The disaster at Grenfell Tower has raised profound questions about the state’s responsibility to ensure proper safety measures are in place for residents in high-rise accommodation.
Today in Parliament the Prime Minister gave a statement on the disaster. In it, the government made welcome commitments to test the cladding on all tower blocks and to ensuring that all victims will be able to access the services they need – irrespective of their immigration status.
Yet questions remain about how the government will act to ensure such a tragedy never happens again. In particular, it is not clear whether the government will insist that local authorities retrofit tower blocks with sprinkler systems and other safety mechanisms, nor is it clear whether they would give councils sufficient resources to carry out this work.
Today I asked the Prime Minister to show leadership and require local authorities to retrofit tower blocks where safety measures need to be put in place. But I – and my colleague Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East – also challenged Theresa May to make sure that authorities like Bristol City Council are given proper funding by the government to carry out any essential work that is required.
Can the Prime Minister please tell us why she will not choose to show leadership and require all councils to retrofit flats, and provide the resources?
I have made the point earlier that what we need to ensure in any accommodation that is provided by local authorities or housing associations is that the accommodation is safe. People are making assumptions about the work that needs to be done to ensure that. What needs to happen on the ground is the local authority, or the housing association – the landlord – working with the fire and rescue service to ensure that they can provide that safety.
The Prime Minister did not take the opportunity to give assurances to Bristol City Council that funding would be made available to carry out any work that needs to be done in the light of the fire in London. The Government needs to take action to ensure residents’ safety and should not be passing the financial buck to Bristol City Council in doing so. Bristol’s Labour MPs will continue to press the government on this issue to ensure that lessons are truly learned and our residents are reassured about their safety.
You can watch the exchange here: