Grenfell inquiry judge ‘will not make recommendations’ in first report

Grenfell inquiry judge ‘will not make recommendations’ in first report

ACCORDING TO a letter sent to core participants, Sir Martin Moore-Bick will not make any ‘urgent’ fire safety recommendations in his report on the inquiry’s first phase.

Last year, the inquiry began looking at the ‘factual narrative’ of the events, with expert witnesses describing the various safety failures and a ‘culture of non compliance’. After the inquiry resumed, a fire station manager stated that ‘vital’ plans were not able to be found in the lobby of the buildingIt then heard from 999 operators that due to a policy not to recontact callers, residents were not told to evacuate when policy changed.

In September last year, one of the fire commanders stated that ‘the building let us all down’, before London Fire Brigade (LFB) commissioner Dany Cotton admitted that she had no knowledge of cladding risks despite an LFB presentation created only a year before. Then, the inquiry heard two different experts note that flames spread in ‘just over 10 minutes’ to the outside, and that cladding issues ‘have been known for decades’.

In November, the inquiry heard that the architectural ‘crown’ of cladding designed to make the tower ‘look nice’ was ‘instrumental’ in the fire’s spread, and that it was ‘most likely started by overheated wiring’ within a fridge freezerAfter that, the inquiry heard that LFB had ‘failed residents and firefighters’, and that a post Grenfell audit of the building’s management company found only ‘minor weaknesses’ in its approach.

In December, the second phase was reported to be ‘unlikely to start’ until the end of 2019, according to Sir Martin, because there are ‘more than 20,000 documents still to disclose’, with this ‘probably not’ completed before this autumn. This second phase will examine the ‘wider issues surrounding the fire’.

The Fire Brigades Union gave a closing statement with its hopes for future change, and Arconic - which manufactured the cladding used on the tower - gave a 'combative' statement saying that other materials were to blame for the fire's spread. Earlier in 2019, reports on the refurbishment of the tower and the cladding and insulation were released, while it was revealed that any prosecutions over the fire are ‘unlikely’ before 2021.

Its update in February stated that over 20,000 documents have been disclosed in the first phase, and if ‘further relevant’ material is provided ‘this will be disclosed’ to core participants, while an April update covered the continued review of evidence. Now however, Inside Housing has learned that Sir Martin’s phase one report will ‘not make recommendations on a range of fire safety issues’, despite experts at the inquiry warning that ‘urgent and very far-reaching reform’ is needed.

The news outlet saw a letter to core participants from solicitor Caroline Featherstone, which added that there would not be any ‘urgent’ recommendations, and that his report is ‘now set’ to be delayed until this summer. Six of the inquiry’s experts have been asked by Sir Martin to write reports on what recommendations should be concluded, and he was given power by Prime Minister Theresa May to ‘make any necessary recommendations for change’.

The letter said that the expert reports ‘harbour very significant concerns’ that they believe call for ‘urgent reform, and in some cases very far-reaching reform’, but notes that any recommendations ‘need to be firmly rooted in the chairman’s analysis of the evidence […] the fact that the chairman does not consider it appropriate to make any particular recommendation at this stage should not be taken as an indication that he does not regard the matter as important or that he will not make a recommendation in due course’.

Sir Martin had ‘declined’ to hold a public hearing to discuss this, while the expert reports cited ‘have not yet been released’, so Inside Housing noted that ‘this means it is not clear which issues the experts raised that will not be addressed in his report’, though the letter specifically referenced the ‘adequacy of the current testing regime’.

It was also revealed in the letter that the core participants, specifically the bereaved, survivors and relatives, called for Sir Martin to make ‘urgent’ recommendations, particularly ‘f he had discovered something that in his view was so urgent that it called for immediate action in the interests of public safety’.

Conversely, the letter stated: ‘Although many useful suggestions have been made which may contribute to recommendations in the phase one report, the range and divergence of views expressed by those who have offered suggestions (as well as by the experts) have led [Sir Martin] to the conclusion that there are no steps whose implementation is of such immediate obviousness, urgency and importance that he should write to the prime minister with recommendations in advance of the phase one report.’

The news outlet pointed out as well that it ‘understands’ the first phase report will not be published before the two year anniversary of the fire, with phase two not due to start until the end of 2019 and set to potentially last for another two years.