Jacob Rees-Mogg has apologised for saying the victims of Grenfell “lacked common sense” in staying put.
Facing widespread condemnation for his “monstrously arrogant and condescending” comments, the Leader of the Commons has offered a “profound apology”.
Issuing the apology, Rees-Mogg said: “What I meant to say is that I would have also listened to the fire brigade’s advice to stay and wait at the time. However, with what we know now and with hindsight I wouldn’t and I don’t think anyone else would.
“What’s so sad is that the advice given overrides common sense because everybody would want to leave a burning building.
“I would hate to upset the people of Grenfell if I was unclear in my comments. With hindsight and after reading the report no one would follow that advice. That’s the great tragedy.”
Grenfell United said Rees-Mogg’s suggestion that 72 people who died at Grenfell “lacked common sense” was beyond disrespectful. It is extremely painful and insulting to bereaved families.”
“It is extremely painful and insulting to bereaved families,” said Natasha Elcock, chair of Grenfell United
“Sorry, for me, 28-months on, is a really loose word – we need those people responsible, who contributed to putting that material on the building, brought to justice.”
Yvette Williams, the chair of campaign group Justice4Grenfell, said Rees-Mogg’s initial comments were “appalling but unsurprisingly symptomatic of Rees Mogg’s ilk.”
Government, said Williams, had government failed to implement the recommendations from the Lakanall house inquiry – leaving the fire service with ‘stay put’ advice as a national policy and no full evacuation procedure.
She said: “Rees-Mogg has a privileged background, what is his experience of living in social housing? How many tower blocks has he lived in?”
During an LBC radio discussion on the stay-put policy the Grenfell public inquiry found could have cost lives, Rees-Mogg said that the “common sense” reaction would be to flee a fire.
“The more one’s read over the weekend about the report and about the chances of people surviving, if you just ignore what you’re told and leave you are so much safer,” he said.
“And I think if either of us were in a fire, whatever the fire brigade said, we would leave the burning building. It just seems the common sense thing to do. And it is such a tragedy that that didn’t happen.”
Rees-Mogg was straightaway slammed for “victim blaming” with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn saying: “What possesses someone to react to an entirely avoidable tragedy like Grenfell by saying the victims lacked common sense?
“People were terrified, many died trying to escape.”
Responding to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s comments about Grenfell, Fire Brigades Union (FBU) general secretary said: “Residents were thrown into a terrifying, impossible situation at Grenfell – for Jacob Rees-Mogg to suggest it would be ‘common sense’ to ignore the advice that they were given was crass and insensitive.
“It was also callously irresponsible for a senior government figure to suggest that the public should ignore firefighters when they are in a fire.
“The “stay put” policy was designed for circumstances when an evacuation is not safe and has saved countless lives in the past. However, there was no clear guidance for what firefighters should do when it failed at Grenfell.
“Crucially, Rees-Mogg’s Tory colleagues, Eric Pickles and Gavin Barwell, ignored warnings about the need for alternative evacuation procedures when “stay put” fails. Perhaps the Commons Leader should look closer to home.”