JACOB REES-MOGG has “profoundly” apologised for suggesting Grenfell victims should have used “common sense” and ignored fire service guidance not to leave the burning tower block.
The Leader of the Commons on Tuesday said that victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 could have used common sense to ignore the instructions of the fire service and leave the burning building. An official inquiry into the catastrophic chain of events in June 2017 that turned an ordinary kitchen fire into an inferno that killed 72 people last week found that combustible cladding contributed to the tragedy, and also questioned fire brigade advice that residents should stay put.
Mr Rees-Mogg told LBC Radio in an interview: “If you just ignore what you’re told and leave, you are so much safer.
“And I think if either of us were in a fire, whatever the fire brigade said, we would leave the burning building.
“It just seems the common sense thing to do.”
But he has issued a statement this morning, which said: “I profoundly apologise.
“What I meant to say is that I would have also listened to the fire brigade’s advice to stay and wait at the time.
“However, with what we know now and with hindsight I wouldn’t and I don’t think anyone else would.
“I would hate to upset the people of Grenfell if I was unclear in my comments.”
Families of the victims and opposition MPs criticised his remarks.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn labelled the comments “crass and insensitive” and called for an apology.
He said: “What possesses someone to react to an entirely avoidable tragedy like Grenfell by saying the victims lacked common sense?
“People were terrified, many died trying to escape.”
Grenfell United, a group that represents survivors and bereaved families of victims, branded Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments as “beyond disrespectful”.
A statement issued on Twitter said: “The Leader of the House of Commons suggesting that the 72 people who lost their lives at Grenfell lacked common sense is beyond disrespectful.
“It is extremely painful and insulting to bereaved families.”
On Tuesday, the head of the London Fire Brigade (LFB) said that “knowing what we know now”, the service would respond differently to a Grenfell-like fire.
LFB Commissioner, Dany Cotton, was answering questions at the London Assembly about the inquiry report into the 2017 blaze that killed 72 people.
She told the fire, resilience and emergency planning committee: “Clearly, knowing what we know now about Grenfell Tower and similar buildings with ACM cladding, our response would be very different.”
When asked how the service had changed its approaches, she added: “Not only have we increased our attendance if we receive a call to a high rise fire, we increase the number of fire engines we send.
“If there are multiple calls to the same building and the callers state the outside of the building is on fire we send an initial attendance of ten fire engines, plus officers, plus specialist appliances.”
Ms Cotton also expressed concern for the number of buildings covered in similar material to the Kensington tower.
She told the committee: “We know that there are still several hundred buildings in London that are covered in ACM cladding […] our concern is that action is not being taken quickly enough to remove that cladding which is a high risk.”