‘THE TRUTH must come out and it will,’ Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said yesterday afternoon as the number who died in the Grenfell Tower inferno rose to 17.
After visiting the aid centres set up by the local communities and run by local volunteers Corbyn said: ‘Some very hard questions have got to be asked, and some very hard questions must be answered.
‘The construction of a tower block is essentially a series of concrete boxes, which are the flats.
‘The fire is not suppose to spread from one flat to another. It is supposed to be contained, it wasn’t. It spread and it spread upwards and it spread outside as well, through the cladding.
‘There are questions on the sprinkler system, questions on the fire breaks, questions on why the cladding apparently burnt, questions on building control regulations, questions on the safety. ‘Hundreds of thousands of people in our country live in tower blocks, in very highrise tower blocks.
‘Every single person who lives in a high-rise apartment today is going to be thinking “How safe am I?”
‘We have challenged the government all the time on the issue of fire service cuts. We have challenged the government all the time on local authority cuts and we have challenged them on why the report on the Camberwell fire which has been there for some time has still to be acted upon.’
Theresa May’s new top adviser Gavin Barwell has been accused of suppressing the report on the Camberwell fire, while he was a housing minister. The report clearly warned that tower blocks like the Grenfell Tower are at risk of catching fire and that more disasters like the one in Camberwell were waiting to happen unless changes were made. The life-saving recommendations of the report were not acted on.
The report was produced by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fire Safety and Rescue in the wake of the Lakanal House tragedy in 2009 in Camberwell which claimed the lives of six people.
The report found that panels on the exterior of the block had not provided the required fire resistance.
Residents who fled the fire at Grenfell said that burning panels and cladding had been falling from he tower. Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fire Safety and Rescue said that the report was ‘sat on’ for four years.
Fitzpatrick, who himself was a firefighter for more than 20 years said: ‘Four years later, we’re still trying to get the government to undertake that review. You’d have to ask them why they’ve sat on it for four years?’
Ronnie King, honorary administrative secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fire Safety and Rescue and a former Chief Fire Officer said that the recommendations of the report had not been acted on. He said that in the report they had ‘strongly recommended’ installing fire suppression systems and sprinklers in 4,000 similar tower blocks across the country.
He said: ‘We were strongly recommending this because the fire at Lakanal House spread within four minutes and came into the flat above and then went on to kill six people, regrettably.’ King went on to suggest that if the recommendations had been acted on then lives could have been saved in Wednesday’s Grenfell House disaster. He said: ‘I wouldn’t have expected fire to spread like that if there had been automatic fire sprinklers installed.’