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Grenfell Tower Inquiry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:10 pm on 30th October 2019.

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Photo of Emma Dent Coad Emma Dent Coad Labour, Kensington 3:10 pm, 30th October 2019

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I would also like to name the previous Fire Ministers and Housing Ministers Brandon Lewis and Gavin Barwell, and Eric Pickles, the then Secretary of State, who turned a deaf ear to pleas about the fire cuts, as well as our current Fire Minister, whom I have had many conversations with. I feel that I have spent two years—I apologise for this—shouting into a void.

I also name the former Kensington and Chelsea cabinet member in charge of the refurbishment, Rock Feilding-Mellen, a man whom we have no love for in North Kensington. He abandoned his fourth home, a modest London crash-pad, which he had bought for cash, that now overlooks the shrouds of the Grenfell Tower he was so keen to improve the appearance of. He is a man who called my beautiful Golborne ward a “ghetto”, but he can sleep at night safe in one of his three stately homes, one of which appears to be a castle. He is a man who demanded good prices on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment, and I am sure this will come out in the second phase of the inquiry in two years’ time.

I also name the past leader of the council, Nick Paget-Brown, a man who was happy to spend £250,000 on pre-Raphaelite paintings, but as the tower blazed behind him on that horrible morning—as my neighbours burned to death behind him—he said on camera that the residents had been offered sprinklers and refused them, which was an entirely provable black lie.

It is these people—cushioned by their millions, devoid of any conscience, protected by taxpayer-funded legal teams, reputation advisers and empathy coaches—who are the guilty ones here. They sleep easy in their beds, while half of North Kensington, including myself, have sleepless nights broken by nightmares, and tens of thousands of our fellow human beings across the country live in dangerous buildings, some of whom have put their life savings into them—all lost. Those I have named and the system they represent built a bonfire, lit the match and stood by wagging their fingers as firefighters, ill-trained and ill-equipped for a situation that should never have happened, ran into an inferno to save lives.

This interim report has failed us, as far as I am concerned. It does nothing to protect people tonight or into the future. In addition to protecting corporate interests and declining to look into potential dodgy dealings or even possible corruption, which is for police to investigate, it fails even to support the recommendations that would stop this man-made atrocity happening again. There are some things that could have been done at this stage, and they have not been done. Why should we wait another two years for that? These failures of corporate interests, the complacency of politicians over many years and the failures of this report mean, to my mind, that Grenfell 2 could happen tomorrow. I wonder whether they, if their children were living in a flat in the sky wrapped in solid petrol, would wake up to the potential disaster and legislate now.