Grenfell Tower Inquiry

Last updated on 19 September 2017

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry is a British public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, which, for a time, was believed to have killed at least 80 people and destroyed Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017, was ordered by Prime Minister Theresa May on the following day.[1][2] May announced on 29 June 2017 that the inquiry would be chaired by retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, with the immediate priority "to establish the facts of what happened at Grenfell Tower in order to take the necessary action to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again." She stated that "No stone will be left unturned by this inquiry."[3]

On 15 August 2017, the terms of reference of the Inquiry were announced. The first hearing opened on 14 September 2017.[4] An interim report is expected by Easter 2018.[5]

Grenfell Tower Inquiry.svg
Grenfell Tower Inquiry.svg

Background

Lancaster West Estate.svg
Map of the western side of the Lancaster West Estate

Grenfell Tower was a 24-storey residential tower block in North Kensington, London, England. It was completed in 1974, as part of the first phase of the Lancaster West Estate.[6]

The concrete structure's top 20 storeys consisted of 120 flats, with a total of 200 bedrooms. Its first four storeys were nonresidential until its most recent refurbishment in 2015–2016, which converted two of them to residential use, bringing it up to 127 flats and 227 bedrooms. It also received new windows and new cladding with thermal insulation.[7]

A major fire seriously damaged the building on 14 June 2017, the cause of which the inquiry is to determine. A previous catastrophe at the Ronan Point tower block generated an inquiry.

Announcement of the Inquiry

Theresa May, the prime minister made a statement to Parliament on 22 June[8] announced a judge led inquiry, saying "No stone will be left unturned by this Inquiry". The chosen judge was Sir Martin Moore-Bick, and when she announced his name on 29 June she stated that "Before the Inquiry starts Sir Martin will consult all those with an interest, including survivors and victims’ families, about the terms of reference."

Chronology

The inquiry was announced on 22 June, and the judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick named on 29th June, he met with residents the same day. Also on 29 June, after Moore-Bick had met some survivors of the tragedy at the site of the fire in North Kensington that day, he said that he was "doubtful" that the process would be as wide-ranging as some residents hoped and that the inquiry could be limited to the cause, how the fire spread, and the prevention of future fires.[9]

On 30 June, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote to Theresa May to say that the inquiry's terms should be broad, because the fire had "much wider implications for national policy issues".[10] Former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer said that "The inquiry has got to look at how [the regulatory] regime developed, or I think the residents would feel they were let down."[10]

On 5 July, the Inquiry team invited "all those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire and others with an interest" "to help shape the work of the public Inquiry".[11] It issued a consultation document[12] which stated that the Inquiry will need to examine "circumstances well beyond the design, construction and modification of the building itself", including "the role of relevant public authorities and contractors", "the adequacy and enforcement of relevant regulations", "the arrangements in place locally for handling emergencies of this sort," and "the handling of concerns previously expressed by local residents."[12] The deadline for consultation on the terms of reference had initially been 14 July,[11] but was extended (on 11 July) to 28 July. [13]

On 17 July, Corbyn wrote again to Theresa May, saying: "As I set out in my letter dated 30 June, there is considerable concern among residents and others that the judge leading the inquiry has already been directed towards a narrowly defined Terms of Reference, which will not bring residents the answers they seek."[14]

"Following feedback from local residents and survivors", on 19 July, Moore-Bick further extended the terms of reference consultation period to 4 August.[13]

Official terms of reference

On 15 August 2017 Theresa May announced the terms of reference, being to examine "the circumstances surrounding the fire", including:

(a) the immediate cause or causes of the fire and how it spread to the whole building;[15]
(b) the building's design and construction, and "decisions relating to its modification, refurbishment and management";[15]
(c) "the scope and adequacy of building regulations, fire regulations and other legislation, guidance and industry practice" relevant to the "design, construction, equipping and management" of high-rise blocks of flats;[15]
(d) whether such regulations and so on were complied with, and related fire safety measures adopted;[15]
(e) the arrangements made by the local council and other organisations with responsibility for Grenfell Tower for receiving and using (or otherwise) information obtained both from local residents and which was available elsewhere (including anything derived from fires in other buildings) relating to the risk of fire risks at the tower, and action taken in response;[15]
(f) the fire prevention and safety measures in place at the Tower on 14 June 2017;[15]
(g) the response of the Fire Brigade;[15]
(h) the response of both the Government and the local council in the days immediately following the fire.[15]

Finally, to respond to the Prime Minister as soon as possible, with recommendations. [5][15]

Social housing

In his letter to Theresa May proposing the Terms,[16] which were agreed without amendment,[17] Moore-Bick had noted that many of those affected by the fire and others felt strongly that the scope of the Inquiry should be very broad and include examination of social housing policy. He argued, however, that this would add significantly to the time required to complete his work, and that such an examination was better suited to a different kind of process and not to a judge-led inquiry.[16] in her response, Theresa May said that the Housing Minister Alok Sharma would "personally meet and hear from as many social housing tenants as possible" both in the immediate area and further afield.[17]

Moore-Bick faced criticism for excluding an examination of the issues surrounding social housing from the terms of reference.[18][19][20][21] Local MP Emma Dent Coad said that the terms were a “complete betrayal” and that the community would not have faith in the Inquiry because, by not considering social housing, it would "not get to the heart of the problem”.[18] She continued, "We were told 'no stone would be [left] unturned' but instead are being presented with a technical assessment which will not get to the heart of the problem: what effects, if any, the lack of investment into social housing had on the refurbishment project."[22] The shadow housing housing secretary John Healey tweeted: "Deeply unsatisfactory for PM...to exclude housing policy failings - closing off criticism of govt policy."[22]

Reactions

Greater London residents took to social media demanding a public inquest, not an public inquiry, posting to a website grenfelltower.org.uk demanding justice and continued scrutiny over the public inquiry. The website owners made a public statement on their website that they were supportive London residents and not survivors of the fire and as such had corrected wording on their twitter bio and instagram bio.

The appointment of Sir Martin Moore-Bick to lead the inquiry was questioned on 3 July by lawyers acting on behalf of the families and on 4 July by the MP for Kensington, Emma Dent Coad. They all called for him to stand down, with the local MP saying that Moore-Bick lacked "credibility" with victims, who needed "somebody we can trust." Having spoken, she said, with hundreds of those affected, "We need somebody who can do the detail but we need somebody who can actually understand human beings as well."[23] Lord Chancellor David Lidington said Moore-Bick would lead the inquiry "with impartiality and a determination to get to the truth and see justice done".[23]

On 25 July, at the second public meeting held by the Inquiry before finalisation of the terms of reference, various residents criticised the lack of diversity of the Inquiry panel, saying that it did not represent the community. Citing the Westminster City Council case, in which Moore-Bick allowed a local resident to be rehoused 50 miles away with no explanation, a resident said "Your very presence is an affront to this community." There were impassioned calls for Moore-Bick to recuse himself. Moore-Bick responded, "We are going to investigate and find the facts in relation to the whole course of events" leading up to the fire.[24][25]

There is concern that previous inquiries under Theresa May that appeared to be independent were controlled and there is uncertainty how far the Grenfell inquiry will be independent.[26] Mark Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union said, “Central government has created the housing and fire safety regime and central government must be held to account for any failings in it. Yet the terms of reference signed off by Theresa May appear designed to avoid this.”[27] Jeremy Corbyn wrote, “The fire has raised profound concerns about the way that social housing is provided and managed in this country, and I as well as many survivors worry that without a wider focus, the inquiry will fail to get fully to grips with the causes of the fire.” Corbyn wants Moore-Bick's assessors to include people from minority backgrounds. Corbyn also said May should, “immediately set out a clear, independent and thorough process for identifying and addressing the broader failings that led to the Grenfell fire.”[28]

Timing of report

On 15 June, BBC reporter Brian Wheeler wrote that public inquiries "can drag on for years".[2] In her 29 June announcement of Martin Moore-Bick's appointment, Theresa May said "I expect the Chair will want to produce an interim report as early as possible."[3] On 10 July it was reported that the Inquiry's public hearings were expected to start in early September.[29]

References

  1. ^ "London fire: Theresa May demands full public inquiry into Grenfell Tower disaster". Express online. 15 June 2017. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b "London fire: Prime minister orders full public inquiry". BBC online. 15 June 2017. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Grenfell Tower Fire Written Statement". UK Parliament Official Website. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  4. ^ "Grenfell Tower fire: Inquiry 'can and will provide answers'". BBC. 14 September 2017. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Grenfell fire: Terms of reference published". BBC online. 15 August 2017. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  6. ^ The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. "Grenfell Tower". rbkc.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 14 June 2017. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  7. ^ Grenfell Tower regeneration Project Archived 2017-06-17 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ "Grenfell Tower fire: 'Combustible' cladding in use on other high-rise blocks across UK, says Theresa May". The Independent online. 22 June 2017. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  9. ^ "Grenfell Tower fire: Judge 'doubt' over inquiry scope". BBC online. 29 June 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  10. ^ a b "Grenfell inquiry could be 'too narrow', Jeremy Corbyn warns". The Guardian. 30 June 2017. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  11. ^ a b "Grenfell Tower Inquiry seeks views on its work". Grenfell Tower Inquiry. 5 July 2017. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  12. ^ a b "Chair of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry seeks views on the Terms of Reference of the Inquiry" (PDF). Grenfell Tower Inquiry. 5 July 2017. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  13. ^ a b "Latest news from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry". Grenfell Tower Inquiry. 21 July 2017. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  14. ^ "Jeremy Corbyn’s Grenfell Tower Fire Letter To Theresa May In Full". Huffington Post. 17 July 2017. Retrieved 17 July 2017.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Prime Minister announces Inquiry Terms of Reference". Grenfell Tower Inquiry official site. 15 August 2017. Retrieved 16 August 2017.
  16. ^ a b "Letter from Sir Michael Moore-Bick to Theresa May" (PDF). www.gov.uk. 10 August 2017. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  17. ^ a b "Letter from Theresa May to Sir Michael Moore-Bick" (PDF). www.gov.uk. 15 August 2017. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  18. ^ a b "'Complete betrayal': Survivors will have 'no faith' in Grenfell inquiry as terms are not broad enough, MP claims". Evening Standard. 15 August 2017. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  19. ^ "Grenfell fire inquiry to consider cause and council response". The Guardian. 15 August 2017. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  20. ^ "The Grenfell Tower inquiry has already been branded a 'betrayal' on the day it launched". Mirror online. 15 August 2017. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  21. ^ "Kensington MP accuses Government of 'running scared' over Grenfell inquiry". Sky News online. 15 August 2017. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  22. ^ a b "Grenfell inquiry condemned for ignoring social housing". RTE online. 15 August 2017. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  23. ^ a b "Grenfell fire: MP calls for inquiry chairman to quit". BBC online. 4 July 2017. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  24. ^ "Grenfell Inquiry Judge Told To Resign By Angry Residents As Lack Of Diversity On Panel Is Challenged". Huffington Post. 26 July 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  25. ^ "Grenfell fire: Judge in second meeting with angry survivors". BBC online. 25 July 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  26. ^ Child abuse panel members say 'inquiries are not independent' The Guardian
  27. ^ Grenfell Tower inquiry criticised for not examining sociopolitical factors The Guardian
  28. ^ Jeremy Corbyn urges PM to rethink terms of Grenfell fire inquiry The Guardian
  29. ^ "Grenfell fire: Police say 255 people survived the blaze". BBC online. 10 July 2017. Retrieved 11 July 2017.

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