Leadsom defends Theresa May over Grenfell visit

Theresa May meets firefighters at the Grenfell Tower siteImage copyright

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom has defended the PM from criticism that she did not meet survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire when she visited the scene.

Mrs Leadsom, who visited the area on Friday, told Sky News Theresa May was “heartbroken” by the tragedy and was co-ordinating the government response.

Former minister Michael Portillo said Mrs May, who met fire fighters but not residents, “didn’t use her humanity”.

The PM is visiting a London hospital which is treating eight people.

She will also be chairing the government’s Civil Contingencies Committee, which deals with major crises such as terrorism or natural disasters, in Whitehall.

The government has said it will do “whatever it takes” to make flats safe.

At least 30 people are known to have died in the fire that destroyed a large block of flats in west London but that figure is set to rise, with fears the death toll could exceed 60.

The Queen and Prince William visited a centre helping those affected by the fire on Friday morning, near the scene of the disaster.

Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan was heckled by some angry residents at the scene when he visited on Thursday and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn met residents when he visited the scene.

But while Mrs May met police and fire fighters at a private visit to the site on Thursday, she was not seen speaking to residents who survived the fire.

Former Conservative Defence Secretary Mr Portillo told BBC One’s This Week: “Alas Mrs May was what she has been for the last five or six weeks, that is to say she wanted an entirely controlled situation in which she didn’t use her humanity.

“She met in private with the emergency services, a good thing to do no doubt, but she should have been there with the residents, which is what Jeremy Corbyn was.”

He added: “The prime minister would have been shouted at by the residents, but she should have been willing to take that.

“You have to be prepared to receive people’s emotions .. and not be so frightened about people.”

‘Absolutely heartbroken’

But Mrs Leadsom, who also faced some anger when she visited a community centre in the area on Friday, told Sky News the prime minister was “doing everything she can”.

“In reality, every single member of the House of Commons, every member of the government from the prime minister downwards are absolutely horrified by what’s happened and we are all doing trying to do the best we can.”

She said Mrs May was “absolutely heartbroken” adding: “I don’t really think it is appropriate to be talking about whether people have humanity or not”.

Media captionCommunities minister Sajid Javid tells Today the Grenfell Tower fire should not have happened

On the BBC’s Question Time programme on Thursday, Conservative defence minister Tobias Ellwood, said there were “security reasons” why Mrs May had not met residents.

Former housing minister Mark Prisk said Mrs May would not have wanted “to bring the whole weight of the media circus down on families who are going through some pretty grim days”.

But BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt said there would be questions about why the Queen was able to make such a visit, and the prime minister was not.

Downing Street said that Mrs May’s visit was made to get a briefing from the emergency services to ensure that they had the resources they needed.

She has ordered a judge-led public inquiry into the disaster.

On Friday, Mrs May visited the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital which is treating eight people, of which three are in critical care.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid told the BBC on Friday there would be immediate action following early conclusions from an investigative report into the fire.

“We need to do whatever it takes to make people that live in those properties safe: that’s either make the properties safe or find some other accommodation, it has to be done,” Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“The government has been absolutely clear on this: we need to do whatever is required and that will happen.

“In this country, in this century, for this kind of thing to happen it is horrific and we cannot allow anything like this to ever happen again.”


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