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Grenfell Tower Inquiry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:59 pm on 30th October 2019.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party 1:59 pm, 30th October 2019

I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention. He lost a dearly loved friend in that fire and he has done great work in supporting the Grenfell community, and I thank him for that. I ask the Government also to listen carefully to the remarks he has just made. Remembering people who lost their lives in a wholly preventable fire has to be met with a political response, which is what we are trying to do; with a procedural response, which is about the fire service and fire training and which I will come to in a moment; and of course with building regulations. But this also has to be about justice, because of those people who have knowingly—perhaps or perhaps not; that is what a court must find out—clad buildings with materials that they knew to be dangerous. That is where the corporate manslaughter issues arise. I hope that neither the Government nor anybody else will put any obstruction in the way of that process. The Prime Minister talks about the whole truth and that clearly is not with us yet.

In the light of the particular focus on actions of the London Fire Brigade in phase 1 of the inquiry report, we urge that the recommendations made of the London Fire Brigade are given the full response they require. At the same time, I want to pay tribute to the heroic actions of firefighters in our country every day, including on the night of the Grenfell fire. A lot of the time they stand in fire stations waiting for something to happen, but then they have to go and deal with it. They do not know what they are going to deal with before they get there. Our natural instinct whenever we see a thing of danger is to put ourselves in a place of safety—to run away, to avoid, to do whatever—but firefighters do not do that. They cannot do that. They have to run into a burning building while the residents are trying to escape from it. Firefighters know that is in their job and they know it is their responsibility, and they do it day after day. We should understand the bravery of those who sacrificed so much that night. Despite being told, when they came out of the fire, exhausted and dehydrated, that they must not go back in, as it was against fire service regulations, they said, “No, we might manage to save a life” and so they went back into that fire. That is what they do.

Matt Wrack is the general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union and a man who has been a firefighter. His union is composed of firefighters and he is a strong man who fights for his members. He spoke that summer at the Durham miners’ gala. I had never before known 200,000 people in absolute silence, as there were while he described what his members—his firefighters—had done at Grenfell. We should pay tribute to all firefighters and of course to the work done by the FBU, which helps to make us all safe.