Jeremy Corbyn: Grenfell Tower disaster has ‘exposed the disastrous effects of austerity’

Jeremy Corbyn caused uproar in the Commons today by claiming the Grenfell Tower disaster had “exposed the disastrous effects of austerity”.

However, Theresa May rejected his allegations, stressing that responsibility for fire safety checks had been shifted away from the fire service under Tony Blair’s government in 2005.

In angry exchanges at Prime Minister’s Questions, the Labour leader said: “When you cut local authority budgets by 40 per cent, we all pay a price in public safety.

“Fewer building control inspectors, fewer planning inspectors, we all pay a price.

Grenfell Tower death toll of about 80 came mainly from 23 flats

“Those cuts to the fire service have meant that there are 11,000 fewer fire fighters, the public sector pay cap is hitting recruitment and retention.

“What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity.”

He added that there had been a “disregard for working class communities” and Grenfell had shown the “terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners”.

However, Mrs May stressed that the cladding of tower blocks had not started after 2010 when the Tories came to power.

“The cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government,” she added.

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“In 2005, it was a Labour government which introduced the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order which changed the requirement to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority, which was usually the fire brigade, to a ‘responsible person’.

“Laws which took effect in 2006 ended the practice of routine fire service inspections, passing responsibility to councils.”

She also stressed that there are building regulations about compliant materials.

“The question is why is it that despite that we have seen in local authority area after local authority area, materials being put up that appear not to comply with those building regulations,” she added.

She also urged town halls to “get on” with taking steps to ensure residents in tower blocks are safe even before the results of cladding tests come back.

She added that it was her understanding that cladding on Grenfell Tower was not compliant with the building regulations.

The number of high rise blocks found to have combustible cladding after failing Government fire safety tests has grown to 120, she told MPs.

All the samples tested so far have failed to meet safety standards.

Gloucester MP Richard Graham dismissed as “grotesquely inappropriate” a claim by shadow Chancellor John McDonnell that the victims of Grenfell had been “murdered” by past political decisions.

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