UK

Grenfell fire: Chairman prepared to hold 'very broad' inquiry

Grenfell Tower Image copyright PA

The Grenfell Tower public inquiry chairman is prepared to be "very broad" when looking at the causes of the fire, a senior source has told the BBC.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick's inquiry will "go right back to the construction of the tower" in the 1970s to examine warnings that may have been missed.

He said previously it was unlikely the inquiry would look at wider social issues in Kensington and Chelsea.

The remit of the inquiry will be decided by the prime minister.

But residents will be consulted, a series of meetings is being planned and a document setting out a list of questions is being prepared.

Sir Martin was said to be "open-minded" about the breadth of the inquiry - "he's not just looking at the physics and chemistry" of the fire, the source said.

It is likely to consider in detail whether the nature of the building regulations contributed to the fire, but it is unlikely the impact of the regulations elsewhere in the country will be part of its scope.

Residents have said they are concerned the inquiry will not go far enough and have threatened to pull out if their concerns are not met.

Theresa May is expected to make a statement to the House of Commons on the remit before the parliamentary recess in three weeks' time.

At least 80 people are thought to have died in the fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, west London, on 14 June.

Police have warned that the final death toll will not be known until at least the end of the year and appealed for the public to come forward with any information about those who were inside at the time.

'Tenancy status'

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed on Monday that no-one who was illegally subletting flats in Grenfell Tower would face prosecution.

In a statement, he told MPs: "There may have been people living in flats that were illegally sublet who have no idea about the true status of their tenancy.

"Their families want to know if they perished in the fire. These are their sons, their daughters, their brothers, their sisters. They need closure and it's the least that they deserve.

"But that can't happen unless we have the information we need, so we are urging anyone with that information to come forward and to do so as quickly as they can."

Mr Javid said there continued to be a 100% failure rate for combustibility tests on cladding from 181 other high-rise blocks so far.

He told MPs that the testing process had been independently reviewed and found to be "sound" and that the findings of the review had been published.

Mr Javid said it was right that the leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, Nick Paget-Brown, had resigned following criticism of the authority's handling of the tragedy.

'Truly sorry'

The Kensington and Chelsea Conservative group announced on Monday that it had chosen Elizabeth Campbell as its new leader.

Ms Campbell, who is expected to be confirmed in the role on 19 July, apologised for the council's handling of the fire.

In her first statement since her selection, she said: "This is our community and we have failed it when people needed us the most. So, no buts, no ifs, no excuses. I am truly sorry."

Westminster City Council director of housing Barbara Brownlee said 126 families had been offered accommodation, 10 needed to be offered homes, and there were a number of families who were not yet ready to work with the council at all.

Meanwhile, some of the survivors have written a letter to the prime minister with 12 demands for changes in the way the disaster is being handled.

These include:

  • Withdraw the appointment of Sir Martin Moore-Bick as chairman of the inquiry
  • Explain what consultation will take place before the inquiry's terms of reference are finalised
  • Guarantee that the inquiry chair will adopt wide terms of reference that goes beyond the narrow one outlined by his recent statement
  • Ensure the government co-ordinated response team is available 24 hours a day
  • Confirm that undocumented survivors will be given full UK citizenship

BMElawyers4Grenfell, a group of black and minority ethnic lawyers, wrote the letter on behalf of some of the survivors.

It followed a meeting at the House of Commons last week arranged by shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, and attended by shadow justice minister Richard Burgon, Labour MP for Kensington Emma Dent Coad and Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy.

Referring to Sir Martin, Ismet Rawat, president of the Association of Muslim Lawyers, said: "He stated that his remit would be extremely narrow so people are thinking: 'This is going to be a bit of a whitewash, we don't have confidence in it.'."

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