SHADOW chancellor John McDonnell yesterday slammed the May government’s ‘catastrophic failure’ after the fatal Grenfell Tower fire.
Both he and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded the government pass emergency legislation to requisition empty flats to house the homeless families. Speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, McDonnell said that councils already had the power to requisition property, using compulsory purchase orders, to find places for people to live.
Last week Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn suggested these powers should be used in Kensington following the horrific fire. But when it was put to McDonnell that this process could take time, he said parliament could legislate to speed things up.
He said: ‘In emergency measures, as we saw in wartime periods as well, you can requisition properties. You will need powers to do it. We have got those powers. If necessary, I would have convened parliament immediately to, if necessary, push more legislation through within 24-hours, if that was necessary. We cannot be in a situation where we have people who have lost their homes struggling to find alternative accommodation and we have properties standing empty.’
The newly-elected Labour MP for Kensington, Emma Dent Coad, says she has heard reports that some of the Grenfell victims have been sent outside the borough with just £10 a day to live on. Corbyn later renewed his call to requisition empty homes in Kensington and Chelsea to house victims of the blaze.
He told Peston on Sunday: ‘There are a large number of deliberately kept vacant flats and properties all over London. It’s called “land banking”. People with a lot of money, buy a house, buy a flat, keep it empty”. ‘Occupy it, compulsory purchase it, requisition it. There’s a lot of things you can do. Can’t we as a society just think, all of us.’ He added you ‘have to bring all assets to the table’ in an emergency’.
Volunteer, Nisha Parti, told ITV’s Peston on Sunday that fire victims were receiving just £10 when they arrived at hotels and the large sums donated by the public were not getting through. In a letter to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, MP Dent Coad said such cases must be ‘addressed without delay’ if they are accurate.
Former chief fire officer, Ronnie King, says urgent requests for meetings with ministers and action to tighten rules were stonewalled. King, who is secretary of the all-party parliamentary group on fire safety, also said ministers failed to insist that sprinkler systems be mandatory in new schools in England, despite clear recommendations in reports commissioned by the government itself.
Asked about the cladding used at Grenfell Tower, Chancellor Philip Hammond admitted it was banned in the UK. He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: ‘My understanding is that the cladding in question, this flammable cladding which is banned in Europe and the US, is also banned here. That’s my understanding.’