Grenfell Tower tragedy public inquiry to formally open

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The public inquiry into the causes and response to the Grenfell Tower disaster will formally open today after months of anticipation.

Survivors of the horrific blaze are set to attend the first hearing of the inquiry, where retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick will deliver a 45-minute statement setting out the scope of the probe.

The inquiry will examine the actions of Kensington and Chelsea Council, which was heavily criticised in the wake of the disaster for its perceived failure to protect victims.

No evidence will be heard at the opening at Grand Connaught Rooms in central London on Thursday, with an interim report expected by early 2018.

Sir Martin, the retired judge chosen by Prime Minister Theresa May to lead the inquiry, was also criticised following his appointment, with the London borough’s MP Emma Dent Coad saying he “lacked credibility” with victims.

Campaigners had pressed for the probe to scrutinise the systemic issues underlying the cause of the tragedy on June 14, when at least 80 people died.

The chairman faced anger from the community in a series of public meetings designed to help shape the terms of reference but, once these were announced, the inquiry was criticised for excluding an examination of wider social housing policy.

Retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick will open the inquiry (PA)

Survivors and victims’ families will be able to watch live on a screen in Notting Hill Methodist Church.

A silent march is planned for later on Thursday evening at the same church where the hearing will be screened.

Labour has warned the Government the inquiry should not be reason to delay improvement measures to tower blocks.

Shadow housing minister John Healey, in a letter to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, said: “Thirteen weeks after the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower, it is astonishing that ministers still cannot tell tenants and the public how many of the country’s 4,000 high-rise tower blocks are not safe, that promises of financial support for urgent work have not been honoured, and that the support for Grenfell survivors is still hopelessly inadequate.”

On the eve of the inquiry’s opening, it emerged just one in 50 – 2 per cent – of the UK’s social housing tower blocks have a full sprinkler system.

A Freedom of Information request by BBC Breakfast also found that 68% of the council and housing association-owned blocks have just one staircase through which to evacuate.

London Fire Brigade commissioner Dany Cotton told the broadcaster she supported retrofitting towers built before 2007, when sprinklers were made compulsory in new-build high rises over 30 metres tall in England.

Mr Healey urged Mr Javid to fund retrofitting sprinkler systems in light of the research.


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