David Lammy condemns government failure to support Grenfell Tower victims: 'We're behaving like Victorian England'

‘I met people yesterday who had been given £10. They have lost everything,’ says Labour MP

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David Lammy has accused the Government of failing to provide adequate support for Grenfell Tower victims and argued the dearth of provision shares parallels with Victorian England.

The Labour MP for Tottenham said charities were being forced to plug the gap created by “insufficient and incompetent” local government support in the wake of the horrific fire which is now believed to have killed at least 58 people. The council of Kensington and Chelsea is said to be giving survivors just £10 when they arrive in hotels and failing to channel donations into proper on-the-ground help.

Launching into a scathing attack on Theresa May’s Government on Peston on Sunday, Mr Lammy said: “I met people yesterday who had been given £10. They have lost everything.

“Why are we behaving like this is Victorian England, where charity steps in, people step in, but we don’t have local government able to coordinate?

“Let me say, we know how to do this. We did it after the riots, we do it after floods. You have got to ask why these people in Kensington and Chelsea are not getting it. What’s different to them than exists in the rest of the country? It’s an outrage, it’s a scandal, it’s appalling.”

The council has received continued criticism for their response to the fire. There is said to be a complete lack of coordination from both the Government and the council, with local residents’ association representatives saying some families are still sleeping on floors in local centres four days after the deadly inferno. What’s more, a volunteer helping with relief efforts said the council has yet to respond to more than 130 offers to rehouse people who were forced to flee the burning building.

Nisha Parti, a film producer who has been a leading volunteer, said: “Kensington and Chelsea are giving £10 to the survivors when they go to the hotels – a tenner – there is money pouring in from all these amazing volunteers. We can’t get access to this money.”

As Londoners’ grief has turned into anger and protests have erupted, Mr Lammy has remained one of the most openly critical and damning politicians to respond to the devastating fire which ravaged the 24-storey west London tower block in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The politician first spoke out to say a “dear friend” who lived in the burning building was missing. Khadija Saye, a 24-year-old photographer who was a mentee of the MP’s wife, has now been confirmed dead.

Mr Lammy broke down in tears while talking about her death in an interview. Ms Saye shared a 20th floor flat with her Gambian mother Mary Mendy who is still missing after the blaze.

“My friend who lost her life was a talented artist, but she was a young, black woman making her way in this country and she absolutely had no power, or locus, or agency. She had not yet achieved that in her life,” he said.

“She’d done amazing things: gone to university, the best in her life. But she’s died with her mother on the 22nd floor of a building. And it breaks my heart that that’s happening in Britain in 2017. Breaks my heart.

“This is a tale of two cities. This is what Dickens was writing about in the century before last, and it’s still here in 2017.”

Mr Lammy has called on Theresa May and the Metropolitan Police to immediately seize all pertinent Grenfell Tower documents.

The politician explained that after speaking to residents, he became aware fear of a cover-up is rising, and it is imperative the Prime Minister and investigators ensure all relevant documents are safeguarded.

“Within the community, trust in the authorities is falling through the floor and a suspicion of a cover-up is rising,” he said.

“The Prime Minister needs to act immediately to ensure that all evidence is protected so that everyone culpable for what happened at Grenfell Tower is held to account and feels the full force of the law.

“We need urgent action now to make sure that all records and documents relating to the refurbishment and management of Grenfell Tower are protected.”

He argued that justice can only be achieved if all records – emails, minutes of meetings, correspondence with contractors, safety assessments, specifications and reports – are kept safe.

“When the truth comes out about this tragedy we may find that there is blood on the hands of a number of organisations,” he added. “At this stage, it is my grave concern that the families of Grenfell Tower will not get justice if documents are being quietly destroyed and shredded and emails are being deleted.”

While police hold the power to seize all documents, Section 35 of the Public Inquiry Act which turns the destruction of any documents into a criminal offence, does not apply until a chairman is appointed and the terms of reference are established.

Police say 58 people are still missing after the devastating fire and are presumed dead. Commander Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan Police warned the death toll could increase yet further.

At 58 casualties, it would make the Grenfell Tower blaze the deadliest in the capital since World War II.

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