Grenfell inquiry chairman backed to 'see justice done' amid political pressure

The Lord Chancellor has stepped in to defend Grenfell Tower inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick amid political pressure for him to quit.

David Lidington said he had "complete confidence" in retired judge Sir Martin to lead the inquiry "with impartiality and with a determination to get to the truth and see justice done".

Sir Martin has faced criticism after indicating his investigation would be limited to the causes of the deadly fire, why it spread so quickly and how it could be prevented in future.

He is now understood to be prepared to consider the "broad" causes of the fire amid concern from survivors' groups over its scope and leadership.

But shadow fire minister Chris Williamson and Labour MP Emma Dent Coad, who represents the west London seat where the disaster occurred, added their voices to calls for him to step down just days after being appointed to lead the sensitive inquiry.

Mr Lidington, who is also the Justice Secretary, has a responsibility to defend the judiciary as Lord Chancellor.

He said: "The public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster has understandably been the subject of much commentary. People have every right to feel passionate about this. The community - and the whole country - want answers following such a horrific tragedy.

"That is why it is right that there should be a judge-led inquiry into the disaster, and that the residents are consulted before the terms of reference are decided.

"Our judiciary is respected the world over as fair, free from improper influence, and truly independent from government and Parliament.

"As Lord Chancellor, I am clear that their motives and integrity should always be respected and not impugned by politicians. I have complete confidence that Sir Martin Moore-Bick will lead the inquiry into this tragedy with impartiality and with a determination to get to the truth and see justice done."

Downing Street also backed Sir Martin, with the Prime Minister's official spokesman saying he was a "highly respected, hugely experienced" former Court of Appeal judge.

But Mr Williamson told the Press Association: "There remain some serious question marks about Moore-Bick's ability to win trust among the community that have been directly affected by Grenfell and I understand that survivors of the fire are asking for him to stand down.

"After years of systematic neglect it's time to start listening to these residents' concerns."

The Labour frontbencher raised concerns about Sir Martin's handling of a case which allowed a London council to rehouse a tenant 50 miles away, a ruling later overturned by the Supreme Court.

He said: "The Supreme Court unanimously reversed one of Moore-Bick's decisions when he was vice president of the Court of Appeal.

"From reading the Supreme Court judgment, it appears as if Moore-Bick was far too ready to find in favour of the political establishment, rather than questioning their decisions.

"That doesn't strike me as the right quality for this job.

"But fundamentally I'm deeply concerned that Moore-Bick's brief is very narrow.

"An inquiry that is limited to the immediate causes of the fire and doesn't consider why multiple warnings were ignored, especially in the wake of the deadly Lakanal fire, is frankly not going to be good enough."

Kensington MP Ms Dent Coad told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I have been talking to hundreds of people who have been affected.

"They need somebody they can talk to, somebody with a bit of a human face.

"I don't think he should do it. I don't think there will be any credibility."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn did not endorse his shadow minister's call for Sir Martin to quit.

The Labour leader "has not called for him to go", a source said, but Mr Corbyn has demanded a two-part inquiry looking first at the specific issues at Grenfell and then a wider examination of national issues.

Mr Corbyn also wants transparency and the full involvement of the residents in the process.

PA


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