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[1st Day]

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 21st June 2017.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 3:32 pm, 21st June 2017

All of us across the House share a desire to ensure that people are safe and can have the confidence of being safe in their homes. Work was started immediately by the Department for Communities and Local Government, encouraging local authorities, and they have been working with the fire service to look at the issues in their tower blocks and to assess those tower blocks.

We do not yet know the absolute cause of the fire in Grenfell Tower. Work on that is ongoing, and we will take what action is necessary, including by learning the lessons that come out of it. The hon. Lady speaks about regulation. Of course, rigorous fire regulation is in place. If requirements to change that come out of the investigation that is taking place, we will of course act and do so swiftly.

Just so that right hon. and hon. Members are aware, there are of course a number of investigations. The police have opened a criminal investigation. The fire service and the Building Research Establishment are investigating as quickly as possible the exact cause of the fire so that any action that is required as a result of that work can be taken. Of course, there is also the public inquiry that I have announced.

We must learn some of the lessons of this and previous disasters when bereaved families have not had the support they need, so we will also introduce an independent public advocate for public disasters. That will be a strong independent voice for victims, acting on behalf of bereaved families and supporting them at public inquests and inquiries.

Let me join the Leader of the Opposition in paying tribute to the two Members of Parliament whom we lost in the course of the last year. Gerald Kaufman was an outstanding parliamentarian who served this House and his constituents in Manchester for an incredible 46 years. We did not agree on everything but, as Father of the House, he was an invaluable source of wisdom and experience for Members on both sides, and he will be greatly missed.

The despicable murder of Jo Cox shocked and devastated this House and the country. Jo was an inspirational MP, a campaigner and a humanitarian whose mission in life was defined by hope and love. Her killer sought instead to spread hate and division, but last weekend, as part of “The Great Get Together”, I and many hundreds of thousands of others—including, I am sure, Members of this House—in her honour came together, stood together and pulled together all across the country to unite against that hatred and to prove, in Jo’s own words, that we have far more in common than that which divides us.

I am sure the whole House will join me in paying tribute to Jo’s husband, Brendan, for the extraordinary courage and strength that he has shown in dealing with such personal tragedy and for honouring Jo’s memory in such an inspiring way. Whatever our disagreements in this House, may we all honour Jo’s memory and show that in our United Kingdom hope will always triumph over hate.

The House will know that the first part of a successful Queen’s Speech is finding someone to propose the address. That is, of course, intended to be a witty speech, as indeed the speech of my right hon. Friend Richard Benyon was today—from my point of view a little too witty, as he took all the jokes I had written in my speech. I have to say—[Interruption.] Wait for it. Over the years that my right hon. Friend has been the Member for Newbury and in the years when he was fighting to take the seat, he has shown a great commitment not only to his constituents, but to the important task of government and building a stronger economy and a fairer society. I know, for example, as a fellow Berkshire MP, the work he has done to raise awareness of an issue that I am particularly concerned about: mental health. He also made a significant contribution during his time as a Minister. I understand that once, as fisheries Minister, he mixed up his cod and his skate, but I am sure that, like the rest of us, he will not fail to welcome the absence in this House today of Salmond.