Jeremy Corbyn sparked angry Conservative protests in the Commons when he blamed harsh Government cuts for the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
Tory MPs yelled “shame” when the Labour leader claimed the disaster – and the loss of at least 79 lives – had “exposed the disastrous effect of austerity”.
“When you cut local authority budgets by 40 per cent, we all pay a price in public safety,” Mr Corbyn told Theresa May.
But the Prime Minister hit back, insisting the tragedy had exposed a failure to keep people living in tower blocks safe which could be traced back to the last Labour government.
It was under Tony Blair that the enforcement of building regulations in relation to fire safety had been relaxed – and the cladding of tower blocks began, she claimed.
The public inquiry would be examining what had “occurred under governments of both colours, under councils of all political persuasions”, Ms May told MPs.
The clash came as the Prime Minister took the extraordinary step of urging councils to take down cladding, if necessary, without waiting for their samples to be tested by the Government
She revealed that the number of tower blocks found to have combustible cladding has grown to 120 – astonishingly, a 100 per cent failure rate.
“You should be doing the fire safety tests now,” she told local authorities. “Take any measures that are necessary to ensure fire safety and the Government will support you in doing that.”
In increasingly furious exchanges, Mr Corbyn said seven years of austerity had left town halls with “fewer inspectors, fewer building control inspectors, fewer planning inspectors”.
Amid heckling from the Tory benches, he added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effect of austerity.
“This disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners.”
“I urge the Prime Minister to come up with the resources needed to test and remove cladding, retrofit sprinklers, properly fund the fire service and the police so that all our communities can truly feel safe in their own homes. This disaster must be a wake-up call.”
But Ms May said responsibility for routine fire inspections had been passed from the fire service to councils way back in 2006, when Mr Blair was in Downing Street.
The switch had been criticised by the coroner’s report into the 2009 Lakanal House fire, which claimed six lives.
“That is why I say to [Mr Corbyn] this should be an issue that, across this House, we recognise is a matter that has been developing over decades,” the Prime Minister said.
She added: “We should come together and ensure that we get to the answers of why this has happened over many years, what has gone wrong and how do we stop it from happening again in future.”
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