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Friday, 16 June 2017

Theresa May criticised for not meeting fire survivors on Grenfell Tower visit

Written by Andrew Woodcock and Gavin Cordon

Prime Minister Theresa May has faced criticism from a senior MP for failing to meet survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy when she visited the scene of the blaze.

Mrs May met police and firefighters dealing with the aftermath of the disaster during a private visit to the west London site, but - unlike Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan - she was not seen to speak to families and residents.

Downing Street aides said that the purpose of Mrs May's visit was to get a briefing from emergency services and ensure that they had the resources they needed.

She later appeared on TV to announce a public inquiry into the fire and promise that those left homeless will be rehoused nearby.

But Labour's former deputy leader Harriet Harman said that it was "not OK" for the Prime Minister to go to the area but not meet residents.

In a message on Twitter, Ms Harman said: "Theresa May should have met Grenfell Fire residents. She should have been prepared to listen to them Not OK to speak at them via TV."

In a TV interview following her visit, Mrs May was told that some residents wished she had spoken to them as well as firefighters and had gone to see the community centres where local people are offering support to those affected.

She responded: "Well, I visited the scene of this terrible fire this morning. I wanted a briefing from the emergency services.

"They've been working tirelessly in horrific conditions and I have been overwhelmed by their professionalism and their bravery."

Mrs May praised the way the local community had rallied round to support the residents of the block.

"At times like this the response of the community has been extraordinary. It has shown the great spirit of the people in response to a tragedy such as this," she said.

"The Government stands ready to provide every assistance to the emergency services and the local authorities.

"I want to reassure the residents of Grenfell Tower - all of whom are in our thoughts and prayers - that the Government will make every effort to make sure that they are rehoused in London and as close as possible to home."

Mr Corbyn was photographed with his arm around the shoulders of some of those affected by the blaze as he spoke to local people.

He later issued a statement saying: "I feel very angry that it was possible for the fire to spread in the way it did. I feel very angry that so many lives have been lost when the system didn't work.

"The many residents I met today are very angry too; their concerns about the building were not responded to and their questions were not answered.

"They asked me to speak for them when I get back to Parliament and I will make sure I do, alongside their new MP Emma Dent Coad.

"There are thousands of tower blocks around our country. Every single person living in one today will be frightened. They need answers to provide them with security and peace of mind."

Tory MP Chris Philp defended the Prime Minister, telling BBC's Newsnight: "I'm not sure it was just security concerns, I think she was keen not to intrude and cause disruption at a time of intense anxiety and grief.

"The people concerned were still searching for loved ones.

"She does care because she's launched a public inquiry. What she is trying to do is be practical - talk to the emergency services, find out what needs to be done, rather than grandstanding in front of the TV cameras.

"I'm sure she will meet the families, but the day after they have lost their loved ones ... the last thing you need is the Prime Minister of the country elbowing their way in."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Rick Findler / PA Wire.