Like you, I was shocked by the tragic events at Grenfell Tower. My thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones, friends and homes, and I would like to pay tribute to the members of our emergency services, who once again showed amazing courage in extremely dangerous circumstances.
As well as commemorating those who lost their lives, it is crucial that we look forward to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again. The Prime Minister has made the response to this tragedy her top priority and is chairing a dedicated Grenfell Tower Recover Task Force, which is doing everything possible to help those affected in the short-term: it is rehousing those who lost their homes as quickly as possible; it has established a £5 million Grenfell Tower Residents’ Discretionary Fund to help those who had to abandon their possessions, with each family receiving at least £5,500; the Bellwin Scheme has been activated, meaning that extra funds will be allocated to the Borough Council to cover any contingencies; and it is sending a team of experienced civil servants from central government to assist the local council’s response. Meanwhile, the Government has pledged to donate the VAT raised from a charity single organised by Simon Cowell to a charity helping with relief efforts.
There are also less obvious obstacles that Grenfell residents are facing, and which the Government is committed to helping them overcome. For example, the Treasury is working with banks to ensure that residents who lost their cards still have access to their accounts, and the Department for Work & Pensions is working with local job centres to ensure that residents have access to their benefits and pensions.
In the longer term, the Government will work tirelessly to discover exactly how this tragedy occurred and to ensure that it never happens again. There will be a full public inquiry into the events, which will cover legal representation for those affected, and meanwhile we are checking as a matter of priority with local authorities that high-rise buildings in their area comply with recent fire safety regulations.
It is too early to speculate as to what caused the fire, but I can assure you that the Government is doing all it can to investigate and prevent anything similar in the future. Finally, I would like to highlight once more the amazing work done by two hundred of our firefighters, with the first crew arriving at the scene within six minutes and all working in extremely dangerous circumstances to protect the public.