Friday 18 August 2017

Jeremy Corbyn calls for empty homes to be offered to Grenfell fire victims

EMPATHY: Jeremy Corbyn, after visiting the horrific London tower block fire, again showed he is a natural communicator, with an ease with people that helps him to connect on a personal level. Picture: PA
EMPATHY: Jeremy Corbyn, after visiting the horrific London tower block fire, again showed he is a natural communicator, with an ease with people that helps him to connect on a personal level. Picture: PA

Lizzy Buchan

Jeremy Corbyn has renewed calls for empty homes to be taken over by the Government to house victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.

The Labour leader also criticised the official response to the tragedy, saying people should have been offered immediate accommodation similar to travellers who are offered hotels when their planes are delayed.

He urged the Government to consider requisitioning or using compulsory purchase orders for flats that are deliberately kept vacant, in a process known as land-banking.

Mr Corbyn told ITV's Peston on Sunday: "Occupy it, compulsory purchase it, requisition it - there's a lot of things you can do.

"But can't we as a society just think, all of us, it's all very well putting our arms around people during the crisis but homelessness is rising, the housing crisis is getting worse and my point was quite a simple one.

"In an emergency, you have to bring all assets to the table in order to deal with that crisis and that's what I think we should be doing in this case."

WAKING TO A NIGHTMARE: Fire-fighters’ attempts to damp down the blaze were to no effect as the flames engulfed Grenfell Tower in west London. Photo: Rick Finder/PA
WAKING TO A NIGHTMARE: Fire-fighters’ attempts to damp down the blaze were to no effect as the flames engulfed Grenfell Tower in west London. Photo: Rick Finder/PA

He questioned why people had been left stranded when airlines are able to find accommodation for delayed travellers.

Mr Corbyn said: "Every day at Heathrow, planes get delayed. Hundreds of people get stranded at airports all over the world.

"Hotels are found for them immediately, they are sorted out.

"400 or so people, still most of them have not got somewhere decent, safe or secure to stay in.

"Somehow or other, it seems to be beyond the wit of the public services to deal with the crisis facing a relatively small number of people in a country of 65 million."

Read More: What do we know about the Grenfell Tower tragedy so far?

Mr Corbyn also defended Theresa May, who has come under criticism for her response to the tragedy, saying: "I think everybody cares to an extent, some to a deeper extent and some show empathy in a different way to others.

"But the real issue is not about what we as individuals feel, Theresa May, me, anybody else, it's what those people are going through."

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell backed calls for requisitioning, saying he would have done "whatever necessary" to house families displaced by the fire.

Speaking to Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mr McDonnell said: "People would not be living in high-rise blocks, unsafe conditions and some of them very poor quality, if we didn't have the housing crisis and part of that housing crisis is as a result of allowing housing particularly in London for use for speculative gain rather than for housing need.

"Now what Jeremy said is if we've got a crisis like that, we need urgent measures and if there are empty properties nearby, they should be used and councils have the power to do that already."

Mr McDonnell dismissed the suggestion that hotel rooms would be cheaper and quicker for families, as he said people were sometimes placed in "inappropriate and unsuitable" settings.

He added: "I'll tell you, I would have done whatever necessary, whatever necessary to house those families what they'd been through and if that needed requisitioning of local properties, yes if necessary because they have suffered so much."

Read More: Grenfell Tower families lacked good enough support after fire, Theresa May

Shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne denied suggestions that Labour is stirring up emotions.

He told BBC One's Sunday Politics: "I don't think that we are stirring it up. I would hope that we have been fully responsible in reflecting the concerns, the anxieties, the hurt and the worry or those residents in Kensington."

Asked about former shadow cabinet minister Clive Lewis's tweet stating "burn neoliberalism, not people", Mr Gwynne told the programme: "I think it is really important that we are measured in our approach.

"We need to calm things down."

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