A high-profile Labour backbencher has denied saying there was a cover-up of the true death toll of the Grenfell Tower disaster as dissatisfaction over the Government’s handling of the tragedy continues to simmer.
David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, appeared on BBC2’ Newsnight where he questioned the official figure of 79 people who are either known to have lost their lives or are missing, presumed dead.
He admitted he had “no idea” if the number was being covered up but he was “sympathetic” to the theory.
However, Mr Lammy has taken to Twitter this morning to clarify his comments, and insisted that he had not suggested there was a cover-up.
I have never said that there is a cover up. But I have listened to the survivors and the community. I hear their concerns. (4/?)
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) 27 June 2017
He tweeted: “There has been no update on a) the death toll b) number of survivors or c) number of people in Grenfell Tower for over a week (8 days)
“I have never said that there is a cover up. But I have listened to the survivors and the community. I hear their concerns.
“I have listened to them explain how 79 is an impossibly low number. How they want some closure so that they can begin to grieve.
“I will listen to these people. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with them. They must be heard, and their concerns must be heard.”
He added: “I will ask tough questions of those in power on their behalf. And I absolutely will not apologise for doing so and doing my job.”
Speaking to Newsnight last night, Mr Lammy suggested that the number of people killed in the Grenfell Tower disaster could have been kept from the public because of fears of riots.
He said: “What people say is that if you put the numbers out early, there could be civil unrest. That’s what they say.
He added: “I am sympathetic to it, I am going to walk alongside those people.”
Asked if he thought the number of dead had not been released because of the potential for civil unrest, he said: “The truth is the media cycle is now beginning to move on to other things, that’s the truth.
“And so what people say is that in two, three weeks’ time, if you start to reveal the numbers, things have moved on.”
New Conservative Housing Minister Alok Sharma last week refused to confirm how many people had died in the blaze at the tower block in West London.
Safety tests on cladding – which is thought to have exacerbated the fire – are currently being carried out on 600 tower blocks across the country.
Many residents feel the number of dead and the number in hospital is nowhere near the suspected number of people in the tower block – which many claim is between 400 and 500 people.
It comes as Theresa May has said there must be a “major national investigation” into the use of potentially flammable cladding on high-rise towers across the country over a period of decades.
Mrs May’s call came as Cabinet was informed 95 samples of cladding from tower blocks in 32 English local authority areas have failed fire safety tests – amounting to 100% of all samples submitted by councils in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
The PM’s official spokesman said the national investigation could be conducted as a second phase of the public inquiry already announced into the west London blaze, which claimed the lives of at least 79 people earlier this month.
Newham in east London and Sefton in Merseyside are the two latest areas to be identified as having at-risk towers.
Top pic: Rex