Grenfell: social housing policy issues ‘dealt with in due course’

In the Commons, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid acknowledges that such issues need to be addressed – but not by public inquiry.

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Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has said issues around wider questions on social housing policy raised by the Grenfell disaster will be dealt with “in due course.”

Javid was responding to questions being asked in the Commons of his commitment to addressing such issues when the public enquiry into Grenfell would not.

Shadow housing minister John Healey challenged Javid over terms of reference for the inquiry that “closed off” relevant examination of social housing policy.

“These are exactly the fundamental issues the Prime Minister rightly said were raised by the Grenfell Tower fire, and exactly the failings that Grenfell residents and survivors want examined.

“A hard look at social housing policy is essential to a full understanding of this terrible tragedy, and to making sure it can and does never happen again.

Healey also questioned the building regulations review for failing to recognise recommendations from two coroners in 2013 – and accepted by the Government at the time – after the fatal high-rise fires at Lakanal House and Shirley Towers.

Where previous housing ministers had been accused of sitting on those recommendations, Healey questioned the Secretary of state’s own commitment to act.

Citing subsequent circumstances in Camden and Southwark, Javid acknowleged that wider issues need to be addressed.

“In due course, I will set out for the House how we intend to deal with those issues,” he said.

Beyond that it would, said Javid, be wrong to talk about the public inquiry in detail “given that it is rightly being led by a judge, completely independently.”

The equally “fully independent” review, led by Dame Judith Hackitt, was intended to issue an interim report by the end of this year, followed by a final report in the spring of next year.

“The work should not be rushed. Dame Judith will set up an advisory panel and carry out the work thoroughly so that we can properly learn the lessons, including lessons from the past and the contents of reports that have been published.

“We want those matters to be taken into account together, in an independent way,” Javid said.

The inquiry is already examining the immediate causes of the Grenfell fire and its spread, as well as the design and refurbishment of the tower itself.

It will move on to regulations and fire safety measures in place at the time as well as the borough council’s reaction to similar emergencies, the actions of the London fire brigade on the night and the immediate responses of central and local government.

Inquiry head, and former court of appeal judge, Sir Martin Moore-Bick came under pressure to also examine the social and political conditions in which a disaster such as Grenfell was able to happen – including the social housing provision in the UK.

But he told the prime minister that such issues were “not suitable for a judge-led inquiry” and could instead be covered by another process operating in parallel to his own.

The scope of the Inquiry has been criticised by many for not tackling the ‘failings’ of social housing policy.

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