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Grenfell Tower Inquiry: Phase 1 Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:04 pm on 21st January 2020.

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Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford 6:04 pm, 21st January 2020

It is an honour to follow Matt Rodda and, indeed, so many colleagues from all parts of the Chamber who have made so many important observations about this issue and the way forward.

I will always remember the week of Grenfell. It was my first week as a Member of Parliament. It had started with so much optimism, energy and enthusiasm, and then it so, so quickly turned into horror, tragedy and just unbelievable sadness that was felt all across this country. I join others in paying tribute to the families for their continuous support for each other, for making sure that no member of their community is ever forgotten or left behind, and for their mission to make sure that the lessons are learned and that it never happens again.

I recall, as a new Member of Parliament, quickly thinking about my own constituents, many of whom commute into London every day to work in the City, in Canary Wharf and in other very tall buildings. I used to work in Canary Wharf, on the 46th floor, and indeed was working there during the 9/11 tragedy. All members of staff at that time felt that we were the next target. If London were to be hit, it was our tower that would be targeted. Entering that building, each of us was full of fear every day. On two occasions, the fire alarm did go off. Even though I was fitter and younger then, walking down those stairs as quickly as I could took 40 minutes. My hon. Friend Felicity Buchan, in her powerful speech, asked the Minister to look at the safety of not only residential blocks but schools, hospitals and care homes. I say to the Minister, please do not forget our office workers and others who work in tall buildings.

I would like to talk about electrical safety. The fire in Grenfell was started by an electric fridge. I lost my father in an electrical accident—an accident that should never have happened—when I was only 10 years old. I know that nothing can ever bring back a loved one, but those of us who have lived through such accidents always want to do everything we can to make sure that they never happen again.

The sad thing is that instances of electrical appliances starting fires are not unique. According to Electrical Safety First, more than 10,000 fires in this country last year started because of electrical appliances. A large number of fires start because the owners misuse the appliance. We must continue to raise, focus on and talk about the importance of using electrical appliances safely. There are also a growing number of counterfeit and fake items, especially in online sales, which I am afraid often have high accident rates in respect of fire and other electrical accidents.

Then there is the issue of faulty products, which was mentioned by Andy Slaughter. We should look at what is happening right now in this area and think urgently about what more we can do to help. Just before Christmas, Whirlpool announced the recall of half a million—500,000—washing machines. These washing machines have caused fires. It is not a huge number of fires and nobody has had a serious injury—touch wood—but the situation is serious enough for the manufacturer to want to recall those goods.