Having this week attended a service at the Royal British legion branch in Solihull where we raised a flag for Armed Forces day it is very much on my mind how much we depend on the brave men and women who put their lives on the line for us. Indeed our servicemen and women are serving in at least 26 countries round the world today.
Yet this service was all the more poignant because the time also came during a national moment of reflection to remember the victims of Grenfell Tower fire. As we stood for the minute's silence I called to mind the victims and their families, but also the brave firefighters who battled to put the fire out and the ambulance crews who waded into danger to help the injured.
As soon as I saw the inferno I contacted Solihull Council seeking reassurance that the 37 tower blocks on Chelmsley Wood were not at similar risk. Although the exact cause has yet to be declared, the cladding has come under suspicion for the ferocity of the fire.
At this time, I would like to assure local residents that Solihull Council has confirmed that a different and non-combustible material was used during the £27 million refurbishment of the tower blocks and has written to all the tenants to provide reassurance. Nevertheless, I myself went to see with my own eyes how the cladding is fixed to the walls and rendered to make them fire resistant.
It is right that the Prime Minister called for a full, public inquiry into this disaster and that separately the police are pursuing a criminal investigation. In the future, I am mindful that there may be other aspects of the Grenfell tower disaster we can learn from.
Over the past few months it certainly seems we have had so many awful tragedies one after another that one dreads turning the news on. Nevertheless, we must stand resolute and together act to preserve some balance whilst applauding those who put our safety first and constantly strive to save lives at all cost.
Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman
Published in the Solihull News | Thursday 23rd June 2017