Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Grenfell Tower Inquiry: Phase 1 Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:18 pm on 21st January 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Conservative, Sutton and Cheam 6:18 pm, 21st January 2020

It is a pleasure to follow the returning speech, as it might be termed, of Margaret Ferrier. It is also a pleasure to have heard some very powerful speeches, not least that of my new colleague, my hon. Friend Felicity Buchan. I remember, in 2017, when her predecessor had to come to this place in such terrible circumstances and had to respond to that within weeks. My hon. Friend has really taken up being that champion and advocate for the people of her constituency of Kensington. It is so important that we make sure that we do keep the action going, as I will try to cover in the few minutes of my contribution.

We also heard a speech from my hon. Friend Dean Russell, who spoke powerfully about the mental health aspects not only of the victims’ families and friends and the people who had to witness that, but of the emergency services. It is good to make sure that he is aware, although he is not in his place at the moment, that NHS England has a budget of £50 million to offer direct support to the people in the community. That clearly does not cover the emergency services, so we must make sure that people like the fireman to whom he bore testament get mental health support as well. It is so crucial that they can carry on living a fulfilling life and doing the fulfilling, heroic job that they absolutely do.

I led the first debate on Grenfell in Parliament. It took place in Westminster Hall as the result of a petition that had been signed by a number of people who could not fail to be struck by the plight of the 72 victims and their families and friends. I read each of those 72 names into the record. I had researched and looked into the people who lost their lives, and it was so tragic. I could not fail to be moved, and I defy anyone who looks into those stories not to have a tear in their eye. People have said today that we must never let this happen again, but I do not want to say that at the end of my speech. We must get on. We must not spend time just talking about this; we must get things done.

A couple of years ago, I remember hearing in the Speaker’s apartment a family member from Grenfell United describe this as a tragedy in three acts: the first stage was being ignored during the refurbishment, the second stage was the fire itself, and the third stage was the sense of abandonment at the end. I understand those sentiments, but I have also seen how the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend Mrs May, Ministers for housing and for the police, and other Ministers, together with local authority representatives and Members of Parliament for Kensington, have tried to do their best for that community and for others who live in similar at-risk properties. I therefore welcome two Bills proposed in the Queen’s Speech that will follow through on the recommendations in phase one of the report.

The proposed fire safety Bill will

“enable the Government to lay regulations needed to deliver the legislative recommendations” in that report, and the proposed building safety Bill will allow us to prompt a change in industry culture. We have heard what it will be like for private contractors. Do we legislate? How do we push them to meet their responsibilities to the people who will live in their buildings?

This is not just about height. In a previous debate in this place I spoke about a fire at Chaucer House, a high-rise block in my constituency, and I saw the lessons that the fire services had learned and were able to put into practice. In the past few months there was a fire at Richmond House, a low-rise, privately owned block in Worcester Park in the Hamptons. It burned down in minutes. That clearly has not been covered by Government or industry action, but I saw the devastation that the fire caused to a comparatively small number of families. As we heard from John Healey, at that stage there was fortunately no loss of life. What can we learn from that, and what can we learn from Grenfell to ensure that people who still live in similarly constructed houses do not have their safety put at risk? How can those people who want to move but find that their homes currently have no market value move on and get things done? Those two Bills will be instrumental in holding the industry to account and ensuring fire safety in our new properties. We must have confidence and ensure that people feel safe in their own homes—a fundamental point that we should expect in this day and age.