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Grenfell: Labour calls on government to act quickly

Labour’s shadow housing minister has urged the government to act quickly to prevent a repeat of the Grenfell Tower fire instead of waiting for the outcome of a public inquiry.   

Prime minister Theresa May yesterday launched a full public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire in west London, in which at least 17 people died.

However, Labour’s John Healey told Construction News: “It is important that there is an inquiry, but ministers do not need to wait for this to conclude.”

Mr Healey, who was housing minister in Gordon Brown’s government, said the current administration should act on recommendations from two coroners’ reports following previous tower block fires in south London and Southampton.

In 2009, a fire in Camberwell’s Lakanal House tower block killed six people. In 2010, a fire at Shirley Towers apartment block in Southampton killed two firefighters.

Recommendations from these reports included retrofitting sprinklers on towers and overhaul Building Regulations.

Mr Healey said: “There are some very serious questions for ministers to answer now, [questions] that residents are asking at Grenfell Tower, and very important reassurance to give to many, many people who live in similar tower blocks throughout the country.” 

Fellow Labour MP Andy Slaughter, who represents Hammersmith, echoed Mr Healey’s call. “We do need that sense of urgency. We can have some provisional findings.

“People have raised issues to do with sprinklers; would sprinklers have stopped this fire spreading? Is cladding the issue here that led to the accelerated spread?

“It’s a first-world country where we have huge expertise in these areas, and it’s just frankly unacceptable that we’re still not implementing the lessons of Lakanal eight years ago, and indeed other fires.”

More than 30 people are still being treated in hospital, with 17 described as being in a critical condition. 

Last year the tower underwent a £9m refurbishment, carried out by Rydon, for Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation on behalf of the council. 

Rydon said this week the refurbishment “met all required building control, fire regulation and health & safety standards”.  

The cause of the fire remains unknown.  

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