Grenfell fire public inquiry will not look at broader social issues raised

Retired judge Martin Moore-Bick, who is leading the inquiry, revealed its terms of reference on Tuesday, saying his team would focus on how the fire happened as well as the actions of authorities before and afte

Candles are lit near to the burned out Grenfell Tower apartment building, centre, during a silent march to pay respect to those killed in the Grenfell Tower fire, at Notting Hill area of London, Monday Aug. 14, 2017.  The silent march marks two months since the Grenfell Tower fire which left many dozens dead and injured.  (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP)

A public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster in the UK will examine the cause and spread of the fire but not the broader social issues raised by the incident.

At least 80 people are thought to have died after a fire began in a 24-storey social housing block in a deprived area of the affluent London borough of Kensington and Chelsea on June 14. Only 50 victims have been formally identified so far and a definitive death toll is not expected until 2018.

British prime minister Theresa May ordered an inquiry into the disaster later in June after having faced criticism for failing to meet survivors in the immediate aftermath of the fire.

Retired judge Martin Moore-Bick, who is leading the inquiry, revealed its terms of reference on Tuesday, saying his team would focus on how the fire happened as well as the actions of authorities before and after.

Sir Martin added, however, that societal questions raised by the disaster — particularly around social inequality — would not be examined, despite calls from residents to do so.


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In response, Mrs May promised that the government would not ignore these wider issues.

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

"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.”

The prime minister added that housing minister Alok Sharma would meet with social housing tenants in west London and across the country to hear about any concerns they might have.

As well as looking into the structure of Grenfell Tower and the response of central and local authorities to the incident, the inquiry will probe regulations relating to high-rise buildings and whether relevant legislation and guidance was complied with.

In a letter to the prime minister, Sir Martin said it was not suitable to examine social issues at a judge-led inquiry, which needed to take place as quickly as possible to identity further safety issues that may exist elsewhere.

His selection caused upset among many of those affected by the disaster who felt that the 70-year-old, who was appointed to the High Court in 1995, was out of touch with the concerns of residents.

Sir Martin was heckled by survivors last month during consultation meetings in North Kensington, designed to hear what questions the community wanted addressed in the inquiry.

In his letter to Mrs May, Sir Martin said he had taken into consideration what he had heard at the meetings, as well as written responses, while deciding the terms of reference of the inquiry.

The first hearing is due to take place on September 14.