Grenfell Tower inquiry will probe cause of fire and adequacy of regulations

Grenfell Tower inquiry will probe cause of fire and adequacy of regulations

The Grenfell Tower public inquiry will examine issues including the cause of the fire and the actions of authorities before the blaze, the British Government has announced.

The British Prime Minister said broader social questions provoked by the fire, which left at least 80 dead, will not form part of the inquiry but she was "determined" they would not be left "unanswered".

Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the retired judge leading the probe, will also scrutinise the "adequacy" of building regulations and the recent refurbishment of the block, the Government said.

Sir Martin suggested in a letter recommending the scope of the inquiry that wider consideration of social housing policy should not be included, despite the protestation of survivors.

But the Prime Minister was said to be "very clear" the omission of such problems would not mean they are left unanswered or seen as a lower priority.

Mrs May said: "It is vital that there is justice for the victims of this appalling tragedy and for their families who have suffered so terribly.

"The terms of reference set out by Sir Martin address crucial issues such as the cause of the fire and the adequacy of building and fire regulations which will allow the inquiry to get to the truth of what happened and learn the lessons to stop a similar catastrophe happening in the future.

"I am determined that the broader questions raised by this fire - including around social housing - are not left unanswered.

"We are taking action with the Housing Minister meeting social housing tenants to discuss the challenges they face and we will be setting out further proposals in due course."

The Prime Minister accepted in full the recommendations for the inquiry’s scope made by former Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin in a letter last week.

With the terms of reference announced, the inquiry has officially begun and will hold its first hearing on September 14, with an initial report by Easter.

Survivors and campaigners had pressed for systemic issues underlying the cause of the tragedy on June 14 to be scrutinised.

Addressing these concerns, the Government said Housing Minister Alok Sharma will meet as many social tenants as possible both in the west London neighbourhood and across the country to build up a picture of the issues confronting them and work out a national approach.

Those touched by the disaster were urged to engage with the process so "as accurate a picture as possible" could be built.

The terms of reference were determined following consideration of more than 550 submissions.

Residents of the tower spent years chronicling a battle over safety issues with the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), which ran the building.

A public blog, run by the Grenfell Action Group, alleged fire safety was being put unnecessarily at risk during a refurbishment of the 24-storey block.

During the £8.6 million renovation, new cladding with a flammable core was wrapped around the building, married with combustible insulation.

It is suspected the combination of these materials helped aid the spread of the inferno, which engulfed the building within minutes.

These issues will be a central consideration for Sir Martin’s inquiry.

Joe Delaney, who has worked with the Grenfell Action Group and was evacuated from an adjoining block after the fire, said the scope seemed "decent enough".

He told the Press Association: "The terms of reference seem wide enough to be able to cover the immediate causes of the Grenfell Tower disaster but won’t cover wider issues regarding social housing.

"Whilst I think such a debate should be had, I don’t think Moore-Bick’s inquiry is the forum.

"However, it is vital that Moore-Bick’s inquiry covers relevant issues in detail and with a thoroughness that will ensure that all those responsible are identified."

Debate had raged around the format of the inquiry since its inception in late June.

Many of those affected by the blaze had expressed concern that it would be too narrow and threatened to abandon the process over its direction.

Sir Martin himself came in for criticism from some campaigners, who suggested he was not suitable for the role.

Their concerns centred on a 2014 case in which Sir Martin sided with Westminster City Council’s decision that mother-of-five Titina Nzolameso should be rehoused 50 miles (80km) away.

His ruling was later overturned in the Supreme Court, but, with the majority of those who escaped the tower waiting to be rehoused, Sir Martin’s decision-making prompted alarm.

Justice4Grenfell, one of the campaign groups working with survivors, said it was pleased that Sir Martin had taken on board residents’ concerns, but voiced concern at the absence of wider issues.

Despite previous indications that the group could withhold support from the inquiry, spokeswoman Yvette Williams said it could consider working with Sir Martin if he appointed community advisers.

She said: "When Moore-Bick first came down he said he was only going to go for something narrow and so it is good that he has listened to the community voice in terms of broadening those terms of reference.

"Our community in particular should never stay silent, they should always put the pressure on when things are imposed on them.

"If he makes an announcement ASAP that he will have a team of community advisers on that panel, then we will start to develop some more trust in the process.

"He is not looking at the broader social issues for one, which we think is majorly central to this situation, and if he goes on with no community advisory rep, we would have a lot to say about that."

Elizabeth Campbell, the leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, said: "We are fully cooperating with the inquiry and we will make any person or document available to the authorities, as required.

"I echo the wishes of the local community - we must find out what went wrong and make sure it never happens again, not only in this borough, but anywhere in the UK."

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