We need a functioning government and parliament to respond to the Grenfell Tower tragedy

Parliament cannot meet to discuss the tragedy until after the Queen's Speech

 

The devastating fire at Grenfell Tower last night raises strings of vitally important questions.

Why weren’t the residents’ repeated warnings about the building’s safety heeded by their landlord, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation? Did austerity cuts to London’s fire service impact the response? Why was a scheduled review of tower block fire safety delayed by the government? Did Commons votes against increased protection for tenants contribute to the poor upkeep of Grenfell Tower? And crucially, what risk is there that an event like this will be repeated elsewhere?

Right now, these are open questions. An official inquiry into the tragedy is surely inevitable, and its remit should be very broad — encompassing the impact of housing legislation, low levels of regulation of the housing market, and the privatisation of social housing management.

These questions are invariably political, so those who ask them are not ‘politicising tragedy’.  While we may not yet have enough information to make partisan accusations, asking tough questions about government decisions is a civic and political necessity after events like these. Unfortunately, the continued chaos within the Conservative Party prevents those questions being asked in the House of Commons, and prevents the government’s response from being subjected to due scrutiny.

Speaker John Bercow has clarified today that the issue cannot be discussed in parliament until after the Queen’s Speech has been delivered, and the prime minister cannot or will not reveal when the Queen’s Speech is likely to be. Therefore, as Labour MP Chris Bryant points out, it could be up to two weeks before answers are demanded of the government.

Britain has been repeatedly struck by disaster in the weeks since Theresa May called her unnecessary and destabilising election. In the face of terrorist attacks and now a devastating fire, the Conservatives have not been subject to any parliamentary scrutiny. This cannot go on. To state the overwhelmingly obvious, the country needs governance.

Niamh Ni Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.

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