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House of Commons Hansard

Grenfell Recovery Taskforce

06 November 2017
Volume 630

  • With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the independent recovery taskforce that is working with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in the wake of June’s tragic fire at Grenfell Tower.

    The people of North Kensington have been failed by those who were supposed to serve them. They were failed by a system that allowed the fire to happen. They were failed once again by a sluggish and chaotic response in the immediate aftermath. It was clear that if RBKC was to get a grip on the situation and begin to regain the trust of residents, it would have to change and change quickly. That started with a change in leadership of the council, new senior officers, and new support brought in from other councils and from central Government.

    To ensure that that translated into a better service for the victims and for the people of North Kensington and to assure myself that the council would be capable of delivery, I announced on 5 July that I was sending in a specialist independent taskforce. The taskforce is made up of experts in housing, local government, public services and community engagement. I deliberately appointed independent-minded individuals who will not hesitate to speak their mind.

    I have now received the first report from the taskforce, reflecting on its first nine weeks on the ground. The report has been shared with the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey). I will be placing copies in the Library of the House, and the report will be published in full on gov.uk.

    It is clear from the report that progress is being made, that much-needed change has happened and continues to happen, that the council today is a very different organisation from the one that failed its people so badly back in June, and that the taskforce is satisfied that RBKC, under its new leadership, recognises the challenges it faces and is committed to delivering a comprehensive recovery programme. For that reason, the taskforce does not see any practical advantage in further intervention at this time as it would risk further disruption.

    Although there are green shoots, the report pulls no punches about the fact that there is still significant room for improvement. The taskforce has identified four key areas in which the council needs to step up. The first is pace. The speed of delivery needs to be increased, and more work needs to be done more quickly. The second is innovation. The scale and impact of the fire was unprecedented in recent history, but RBKC is relying too much on tried and tested solutions that are not up to the task. The council should be much bolder in its response.

    The third area is skills. Too many of the officers and councillors working on the response lack specialist training in how to work with a traumatised community—that needs to change. The final area, and arguably the most important, is the need for greater empathy and emotional intelligence. The people of Grenfell Tower, Grenfell Walk and the wider community have already suffered so much, yet the taskforce has heard too many accounts of that suffering being compounded by bureaucratic processes that are not appropriate when so many deeply traumatised men, women and children have complex individual needs. A greater degree of humanity must be put at the heart of all RBKC’s recovery work.

    I have discussed those recommendations with the council’s leadership, which accepted them all without question. Culture change is never quick or easy to achieve in any organisation, but I am in no doubt that the leadership and staff of RBKC genuinely want to do better. It is their community, too, and they desperately want to help it heal. I am particularly encouraged that the council is now drawing on NHS expertise to secure specific training for the frontline staff responsible for providing direct support to survivors.

    I have assured the council that I will continue to support it in building capacity. However, I have also made it clear that my support will not be uncritical or unqualified. I expect to see swift, effective action to deal with all the issues highlighted in the report. I am not taking any options off the table if progress is not made, and I will continue to monitor the situation closely.

    Until now, one aspect of the monitoring has involved weekly meetings, chaired by me, bringing together Ministers from across Government and senior colleagues from RBKC. Although the meetings have proved effective, the taskforce expressed concern that meeting so often is beginning to become counterproductive and that the time required to prepare properly is cutting into the time available for frontline work. As a result, the report recommends that we meet less often, and I have accepted that recommendation. However, I reassure the House that that does not mean our priorities are shifting elsewhere or that the level of scrutiny is being reduced. It is simply a matter of ensuring time and resources are focused to the maximum on those affected by the fire.

    One area to which the House knows I have been paying particularly close attention is the rehousing of those who lost their home in the fire. Although I have always been clear that rehousing must proceed at a pace that respects the needs, wants and situations of survivors, I have been equally adamant that bureaucratic inertia must not add delay. Clearly some progress is being made. The latest figures I have received from RBKC are that 122 households out of a current total of 204 have accepted an offer of either temporary or permanent accommodation. Seventy-three of those households have now moved in, of which 47 have moved into temporary accommodation and 26 have moved into permanent accommodation.

    However, the report is also clear that that the process is simply not moving as quickly as it should. RBKC’s latest figures show that 131 Grenfell households are still living in emergency accommodation. Behind every one of these numbers are human faces. There can be no doubt that there are families who desperately want a new home but for whom progress has been painfully slow. Almost five months after the fire, this must improve. Responsibility for re-homing ultimately lies with RBKC. However, in central Government we cannot shy away from our share of the responsibility. I expect the council, in line with the taskforce’s report, to do whatever is necessary to ensure households can move into settled homes as swiftly as possible. I will continue to do all I can to ensure that this is done.

    When I announced the creation of the taskforce, I said it would stay in place for as long as it was needed. Based on this first report, there is still much more to be done, so the taskforce will remain for the foreseeable future. I have asked the taskforce to ensure that proper action is taken on all the fronts it identifies, and to come back to me in the new year with a further update, which I will, of course, share with this House. I must, of course, thank the four members of the taskforce for their tireless efforts so far: Aftab Chughtai, Javed Khan, Jane Scott and Chris Wood.

    This weekend, I read the Right Rev. James Jones’s excellent report on the appalling experiences of those who lost loved ones in the Hillsborough disaster. It is a sobering piece of work, reminding us that

    “the way in which families bereaved through public tragedy are treated by those in authority is in itself a burning injustice”.

    We saw that all too clearly in the hours and days after the Grenfell fire. The clock cannot be turned back; the woeful inadequacies of the early response cannot be undone. But I can say, once again, that as long as I am in public life, I will do all I can to ensure that the failures of the past are not repeated, and that the people of Grenfell Tower get the help and support they deserve. The Hillsborough families had to fight for a quarter of a century to get their voices heard, to be taken seriously, to be treated properly by those in authority—we cannot allow that to happen again. I will not allow that to happen again. The public inquiry established by the Prime Minister will play the major role, but, for its part, I am confident that the continued work of the taskforce will also help ensure that the survivors receive the support and respect they deserve.

  • I thank the Secretary of State for the advance copy of his statement this afternoon. I also wish to join him in thanking the members of the Grenfell taskforce for producing this report. On all sides of the House, we recognised the totally avoidable tragedy at Grenfell and an official response that was just not good enough. The support on the ground for families who needed help or basic information in the initial hours was not provided by the council. The council was too distant from the residents it serves, which meant there was little effective and structured support from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea at a time when its residents needed it the most. Instead, support came from the many volunteers, charities, emergency services and aid workers. As we all know only too well, without them the situation would have been much worse.

    For many survivors, the situation is far bleaker than the information provided to us today by the Secretary of State would suggest. First, will he confirm that the figures that have been presented do not include people from the properties surrounding the tower, in the three walkway buildings? Residents of Barandon Walk, Hurstway Walk and Testerton Walk did not run out of a burning building, but they still lived through an unimaginable tragedy and they still saw unspeakable things. My understanding from the council’s figures is that if we are to include these additional people made homeless from the fire, we find that: 376 households were made homeless —comprising 857 people; 311 of these households are in bed and breakfast accommodation; and 87 households are in temporary accommodation. In future, will the Secretary of State provide the full data when he updates the House, including a full account of the numbers made homeless and the progress made in rehousing the survivors?

    There are additional issues for those in the walkway blocks, because under the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s suggested rehousing policy, tenants would not be given priority for rehousing while they remained in bed and breakfast accommodation. Residents have accused the council of insensitivity, and I agree with them. The policy would mean that they would be required to move either into temporary accommodation or back into their old home overlooking the tower, where they would have to relive the tragedy every day. Even then, priority for housing would be removed if residents reject two offers. That has left some residents fearing that they will be made intentionally homeless. Hotel accommodation is not a substitute for a home, especially after such a traumatic event, and there are growing concerns about people beginning to lose hope.

    Dr John Green, the clinical director of the Grenfell Tower NHS mental health response team, said last week that he had found that 667 adults were in urgent need of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Three hundred and sixty are undergoing treatment. The capacity issues in the NHS that we often see nationwide are amplified locally at times of tragedy such as this, as the taskforce notes, describing support services as “stretched”. Survivors have reported issues with appropriateness, accessibility and lack of cultural and faith sensitivity. Fundamental problems remain, with NHS staff unable to get timely and accurate location lists from the council. Will the Secretary of State recognise that the effects of this tragedy go beyond those who were in the tower and ensure that steps are taken to make sure that severely traumatised people have the support they need and do not face an unnecessary burden in finding somewhere safe to live?

    The Government conceded that the failure of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was real and sent in the taskforce, yet they also left the council in charge—something that the Opposition strongly cautioned against. We welcome the taskforce’s four key findings as a way to begin to rebuild public trust in the council. The Secretary of State says that he will continue to monitor the situation closely, but although I understand the reasons why he has announced that there will be fewer meetings between his Ministers, the council and the taskforce, how will he then ensure that the level of scrutiny that is so desperately needed will not be reduced?

    It is worth noting that, by contrast with the taskforce’s findings and the Secretary of State’s comments today, the leader of the council, Councillor Campbell, last week praised the council’s response, describing its efforts in the immediate response as “incredible”. Frankly, I find that comment incredible. Notwithstanding the taskforce’s view of a significant change in the senior leadership team, it appears that little has changed in the gap between the council leadership and the communities it seeks to represent. The council is still far too distant.

    Children are still being failed by the council. Two hundred and twenty-seven children are still in temporary accommodation following the fire. Although not all of them will have been there for nearly five months, some will have been, and the Secretary of State will of course be aware of the six-week legal limit on emergency bed and breakfast accommodation for families with children. The taskforce recognised as much in its report, describing a

    “distinct weakness in the response”

    of the council. Will the Secretary of State please clarify whether it is his view that the council has failed in its statutory obligations to its residents, and to the 227 children still in emergency accommodation? If he does, what further action will he be taking against the council and, more urgently, to help families?

    We are 145 days on since the dreadful fire, yet it still appears that many of the promises that were so hastily made are still not being actioned quickly enough. Without the full use of the Secretary of State’s powers to rectify the inadequate governance arrangements at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, there is still a long way to go before the local community will feel any trust in its council again.

  • First, may I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments and welcome his support for the members of the taskforce?

    The hon. Gentleman raised a number of issues. Let me begin with rehousing. He talked about the walkways. I am sure that he will understand that, from day one, the priority for rehousing has been the victims—those who have permanently lost their homes—of Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk. At the same time, work has been going on with many of those in the walkways whose homes were initially uninhabitable. Many of them also required other support, including emotional and mental health support.

    The council and others have been working with people in the walkways, providing them with whatever support is needed. The hon. Gentleman said that a number of people from the walkways are still in emergency accommodation —hotel rooms and so on. The latest information that I have is that there are currently 161 hotel rooms being occupied by residents of the walkways. There were many more—I think that, at one point, it was closer to 300 rooms—so, thankfully, the number is coming down. Many people have moved back to their homes. Some have said that they are not ready to move back, or, in some cases, that they do not want to move back. The council has quite rightly said that, if anyone from the walkways does not want to move back to their previous accommodation, they should be listened to. No one should be forced to move back. The council is working with many others to get them into temporary and permanent accommodation as quickly as possible.

    The hon. Gentleman rightly raised the issue of emotional support. That is one of the most important areas of support for people—whether they were from Grenfell Tower/ Grenfell Walk, the walkways or the larger community. That is where the NHS, the clinical commissioning group, other councils and voluntary groups have been involved. He will know that there has been considerable support on offer: a 24/7 dedicated NHS hotline; a number of outreach efforts in which almost 4,000 contacts have been made; emotional support in 13 hotels, much of it available throughout the night; and funding for community groups, including religious groups and others, to ensure that support can be provided in all ways to all members of the community.

    A couple of weeks ago, I requested that we set up a roundtable meeting with voluntary groups, the NHS and others who have been providing support to ensure that we looked at all options of support and provided it in every way that we could. That meeting was held and a report came back to me last week through the ministerial taskforce that I chair. We have taken up any recommendation that was made to make sure that we are providing all the emotional support that we possibly can.

    The hon. Gentleman was quite right to highlight support for children. He will know that, in its rehousing policy, the council consulted survivors and set up a consultation process. A priority system is in place. I am sure that he understands that the priority for permanent homes are those families who have been bereaved—whether or not they have children—and then those families with children. There is also support for educational services. He may know that the Kensington Aldridge Academy, which had been affected by the fire, was rebuilt as a temporary building and reopened again, on time, in September. As far as I know, that is the fastest school building programme that has ever been achieved. I just mention it as a demonstration of how far we need to go to ensure that we are doing everything we can to support the council, the Department for Education and others in helping the children.

    Lastly, the hon. Gentleman raised the issue of the findings of the taskforce report and specifically asked me how we maintain scrutiny. Let me make it clear that all members of the taskforce were independent and therefore independently-minded in their approach. It was important to listen to the taskforce’s recommendations and, most importantly, to act on them. The council is publishing a report today, and I am glad that it is making it clear that it has accepted every single recommendation from the members of the taskforce. I have also accepted every recommendation that applies to central Government.

    One recommendation was that the ministerial taskforce I chair should meet less frequently for the reasons that I outlined in my statement, and I have accepted the reasons given by the taskforce. To ignore it would not have been the right approach. Having said that, it is absolutely right that we maintain scrutiny so the ministerial taskforce will continue to meet, but the hon. Gentleman knows that Department for Communities and Local Government officers are also working with the council, taskforce members and others. The work of the taskforce continues, as it regularly meets the council, council officers and community representatives. The hon. Gentleman will know that the fire Minister is also the Grenfell victims Minister and meets the victims almost weekly, and that the Minister for Housing and Planning has regular surgeries with the victims.

  • I chair the board of a housing association in the west midlands, so fire safety is clearly at the top of my agenda. I recently met Brian Sofley of ASSA ABLOY UK to talk about his recommendations to improve fire door safety. Will my right hon. Friend update us on the progress of the independent review into building regulations and fire safety?

  • The review’s work has begun, and there was a call for evidence from Dame Judith Hackitt, the leader of the review. I believe that she has received almost 300 responses to that call for evidence, much of which will be about fire safety. I have not seen any of that work at this point—rightly, because it is an independent review—but I know that Dame Judith is looking very carefully at the issues, including fire doors.

  • I thank the Secretary of State for his statement. I join him and the shadow Secretary of State in thanking the taskforce members for their work. The report rightly recognises that the people of Grenfell and north Kensington were utterly failed, including by a sluggish and chaotic response in the aftermath of disaster.

    I have questions on two issues, the first of which is rehousing. I share the utter dismay at what the report calls a “painfully slow” speed of progress. The Secretary of State has rightly recognised that his Government must not shy away from a share of responsibility, so is he satisfied that there are sufficient staff working on, and sufficient resources being invested in, rehousing? Are families having sufficient opportunities to meet staff face to face to discuss options, rather than being left alone to search for possible opportunities? What support will the Government provide for increased housing costs, if that is what is takes to find and secure suitable accommodation? The Secretary of State will be aware that there have been criticisms of the nature of some housing offers. Will he tell us how many offers have been refused because properties were located too far from a family’s previous home, and how many have been refused as being unsuitable?

    On the immigration amnesty, it is welcome that the Home Office has strengthened what was previously a miserly offer to now include at least the prospect of indefinite leave. But why not simply allow for indefinite leave right now? Surely that is the only way to ensure that all undocumented survivors feel able and safe to take up the support that they so desperately need. Surely that is, quite simply, the right thing to do in these tragic circumstances.

  • The hon. Gentleman asks whether I am satisfied that there are enough resources and staff for rehousing. All the resources that the council needs for rehousing are in place, including support from other councils and from the Government. It is not an issue of there not being enough people on the ground to work on housing needs. Cost is also not an issue at all. The council has already made some £230 million of its reserves available to acquire new properties. It has significantly increased the number of new permanent properties it has acquired—the figure is now more than 300—and it will continue to add to that list for the foreseeable weeks and months ahead.

    The hon. Gentleman asked about the immigration system changes that we announced to help the victims of Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk. The Immigration Minister’s recent announcement was welcome. It is the right and proportionate response, which gives the families certainty and comfort.

  • Hopefully, the tragedy at Grenfell Tower will provide us with opportunities to learn some serious lessons. Will the Secretary of State ensure that the lessons learned about the immediate response and about working with volunteers, as well as the lessons that the taskforce harvests, are circulated to other local authorities via London councils and the Local Government Association and to the London Resilience Forum and other local resilience forums, so that we never have such a sluggish response again to a tragedy of this scale?

  • I agree very much with my hon. Friend—when it comes to London governance, he speaks with great experience. One of the lessons learned from this tragedy will certainly be the need to help all councils—not just those in London—with their resilience and response in any civilian emergency they might face, and that process is certainly going on.

  • The Secretary of State is rightly concentrating on the human face and the human cost of this tragedy, and I pay credit to him for that. However, the structure is also important. Every day, thousands upon thousands of people on the Hammersmith and City line and on Western Avenue have to see this smoke-blackened vertical charnel house—this modern Gormenghast—jutting into the sky. Some local people are saying to me that they would like the building to be dropped and for some sort of memorial park to be built there, perhaps. Others are saying that when the building is no longer a crime scene it must be made habitable again. Does the Secretary of State have a view, and, more importantly, does he intend to consult the local community on the long-term use of the site of Grenfell Tower?

  • What happens to the site is a very important, but also very sensitive, issue. What ultimately matters is not my view—or the hon. Gentleman’s, if I may say so—but the views of the community, and particularly the survivors. The survivors are being consulted, and that consultation will continue. My view is that nothing should happen to the site until survivors far and wide have been consulted and their views properly taken into account. There is a difference of views among survivors—that has come out recently in some engagement the council has had—but it is important to keep up that engagement and to listen to the survivors carefully.

  • First, I applaud the meticulous approach that the Secretary of State has taken and the insightful report he has brought to the Chamber today—a great deal of work has gone into it. One area that is highlighted is the need for better skills in the council. Will he outline what skills ought to be used to deliver and to help in the aftermath of this tragedy and what the Government are doing to help?

  • I thank my hon. Friend for her comments. She is right that one of the key recommendations of the taskforce’s members concerns skills. They talked about skills in some detail: they highlighted not just having appropriate skills training for the officers of the council, but making sure, for example, that councillors, as well as some of their key officers, have had training in emotional support services. That is one of the most important takeaways from this report, and I am pleased that the council has fully accepted this and the other recommendations.

  • It breaks my heart that many of these people—over two thirds of them—will not be housed by Christmas. Given that the taskforce has found the council to be so inept, is it not right that the Secretary of State should have brought in commissioners? What guarantees can he now give these families that they will be housed? The general tone of today’s statement has lacked the urgency and compassion that are still required.

  • The right hon. Gentleman raises the importance of housing and rehousing, and that is absolutely right—those are a priority here. If I may say so, I do not agree with his recommendation. To have brought in commissioners would have made what is already a tough situation even more difficult in terms of helping the victims of this tragedy. I ask him to reflect on the fact that whatever happens in terms of housing, it must be led by the victims.

    As the right hon. Gentleman will know, there were 151 households in Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk, and there are now 204 households to deal with because many of them have wanted to change their family structure, and that has been listened to. It is very, very important that the rehousing is done at the pace of the victims, that they are given choices, and that if they are not happy with any of those choices, they are given more choices. That process continues. No family should be forced to leave emergency accommodation; they should leave it only when they are happy with what has been offered. It is right that we listen to the victims during the whole rehousing process.

  • I was very pleased to hear that the council has accepted the taskforce’s recommendations in full, but how quickly will those recommendations be implemented, and what oversight will there be?

  • The council accepted the recommendations very quickly; it did not take too much time to consider them. It had a meeting, went through them, and accepted every single one. That is a good start. As for how the implementation will be monitored, first, the taskforce itself will help to oversee it and report back to me again in the new year, but also, through my Department and my officials, I will oversee each one of the recommendations and make sure they are fulfilled.

  • Will the Secretary of State outline what is being done for those suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder following this tragedy and explain how they are being fully supported?

  • Psychosocial support—emotional support —is one of the most important things being offered, through the NHS, voluntary services and other organisations. I wanted to make sure that everything that is being done is appropriate and being offered at pace. That is why I held a recent roundtable attended by a Health Minister and by the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, who is the Grenfell victims’ Minister, to make sure that we are reaching out in every way we possibly can. This needs to be kept under review because needs change over time, and I am determined to do that.

  • Can the Secretary of State confirm that those affected directly and indirectly by the tragedy are being properly listened to? Are Ministers in regular contact both with individuals and groups?

  • Yes, I can confirm that. Of course, those people must be listened to by the council and by any other providers of public services, including central Government —my Department and others. My hon. Friend the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service is the Minister for Grenfell victims and regularly meets victims in the wider community. My hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning also regularly meets community members and others on rehousing needs, and I regularly have such meetings myself.

  • I welcome the Secretary of State saying, “as long as I am in public life, I will do all I can to ensure that the failures of the past are not repeated”, but had we learned the lessons from the Lakanal fire, we would have done so before this tragedy happened. One of the recommendations is that where fire safety officers recommend it, sprinklers should be retrofitted. We have the Budget coming up in a couple of weeks’ time. Will the Secretary of State make representations to the Chancellor to make funds available to local authorities to fit sprinklers in tower blocks?

  • I have already told the House that in terms of the fire safety work that is required for other social buildings, whatever work is deemed essential by the respective council or housing authority should be carried out, and the Government will provide support and flexibility to make sure that it is.

  • My right hon. Friend was right to say that the victims of this terrible fire were let down by the system, but that is potentially also true of those who still reside in high-rise blocks that may have been fitted with substandard cladding. Will he update us on the very important building regs review and explain how that is going to help us understand how these inappropriate fittings took place in the first instance?

  • In the first instance, we have been getting advice from the expert panel, which was set up days after the tragedy, on any immediate action that we need to take. That has included the work that has already been done to test buildings and to test some of the systems panels. The wider lessons for building regulations and fire safety are the subject of the work being done at the moment by Dame Judith Hackitt. I expect an interim report within weeks, and we will look to act on that report before we receive her final report.

  • I note that the Secretary of State did not update us today on the progress of the testing regime. Will he provide a further update on that, in terms not just of our important high-rise residential blocks, but of other public buildings including hospitals, schools and perhaps shopping centres?

  • The reason why I did not cover that in my statement is that it was about the response to the taskforce report, but I am happy to give the hon. Lady some more information now. As far as social housing buildings—that is, social housing towers of more than 18 metres high—are concerned, 169 have been tested through the building safety programme, and 162 of those have failed the test. I believe that that is the last update; nothing has changed since the previous update that I gave to the House. She also asked me about other public buildings. Fifteen public buildings, 60 private buildings and 26 student residential buildings have been tested and failed.

  • Sir Martin Moore-Bick asked the Government to look at wider social housing issues, and I am pleased that the Government accepted that recommendation. To build on his answer to the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff), will the Secretary of State tell us a little more about what the Government are doing to identify problems with social housing, which potentially go far wider than the area that immediately surrounds Grenfell?

  • My hon. Friend is right to highlight that area. There are many lessons to learn from this terrible tragedy, on matters including the quality of social housing and the treatment of residents who have legitimate complaints. That is one reason why I announced the social housing Green Paper, on which we have begun work. In preparation for that Green Paper, I have asked the Housing and Planning Minister to meet as many social housing residents as he can, across the country and in different types of social housing accommodation, so that we listen carefully and learn the lessons.

  • I, too, thank the Secretary of State for his update and for making the report of the taskforce available, and I thank the taskforce for its work. I accept that the recovery work is very sensitive, but clearly pace is an issue. Although the emotional recovery of people who are affected by the tragedy takes as long as it takes, there is some urgency about the physical recovery, if I may call it that. Do we not need a timescale for the phased rehousing of all who have lost their homes, so that we do not find ourselves sitting here this time next year and talking about the people who have still not been rehoused? Some urgency about the timetable and a phased process to bring some focus to the rehousing of those affected would be very welcome.

  • I assure the hon. Lady that there is a huge deal of focus on rehousing. I do not think that there should be an artificial timescale; the timescale should absolutely be led by the needs of the survivors and the victims, so that they move on in terms of housing when they are ready. We need to make sure that they are all offered choices of permanent housing, and that no one is forced to make a choice at all. If a handful of families are still not ready to meet housing officers and others to talk about their needs, they should not be forced to do so. Rehousing the survivors should be an absolute priority, but the timescale should be set by the survivors themselves and no one should be forced into anything.

  • I thank the Secretary of State for giving such a comprehensive and compassionate statement. He has said that he is not sure how long the taskforce should stay in place. It is clearly doing some very important work. Does he envisage that at some point some responsibilities of the taskforce will transition to other bodies?

  • Such a change may well be necessary in the future, but it is certainly not necessary yet. I am very pleased with how the taskforce has operated so far—in looking at issues in detail and coming back with a proper, thought-through, detailed and independently minded report. That is why I want it to stay in place. No taskforce is in place forever and there may be a need for further changes at some point, but we are not ready for that because I want to make sure that the council follows through on all its recommendations, after which we may take another look at this.

  • Ministers have been consistently complacent since Grenfell on one of the broader strategic lessons of that disaster, which is the need for more support for and, crucially, more investment in social housing, particularly in London. Will the Secretary of State tell the House whether the Government have yet decided to lift the draconian curbs on borrowing by local authorities to invest in more social housing?

  • As I mentioned moments ago, I have asked for and started work on a social housing Green Paper looking at many of the issues that I know are important to Members of this House, including the hon. Gentleman. When it comes to resources for social housing, this of course needs to be constantly kept under review. Let us see what the Green Paper says, but the Government have recently announced an additional £2 billion for social housing, which I would have thought he welcomed.

  • The prize for persistence and good humour goes to Grahame Morris.

  • I sincerely thank the Secretary of State for his statement, and the shadow Minister for his response. I also thank the taskforce for its recommendations, which the Secretary of State now wishes to press ahead with and implement as speedily as possible. Will he clarify one particular point? It has been reported that Michael Lockwood is due to leave his position as site recovery manager to join the Independent Office for Police Conduct. Will the Secretary of State indicate the timescale for appointing his successor?

  • I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. It is correct that Michael Lockwood will be leaving his position; he is still in the position at the moment. This information has been shared by Mr Lockwood with the community; he has built up a strong relationship with members of the community, which is very important. I do not believe that he has set a final date for leaving, because one of his roles will be to make sure that a replacement is found and put in place before he moves on.