London fire: Jeremy Corbyn renews call to seize empty homes

Jeremy Corbyn comforts unnamed womanImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jeremy Corbyn visited people seeking news of missing loved ones

Jeremy Corbyn has reiterated his suggestion that people left homeless by the Grenfell Tower fire could be housed in empty homes, saying the government has the means to seize property.

“Occupy it, compulsory purchase it, requisition it,” the Labour leader told ITV’s Peston on Sunday.

At least 58 people are believed to have died and many more are homeless after fire engulfed a London tower block.

The government says its staff have been drafted in to help the relief effort.

The move comes after the prime minister said the initial official response had “not been good enough”.

Mr Corbyn has already called for the government to requisition homes. Speaking earlier in the week, he said: “It cannot be acceptable that in London you have luxury buildings and luxury flats kept as land banking for the future while the homeless and the poor look for somewhere to live.”

And in an interview on ITV on Sunday, Mr Corbyn said the flats could by requisitioned by the government or bought using compulsory purchase orders.

“Occupy it, compulsory purchase it, requisition it – there’s a lot of things you can do.

“But can’t we as a society just think, it’s all very well putting our arms around people during the crisis but homelessness is rising, the housing crisis is getting worse and my point was quite a simple one.

“In an emergency, you have to bring all assets to the table in order to deal with that crisis and that’s what I think we should be doing in this case.”

He also defended Theresa May, who has been criticised for her own personal response to the fire.

“I think everybody cares to an extent, some to a deeper extent and some show empathy in a different way to others,” he said.

“But the real issue is not about what we as individuals feel – Theresa May, me, anybody else – it’s what those people are going through.”

Why so long?

The government says it has embedded a team of civil servants into the council office following widespread criticism of the local council’s performance.

Other measures outlined by the prime minister following a meeting with residents on Saturday, included more staff covering phone lines and ground staff wearing high-visibility clothing so they could be easily found.

Mr Corbyn questioned why it had taken so long for the authorities to help the victims.

“Every day at Heathrow, planes get delayed. Hundreds of people get stranded at airports all over the world,” he said.

“Hotels are found for them immediately, they are sorted out. Four-hundred-or-so people, still most of them have not got somewhere decent, safe or secure to stay in.

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“Somehow or other, it seems to be beyond the wit of the public services to deal with the crisis facing a relatively small number of people in a country of 65 million.”

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