We have seen the future: the scandal of Yarl's Wood Asylum Centre illustrates many of the shortcomings in the Government's approach to public sector reform and the Fire Service. It also shows the fundamental inhumanity of the current policy on asylum seekers.(Comment)

Readers may remember that on Valentine's day 2002 Yarl's Wood was razed to the ground (see FIRE April 2002). subsequent reports and court proceedings revealed a long list of worrying contributory factors.

Firstly, despite recommendations to the contrary from Bedfordshire and Luton Fire and Rescue Service, the building was constructed without a sprinkler system. This decision was presumably taken on the advice of senior civil servants attached to the Fire Inspectorate and was almost certainly influenced by considerations of cost. Mr Prescott proposes that these same civil servants will have a central role in the new institutional framework for the Fire Service when the current white Paper becomes an Act. …

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