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Grenfell Tower Inquiry: Phase 1 Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 21st January 2020.

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Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department 7:00 pm, 21st January 2020

A national improvement plan is being created for the sector by the National Fire Chiefs Council and will build on the work of its central programme office, the fire standards board, the protection board and the inspectorate.

Several Members, not least my right hon. Friend Mrs May, raised the issue of interoperability, and concerns have rightly been raised about co-ordination and communication errors between the emergency services at Grenfell. We take this issue very seriously, and the Government are committed to working with all emergency services to improve interoperability. The joint emergency services interoperability principles, or JESIP—their joint doctrine—set out a standard approach to multi-agency working. It will be reviewed and republished by September this year to incorporate learnings from the Grenfell disaster. Following the inquiry’s report, the interoperability board has written to all emergency services to reinforce what is required when a major incident occurs. The report made recommendations in relation to the images and data sent from the National Police Air Service helicopters, and I can confirm that that work has been completed.

Let me turn to some specific issues that Members have raised during the debate. If I miss any out, I am more than happy to write to Members afterwards. Several Members raised the issue of members of the Grenfell community—survivors and families—still remaining in temporary accommodation. As Housing Minister for 12 months, I met individuals regularly and reviewed individual cases. As I have explained, particularly to the Opposition housing spokesman, John Healey, these are complex and difficult cases. Our concern at the repeated raising of this issue is not necessarily for our own political advantage, but that raising it increases the pressure on individuals who are living in temporary accommodation, who are leading complex and difficult lives. We are attempting to be sensitive to them and to accommodate them. We should not assume that those individuals have been continuously in temporary accommodation: a number have been in and out as they have struggled with the circumstances they face. We are keeping up pressure on the council—the Secretary of State and the Housing Minister meet the council regularly—but as we deal with these particular individuals, it behoves us all to remain sensitive to their plight.

Several Members, not least David Linden and my hon. Friend Kevin Hollinrake, raised the wider issue of the ability of those who are living in buildings with cladding either to sell or to secure finance against their properties. Work did start last year, and I understand from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that it has now concluded. A working party at the MHCLG, including the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and UK Finance, was formed to try to resolve the issue. That has now produced a new simplified process by which surveyors can reassure themselves that a property is mortgageable and insurable, and therefore financeable, so that sales can be effected.