Last edited 19 Aug 2017

Grenfell Tower Inquiry

Contents

Overview

On 14 June 2017, a fire broke out in Grenfell Tower, a block of flats in North Kensington, London. The fire started shortly before 1 am and engulfed the building within 15 minutes. 80 people are presumed dead, although the final figure is likely to be higher.

On 16 June 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May announced a Public Inquiry into the fire. The Inquiry will report directly to the Prime Minister.

On 29 June 2017, Theresa May announced that Sir Martin Moore-Bick had been appointed to lead the Inquiry.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick.jpg

Sir Martin Moore-Bick was recommended by the Lord Chief Justice and is an experienced former Court of Appeal judge. He was called to the Bar in 1969 and appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1986. He was appointed to the High Court in 1995 and to the Court of Appeal in 2005. He retired as a Lord Justice of Appeal in December 2016. He specialised in commercial law, dealing with disputes relating to the transport of goods.

The Inquiry will be established under the 2005 Inquiries Act, and will have the power to compel the production of documents, and to summon witnesses to give evidence on oath.

Sir Martin will first consult about the terms of reference of the Inquiry. This will then be referred back to parliament, after which the Inquiry will begin. The Inquiry will prioritise establishing the facts so that action can be taken to prevent a similar tragedy. It will also consider the wider lessons from the fire and the inspections of other buildings that followed.

Evidence gathering will include:

  • Considering reports by the police, the fire brigade, safety experts and others.
  • Obtaining relevant documents, from whatever sources.
  • Contacting anyone who may have relevant information to give and who may be called as a witness.

Theresa May said:

I am determined that there will be justice for all the victims of this terrible tragedy and for their families who have suffered so terribly... We must get to the truth about what happened. No stone will be left unturned by this Inquiry, but I have also been clear that we cannot wait for ages to learn the immediate lessons and so I expect the Chair will want to produce an interim report as early as possible.

The terms of reference of the Inquiry were immediately called into question, when, speaking on 29 June, Sir Martin said:

I'm well aware the residents and the local people want a much broader investigation and I can fully understand why they would want that... Whether my inquiry is the right way in which to achieve that I'm more doubtful and I will give that some thought and in due course make a recommendation.

However, on 3 July, the BBC reported a source saying that Sir Martin "open-minded" about the breadth of the inquiry - "he's not just looking at the physics and chemistry". Ref http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40486532

Terms of reference

On 15 Aug 2017, the full terms of reference for the Inquiry were published, including:

  • The cause and spread of the fire.
  • The design, construction and refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.
  • The scope and adequacy of the relevant regulations relating to high-rise buildings.
  • Whether the relevant legislation and guidance were complied with.
  • The actions of the local authority and other bodies before the tragedy.
  • The response of the London Fire Brigade to the fire and the response of central and local government in the aftermath.

The terms drew immediate criticism for being too narrow and excluding the wider social and political conditions around the tragedy, as well as the implications of social housing policy.

Joe Delaney from the Grenfell Action Group said: "If it is interpreted as narrowly as it seems Sir Martin Moore-Bick instinctively seems to interpret things then we may have a serious problem."

The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote to the Prime Minister Theresa May to express his deep concern with the decision to exclude the broader social and political issues raised by the fire from the terms of reference of the inquiry; "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."

After the terms were published, May said the wider implications of the fire on social housing policy would be examined separately by the housing minister, Alok Sharma.

A Grenfell Tower Inquiry website has been set up to provide the latest information on the Inquiry, including details of hearings, evidence and how to contact the Inquiry team.

Find out more

Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki