In the Parliamentary debate following the Grenfell Tower disaster it was reassuring to read the transcript of a question asked by Huw Merriman, MP for Battle and Bexhill. He challenged the Prime Minister:
“I note that the Prime Minister said in her statement that all social landlords have been instructed to carry out additional fire safety checks, but that private landlords will be advised that they have the option of taking up the same facility. Can we ensure that the inquiry looks at both private and social tower blocks, because all citizens should be equal when it comes to safety and assurance?”
It is no great surprise that Theresa May was not willing to redress the balance being gently requested by Mr Merriman. Her response was:
“The inquiry will obviously focus on what happened at Grenfell Tower, but any implications of the inquiry may very well affect not just social landlords, but private landlords.”
Clearly even Mr Merriman could have done more to press his point in the words of his question, however it is good to know that he was willing to go as far as he did. The challenge with private landlords who own tower blocks is that many of them are not based in the UK and probably hide behind all sorts of protections set up to assist them in their investments. The Shard is a classic example although no one is suggesting that it has cheap cladding fitted to the building. However it is owned by a foreign government via a financial arrangement that hides names and protects the owners. Many of Mr Merrimans colleagues are landlords, he apparently owns more than £100,000 worth of agricultural land, but no tower blocks! Let us hope that his desire to see equality in this issue translates to other matters.