Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry

Part of Humanitarian Situation in Mosul – in the House of Commons at 1:28 pm on 12th July 2017.

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Photo of Damian Green Damian Green First Secretary of State and Minister for the Cabinet Office 1:28 pm, 12th July 2017

As the hon. Lady will know, rules are already in place to cover precisely that type of thing. The best advice is obviously that those rules should be obeyed. The fire safety advisers are looking at what happened and what should happen in future, but it will be the local fire safety authorities that give that advice. I am sure they will all have been looking carefully at the advice they have been giving, particularly to people in wheelchairs and so on, who clearly will be understandably concerned about whether they are getting the right safety advice. I advise the hon. Lady to talk to her local fire safety officials.

Over the past month, the Cabinet Office has established a cross-Government working group called the public estates response group, with a technical sub-group to ensure that all technical advice is understood and is being properly applied. The Government are ensuring full engagement and alignment with activity in the devolved Administrations—I am conscious that they will be concerned as well. As I said, DCLG has formed an expert advisory panel made up of a range of building and fire safety experts to advise the Government on any immediate action required to ensure that buildings are safe. The Cabinet Office is working with DCLG’s expert panel and others to establish a remediation plan and the next steps towards the review of building regulations that several Members have asked for. All that work is under way outside the inquiry’s timetable, so its completion will not be dependent on the publication of the inquiry’s report.

Some of those affected by this terrible event are concerned that an inquest would be more appropriate than an inquiry, and that the inquiry might delay the identification of those who died. I can reassure them that there will be an inquest: the coroner, Dr Fiona Wilcox, is already investigating the deaths—that is a statutory duty. Once the identification of each of the deceased has been completed, I understand that the coroner will open the inquest into each individual death and then adjourn proceedings pending the outcome of other investigations, including the inquiry. The coroner will consider the inquiry’s recommendations to determine whether to resume the inquests. The process will not delay the formal identification of victims.

I can reassure those who want a criminal investigation into this terrible tragedy that that is in hand. The Metropolitan police announced the investigation on 16 June. It is one of the largest and most complex investigations ever undertaken by the Metropolitan police, with around 250 specialist investigators currently engaged. I hope that Members will be reassured by the clear statements about the investigation from the Metropolitan police. Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack said on 23 June that the investigation would

“identify and investigate any criminal offence and, of course, given the deaths of so many people, we are considering manslaughter, as well as criminal offences and breaches of legislation and regulations”.

That point was reinforced on Monday by Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, who said:

“The investigation we are conducting is a criminal investigation that quite obviously is starting from the potential that there was something that effectively amounts to the manslaughter of those people.”

It is clear that it will be a rigorous, detailed investigation; the police are determined that, if wrongdoing has occurred, the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

The Grenfell Tower inquiry’s task is of the utmost importance to establish the facts and make recommendations about the action needed to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again. The Government will provide the inquiry with all the resources it needs to complete its work thoroughly and rapidly. This was a terrible tragedy; we must learn the lessons to ensure nothing like it can happen again.