Commons hears fears of ‘severely overcrowded’ Grenfell flats

MP raises issues around illegal sub-letting, immigration status and human trafficking as they relate to the disaster.

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In a Commons debate, an MP raised survivor testimony suggesting a number of flats in fire stricken Grenfell Tower were ‘severely overcrowded’.

Jess Phillips said the house had to assume that such flats were being sub-let illegally and inhabited by people with unstable immigration status – possibly even trafficked.

She questioned what ministers were doing to ensure that private landlords – legal or otherwise – were properly declaring vulnerable people in the building on the night of the fire, and not potentially profiteering from any properties or finances being offered to survivors.

DCLG secretary of state Sajid Javid referred to the DPP offer not to prosecute where information was offered as ‘one of the steps taken’.

The DPP has said there will be no prosecution of tenants at Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk who may have been illegally sub-letting their property.

Javid said: “There may have been people living in flats that were illegally sub-let who had no idea about the true status of their tenancy.

“Their families want to know if they perished in the fire.

“These are their sons, their daughters, their brothers, and their sisters. They need closure, and that is the least that they deserve.

“However, that cannot happen unless we have the information we need, so we are urging anyone with that information to come forward and to do so as quickly as they can.

The house heard that, so far, almost £2.5m has been distributed from the £5m Grenfell Tower residents’ discretionary fund. Each affected household is receiving £5,500 to provide immediate assistance, and payments have been made to 112 households so far.

Tomorrow (July 5) is the deadline promised by the prime minister for every family who lost their home because of the fire to be offered a ‘good-quality’ temporary home within three weeks.

Maintaining that the commitment can be honoured, Javid told the house that no-one displaced will be compelled to accept an offer of temporary accommodation that they do not want.

But every household, he said, also be given the space to make this transition at their own pace and in a way that helps them recover.

All tenants involved will have their rents suspended for a year.

Barbara Brownlee, of the Grenfell Fire Response Team, said victims would not be under pressure to take the first offer that was made to them.

She said: “We’ve made 126 offers. There are some families who do not want to move yet into the area of free housing. They are far too distressed. They’re dealing with children still in hospital or they are burying relatives. The last thing they want to do is talk to us about an offer of housing.”

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