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Jacob Rees-Mogg has said he is “profoundly” sorry over comments suggesting Grenfell residents who followed firefighters’ instructions to stay in the burning building lacked “common sense”.
The remarks made by the Conservative MP and leader of the House of Commons were described as “appalling” by a Grenfell campaign group.
A report published last week into the blaze, which claimed the lives of 72 people in June 2017, criticised London Fire Brigade for telling residents to stay in their homes while the fire raged.
Speaking to presenter Nick Ferrari on LBC radio, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “The more one's read over the weekend about the report and about the chances of people surviving, if you just ignore what you're told and leave you are so much safer.
"And I think if either of us were in a fire, whatever the fire brigade said, we would leave the burning building.
"It just seems the common sense thing to do. And it is such a tragedy that that didn't happen."
On Tuesday, Mr Rees-Mogg apologised and said he he “would hate to upset the people of Grenfell”.
“I profoundly apologise,” he said. “What I meant to say is that I would have also listened to the fire brigade’s advice to stay and wait at the time. However, with what we know now and with hindsight I wouldn’t and I don’t think anyone else would.
“What’s so sad is that the advice given overrides common sense because everybody would want to leave a burning building.
“I would hate to upset the people of Grenfell if I was unclear in my comments. With hindsight and after reading the report no one would follow that advice. That’s the great tragedy.”
Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments had provoked a strong reaction.
Yvette Williams, chair of Justice4Grenfell, said: “This is an appalling statement to make but unsurprisingly symptomatic of Rees-Mogg’s ilk.
“His government failed to implement the recommendations from the Lakanall house inquiry - leaving the fire service and local authority with ‘stay put’ advice as a national policy and no full evacuation procedure.
“Rees-Mogg has a privileged background, what is his experience of living in social housing? How many tower blocks has he lived in?
“It was his government who destroyed the fire and safety regulations, it was a local authority run by his political party that cost cut and ignored residents’ concerns resulting in the Grenfell atrocity.
“To suggest that those who followed his party’s instructions were not using common sense is an absolute insult. He should be ashamed of himself.”
Grenfell United, which represents survivors and bereaved families, said: “The leader of the House of Commons suggesting that the 72 people who lost their lives at Grenfell lacked common sense is beyond disrespectful. It is extremely painful and insulting to bereaved families.”
His comments were also criticised by Ahmed Chellat, 62, who lost five members of his family in the fire.
Mr Chellat told the Daily Mirror: “People died on the stairs trying to leave, they couldn’t breathe. People needed help and directions, they tried to open doors and there was smoke everywhere. How is he coming to this insensitive conclusion?
“The firemen were not aware of how bad this fire was and what the building was made up of, the emergency callers weren’t aware, so people took instructions.
“This is the reality of it - he wasn’t there.”
Asked if the Grenfell tragedy was the result of “policies of class”, Mr Rees-Mogg replied: “I don’t think so.
“I think the tragedy came about because of the cladding, leading to the fire racing up the building, and then was compounded by the ‘stay put’ policy.
“But I don’t think it’s anything to do with race or class, and indeed I think it’s rather sad to raise these types of points over a great tragedy.”