Harriet Harman

Labour Member of Parliament for Camberwell & Peckham

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Today Southwark Council were prosecuted at Southwark Crown Court for their failure to maintain fire safety standards in Lakanal House. I attended the court hearing, along with Dave Lewis of the Sceaux Gardens Tenants and Residents Association.

3 women and 3 young children tragically lost their lives in the Lakanal House fire in Camberwell on 3 July 2009.

They were Dayana Francisquini aged 26, her daughter Thais, aged six, and son Felipe, aged three; 31-year-old Catherine Hickman; and Helen Udoaka, 34, and her 20-day-old daughter Michelle.

The fire was caused by an electrical fault in a television in a 9th floor bedroom. It spread unexpectedly through the block, in large part due to unsafe renovation work by the council, who own the building, and their failure to carry out a fire risk assessment following this work.

From 2006 Southwark were legally responsible for fire safety checks at its flats, but by July 2009 the council had carried out no such checks at Lakanal. A proper inspection would have spotted that vital fire-stopping material between flats and communal corridors had been removed.

Investment to improve Lakanal House for the tenants living in it instead turned it into a deadly fire trap. The council failed in their responsibilities and they have pleaded guilty.  No-one would have died if the work was checked and if they had re-assessed the fire safety of the block after the work was done.

No-one would have died if the Fire Brigade had instructed people to leave their flats. It was clear to me when I rushed down there on the night of the fire that compartmentalisation in the building had failed, and the fire was spreading.

The Fire Brigade, too, were responsible because as the fire spread and the safety measures failed, they failed to change their instructions to residents.

Those who ignored the Fire Brigade’s instructions to stay put escaped with their lives. Those who accepted the instructions to stay in their flat died.  The Fire Brigade say they too have learned lessons.

This prosecution sends a strong message not just to the London Borough of Southwark but to all landlords, public and private, that their tenants’ safety must be an absolute priority.

Nothing will bring back the 3 women and 3 young children who died in this tragedy, or undo the pain that has been caused to their families and friends. But there are lessons to learn and improvements that can and must be made.

In court today we heard that since 2009 Southwark has reviewed its approach to fire risk assessment across every block in the borough. They have spent £62m on their fire risk programme for social housing and now have a skilled and experienced in-house fire safety team. The Council and fire brigade said they are meeting regularly to discuss operations and safety, and the fire brigade assists Southwark in advising residents on fitting smoke alarms.

 

For more information contact Rachel Smethers – rachel.smethers@parliament.uk
020 7219 2057

 

 

 

Southwark Council prosecuted for safety failures over Lakanal fire

Today Southwark Council were prosecuted at Southwark Crown Court for their failure to maintain fire safety standards in Lakanal House. I attended the court hearing, along with Dave Lewis of...

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My cross-party letter with 47 Peers in today's Financial Times, on why the Government must guarantee EU citizens' residence rights:

On 27 February the House of Lords will debate the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. This provides an opportunity to guarantee the residence rights of the 3 million EU nationals who were lawfully resident in the United Kingdom at the time of the referendum. It is unthinkable that these individuals would be deported, or families divided, as a result of the vote.

Having taken evidence, Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) concluded that providing them with a unilateral guarantee was both morally and legally the right thing to do. These people need certainty. They work here and are part of our community. They are critical to every part of our private and public sector, including the NHS, our universities, agriculture, creative industries and finance.

If the Government tried to negotiate over their residence rights, many would be able to go to our courts and seek to establish their rights to remain under the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to family life). If even 10 per cent did that, there would be 300,000 cases. There is no way that our court system could cope with such a challenge.

We call on the Government to end the uncertainty and accept the new clause on the residence rights of EU nationals, proposed by members of the JCHR, cross bench Peers, and others, on a cross party basis. Clearly, this will not be Parliament's final word on the matter and further issues will require resolution (for example, health insurance and rights of residence for those who arrived following the referendum).This does not prevent Parliament providing reassurance by preserving existing rights under EU law. This is the right thing to do and would ensure that negotiations with the remaining 27 EU Member States were commenced in good faith and on a positive note. It would be entirely wrong for the UK Government to seek to use these individuals as a bargaining chip.

Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP QC (Chair, Joint Committee on Human Rights)

Rt Hon Lord Woolf CH

The Baroness Hamwee

The Baroness Prosser OBE

Rt Hon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

The Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws QC

Rt Hon the Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon GCMG KBE CH

Rt Hon the Lord Beith

Rt Hon Baroness Blackstone

Rt Hon. the Lord Bruce of Bennachie

Rt Hon. the Baroness Featherstone

Rt Hon. the Lord Foster of Bath

Rt Hon. the Baroness Kramer

Rt Hon. the Baroness Northover

Rt Hon. the Lord Stunell OBE

Rt Hon. the Lord Wallace of Saltaire

The Lord Alliance CBE

The Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury

The Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted

The Baroness Doocey OBE

The Baroness Falkner of Margravine

The Lord Fox

The Lord Goddard of Stockport

The Lord Greaves

The Baroness Harris of Richmond DL

The Baroness Jolly

The Lord Jones of Cheltenham

The Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb

The Lord Lee of Trafford DL

The Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC

The Lord Liddle

The Baroness Maddock

The Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames QC

The Lord Oates

The Baroness Pinnock

The Lord Razzall CBE

The Lord Rennard MBE

The Baroness Scott of Needham Market

The Baroness Sheehan

The Lord Shipley OBE

The Lord Smith of Clifton

The Lord Strasburger

The Lord Taverne QC

The Lord Teverson

The Baroness Thornton

The Lord Tope CBE

The Baroness WALMSLEY

 

Protecting EU citizens' residence rights - FT Letter

a My cross-party letter with 47 Peers in today's Financial Times, on why the Government must guarantee EU citizens' residence rights: On 27 February the House of Lords will debate the EU...

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January/February Monthly Report


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