Housing minister Alok Sharma has pledged to re-house “every single family” affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy in the local area.
Newly elected Labour MP for Kensington, Emma Dent Coad – a long-term campaigner against poor social housing in the borough – said residents made homeless by the tragedy were increasingly concerned that they would be rehoused as far away as Hastings or Peterborough where the council has tried to rehouse tenants previously.
At a ministerial briefing this afternoon, Labour MPs pushed for an early commitment to help reassure those who have lost their homes.
Sharma also said that the public inquiry into the tragedy promised by Theresa May would be held under the Inquiries Act with witnesses compelled to give evidence under oath.
Reassuring tower block residents, Sharma said government wanted councils and housing providers to carry out checks on property as quickly as possible – with more detail to come from the DCLG.
The briefing heard that council checks on safety standards in residential tower blocks had to now be treated as an ‘emergency’ priority.
John Healey, shadow housing minister, said: “No fire in a single flat should have led to such devastation. No one should sleep in fear in a tower block. And no minister should rest until all the questions have been answered.”
The briefing also heard calls for fire safety checks to be extended to properties in the private rented sector so ”the poorest people in the poorest properties” were protected.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed a full public inquiry into the tragedy.
At the briefing, Tory MP Jeremy Lefroy said the inquiry should be conducted under the Inquiries Act, so that witnesses could be compelled to give evidence and made to give evidence under oath.
Labour’s Mary Creagh said with Grenfell Tower being a “man-made disaster” their need to be a review of how local and central government worked together on enforcing building regulations – where councils work in according to guidelines set by government.
The briefing heard that housing associations also needed clarity on what fire safety and evacuation measures could be implemented – referencing the ‘stay put’ policy that saw so many Grenfell Tower residents trapped.
Zac Goldsmith MP told the briefing that council tower block checks had to be an ‘emergency’ priority
There was, he said, a responsibility on government to ensure councils had all they needed to accomplish such checks within ‘days not weeks’.
Camden Council, in north London, is already conducting “additional fire safety checks” on in its tower blocks following reports that the firm responsible for the cladding at Grenfell Tower was also involved in recladding on five blocks in the borough.
A spokesman said: “Camden has a robust fire safety policy in place and we will continue to work closely with the London fire brigade to ensure our fire safety procedures meet the latest advice and guidance.
“All housing blocks on our estates receive fire risk assessments and additional fire safety checks will now be made to continue to reassure residents.
“We stand ready to respond to any new advice from London fire brigade that may emerge from today’s tragic incident.”
The two firms involved in the Grenfell Tower refurbishment also delivered a bigger project in the Chalcot Estate in Camden as part of a £18m revamp under the Private Finance Initiative.
The Chalcot estate in Swiss Cottage consists of 706 homes in five tower blocks – Taplow, Bray, Burnham, Dorney, and Blashford – rising to 23 storeys.
Baroness Jones, a Green Party member of the House of Lords, has welcomed the setting up of a public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire.
She first made the call for a public inquiry after the Lakanal House fire in 2009 which killed six people.
Then, Baroness Jones was chair of the London Assembly’s Housing and Planning Committee when the fire happened and initiated an Assembly report into the safety of tall buildings which was published with a series of recommendations in December 2010.
Baroness Jones said: “The remit of the public inquiry must include an examination of whether any of the lessons of the Lakanal fire have been learnt. And whether inaction by the government or the building professions led directly to the Grenfell tragedy.
“It was clear in 2009 that the system of fire safety checks was not working properly and inadequate building regulations relating to the outside panels was partly responsible for the rapid spread of the fire.
“Those doubts continued to be expressed in the years after the Lakanal House fire as recommendations made by the inquest were not properly followed through.
“There appears to be shocking similarities between the causes of deaths in the two fires.
“Instead of changes being made and the government saying ‘never again’, we have the horror of Grenfell.”
“The Lakanal fire highlighted the lack of coordination between contractors and the local authority.
“The complaints of residents indicate similar problems may have hindered the refurbishment process at Grenfell and that must be looked at.
“The inquiry must not only put the tenants centre stage and give them a voice but also ask whether tenants across the country need to be given new rights to access information and be part of the decision-making and monitoring process.”