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[1st Day]

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 2:58 pm on 21st June 2017.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party 2:58 pm, 21st June 2017

My hon. Friend Christian Matheson is very prescient and forward-sighted. I thank him very much. The changes would only have moved funding between rural and urban forces, when the real issue is the £2.3 billion cut to police budgets in the past five years.

Our firefighters did an outstanding job at the Grenfell Tower fire, but they worked incredibly long shifts, in part because there are 600 fewer firefighters and 10 fewer fire stations in London—cuts and closures that were forced through by the previous Mayor of London. Talking to those firefighters, exhausted from their work, who went into a burning building to save people, I asked, “Why do you do it? Why do you go in when you know it’s so difficult and so dangerous?” They said, “Because we’re firefighters. That’s what we’re trained to do. That’s why we serve the public the way we do.” We need more of them and there needs to be greater security for all of them. We have to fund our fire services properly, and not just at a time of crisis.

I welcome the fact that there is a public inquiry into Grenfell, but can we take action now? I pay tribute to councils such as Croydon Council, which has committed this week to installing sprinklers in all tower blocks of 10 storeys or more. However, such minimal fire safety standards cannot be left to a postcode lottery, so will the Government make available emergency funds for councils to check cladding and install sprinklers?

The Government should also have committed themselves to passing a public safety Bill to implement the recommendations of the 2013 inquiry into the fire at Lakanal House, and to reversing their guidance that removed the requirement to install sprinklers in new school buildings. They could still do so and they would have our support. That could happen in addition to any recommendations of the Grenfell Tower inquiry.