George’s Views

Brexit Update

We are living through tumultuous times and I wanted to deal directly and properly with the concerns constituents have raised. 

As you may know, I campaigned to Remain in the EU Referendum in 2016, but I also promised to respect and honour the result.  Despite the obvious weaknesses and failings of that campaign - on both sides - I have been clear and consistent that I will honour that pledge. When MPs ask the people in a Referendum I deeply believe that we must respect that result. 

Here in Mid Norfolk people voted 62:38 for Leave.  Although as I pledge at each election I believe sincerely that my duty as MP is to try as best I can to represent the interest of ALL the people of Mid Norfolk - including the children and young people who can’t vote - and the interests of the whole community, not just the people who vote for me - the Referendum was a simple Leave or Remain question, and all of us who voted to Remain have to accept that we lost. 

So the issue then becomes HOW we leave.  I believe it is essential for the interests of the Mid Norfolk (and national) economy, and therefore our public services and all the things that Government provides which are funded from a growing economy, that we secure a Withdrawal Agreement which provides what was promised in the Referendum (and what I believe the vast majority of Mid Norfolk residents want: to be in the “Common Market but NOT the political union”). 

This isn’t straightforward because the “Common Market” is based on a Common Customs Union, and Common Trading Standards, which are the very things many Leavers specifically want to Leave.  That is why I strongly supported Theresa May in negotiating to get a sensible Withdrawal Agreement for an orderly withdrawal and a workable long-term relationship providing continuity for today’s businesses and sectors (like automotive, aviation, medical research, food & farming and higher education) deeply dependent on collaboration with European projects and partners, but freedom to begin to orientate more of our trade to the fastest-growing global markets worldwide, beyond the EU. 

When - in March - it became clear that a coalition of MPs in Parliament who HAD voted to trigger Article 50 were determined to vote AGAINST the Withdrawal Agreement (for their own disingenuous reasons - Opposition MPs just for the sake of opposing, second-referendum MPs to try and force a second referendum, and hard line no-deal Brexiteers to try and force no deal on March 29th) I supported the Prime Minister in seeking an extension.  

It was also clear to me that after a series of negotiating errors, Theresa May had run out of runway to negotiate and that we needed a new leader to try and complete the negotiations. 

After the EU elections in May it was clear to me that unless we resolve the ongoing Brexit Civil War which has gridlocked our country, Government and Parliament, we will not be able to move on.  And worse - we are likely to see extremist politicians exploit the vacuum for their own claims to power.  History shows us how dangerous this is.  I believe that Jeremy Corbyn’s neo-Marxist front bench would be a disaster for this country. 

With public anger at this impasse deepening dangerously, I believe the Conservative Party has to step up and bring new energy, ambition and resolution to getting a sensible Withdrawal Agreement AND launching a bold domestic policy programme of reforms to tackle the deep grievances with UK politics and government which have incubated this crisis. 

That is what Boris Johnson offered, is delivering and why I support him. I simply do not accept in any way the caricature of him being put about by the more extreme anti-Brexit campaigners as some sort of right wing  extremist.  

Anyone who follows Conservative politics knows that Boris Johnson's track record as Mayor of London shows a long commitment to liberal Conservatism, public services, public transport, environmental activism,  support for an activist Industrial Strategy, UK aid and International development and major investment in infrastructure and a deep commitment to making Government work for the silent majority of citizens who work and pay their taxes and want Government to work for them.

I am supporting him because he is committed to doing what I think we need to do: 

·         get on and show the British people that we WILL honour the EU Referendum result 

·         negotiate hard to get a good deal 

·         launch a bold programme of domestic reforms to tackle the domestic grievances (infrastructure, connectivity, schools, NHS, social care and better housing and planning and public transport) which are the priority of most UK citizens   

It is impossible to please all the people all the time - and I accept and welcome that all constituents will make their own judgements - but I wanted you to hear from me why I have taken the position I have.  

It is a huge privilege to be the MP for our part of the world. 

I deeply believe that my core responsibility is to try and tackle public disillusionment with politics by: 

1.     Showing that I am listening to - and guided by - the views of this constituency.  Mid Norfolk voted 62:38 to Leave. 

2.     Continuing my local work as a hardworking constituency MP to tackle the challenges of inaccessibility, disconnection, marginalisation, and the silent suffering of people in villages and towns which are struggling to remain vibrant. 

I believe that by honouring the EU Referendum result and implementing a bold package of domestic reforms we can reunite this country, and re-inspire a New Generation that we are not withdrawing from our global and European responsibilities, but redoubling our commitment to build a more secure, resilient, prosperous and enterprising country in which everyone can realise their potential.


Climate Change

The Climate Change emergency is one of the most important long-term challenges facing us all. That’s why I welcomed, and was delighted to be able to speak in last week’s debate and get the chance to highlight the importance of the issue and the need for us all to work together—across party, across generations and across both Houses in the interests of the next generation.

Having founded one of the UK's first-ever clean-tech consultancies and worked for fifteen years helping finance new green technology before coming to Parliament, and as an MP having worked in the Department for Energy and Climate Change as well as Life Sciences Minister, I am absolutely committed to this. It is important that we all agree that there is an environmental emergency in the world - and that we send the message to the next generation that we get it, and that the timing is sensitive – and not just talking, but implementing real change. Good environmental stewardship and policy is central to good one-nation conservatism.

In my speech I made two key points:

1. Having led the Industrial and Agricultural Revolutions which have, over the last 200 years, drastically accelerated global CO2 emissions and a loss of wild habitats, the UK has a moral and political duty to help today’s developing world achieve clean, low carbon growth without the same damages

2. While it is essential to tackle this, it is also vital that we do not pursue it in an anti-business spirit, but instead harness the power of the market through innovation, science and good business to help us solve these problems.

To see my full speech from the debate, please see the video below, as well as the Hansard text here


Indicative Votes

Thank you for those who have emailed me regarding the Indicative Votes in Parliament petition.

I’m delighted to confirm that I am working closely with Sir Oliver Letwin MP to find a way to give the House of Commons a chance to show which Brexit option COULD most easily command a majority in the House. 

If there isn’t a majority in the House for the PM’s deal, then I strongly believe we have a duty to explore which Brexit options *would* be able to pass the House of Commons. 

Whatever the outcome of this Brexit crisis it seems to me essential that Parliament is given a chance to discuss and vote on the different options, and reach out beyond party politics to try and find some common ground, to help us find a way to resolve the Brexit crisis, move on and get back to proper Government.


Fur Trade

Having grown up around animals, I have always been passionate about protecting animal welfare.

That’s why I very much appreciate the concerns of everyone who’s contacted me regarding the fur trade. It is absolutely right that the UK leads the way in the highest standards of animal welfare and that the importation of fur products is tightly regulated.

It is important to stress that it is illegal to import furs derived from cats or dogs, or products made from them; in addition the fur and skin of endangered animals or fish cannot be imported without a valid permit. Meanwhile, under European legislation it is prohibited to import furs or fur products from 13 wild animal species originating in countries where they are caught in the wild by leg-hold traps, or trapping methods that do not meet international standards of humane trapping. Strict rules are in also place in the European Union to ensure that animals kept for fur production are kept, trapped and slaughtered humanely.

Once the UK has withdrawn from the EU, however, it will be for the Government to consider future policies, taking into account the outcome of exit negotiations. That's why I'm delighted that Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, has put animal welfare at the top of his priority list.

Rest assured, I will continue raising all concerns on this issue with Ministers. As an animal lover, I believe we must always lead the world in animal welfare, and I will go on campaigning to ensure that this issue remains at the heart of our post-Brexit agenda.


Local Government

For those of my constituents struggling to pay the bills, and reliant on our local public services, it’s no longer acceptable to go on cutting frontline services, whilst spending so much on the (too often) high salaries, gold-plated pensions, and duplicating back office bureaucracies which soak up vast sums of our precious public money.

As you will have seen in my ‘Protecting Frontline Services’ statement last month, and in my ‘Devolution’ statement last November, I have long been calling for urgent reform in this area.

Currently in Norfolk we have 1 County Council AND 7 District, Borough and City Councils as well as 5 NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups, and multiple NHS Trusts (including the ‘inadequate’ Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health Trust) and the East of England Ambulance Service.

Do we really need all of these different bodies?

I believe that, with better joined-up planning of housing, road, rail, broadband and public service delivery etc, we can ensure a better growth model for our area – with new funds, and which prevents the wrong sort of ‘development’ being forced upon us.

Imagine if, instead of 8 councils, multiple NHS bodies and countless quangos, we had one or two organisations which had responsibility for ALL of the local services in our area – a One Stop Shop for all your housing, benefits, training, and environmental and occupational health needs. Equally, imagine if there were just two unitary bodies - East and West - in Norfolk, unlocking huge efficiency savings that could then be reinvested in the frontline. (Norfolk County Council alone are spending £23 million on administration this financial year).

Much has been written about the future of local government in Norfolk, and the local services that they provide, in the past few days. With an increasing elderly population and more pressure on resources than ever before, we simply cannot go on like this.

The time has come for all of us in this area to come together fast and agree on a new model, one that puts our constituents first.

‘Protecting Frontline Services’:



Protecting Frontline Services

For my constituents struggling to pay the bills, council tax and reliant on our local public services, it’s no longer acceptable to go on cutting frontline services, whilst spending so much on the (too often) high salaries, gold-plated pensions, and duplicating back office bureaucracies which soak up vast sums of our precious public money.

Currently in Norfolk we have:

  • 1 County Council AND 7 District, Borough and City Councils. (NCC spend £23 million on administration alone)
  • 5 NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups, and multiple NHS Trusts (including the ‘inadequate’ Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health Trust) and the East of England Ambulance Service
  • Dozens of other quangos – all being given taxpayers’ money by government to spend on often fragmented services here.

Do we really need all of these different bodies?

I believe we are wasting too much precious money on back office administration, instead of ensuring that it reaches the frontline services we all need and cherish.

For example, we have recently seen how Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner rejected Norfolk Constabulary’s suggestion of a very sensible merger between the two counties’ control rooms, with the joint facility being situated in the new state of the art HQ at Wymondham. This would have saved 100 frontline officers.

Another example - last year, I requested that the senior NHS manager responsible for commissioning in the East come to my constituency office to discuss the causes of the pressure being put on GP surgeries in Dereham, and the surrounding area. Shockingly, they were not only late and hadn’t read any of the relevant papers, but were unable to answer even the most basic questions about our local NHS spending. This is clearly WRONG. And it needs to stop.

Government is putting more money into key services like Health, Education, Defence and Mental Health, but not enough is getting to the frontline. (To be fair to our local councils, their budgets have been cut by approximately 25% to help reduce the deficit - which is exactly why we need to slim back the back office admin).

Imagine if, instead of 8 councils, multiple NHS bodies and countless quangos, we had one or two organisations which had responsibility for ALL of the local services in our area – a One Stop Shop for all your housing, benefits, training, and environmental and occupational health needs. It would be a simpler system for people to negotiate and we could unlock huge savings for the frontline, to reinvest effectively.

This is now urgent. We cannot go on pouring precious taxpayers money into a system which spends it on itself before passing on an increasingly small amount to the frontline.

All of us need to have the courage to tackle this problem. And fast.



Times have changed since the controversial Beeching closures back in the 1960s. For too long, we have seen investment in our commuter lines, but not enough into lines that open up our rural towns and villages to unlock growth.

Here in Mid Norfolk, I have long advocated the full reopening of the Wymondham to Dereham Railway line for regular commuter services and I remain firmly committed to working towards achieving this. It is vitally important if we are to ensure that the Wymondham – Dereham – Norwich Research Park triangle is to truly fulfil its vast potential in the coming decades.

On a wider note, I was delighted to see the East-West rail announcement in last week’s budget. I have campaigned extensively for this since becoming an MP back in 2010 and the prospect of an innovation express running from Norwich to Cambridge to Oxford to Reading to Southampton – linking up our east and west clusters – is something I relish.

As a new Victorian-model rail company (the first of its kind in 150 years!), it will undertake development to fund both new and improved rail infrastructure, benefitting both commuters, homeowners and businesses.


Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (Mental Health)

I was deeply alarmed by the news that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) had recommended Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) be placed back into special measures.

We have a duty to ensure that mental health patients in Norfolk and Suffolk have access to the treatment they need, when they need it, and so it is absolutely vital that immediate measures are taken to bring about swift improvements to the service being provided.

As many of you will know, the Trust was previously placed into special measures back in 2014 when a CQC inspection rated it as ‘inadequate’ overall. This was the first time such action had been taken against a Trust and, like now, I was greatly concerned.

Actions were taken then to address the concerns raised by the CQC, and the Trust was subsequently removed from special measures last year. However, despite the tireless work of frontline staff to try and continue improving standards at the Trust, the CQC have concluded that standards have not been maintained, and that previous concerns have resurfaced.

This is clearly unacceptable.

Having spoken with many constituents whilst ‘out and about’, via email/letter and at my local constituency surgeries, I know how important an issue mental health provision is to residents in Mid Norfolk. It is also an area very close to my heart, and so I welcomed the Government’s announcement in 2015 that it was committed to treating mental health with parity of status to physical health. This recognition was a major step forward in the ongoing efforts to ensure those suffering are able to get the assistance they require, and deserve.

The situation in Norfolk and Suffolk must improve however, and I would like to echo the comments made recently by Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk. This is indeed very bad news and the judgment of the CQC must be treated seriously.

I believe that, whilst more money needs to be invested in this area, there has to be a change of mindset when addressing mental health. Instead of a medicines focussed approach from the NHS, we need to ensure that patients are at the centre of treatment, with the money following the patient through the community – instead of patients having to navigate complex public sector silos in a very fragmented and outdated system.

We also need to incentivise local councils and NHS agencies, such as the NSFT, to be able to recycle savings from treatment to invest in PREVENTION – rather than just continue spending ever growing sums on the costs of undiagnosed problems such as addiction, anxiety/mental health related illnesses and obesity. By focussing on prevention, we can drive up efficiency and really tackle head on the problems people face. This would ensure that people, such as those with mental health issues, get the level of care they should be able to expect.

Please be assured that I will continue to monitor this disturbing situation very closely, and I will be liaising with all my fellow MPs to suggest that we work on a cross party basis to help achieve the results we need here in Norfolk and Suffolk. I will also be looking to invite key members of the mental health community to my first Constituency Cabinet event, which I will be holding early in the New Year. 


Sodium Valproate

During my time as a Health Minister, I led the setting up of the Ministerial Task Force which looked into the impact of sodium valproate taken during pregnancies, and I have since continued to follow progress in this area very closely.

The scientific advice is that, while sodium valproate remains a very effective medication for epilepsy and bipolar disorder, it should only be prescribed to women during pregnancy in exceptional circumstances – i.e. where all other treatments have been proven to be ineffective. Generally, all women and girls of childbearing age should avoid it.

I shall be meeting with local campaigners in the coming weeks to discuss this issue in even further depth, and I remain firmly committed to working with my fellow Norfolk MPs and colleagues in Government to ensure that women get the right advice – and that all of those taking sodium valproate in future are fully aware of the risks posed during pregnancy. I will also continue to ask that those who have suffered as a result of mistreatment or inadequate historic advice are properly supported.


Education Funding

I have been acutely aware of the financial pressure our schools have been under in recent times; with a near impossible struggle to balance the budgets as costs continue to rise. As a result, many local schools have had to take some extremely difficult decisions in avoiding contemplating cuts to frontline teaching staff which is clearly unacceptable. 

Earlier this year, I wrote to all Head teachers in the constituency to ask for their feedback on the then proposed school funding formula before raising it all with Ministers and Policy Officials in the Department for Education. I also made representations to the Prime Minister of the need for a better schools funding formula and more funding for frontline staff and school classrooms. In particular, my Manifesto submission for a New Deal for Schools and Skills (as Chair of the Prime Ministers’ Policy Board) suggested we put education at the heart of the Conservative Programme. 

I have therefore welcomed Justine Greening’s recent announcement of much needed additional funding for schools. It shows that this Government is truly listening to the message being delivered.

We all understood that, following the crash of 2008 and the perilous state of the public finances, the Government in 2010 had to take some very difficult decisions. But, in recent months it has become clear to me that, in education, “belt tightening” was becoming (in real terms) cuts to essential frontline classroom teaching.

It’s clear to me that whilst there was initial support in 2010 for this vital belt tightening, we now need a different approach. This is not to say we should abandon austerity, but we now need to think more innovatively and creatively about how best to reward and incentivise locally-led leadership. I believe we need a new way forward based on incentives and research rather than blanket ‘caps and cuts’.

As you may have seen from the media coverage, my calls for fresh thinking and new approaches have been widely reported (and picked up and echoed by other Government MP’s).  

To continue the momentum on this fresh thinking I am organising this summer a group of MPs who feel the same way, and setting up here in Mid Norfolk a new non-party political 'Constituency Cabinet' of local public service leaders on the front line to help advise me on the local complexities of public spending and service reform.

I will be asking one of our local head teachers here in Mid Norfolk to speak for teaching on my local “Cabinet”.


Defence Spending

Norfolk has a rich and cherished military history. Having served as part of the Parliamentary Armed Forces Scheme, I have seen first-hand the amazing work our military do, and consistently argued that we must go on investing in, and supporting, our armed forces so they continue being the best in the world.

That’s why I welcome the fact that the Government has taken the difficult decisions over the last few years and repaired our public finances so that we can now invest again in our national security. We must never forget: back in 2010, the previous Labour Government left behind a £38 billion black hole in the defence budget – a figure bigger than the entire defence budget for that year.

Getting our defence budget back on track hasn’t been easy, but we are already starting to see the results. Since 2014, five offshore patrol vessels have entered production, as well as the first of a new class of ballistic missile submarine and a type 26 anti-submarine warfare frigate, with over £178 billion pledged by this Government to improve the equipment available to our Army, Royal Navy and RAF between 2016 and 2026.

Equally, in July 2015, I was delighted to support the Government’s announcement that the MOD budget would be increased by half a per cent every year – the first real terms increase in six years. The Government also agreed to meet the NATO target of spending two per cent of the national budget on defence. These commitments were then reaffirmed in the Conservative Party’s manifesto earlier this year, and will ensure that our defence budget increases from £36 billion in 2017/18 to just under £40 billion by 2020/21.

The first duty of any government is to keep the nation safe. Rest assured, I will go on championing the role of our military and ensuring they always have the support and investment they need to continue leading the world.


Post-Election Message

An Election in which the people have spoken: now all of us in Parliament need to listen. And act.

On Election Night, just a few weeks ago, the British people gave the political parties an inconvenient, but nonetheless important, and clear message.  As I said in my acceptance speech in Dereham, whilst it is a huge honour and privilege to have been returned with 59% of the vote, I have heard the grievances aired in this election, and I am absolutely determined as your MP to act on them.

First, that means recognising that although no party got a majority, that doesn't mean dismissing the result. Quite the opposite. It means understanding what the electorate are trying to tell us. And showing that we, as your elected MPs, have heard and will act on it. As I have done in the last three weeks.

What were these key messages?

I believe they were:

  • that the country doesn't think any party deserved a majority on the basis of their campaigns, and is suspicious of a partisan approach to the big challenges we face, whether Brexit, Social Care, Mental Health, school teaching or the NHS.
  • widespread concern amongst those who cherish, work in and rely on our great public services that we have reached 'breaking point' with the model of public sector pay and spending restraint following the Great Crash (2010-2017) which is now too blunt, demoralising and too often results in cuts to frontline services.
  • widespread concern at the rising cost of living, which combined with low interest rates and below inflation pay rises mean many pensioners and those in work are getting worse off.
  • deep resentment from the generation under 40 who are now incurring £30,000 debts to pay for their University education, and then can't afford to get onto the housing ladder, which has become the principle way to build up savings in our economy.
  • real concern at the state of elderly care and the growing pressure on NHS hospital beds arising from a lack of community beds and facilities due to the fragmentation of NHS and Social Care, and disproportionate funding cuts to local government social care.

Good politics means listening, as well as promising, and – as I have always tried to do – putting Country before Party.

That’s why I have decided since the Election to say what I know the majority of my constituents want and to speak out in Parliament and in Government for fresh thinking and policies in these key areas to reassure people that I, as your Conservative MP, and Government ministers, are listening and committed to tackling these grievances.

In the last four weeks I have, in a series of speeches and media appearances, called for this new Conservative Government to changes it approach in a number of key areas:

My article in the Daily Telegraph on the lessons of the Election calling for an end to public sector austerity and a new approach to public services, Brexit and housing

My speech in the House of Commons following the Queen’s Speech calling for a less partisan, ideological and divisive approach to Brexit

My interview on Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ on the impact of the rising cost of living on those on low incomes

My speech to the Tory Reform Group on the need for a new deal for a new post-Brexit Britain

Over the last 7 years as your MP (and previously in my 10-year career working with NHS clinicians) I have got to know many fine people in the public sector, and it’s clear to me that whilst there was initial support in 2010 for the vital belt tightening in the wake of the Great Crash, we now need a different approach. This is not to say we should abandon austerity, but we need to think more innovatively and creatively when it comes to our economy. As I set out to my article in The Times recently I believe we need a new way based on incentives and research rather than blanket ‘caps and cuts’.

As you may have seen, these calls have been widely reported:

The Times and Telegraph excerpts

Over the summer I am organising a group of MPs who feel the same way, and setting up a new non-party political 'Constituency Cabinet' of local public service leaders to help advise me on the local complexities of public spending and service reform.

As I promised when first elected, and when re-elected, for me good politics is about 'People and Place Before Party', and I believe this election is a clear signal that the Conservative Party needs to take a similar approach in Government.

As ever, I can only represent you if I hear your views and those of other constituents so do please get in touch to share with me your views.

By listening, working together, and reaching across party lines to find common ground, here in Norfolk and in Parliament, I believe we can solve some of the very real challenges we face. 


DUP Deal

As you may have seen recently, I have been very outspoken about the failures of the Conservative General Election campaign and the need for the Government to reflect on the message sent on June 8th. In particular, I’ve called for a different strategy on Brexit, signalling that we need a more cross party approach that will make sure that access to key markets is protected for all businesses both across the UK and here in Mid Norfolk, as well as ongoing science collaborations to secure the future of our area's world-leading research hubs like the Norwich Research Park.

However, given the task ahead of us, I believe that it is vital that we have a Government that can successfully deliver those Brexit negotiations. As the Party which won the highest proportion of the vote and the most seats in Parliament, the Conservatives are therefore the only party able to do this.

Whilst I have some very real difficulties with some of the DUP’s history and heritage, in Parliamentary politics where there is no majority, these sorts of deals are the only way to get Government business done.

As you will have seen, the Conservative Party have previously had a strong relationship over many years with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and I think it is right that the Prime Minister has finalised a deal which means key votes will be able to pass through the House of Commons at this most crucial of times in our nation’s modern history. It’s important also to recognise that this is very much only a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement – not a Coalition.

However, please be assured that I do very much appreciate that there may be concerns on a number of issues regarding this deal. On the question of social policy, I think it is crucially important to stress that as your Member of Parliament I will continue to promote and champion equal rights. The Prime Minister and the Conservative parliamentary party have always been very clear that the DUP’s views on a range of social issues play no part in the deal that was signed last week.

On the issue of the Northern Ireland peace process, I know from my discussions with Ministers that the Government is absolutely committed to re-establishing inclusive, devolved government in Northern Ireland. The approach and objectives as set out in The Conservative Party Northern Ireland manifesto remain unchanged, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland continues to work to restore a Northern Ireland Executive as soon as possible.

One thing is certainly clear for the next two years: Brexit is our most important foreign policy challenge since the end of the war. Ensuring we get a deal that works for Norfolk - protecting jobs, securing ongoing research collaboration, while establishing our own immigration policy that commands the support of the electorate - is a task that will have repercussions for decades to come. It is vital that we get it right.

By finalising this deal with the DUP, the Government has ensured that vital legislation can continue to pass through the House of Commons and that Brexit negotiations can go ahead as planned.

However, rest assured, I, along with many other Conservative MPs, will continue to raise all concerns with Ministers, and keep a close eye for any signs of inappropriate wider policy influence.


Grenfell Tower

This was a truly horrifying event, and my thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims and survivors of this devastating national tragedy.

The fact that something like this could happen in one of the richest countries in the world in the 21st century is beyond belief and, unquestionably, serious questions must be asked. The initial political reaction was far too slow. I fully support the Government's work in setting up the Grenfell Tower Recovery task force in the aftermath of the tragedy to ensure a coordinated response. The task force is chaired by the Prime Minister and includes representation from a number of government departments. The Government is also working with the local authority to ensure that people who lost their homes in the disaster are rehoused in the local area as well as with housing associations, fire and rescue services, and fire safety experts to ensure that all similar buildings are checked. A new £5 million Grenfell Tower Residents' Discretionary Fund has also been made immediately available to help those who had to flee their homes and I understand that the fund will be kept under review.

It is clear to me that that this tragedy raises a series of very important questions about social housing, fire safety regulations, Kensington and Chelsea Council and local authority civil contingency planning. Furthermore, it cast a light on the very real problems presented by housing shortages in many parts of the country – which have led to dangerous overcrowding.

It’s for these reasons that I fully support the Prime Minister’s decision to order a full, judge-led public inquiry to get the answers we need about how this happened, and urgently consider the lessons, failures, and policy implications.

Rest assured, I will continue to work with parliamentary colleagues across all parties to find the answers we need. One thing is clear: we must never allow something like this to happen again. The events at Grenfell Tower were a terrible day for all of Britain, and we must work tirelessly now to learn the lessons of what happened.

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