Mike Gapes MP (Ilford South) shares his thoughts on the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy and on fire regulations.
The first responsibility of the Government must be to do everything it can to support those affected by this terrible fire, now and in the years ahead including providing new housing for families displaced, in the local area. This was promised by the Housing Minister and must be upheld.
Beyond that, we must ensure the investigations and any public inquiry get to the bottom of how this fire happened, hold those responsible to account, and do what is needed to make sure it does not happen again.
So that MPs can raise concerns, including on behalf of their constituents, Labour are pressing for a Minister to appear in front of the House of Commons as soon as possible.
Labour in Government acted to require the fitting of sprinklers on new high-rise buildings. We also launched a new fire safety protocol in 2007 and updated guidance in 2008, but it’s clear now that more needs to be done, particularly for older buildings.
Labour wants to see emerging findings from the public inquiry completed by the summer, covering areas including: national building regulations, building maintenance, advice given to residents, the role of any refurbishment work in affecting the fire safety of the building, the way in which concerns raised by tenants were dealt with, and the effect of any of the above on the firefighting operations. There is precedent for such a rapid review – in 2009 after the Lakanal House fire, Labour Ministers commissioned the chief fire adviser to do an ‘emerging issues’ review which was completed Iess than a month.
However, Ministers needn’t even wait for this review – we have the Coroners’ reports on other fires from 2013 which have not been implemented in key areas such as retrofitting of sprinklers in high-rise blocks, and revamping building regulations. The Government should set out a plan to act immediately in these areas.
Labour supports the public inquiry, and will press Ministers to ensure that it covers all areas needed to hold those responsible to account and that residents received legal representation to help make their voices fully heard, so a tragedy of this sort is never repeated.
It is clear a wider re-think of housing policy is now needed, including the resources and powers available to local government to build and maintain homes. Commitments were made on this in Labour’s housing manifesto, released ahead of the general election.
I would like to assure constituents that I have already spoken to Redbridge Council about the safety of the blocks in Ilford South.