Jeremy Corbyn blames council spending cuts for tower block fire
A deadly high rise fire in London was the “price paid” for Conservative cuts to local authorities, Jeremy Corbyn said today.
The Labour leader argued MPs should “ask questions” about the resources given to local authorities containing tower blocks like the Grenfell Tower in west London that went up in flames last night.
He also pointed the finger at successive ministers - including Theresa May's new chief of staff, Gavin Barwell - for not acting on a report into building regulations following a similar fire in Camberwell, south London, in 2009.
At least six people have so far died in the Grenfell Tower fire, with the number expected to rise, police have confirmed.
Mr Corbyn said he was “totally shocked” by the horrific event and paid tribute to the emergency services that tackled the blaze through last night and today.
But he added: “If you cut local authority expenditure then a price is paid somewhere.”
Mr Barwell was housing minister until losing his Croydon Central seat at last week's election.
A review into part B of the Building Regulations 2010 was launched in the wake of the Lakanal House fire in Camberwell which killed six people in 2009.
Mr Corbyn said today: “Obviously ministers that served and received those reports must be questioned. But today every focus and every concentration must be on saving and protecting life.”
He also pointed to a refusal by ministers to enforce the retro-fitting of sprinklers in high rise blocks, after a coroner investigating the 2010 blaze at in Shirley Towers in Southampton suggested the move.
“There has to be very strong fire regulations, which there are, but there has to be a sprinkler system installed particularly in residential tower blocks that don’t have them at the present .time,” he said.
Then-housing minister Brandon Lewis told the Commons in 2014: “We believe that it is the responsibility of the fire industry, rather than the Government, to market fire sprinkler systems effectively and to encourage their wider installation.”
THERESA MAY 'DEEPLY SADDENED'
Fire Minister Nick Hurd will chair a cross-departmental meeting this afternoon to coordinate the Government’s response.
A No 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life in the Grenfell Tower and is being kept constantly updated on the situation.
“She has asked for a cross-Government meeting at the Civil Contingencies Secretariat to take place at 4pm to co-ordinate the response and ensure the Government is ready to assist the emergency services and local authorities as necessary.
“The PM’s thoughts are with all of those affected by this terrible incident and the emergency services, who are working tirelessly in very difficult circumstances.”
Commons Speaker John Bercow said there would not be a debate in the chamber today about the fire but that MPs would be able to question a minister about it at a meeting in parliament.
Meanwhile, it is thought that announcements expected today on the outcome of talks on a Tory/DUP pact have been delayed as a result of the fire.