Jeremy Corbyn and senior Labour MPs have called for homes left vacant in Kensington and Chelsea by overseas investors to be “requisitioned” in order to rehouse those left homeless due to the Grenfell Tower fire.
The suggestion came as MPs demanded answers to residents’ questions during an emergency session of Parliament into the tragedy, which has claimed the lives of at least 17 people.
The Labour leader, who said he was left “very angry” after visiting the scene, added: “Kensington is a tale of two cities. The south part of Kensington is incredibly wealthy, it’s the wealthiest part of the whole country.
“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.”
David Lammy, the Tottenham MP, added on Twitter shortly after the event: “Lots of homes left vacant in Kensington & Chelsea by overseas investors. I would like to see them requisitioned by Government to rehouse victims.
Introducing the emergency briefing, fire minister Nick Hurd described the incident in north Kensington as a “national tragedy”, adding: “I’m sure everyone’s thoughts both in this room and outside are with those who have been affected, injured or have lost a loved one in the fire.”
Labour’s new MP in Kensington, Emma Dent Coad, said her constituents are “traumatised and angry”, demanding answers on emergency planning and whether or not warnings were heeded from community leaders regarding safety procedures at Grenfell Tower.
The extraordinary gathering of MPs, which was not broadcast initially, was held in the Palace of Westminster rather than the House of Commons as Parliament has not been officially opened as a result of last week’s inconclusive snap election, which resulted in a hung parliament.
Just moments before the briefing Theresa May had ordered a full public inquiry into the disaster after visiting the scene of the blaze in Kensington. Speaking at No 10 shortly after her return from the site, she added: “We need to ensure that this terrible tragedy is properly investigated.
“When I went to the scene and spoke to the emergency services, they told me that the way this fire had spread and took hold of the building was rapid, it was ferocious, it was unexpected.
“So it is right that, in addition to the immediate fire report that will be produced and any potential police investigation, that we do have a full public inquiry to get to the bottom of this.
“People deserve answers. The inquiry will give them.”
During the emergency session Mr Corbyn said he “feels very angry” at the loss of life in the tower block where the fire precautions did not work. He welcomed the Government’s decision to establish a public inquiry but insisted it must be speedy and allow residents to fully take part, with legal aid provided if needed.
Mr Corbyn added: “I tell you this – many residents I met there this afternoon are very angry.
“They’re very angry that they have raised concerns about this building, that the Grenfell Action Group raised concerns about this building, that their concerns were not answered, questions they asked were not responded to.
“There are so many questions to put.”
He said these included questions about the fire walls, the sprinkler system, the alarm system and the way the fire spread inside and outside the building.
At the end of the meeting, housing minister Alok Sharma said: “Can I just be absolutely clear and reiterate what Nick [Hurd] has said is that we’re going to be working with the local authority and the Government to guarantee that every single family from Grenfell House will be rehoused in the local area.
“That is a very clear reassurance which I hope colleagues will feel is useful.”
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