Grenfell: Corbyn challenges PM over wider inquiry

Open letter argues for a more diverse inquiry panel, citing the experience of the Hillsborough families to secure “utter confidence”.

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader,

Jeremy Corbyn has urged Theresa May towards a broadening the inquiry team examining the Grenfell disaster saying a diverse panel builds confidence in the process.

In a letter setting out Labour’s ideas for the inquiry’s terms of reference, Corbyn called for a panel system similar to that used in the 1999 MacPherson report into police racism within the police. 

The government has appointed retired high court judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick to lead the inquiry into the disaster and seeks submissions by 28 July on how the inquiry could be be run.

In his letter, Corbyn reiterated Labour’s desire for a two-stage inquiry, with one urgent section on how and why the blaze spread so quickly, and another into wider issues surrounding the tragedy.

Corbyn told the prime minister that it is vital the inquiry commands sufficient confidence.

He wrote: “With this in mind, I urge you to consider broadening the inquiry team to a model more similar to that used in the Macpherson Inquiry, including with representation from those from minority backgrounds, in order to support the judge leading this inquiry.”

Corbyn cited the experience of the Hillsborough families also showed how those affected by tragedies needed to have “utter confidence that the inquiry will get to the truth”.

He wrote: “Yet, as you will be aware, for a number of residents this confidence has so far been lacking.

“Choosing one of the options at your disposal to introduce a range of perspectives and experiences into the inquiry will help to both build trust and deliver justice.”

May has indicated that the report might follow the two-stage model, and ministers have hinted at a wider remit for the inquiry.

In his letter, Corbyn argued that an initial element should be based on “residents’ urgent questions about what happened at Grenfell Tower itself”, including how the fire began, why it spread so rapidly, earlier complaints about fire safety, and the treatment of families and survivors afterwards. It should also look into previous warnings from coroners about the retrofitting of sprinklers to tall blocks and building regulations connected to fire safety.

“There is widespread recognition that Grenfell Tower residents and victims’ families deserve rapid answers to these questions, and that any undue delay risks adding to the intolerable levels of suffering they have already experienced,” Corbyn wrote. 

A second stage, he said, should examine what appeared to be “systemic failures that may extend from local to national government and beyond”, including finding for councils and fire services and the outsourcing of social housing responsibilities.

He said: “We would be disrespecting the memory of those who died and putting further lives at risk, if we fail to fully learn these lessons.

“It is therefore our view that an immediate inquiry into the proximate causes of the Grenfell Tower fire should be supplemented by a longer-term, more wide-ranging inquiry into the underlying causes of what went wrong and the extent to which they are replicated on a national scale.”

Moore-Bick has been meeting families and others to work on what the terms of reference should be.

He and his team will work over the summer to appoint counsel, ensure legal representation is provided and grant individuals core participant status, before an intended start to proceedings in September.

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