London – The public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, in which at least 80 people died on 14 June 2017 opened today with a minutes’ silence.
In his opening statement, inquiry chairman, Martin Moore-Bick said: ‘It’s right that at the outset I should express the dismay and sadness we feel.’
He promised that the inquiry ‘can and will provide answers to the questions of how a disaster of this kind could occur in 21 Century London.’
He added that he hopes to have answers about how the fire spread by Easter, 1 April 2018.
Setting out the terms of the public inquiry the former Lord Justice of Appeal (a senior English judge) Moore-Bick said the inquiry will examine a number of key issues including :
- the circumstances around the fire including the immediate cause how it spread to the whole of the building;
- the design and construction of the building and the decisions leading to its modification, refurbishment and management;
- the scope and adequacy of building regulations, fire regulations and other legislation, guidance and industry practice related to the design, construction, equipping and management of high-rise residential buildings;
- compliance with regulations; and finally,
- the fire prevention and safety measures in place in the tower.
‘These terms are deliberately broad,’ Moore-Bick said, to allow ‘scope to follow fruitful lines of inquiry.’ They are not exhaustive and he said he ‘would not be deflected from lines of inquiry which may lead to information of value.’
The inquiry which can compel testimony and evidence is designed to ‘get at the truth, the process should be seen as cooperative.’ It is not designed to apportion blame, guilt or award compensation, he added. Evidence will be presented publicly.
The inquiry will be split into two phases. The first will look at the development of the fire; where and how it started; how it spread; and the chain of events that unfolded during the hours before it was extinguished.
These will be tacked first ‘because there is a need to understand how the building’s design contributed to the disaster and there could be similar defects in other high-rise buildings that should be dealt with quickly to protect other residents.
The second phase will look at design, modifications; the reasons for the decisions and whether the building conformed to existing regulations and if they were adequate.
‘The extent to which fire risk assessments were carried out and the response to them will come under scrutiny. This area of the inquiry will be important in the light of the insulation and cladding used in the most recent renovation. This is going to take longer,’ Moore-Bick said.
The inquiry has already asked for documents from companies involved in the refurbishment, Moore-Bick said.