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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

“The tragedy of Grenfell Tower is also one of both race and class,” says Jean on the second anniversary of the tragedy

 

14 June 2019

Today marks the two year anniversary of the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower, and yet the dangerous cladding still covers hundreds of tower blocks in the UK.

Jean Lambert, London’s Green MEP, highlights the UK’s deep-rooted inequality and lax fire regulations and standards, all of which were contributing factors to this tragedy (also available to watch on YouTube here).

Jean stated:

“2 years ago today we witnessed Britain’s most deadly fire in living memory – at Grenfell. 72 people lost their lives and many more family members, hundreds were left homeless, and a community left traumatised.

In Kensington & Chelsea overcrowding and homelessness, poor quality building sit alongside high spec luxury housing. Grenfell was the inevitable consequence of decades of under-investment in housing, but we must also recognise that minority ethnic communities who lived in the Tower were disproportionately affected. The tragedy of Grenfell Tower is also one of both race and class.

It’s telling that 2 years on that fifteen households from in and around Grenfell are still in temporary accommodation. It is scandalous that even though the UK Parliament has passed legislation for new buildings, only 3 private tower blocks with Grenfell-type cladding have been fixed since the fire, leaving a further 146 buildings in the same state. In real terms that means that 24,000 people are at daily risk by living in unsafe housing. [1]

Fire safety in buildings falls under the responsibility of national authorities, following Grenfell I and other MEPs debated fire safety in the European Parliament,
and in October 2017 the European Commission established a Fire Information Exchange Platform to make sure we share best practice and expertise across EU countries. The UK’s participation is something our government must commit to, whatever happens with Brexit. [2]

A government review of UK’s building regulations following Grenfell found our current system ‘not fit for purpose’ and open to abuse by those trying to save money. It’s not acceptable that people making vast profits in the housing and construction sectors, are putting people’s lives at risk.

Whether it is private or public, we need the same high standards for all. It is representative of our broken system that there is so little oversight and public sector involvement, that the building and property industry are the ones that basically decide on what is used.

The EU can play a key role in preventing tragedies like Grenfell, many EU policies have the potential to increase fire safety. In fact, EU regulations already require that construction work should be carried out in such a way, that in the event of fire the spread of fire and smoke is limited. But these rules need to be enforced properly. These EU regulations are not a burden, they could save lives.

Every one of us in the UK should all be able to fall asleep at night secure in the knowledge that we, and our homes, are safe.”

Notes:

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/13/two-years-grenfell-government-blocks-cladding

[2] https://firesafeeurope.eu/fiep/