Grenfell inquiry panel to add extra members

Grenfell inquiry panel to add extra members

PRIME MINISTER Theresa May has widened the panel to include people ‘with the skills to examine the cultural and community reasons’ behind the fire, after survivor pressure.

Previously, inquiry chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick appointed three assessors to look at housing, local government and technical matters. Two days of inquiry hearings took place at the Holborn Bars in central London, and dealt with ‘case management issues’ including proposed timetables, matters concerning witnesses and the disclosure of evidence’.

Sir Martin’s inquiry is also looking to produce an initial report that would explain the ‘immediate cause and spread’ of the fire, as well as an ‘assessment of the evacuation process’. In January, it was revealed that the inquiry was preparing for its first evidential hearings, and had written to core participants to update them on the next steps.

These include that evidential hearings are planned to start in May and ‘no later than 4 June 2018’, with the lead counsel having written to core participants to invite comment on a proposed procedural programme. A full list of core participants has now been made available, with 532 individuals and organisations named altogether: 504 are ‘bereaved, survivors and local residents’, and 28 are organisations.

Last week meanwhile, the inquiry issued an update on its programme for the first phase of hearings, which will begin on 21 May, and revealed that Dr J. Duncan Glover of Failure Electrical LLC will be an expert witness. The Guardian reported that Mrs May has now changed her mind, after ‘originally opposing’ the appointment of people with ‘the skills to examine the cultural and community reasons behind the fire’.

The addition of two extra members to the panel came after her rejection of the idea last December, with survivors and bereaved family members asking for a more ‘diverse decision-making panel to sit alongside’ Sir Martin ‘triggered by concerns over Moore-Bick’s ability to relate to the survivors’. These members will join the inquiry at the second stage, with Sir Martin having written to Mrs May on Friday about the move.

He stated in his letter that ‘I note that you are minded to appoint additional panel members to the inquiry for phase 2. I therefore look forward to receiving ... for my consideration ... the names of those who you consider suitable’. The Guardian also noted that there had been ‘growing pressure’ on the Prime Minister to change position, with the inquiry said to have been ‘discussed in cabinet’ last week as well.

Mrs May supported her decision by stating that it was made to ‘ensure that the inquiry panel itself also has the necessary breadth of skills and diversity of expertise relevant to the broad range of issues to be considered in phase 2, and to best serve the increasing scale and complexity of the Inquiry’.

She also updated parliament on the inquiry, noting it was ‘on course’ to receive 400,000 documents, with 183,000 of 330,000 received thus far reviewed by the inquiry team. Sources of relevant documents are still being identified, while she added that the inquiry has confirmed that ‘a significant volume’ of the documentation ‘will be disclosed’ during the first phase.

Mrs May added: ‘Given the extent of the tragedy, we should not be surprised by the scale and range of issues that are emerging from the inquiry’s early work. Phase 2 of the inquiry will be the largest phase in terms of the number of issues to be considered, and it is appropriate for me to reflect now on the two distinct phases of the Inquiry’s work and to consider the most appropriate composition of the Inquiry panel for phase 2.’