In the United States it is
probably not considered a huge
thing. What does this mean for Sky?
The Murdoch share will be in the
Disney empire. Murdoch wanted all of
it. We assume Disney will take it
Right, our understanding is one
where the other Disney World and up
morning Sky. Fox will continue to
buy the rest of the shares and
either they will get approved by
them, and then it will become part
of the Disney deal. If not, Disney
will take over that 39% stake they
own now and make its own bid to on
the rest of it. One way or the
other, Skye goes to Disney. It does
not have resonance in the US. But we
do recognise that for Disney it is a
big distribution platform for them
in Europe for their content. Very
important for future strategy.
News, a lot of people say Sky News
loses money, and the best way to run
a news organisation is to have a
billionaire behind you loves news.
Will Disney be interested in Sky
People don't realise that
Disney is an incredibly big provider
of news in the US. It owns ABC and
has done for 20 years. ABC is one of
the big three original networks. The
irony is the CMA have the government
are looking at variety. The fact is
Rupert Murdoch created Sky. He
created so many of these assets
which authorities around the world
are looking at. Without him it
wouldn't exist. Now Sky will be
owned by a US media giant but not
Fox. There is a huge irony there. I
would say to Anna Bolton and my
friends at Sky, they will be fine.
-- Adam Boulton.
Our big American
media empires interested in having
news channels as loss leaders to
give them prestige and a life
present in the world?
I think it is
absolutely significant for them.
Also, you can't discount the viewing
they are getting from these
channels. We are all obsessed with
screaming, we are all talking about
disruption. But people are still
watching the news and sport live.
Those are areas in which the
so-called linear television system
is going to be strong for a while
yet. There are still millions of
people who want to tune in to see
these things as they happen.
When the Grenfell fire
happened six months ago,
we quickly realised that something
had gone wrong with the building
regulations, or at least the way
they were implemented.
The result in that case
was a tragedy that has prompted
a complete review of fire safety
in tall buildings.
Well, tonight we can bring
you details of another area
of fire safety regulation,
which some believe needs examining -
it is that which purports to prevent
furniture from burning.
Now, the rules governing furniture
in this country are tough,
which you might assume is a good
thing in the wake of Grenfell.
This special report on the problem,
and how we got here,
is from our policy
editor, Chris Cook.
There is one area where Britain has
usually thought of itself as having
the toughest safety regulations
on earth, furniture.
We subject it to harder tests
than anyone else to try to make it
as fireproof as possible
for good reason.
For example, a sofa can be
a massive fire hazard.
But questions have arisen
about the safety of the rules we use
to contain this risk.
The civil servant who was
until recently in charge
of reviewing these regulations has
had a change of heart
about their wisdom since he got
involved in this field
in the mid-2000s.
I would have said these are the most
stringent fire safety,
domestic arrangements in the world.
They are a great success
and they are saving lives
and the rest of the world should
really come up to the same
level of requirements
that we have in the UK.
But you absolutely
don't believe that now?
I absolutely don't believe that now.
In Britain furniture fabric has
to pass very tough tests,
uniquely tough in the world,
before you are allowed to sell
it on the open market.
have worked out that the easiest way
to get through those tests is simply
to load the fabric with
chemical flame retardants.
The Grenfell Tower fire
is an apt moment to consider
the wisdom of this approach.
Within the Tower the fire obviously
moved through the building very
rapidly and people reported noxious
black smoke filling the interior.
rapidly and people reported noxious,
black smoke filling the interior.
A dozen residents were treated
afterwards for cyanide poisoning,
including a 12-year-old member
of the Gomez family.
The smoke was certainly
so intense that as soon
as you took a mouthful of air,
or in this case smoke,
you were gagging.
Smoke is always bad for you,
it can always kill you.
But the thing is, the commonest fire
retardants in use in UK
furniture work by interfering
with the chemistry of the flame
and a by-product of their use
is that when a fire gets going,
the smoke is more toxic.
A new peer-reviewed paper
in the journal Chemisphere suggests
they make it much more toxic.
The first thing we found
was that the sofas burnt at almost
the same kind of rate.
You did not get a particular
slowing down comparing
the non-flame retardant sofas
with the flame retardant ones.
The second thing is we got
between two and three times more
toxicity in the smoke from the UK
fire retardant sofas
and we did from the European
non-fire retardant sofas.
than we did from the European
non-fire retardant sofas.
More toxicity means more carbon
monoxide and hydrogen
cyanide in the smoke.
But the chemical companies point
to their own research saying UK
sofas clearly do better at resisting
fires than other European sofas
when they are first ignited,
and advocates of flame retardants
note that even if it makes mature
fires more dangerous, preventing
fires is the only smart strategy.
The best way to deal with toxicity
of smoke is to begin
with not to have a fire.
Not only do we benefit from not
having the toxic smoke,
but you will benefit from not having
the flames spread, you will benefit
from not having the structure
being put into structural danger,
you will have no problem of the fire
struggling to different compartments
you will have no problem of the fire
travelling to different compartments
and finding different fuels.
This is, however, not the first wave
of unrest about retardants.
So the flame retardants
are what are called semi-volatile,
that means they are coming out
always from the couch,
you don't have to sit on it,
they are always coming out,
and they are heavy,
they drop into dust.
You get dust on your hands
and you eat a sandwich
and you are eating flame retardant.
Our own government just last year
noted flame retardant chemicals,
particularly brominated flame
retardants, can be harmful
to human and animal health.
There is a big question though
about whether these regulations
are actually preventing fires.
For example, they don't really take
account of the fact that in a sofa
arm you might have a load
of flammable Hessian or wood or even
cardboard just under the surface.
Professor Ryan does not support
reducing flame retardant use,
but also acknowledges
the statistical difficulty
in proving their effectiveness.
When you look into medicine, for
example, I envy them tremendously.
They do meta analysis,
which is an analysis
of the reviews of the reviews.
In fire science we cannot
do meta analysis.
We have like three studies
per topic instead of 3000,
which is the level of the studies
that you will require to actually
inform the politicians.
So we operate in this area
slightly in the dark.
People from competing disciplines
give different answers
to the same questions.
It is a complex public policy issue.
So how did we end up
with these rules?
The story of our fire regulation
really starts in the 1980s
when there was real disquiet
about fire deaths.
In part because we used horrifyingly
flammable foam padding in furniture,
which is now just banned,
and more people smoked.
I am warning this room
could be a burnt out shell
because of the burning
cigarette someone forgot.
This man is Bob Graham,
then a Manchester firefighter,
speaking in 1985 on Newsnight.
We were running a feature on how
many fires were then
being caused by cigarettes.
We have got a situation
where we have the smallest emission
source in the home being responsible
for the largest
proportion of deaths.
At that time Assistant Chief Fire
Officer Graham wanted cigarette
companies to roll out self
to cut down on fires.
Not a universally
popular view in 1985.
Here at the headquarters
of the Tobacco Advisory Council
repeated requests for a spokesman
to discuss self distinguishing
repeated requests for a spokesman
to discuss self extinguishing
cigarettes have been met
with polite refusals.
The tobacco companies may not have
been talking to Newsnight, but we do
know that they were watching.
Newsnight has dug up legal
disclosures from the US
which show just how concerned
they were about our reports.
One of them notes that
their inability to put forward
a defensible PR stance on these
issues had been amply demonstrated
by TV comments in July 1985.
That is when that
Newsnight report went out.
They needed to find a way to get
people to talk about fires
as being caused by furniture,
not by cigarettes.
From these documents we know that
tobacco companies contributed
to the development of flame
retardants for furniture.
In Britain, big tobacco set
up a special fire safe
cigarette working group.
This press conference,
called by a West Midlands Fire chief
in 1988, was enormously helpful.
It was critical in forcing
the debate from cigarettes
and onto furniture.
And the documents show
to their cause was a key plank
of big tobacco's policy.
Now thanks to those court
disclosures, we now know
that the tobacco companies had
actually been working on Mr Graham,
and another firefighter
who was on that podium.
You see, the documents
are pretty clear.
The tobacco companies thought
they had no credibility
to talk about fire safety,
and they needed a protective
ring of firefighters
who could do it for them.
So they said Mr Graham could be one
of their so-called spark plugs,
people who could move
the debate their way.
So they met him, they engaged
with him and sought to make him see
furniture rather than cigarettes
as the problem.
And we know that pretty soon he
changed his mind in that direction.
We asked Mr Graham whether he knew
back in the 1980s, that he was being
targeted by tobacco lobbyists.
I didn't know that.
They saw you and your support
for the self-extinguishing cigarette
as a thing we had to deal with.
I was in the fire service.
You wouldn't be allowed
to do anything like that.
You know, you couldn't deal with any
businesses, whatever they were.
But I never heard from them.
Not that I can remember anyway.
So you weren't aware at any point
of the tobacco industry sort of...
No, I wasn't.
That's all new to me.
Mr Graham said he just
changed his mind in favour
of furniture regulation.
He wasn't alone.
In 1988, the government
Britain banned a lot of flammable
furniture and brought
in the current tests.
The response from big tobacco?
There memos referred to the group
on fire safe cigarettes,
That though was not
the end of the lobbying.
The chemical companies who make
retardants became bigger players.
The alliance for consumer fire
safety in Europe aggressively
lobbied to extend our rules
to other EU countries.
They had the same strategy -
get a firefighter.
I'd been retired about five years.
And then they asked for a meeting.
I met them.
They said, "We'd like you to raise
fire awareness in Europe."
And I said, "OK, but I do it my way.
I'm not being influenced by anyone."
And they were funded
by the fire retardant company?
Yes, by a committee of all the flame
retardant manufacturers in Europe,
which is halogenated,
phosphorus and all those
kind, I understand.
And at one time I think smoke
alarm people as well.
So from its birth, the alliance
was really founded by the fire flame
with you as executive front men?
with you as executive front man?
It would be silly to say no to that.
Mr Graham stressed that the alliance
did not advocate for retardants
in particular, although chemical
companies would tend
to benefit from the tough fire
safety rules he wanted.
But they're not the only lobby.
Back in 2014, the Business
Department proposed changing
the test, to make it more sensitive
to how modern furniture
is actually made.
It doesn't represent the way that
furniture is constructed,
and it doesn't take into account
the many flammable materials you can
get close to the surface
in the arms and so forth.
You could never bring
that test in now.
The proposed test reforms would mean
regulation and materials not
currently covered by the rules,
but would also mean an overall
reduction in flame retardant use.
So he was expecting the chemical
industry to resist.
Another industry though
was mobilised by the changes.
The furniture industry really
likes these regulations,
because they are a barrier to trade.
Because it gives them a huge
advantage in the home market.
Because if you are a German
manufacturer and you want some
Because if you are a German
manufacturer and you want to sell
furniture into the UK,
you've got to create
a separate range that complies
with our regulations.
A furniture industry body said
they thought our rules
needed a full update,
but oposed the reforms
because they thought they wouldn't
meet government objectives.
The government believes these
regulations do need reform,
but we don't spend much on research
to balance the competing concerns
about effectiveness and toxicity.
Some ministers sought
consensus on what would work.
But that collapsed in part
because there is so much money
riding on opposing change.
Do you think that we make foreign
safety policy on a scientific basis?
Not at the moment, no.
I've been involved with committees
that set regulations
and address regulation changes.
And I can tell you that I'm
surprised how little the role
of science has in these committees.
The standards process in the UK
is dominated by people who can
afford to attend the meetings,
and those are usually people
with a vested interest
in a particular outcome.
All lobbying is funded
by the industry.
All the resistance to
improvements in standards
comes from the industry.
And there is either money to be made
or money to be lost.
This is not ancient history.
The government consulted once again
last year on changes that
would reduce the flame retardant
load in our furniture.
We don't know what they'll do,
but we do know they faced organise
opposition from industry.
Also, in the wake of the disaster
in Kensington, and with relatively
little large-scale research to rely
on, ministers may find it
easiest to hope this
concern burns itself out.
That's all for this evening.
Before we go, the Daily Mail
describes those Tory rebels as self
consumed malcontents. It asks, are
you proud of yourselves? From me,