'Shocking Failure': Defence Secretary Questioned Over Fire Safety

A letter signed by Dr Julian Lewis says the Defence Committee is "extremely concerned" by identified safety risks in accommodation.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has been accused of a "shocking failure" with regard to fire safety in military accommodation, with the Defence Secretary being questioned.

In a letter sent to Gavin Williamson, Chairman of the Defence Committee Dr Julian Lewis said the Committee is "extremely concerned" by fire safety risks in service accommodation.

Last week, serious fire safety concerns were raised by MPs, to which the MOD said all of its accommodation meets fire regulations after concerns were raised about its conditions.

Dr Lewis highlights a report published by the Defence Safety Authority (DSA), which included the finding that there were 373 reported fires, including two "notable fires" at barracks, between April 2017 and March 2018.

The Defence Committee Chairman also alleges a "fundamental lack of clarity and understanding" of fire safety roles across defence.

Julian Lewis fire letter
Julian Lewis fire letter

In an annual DSA report published in October 2018, Lieutenant General Richard Felton concluded that there was what is known as a "Limited Safety Assurance", which Lt Gen Felton said "should not be accepted as being good enough".

The report summarised that there is "a fundamental lack of clarity and understanding of the roles and responsibilities of all parties in the management of fire safety across defence" and that until "major weaknesses" are addressed, "the likelihood of a fire resulting in significant loss of life... will remain high".

Last November, the MOD announced a five-year plan to modernise its defence estate, including the construction of new buildings and accommodation and refurbishment of current facilities.