This is a tragedy that should never have happened and has shocked the whole country.
Our first priority must be to ensure those who are affected by the fire are given the support they need now and in the years ahead, including rehousing in their local area. I am glad that the government has eventually committed help for those affected, and we will be monitoring progress closely in the period ahead to ensure that those who have lost everything are not let down again.
Beyond that, it is important that we immediately ensure that those living in other high-rise residential buildings are safe, and there are urgent checks now being done across the country by councils and housing associations. Ministers should publish these results to reassure residents.
The Queen’s Speech is an opportunity for the government to show its willingness to bring forward fresh changes to ensure that a tragedy of this sort never happens again. Labour supports a public inquiry to get to the bottom of how this disaster happened, and to hold those responsible to account, but we cannot wait months or years for a report so emerging findings and recommendations must be published by the summer.
However, Ministers need not wait on the findings of any new inquiry to act. Coroners’ reports sent to the Department for Communities and Local Government in 2013 provide clear recommendations for improving the safety in high–rise residential blocks, important parts of which were ignored or rejected by Ministers. This includes the retrofitting of sprinklers into high-rise blocks and overhauling building regulations as Conservative Ministers promised to do in 2013, but have still not done. Ministers should now act immediately on these recommendations which they have had for four years.
This would build upon the changes that Labour made in government: requiring the fitting of sprinklers on new high-rise buildings and launching a new fire safety protocol in 2007 and updated guidance in 2008. Any changes should also learn from the important changes made by Labour in Wales, where all new homes are now required to have sprinklers.
Labour will be pressing Government Ministers to act swiftly and decisively in these areas so that a tragedy of this sort is never repeated.