Mayor's statements on the major fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington

 

 

23 June, 8:40pm - Mayor's statement on the Chalcots Estate

I am in close contact with Camden Council, the London Fire Brigade and the Government about the precautionary measures being taken at the Chalcots Estate in Swiss Cottage.

Following advice from fire prevention experts at the London Fire Brigade, it has been decided that the best way to keep residents safe is to relocate them tonight, as a precautionary measure.

There is a particular set of circumstances on this estate that make this necessary, which has been identified following good work between Camden Council and the London Fire Brigade. Fire safety checks are ongoing at other estates across the UK.

I will continue working closely with all London boroughs, the London Fire Brigade and the Government and we will do everything possible to keep all Londoners safe.

22 June, 11:20am - Mayor's reaction to statement from Theresa May

The news this morning confirms people’s worst fears that there is a real risk that other tower blocks across Britain are at risk from combustible cladding.

There is now a huge amount of work to urgently do to ensure that it is safe for people to remain in properties affected. If not, the government must support people being rehoused immediately while cladding is being removed.

I am working with the London Fire Brigade and local authorities in London so that this happens as quickly and smoothly as possible.

I am urging all landlords who haven’t yet sent cladding to be tested to do so immediately.

The Government needs to ensure all resources necessary are made available to local authorities for the testing process, for checking those tower blocks and for rehousing local people in their local community.

20 June, 12:35pm - Mayor's letter to the Prime Minister

My letter to the Prime Minister, demanding that residents are given a say in the Grenfell Tower public inquiry from day one so that it best serves justice and maintains the confidence of the community.

Dear Prime Minister,

The devastating fire that tore through Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017 has shocked the nation. Survivors, local residents and the whole country rightly want answers on what caused the fire, and what must be done to prevent a repeat. That is why I welcome your decision to hold a Public Inquiry into the fire, as this offers the best opportunity to get to the truth.

General Conduct of the Inquiry

I am writing to you in advance of any decision on the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry in order to contribute my views on how I believe the Inquiry should be conducted if it is to best serve justice, and maintain the confidence of the community.

As you will be aware, there is considerable mistrust and anger amongst the community, particularly directed towards those in positions of authority. A concerted effort is therefore required by Government and then the Chair of the Inquiry to explain to the community the Public Inquiry process, in particular the timescales involved and the likely milestones.

There is an added onus on the government to do all in its power to avoid any perception of undue influence. I welcome what you said at the Taskforce meeting that you would not meet the Chair in order to avoid questions over the integrity and independence of the Inquiry. I would ask that the same apply to Government ministers too.

It is important that the Inquiry is chaired by a senior judge - a Lady Justice or Lord Justice of Appeal. This is not only to indicate the gravity of the inquiry, and place it on a similar footing in terms of its seriousness to other similar inquiries, but also to ensure considerable judicial experience and confidence in relation to the legal rulings that are likely to arise and thereby reduce the risk of proceedings being delayed by numerous interim appeals.

A view has taken hold in some quarters in the local community that a Public Inquiry is sub-optimal to an inquest, fuelling suspicion that this is being used to suppress the facts emerging. Part of the communication effort must therefore also involve explaining the merits of a Public Inquiry, how it will get to the truth and how it does not preclude an inquest at a later date if one is still necessary after the inquiry. In particular, families of loved ones must be reassured that the inquiry won't impede the formal recognition process of those who lost their lives. However, in order to avoid duplications of hearings, evidence and resources, it is vital that the inquiry deals fully with many of the issues that would arise at an inquest. The inquiry must be a thorough and detailed process with standards of representation, investigation, disclosure, evidence and questioning that are no less than would be provided at the most rigorous of inquests.

Relations with the local community can be further strengthened by ensuring families, survivors and civil society groups have a role in drawing up the Terms of Reference for the Public Inquiry and are consulted on where Inquiry hearings are held. Any attempt to exclude them from the process risks further fuelling mistrust.

It is crucial that families, survivors and local civil society groups are designated as core participants so that they can play a full and active role in the process.

In addition, the Government must confirm that families, survivors and local civil society groups will have their legal fees covered, including for the period of consultation on the Terms of Reference of the Inquiry. It is likely that other parties in the Public Inquiry, such as the local authority and construction firms, will secure the very best legal representation and there must be no inequality of arms. Whatever the Chair considers appropriate, the government should fund.

The Inquiry must be given full powers of summoning witnesses and evidence if we are to get to the truth. There must be no hiding place for wrongdoing.

It is also important that immediate steps are taken to preserve evidence if there is a risk of it being destroyed by those holding it. The relevant authorities, whether pursuant to an inquiry or to a criminal investigation should be considering whether those powers of seizure need to be exercised now as a matter of urgency. I strongly suggest that immediate legal advice is obtained as to how material should be preserved and the process of that material being reviewed for the purposes of disclosure to core participants so that there are not a lengthy delays relating to disclosure to core participants, as have occurred in other recent inquiries.

I would also urge you to require that there will be an interim report published this summer. Not only is this crucial for community confidence, but it will allow for the swift implementation of any urgent steps that need taking as regards fire safety in similar buildings across the country.

Structure of the Inquiry

I believe that the inquiry could be structured in two stages. The following points are examples of what should be included at each stage, but I stress that this list will need to be considered carefully in light of any submissions made by the core participants and those representing them.

Stage 1 of the inquiry should focus on:

  • The immediate cause of the fire
  • How the fire spread and why it spread so quickly
  • Whether the design of the building helped the spread of the fire and/or hindered the escape of residents
  • Whether the refurbishment contributed, because of the way it was installed and the materials used, and if these were compliant or non-compliant with fire and building regulations
  • Whether appropriate action and response was taken in the light of warnings raised by tenants and other community organisations. If not, why not and who was responsible
  • Whether fire advice to residents was appropriate
  • Investigating the role of the local authority, the Tenant Management Organisation (TMO), and any other parties in relevant decisions around the refurbishment and management of the tower
  • The timeliness and response of the London Fire Brigade and other emergency services, including the resources deployed and the availability of suitable specialised equipment
  • How the post incident response operated, including information and support to families, survivors and local community

The second stage of the Inquiry should focus on the lessons going forward and recommendations on how to avoid a repeat of the tragedy. This includes:

  • Establishing whether the lessons were learnt from the inquest into the Lakanal House fire in Southwark
  • Investigating the fire risk from domestic white goods 
  • Whether the level of protection from building design and fire prevention regulations (including sprinklers, alarms, advice and escape routes) is adequate
  • Whether the fire safety check regime is to a high enough standard and being adequately enforced
  • An audit of the effectiveness of wider resilience arrangements (local, regional and national) and the activation points between them

Getting the Terms of Reference right for the Public Inquiry is absolutely crucial if this is to have the confidence of the local community, families and survivors. I hope you will agree to work closely with the community to ensure this happens.

Yours sincerely,

Sadiq Khan

Mayor of London

17 June, 3:36pm - statement from the Mayor

Today I attended the Government's Taskforce on the tragic fire at Grenfell House this week, chaired by the Prime Minister.

This week I witnessed first-hand in Kensington the justifiable anger of the local community, and spent time talking with and listening to local residents affected. Today was a crucial opportunity for me to make clear to the Government what the community have told me they need, both right now and in the longer term as they recover from this devastating fire.

I made a number of points at the meeting and have highlighted below the five main points:

Firstly - at the meeting I raised the need for clearer direction on the ground for those affected of how and where they can access support services, ranging from housing and financial support to counselling. This means highly visibly expert people in the community helping local residents access help. There must be better outreach work.

Secondly, I stressed just how crucial it is the rehousing efforts are  speeded up and all residents who lost their homes are found somewhere else to live locally. We cannot afford to wait weeks. Residents must be rehoused as locally as possible - either in the same borough, or if residents want to live somewhere else, then this be provided.

Thirdly, I raised the concerns of people across our city and up and down the country who live in similar towers who are rightly worried for their safety. I sought clear public statements from ministers on when the information being gathered by government on this will be made public and what advice will be given. This reassurance is crucial.

Fourthly, the forthcoming Public Inquiry will be the opportunity to get to the truth. I made clear to the Government that the Terms of Reference must be drawn as widely as possible, be as transparent and accessible as possible and must involve genuine consultation and input from the community at every stage of the process. There also needs to be an interim response this summer.

Finally, a London-wide local authority recovery operation was established yesterday, led by a number of local authority Chief Executives. I assured the Prime Minister that all agencies under my control as Mayor support this effort, and will provide any help we can to improve the support for affected residents. The Government must ensure the recovery operation receives all resources and expertise they need.

There are a number of matters which have been agreed and I have been assured will be announced later today. I have stressed to the Taskforce the need for local residents and the wider public to be provided with as much information as possible and for there to be maximum transparency.

16 June, 1:15pm - Mayor's letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

I spent several hours yesterday talking to local residents around Grenfell Tower. These were difficult conversations with a tight-knit community that is understandably distraught, frustrated and increasingly angry. They feel the Government and local council haven’t done enough to help them in the aftermath of this horrific incident, or to provide answers to their increasingly urgent questions. 

I promised the local community that I would fight for them to get the support and answers they deserve as quickly as possible. I am therefore writing to you today to set out the action that I believe the Government needs to take, as a matter of urgency.

 

Victim support and information

The local community feels their grief has been made worse by the lack of information about their missing family members and friends. They are fully aware of the true scale of this tragedy but cannot comprehend why they are not being given more information. There is also insufficient support for victims on the ground.

I appreciate that the authorities want to be absolutely certain that any information is correct before it is issued publicly, and the fire brigade, police and coroner are doing a heroic job obtaining this information in extremely difficult circumstances. While the current systems in place may work well for a terrorist attack, there are legitimate questions about whether they are still appropriate in situations where obtaining this information could take much longer.

I would ask you to ensure that the local community is given as much information as possible today and over the coming days about the number of victims and their identities. Additional capacity for victim support needs to be provided urgently. In the longer term, I would urge you to review whether the current systems are appropriate for all emergency situations and operate at the pace required.

 

Relief organisation

The community are concerned about the organisation and coordination of relief and support services across Kensington. I heard multiple stories of local residents not being able to access the information they required and being given conflicting advice by the local authority. This complaint came from local residents, volunteers who had come from further afield to help, charities and local community groups. The scale of this tragedy is clearly proving too much for the local authority to cope with on their own.  

Those affected are still not clear about the support available to them – either immediately or in the longer term. For example, the local authority believe they found housing for all residents affected last night, however there are reports that this was not communicated effectively and some residents are still sleeping in the Westway Sports Centre or with family and friends. Please confirm as a matter of urgency that everyone from Grenfell Tower and other evacuated properties will be rehoused locally immediately.

Although additional local authority resilience arrangements have been activated today to provide additional leadership to the local operation, I would urge the Government to provide all necessary assistance and satisfy itself that the operation is functioning to the standard local residents have the right to expect.  The Government should also confirm that all residents affected by the Grenfell Tower fire will be rehoused in the area, unless they choose not to.

 

Tower block safety

Residents I spoke to are worried about the risk of this tragic incident happening elsewhere – particularly in tower blocks that have had similar cladding installed as part of renovations. People are terrified that the same thing could happen to them. I raised this with Ministers on Wednesday and Thursday, and they agreed to lead coordinated efforts to ensure that all other tower blocks across the country are indeed safe.

This issue is not limited to the type of cladding fitted; the material it is attached to and how this has been achieved are also critical factors.  It is crucial that other risks from renovation works are urgently and properly investigated, for example protection between floors.  And we need to strengthen standards and recall processes around white goods, given the fire risk they can present.

I would ask that you to provide a list of those tower blocks already checked by the end of today, as well as a timeline for the remaining buildings. I would ask that you to set out a timeline for this process today.  If the Government has any reason to believe specific tower blocks could be at risk, residents should be rehomed in the local area immediately, while these checks take place.

Please also confirm that there will be an immediate implementation of the improved safety rules proposed in 2013 but still not implemented.

 

Public Inquiry

The community around Grenfell Tower have many questions about how this was allowed to happen. They urgently need to be assured that they will get all the answers. I welcome the announcement of a full independent Public Inquiry, but we cannot afford to wait years for the outcome.

I would urge you to ensure, in the terms of reference of the Inquiry, that an interim report is published this summer, at the latest, and that the terms of reference include all aspects of fire safety standards and inspection in high-rise towers. I would also urge you to ensure that residents and other interested parties are not saddled with any legal costs for participating in the inquiry, and receive the quality legal representation they deserve. Finally, I would seek an assurance that if the Inquiry or police investigation finds any individual or organisation to have been negligent in their duties, then they will be prosecuted.

 

As the Mayor of London, I will continue to fight alongside this community to ensure they get the support and answers they deserve and justice done.

I look forward to hearing back from you today.

Yours sincerely,

Sadiq Khan

Mayor of London

15 June, 6:02pm - update

I spent this afternoon in North Kensington. I’ve been listening to local residents around Grenfell Tower – at the Westway Sports Centre which is acting as a refuge for those affected, at Notting Hill Methodist Church, where food, clothing and bedding are being collected and distributed and speaking to people on the local roads and estates.

This is an extremely tight-knit community and local people are understandably distraught at what has happened, and increasingly frustrated and angry that their concerns were simply ignored for so long. Many have loved ones who are still unaccounted for. They are looking for answers to their legitimate questions about why this has happened, why they weren’t listened to and how they are going to get their lives back on track.

I grew up on a similar council estate in South London and this could easily have been my family, my friends and my community. I share their anger and concern. 

This community deserves answers – and quickly. We cannot wait years for the outcome of an inquiry. People deserve to know as soon as possible that other similar blocks are not at risk of this happening elsewhere. I have a guarantee from the Government that checks on other tower blocks are being undertaken with urgency and today a Public Inquiry was ordered. This needs to provide an interim response this summer.

As the Mayor of London I will fight for and alongside this community, and all Londoners, to get the answers they deserve as soon as possible. We need to ensure we uncover all the facts and that justice is done.

15 June, 12:53pm - update

The Metropolitan Police have confirmed that tragically 17 people are now known to have died in the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower. Sadly this figure is likely to rise, and my thoughts and prayers remain with all those affected.

Today the fire has been brought under control and the fire brigade and our other emergency services are continuing to work heroically. The operation is now shifting from the search and rescue phase to the recovery phase.

Under these circumstances the full scale of the tragedy is becoming clear and there are pressing questions, which demand urgent answers.

That is why I am demanding a full, independent public inquiry into the fire at Grenfell Tower. In light of concerns about the safety of other tower blocks that have been similarly refurbished the inquiry needs to produce an interim report by the end of this summer at the latest. 

Meanwhile, any family and friends concerned about their loved ones should contact the Casualty Bureau on 0800 0961 233.

15 June, 11:36am - update

This morning, the Metropolitan Police have confirmed that sadly 17 people are now known to have died in the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower. Any family & friends concerned about their loved ones please contact the Casualty Bureau on 0800 0961 233.

I know all Londoners will continue to hold all the victims of this tragedy in our thoughts. You can find information on how to donate or volunteer to support on the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea website.

14 June, 6:56pm - update

Sadly, it has been confirmed that 12 people are now known to have died as a result of the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower – a figure which I am afraid is expected to increase. We also know that a further 78 people have been taken to six hospitals across the capital. The loved ones of the victims and everyone affected are in my thoughts.

I have been in talks with Government ministers, including the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, this afternoon, and I am working hard with them and of course with our emergency services on the response to the fire. I raised the issue of checks on other tower blocks which have been going through similar refurbishment programmes to Grenfell House, and I welcome that ministers have said checks will now be carried out.

Earlier today, I visited the scene at Grenfell Tower, where I met the brave firefighters and emergency services staff who have been working around the clock, as well as local residents who are pulling together to support their community. I also spoke to the leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, who is co-ordinating the huge effort to rehouse those affected.

Emergency services have now moved from the rescue phase of their operation to the recovery phase. I will remain in regular contact with the London Fire Brigade and our other emergency services.

I would like to thank, on behalf of Londoners, our brave fire fighters and other emergency services, who have worked bravely and tirelessly over the last day.

14 June, 12:08pm - update

Tragically, six people are now confirmed to have died as a result of the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower. The Metropolitan Police have warned that this figure is likely to rise as a complex recovery operation takes place over the coming days. My heart goes out to the family and friends of the victims and everyone affected.

14 June, 9:28am - statement from the Mayor

I'm truly devastated to see the horrific scenes of the major fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington. I have been in constant contact throughout the night with the Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, Dany Cotton, who has been at the scene.

More than 250 firefighters are at the scene and there have been more than 100 medics in attendance, as well as 100 police officers. I want to thank our incredible firefighters and emergency services for their immense courage, dedication and professionalism.

My heart goes out to everyone affected. I am sad to confirm that we now know there have been fatalities and more than fifty people have been taken to hospitals including Royal Free, King’s, St Thomas’s, St Mary’s and Chelsea and Westminster to be treated for injuries. The fire service is dealing with a rapidly changing situation and these numbers are likely to rise.

The Hammersmith & City and Circle lines are currently suspended between Hammersmith and Edgware Road and the A40 is closed in both directions between Marylebone Road and the Northern Roundabout. Bus routes are also on diversion. Please check the TfL website for the latest travel information.

There will be a great many questions over the coming days as to the cause of this tragedy and I want to reassure Londoners that we will get all the answers. The emergency number for anyone with concerns about casualties is 0800 0961 233.