Civil servants were too busy with Brexit to carry out a review into building safety regulation, it was claimed as the fallout from Grenfell Tower continued today.
The extraordinary allegation came from former shadow housing minister Ruth Cadbury in Parliament as she called for answers on how the EU divorce proceedings could be impacting on vital work to improve fire safety.
Ministers have faced intense scrutiny over a promised review - ordered by a coroner in the wake of the fatal Lakanal House fire in 2009 - as questions swirled over how the Grenfell Tower blaze could have been avoided.
The west London disaster has killed at least 80 people.
Theresa May’s chief of staff Gavin Barwell, a former MP who was housing minister when the review was delayed, was hit with a barrage of criticism for presiding over the delay and even faced calls to resign.
But Cadbury claimed Brexit had swallowed up Whitehall resources, putting building regulation on the back burner.
Rising to speak during her Labour colleague John Healey’s speech, she said: “Have you picked up the same rumour that I’ve picked up on the review of the building regulations that went on in CLG (the Department for Communities and Local Government)?
“I’ve heard that it was paused because there weren’t the civil servants able to lead on that work because they were taken off that work because of Brexit and work that needed to be done to look at Brexit.
“If that’s true, how many other pieces of work that are essential and urgent and safety-related are on pause in Government right now?”
Healey replied: “Well I hadn’t heard that rumour - I prefer to deal with the facts in front of us - but I have to say you are dead right there is a serious question of capacity in the Communities and Local Government department and there is an even greater question over leadership as well.”
HuffPost UK has approached the Department for Communities and Local Government for a comment.