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Students Need Urgent Reassurance On The Safety Of Student Halls

30/06/2017 15:45
NIKLAS HALLE'N via Getty Images

In September many of us will see our children off to University. Young adults who are leaving home for the first time, a year of new students, with their lives ahead of them, will be packing up their life belongings from their bedrooms and moving to a strange new city, into a strange new home. For many this will mean moving into halls of residences.

This is a time of natural worry for all families. New friends, faces and experiences will be the norm and should be relished. To any first-time student reading this, oh how I envy you. I hope you have the time of your life. For those returning, the summer should be about fun intermixed with last minute preparations for exams, coursework and reading lists. The fire safety of your halls accommodation should not feature. But I am keenly aware that after Grenfell, many people, students and parents alike, are now worried.

These halls of residence are often tall buildings in inner cities. After testing, many have already been shown to have similar cladding to that which was so instrumental in the spread of the fire at Grenfell. Students were evacuated in Nottingham, and Edinburgh Napier University have already been forced to take measures to remove cladding from halls.

Grenfell was a tragedy. The fact that we won't even know the final body count for a long time to come is absolutely heart-breaking. Families are being left in the unimaginably painful situation of waiting for clear answers over the fate of their loved ones.

I met with the Chief Fire Officer in my constituency of Oxford West and Abingdon this week who is well aware of how concerned people feel. Oxford University is one of the oldest universities in the World. Students flock here from all corners of the globe. I will be writing to all students' halls in my area seeking reassurance that every possible precaution will be taken and every test carried out. This should be done as soon as possible so people can spend their summer confident that their next steps are assessed to be safe.

Unless we act urgently, at the start of Autumn we may be moving a new generation of students into buildings unfit for purpose. Grenfell Tower has been the most alarming of wake up calls, those at the top must take action. We cannot sit on our hands in Westminster as people go about their lives in high risk buildings because the laws and regulations we have written have failed to protect them. I call on the Government, Universities and Local Authorities to act on this and reassure students and their families as soon as they can. The Summer should be for relaxation and recuperation, not worry and consternation.

Layla Moran is the Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, and the party's shadow education secretary

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