Grenfell Tower fire: Theresa May apologises for 'failure of the state' after widely criticised response

'The support for the families on the ground in the initial hours was not good enough. People were left without belongings,without roofs over their heads, without even basic information about what had happened.'

Theresa May apologises for Grenfell Tower

Theresa May has apologised for a “failure of the state” over the Grenfell Fire disaster that killed at least 79 people.

Speaking in the House of Commons as MPs debate the Queen's Speech, the Prime Minister said there had been failures “local and national” in the hours immediately after the fire.

“Let me be absolutely clear: the support for the families on the ground in the initial hours was not good enough ”, she said. “People were left without belongings,without roofs over their heads, without even basic information about what had happened, what they should do and where they should go to seek help.

“That was a failure of the state, local and national, to help people when they needed it most. As Prime Minister, I apologise for that failure. As Prime Minister I have taken responsibility for doing what we can to put things right. That is why each family whose home was destroyed is receiving a down payment from the emergency fund so they can buy food, clothes and other essentials. And all those who have lose their homes will be rehoused within three weeks.”

Ms May said the “whole country was heartbroken by the utter devastation” caused by the fire and re-iterated that there will be an independent enquiry led by a judge to determine what happened and who was responsible. Those affected by the fire will have their legal costs paid, she added.

The Government used the Queen’s Speech to announce the creation of a new Independent Public Advocate who will work with and support the families of people affected by public tragedies such as the fire at Grenfell Tower.

Ms May has faced a barrage of criticism over her initial handling of the disaster. She visited the tower the day after the fire but did not meet directly with residents affected. When she returned the next day she was loudly heckled and forced to leave under a heavy police presence.

Questions have also been asked as to why successive housing ministers did not act to bring forward an investigation into safety conditions in tower blocks.

Residents of Grenfell Tower are reported to have warned repeatedly that their building was not safe. Despite a £10.3m renovation project being completed last year, no new safety measures were introduced. Some reports suggest that the cladding that was added to the outside of the building as part of the refurbishment was highly flammable and allowed the fire to rapidly spread upwards from the fourth floor flat where it is thought to have broken out.

The Government announced on Wednesday that many of the families who lost their homes in the fire will be housed in luxury apartments in Kensington Row that are worth upwards of £1.6m. The homes, which is about 1.5 miles from Grenfell Tower, have been purchased by the Corporation of London and will be used as social housing.

It comes after Jeremy Corbyn called for Grenfell residents to be housed in empty homes in Kensington.

“The ward where this fire took place is, I think, the poorest ward in the whole country and properties must be found – requisitioned if necessary – to make sure those residents do get rehoused locally”, he said last week.

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