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I am pleased to be able to speak in this important debate. I wish to declare an interest as a member and co-chair of the Fire Brigades Union parliamentary group. I would like to thank members of the FBU who gave up their time this week to brief me and other MPs on the implications of the report, and to speak to us about their concerns. I would also like to pay tribute to my good and hon. Friend Emma Dent Coad for her work, her remarkable personal courage and her bravery in naming the names that need to be named, and more generally for the work that she has done following the tragedy. I want to acknowledge and pay my respects to the victims and their families and, indeed, to the whole community of Grenfell and to all those who have been terribly touched by the tragedy. I also want to acknowledge the contribution of, and express solidarity with, the fire and rescue services and the firefighters who put their own safety and lives at risk on that most dreadful day.
In the little time I have, I want to make a couple of quick points about the inquiry that I hope are salient. Like others, I believe the inquiry has been conducted back to front. It might have been more valuable if we could have looked at some of the corporate aspects at the same time and the two aspects could have been run in parallel. Individual politicians and Ministers, including senior Ministers, should be held to account for their actions and the consequences of their policy decisions. I was just thinking about other common strands in this Parliament, where Ministers failed to accept responsibility for the consequences of the decisions. We call it culpability, don’t we? We saw it with the Windrush scandal and the then Home Secretary. We also saw it to a large degree with the May train timetable fiasco under the then Transport Secretary, and now we are seeing the tragic consequence of the dreadful loss of life at Grenfell Tower.
We have to hold the Prime Minister to account. People were huffing and puffing about that, but when he was Mayor of London, he was responsible—despite protestations from the fire authority and from London MPs—for the closure of 10 fire stations, the loss of 27 fire engines and 600 firefighters, and the cutting of 10 of the 52 fire safety inspectors. Someone mentioned the role of fire control, which is absolutely critical. He cut fire control by a quarter over that period. So in my opinion, the inquiry’s decision that phase 1 should focus on the night of the fire has given a reprieve to some of the companies, individuals and politicians who should be held account for their decisions.