POLITICS
30/10/2019 15:11 GMT | Updated 30/10/2019 15:16 GMT

London Fire Chief Dany Cotton Should Resign Over Grenfell, Says David Lammy

MP, whose friend Khadija Saye was among the victims, says Cotton must “take ultimately responsibility” for brigade's failures as PM backs national guidelines on tower block evacuations.

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File photo dated 19/06/17 of London Fire Brigade Commissioner Dany Cotton. There were "serious shortcomings" and "systematic" failures by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) in its response to the Grenfell disaster, according to the official report into the tragedy.

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton should resign over her handling of the Grenfell Tower disaster, Labour MP David Lammy has said. 

The London Fire Brigade’s response to the 2017 tragedy, which claimed the lives of 72 people, was sharply criticised in the phase one report of the public inquiry.

Judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick said the ablaze high-rise should have been evacuated an hour earlier but the fire service stuck with the “stay put” advice which saw residents stay in their flats to rely on the fire doors. 

Moore-Bick said lives could have been saved and sharply criticised the London Fire Brigade’s “gravely inadequate” preparation for the disaster. 

Tottenham MP Lammy, whose friend Khadija Saye and her mother Mary Mendy were among the victims, has now demanded Cotton resign immediately. 

Cotton will stand down next year, but when asked if he felt she should leave immediately, Lammy said: “Yes I do”.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Emma Barnett that Cotton should “take ultimate responsibility”, adding: “Leadership was poor – coordination was poor. I think that in all decency some of what she said in inquiry was not just insensitive, it was sort of offensive.” 

In the report, Moore-Bick said the London Fire Brigade had failed in its duty, adding: “There was no contingency plan for evacuation of the tower and the LFB failed to revoke the ‘stay put’ advice at a time when the stairs remained passable. 

He added: “There was a lack of effective communication between the control room and the incident commander, resulting in a failure to share important information. 

“There were serious deficiencies in command and control and many of the communications systems did not work properly.” 

Cotton has so far resisted calls for her to resign. 

Asked about accusations she was “criminally negligent”, she told Sky News: “I think it is right that the police are the ones who will look into that.”

Meanwhile in the Commons, Boris Johnson has confirmed that national guidelines on evacuating high-rise buildings will be developed. 

Ministers will also name and shame the owners of private tower blocks who have failed to remove dangerous combustible cladding similar to that which allowed the 2017 North Kensington blaze to spread so rapidly, the prime minister has said. 

Moore-Bick made 46 recommendations to boost fire safety in total, including regular inspections of fire doors and lifts. 

The Commons debate on Wednesday begun with a minute’s silence to remember the 72 victims as Grenfell survivors watched on from the gallery. 

Johnson said survivors and the bereaved were “overlooked and ignored” before the fire and “shamefully failed” after it. 

“The bereaved, the survivors and the members of the North Kensington community joining us in the galleries today, each has their own story to tell, their perspective on what happened at Grenfell,” he said. 

“But over the past two-and-a-half years they have been united in their fight to uncover the truth. It is not a fight they would ever have chosen. But it is one that they have taken up with determination, with dedication and with great dignity.

“Yet their exceptional tenacity in seeking justice has not always been matched by their faith in the system’s ability to deliver. This is no surprise. After all, they have been let down many times before.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons, London.

“Too often overlooked and ignored in the months and years before the tragedy and shamefully failed by the institutions that were supposed to serve them in the days and weeks after it.” 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also spoke during the debate. 

He stressed the “whole truth is not yet with us”, with phase two of the report set to deal with how the combustible cladding came to be installed and a further focus on sprinklers and Kensington and Chelsea council’s response. 

Speaking of justice and possible “corporate manslaughter issues”, he said: “I hope that the government or nobody else will put any obstruction in the way of that process. The prime minister talks about the whole truth and that clearly isn’t with us yet.”

He added: “The government’s response to Grenfell I think has been too slow and not strong enough on every front, from re-housing survivors to dealing with Grenfell-style ACM cladding on hundreds of blocks across this country.”

Former prime minister Theresa May also told MPs today that “for the families and friends of those who lost their lives, the pain of that loss will never go away.

“But for their sake and in memory of all who lost their lives, the lessons must be learnt.”

May referred to a section of the inquiry report which highlighted that the London Fire Brigade is an “institution at risk of not learning the lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire”.

She said Grenfell represented an “horrific loss of life” and was “of course it was a tragedy that should never have happened”.

May also said phase two of the report should examine why repeated warnings from residents were repeatedly ignored. 

She added: “I think one of the most shocking features that has come out from the consideration of what happened at Grenfell Tower is this issue of the way in which those people had been genuinely raising matters about safety and felt that those matters were – and in some cases they were – just completely ignored.”