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Grenfell Tower Inquiry: Phase 1 Report - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:56 pm on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon Labour 2:56 pm, 31st October 2019

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, for bringing this debate to our House. I also thank the three noble Lords who have made their maiden speeches today: the noble Baroness, Lady Sanderson, and the noble Lords, Lord Hendy and Lord Woolley.

I welcome the phase 1 report on the fire that took place at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017 and on why the fire spread so rapidly on the night. Before the night of the fire there were complaints about the block, which housed many families from different backgrounds. The majority of residents were refugees, asylum seekers and British citizens from our diverse society. Some residents felt that, prior to the fire, the local authority did not give their complaints attention because of who they were. This information was gathered after the fire. There were complaints prior to the fire about safety and, as far as the tenants were concerned, their complaints fell on deaf ears in Kensington and Chelsea Council.

Many survivors and families are still experiencing trauma from that night. One survivor I spoke to was Mr Paulos Tekle, whose six year-old son died that night. Mr Tekle lived on the 18th floor with his wife and two children, and they were joined on the night of the fire by another family; so they were five children and three adults.

After some time and several calls, he was told to leave his flat. He entrusted his six year-old son to an adult—a tenant from the block—who was to lead his son out to safety while he followed down with his wife and the other children. When Mr Tekle got out, he started looking for his son and the man he had entrusted him to. Mr Tekle’s only concern on the night was to get his family out safely once he knew that the block was on fire.

My support of Mr Tekle in a recent interview was to do with the maintenance of the building and the length of time it took for him to get his family out to safety. His trauma continued as he searched for his son at the local hospital. It took 11 days before it was confirmed that his son was one of the victims who had died because of the fire. I would like to put on record that my comment about authority was to do with Kensington and Chelsea Council, its lack of building maintenance and the low-level cladding to the building, not the fire brigade.

There may be many reasons why there was a delay in Mr Tekle receiving this information about his son. He is unable to speak without crying as he feels such guilt that he allowed someone other than himself to take care of his son. On the night of the fire and in the days that followed, there were 72 deaths. Seventy other people were injured and 223 people escaped. I would like to pay my respects to all those affected by the tragedy of that night.