IT IS essential that the findings of the Grenfell Inquiry be taken seriously, the Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, has said, after the Government voted against bringing into law the fire-safety recommendations listed in the first phase of the inquiry.
The chair of the inquiry, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, a retired High Court judge, said in his first report, published last year (News, 1 November 2019), that building owners should exchange information with the fire services about building design and materials, inform residents of evacuation and fire-safety instructions, and regularly inspect entrance doors and lifts for safety purposes.
On Monday, Opposition MPs attempted to force an amendment to the Fire Safety Bill which would have brought these recommendations into law. It was rejected by 318 votes to 188.
Dr Tomlin said on Wednesday: “The progress of the Fire Safety Bill is a complex process. It is essential that the findings of the thorough and finely tuned process of Phase 1 of the inquiry are taken seriously and put into action as soon as possible.
“For many survivors and bereaved, the thought that this could happen again elsewhere is part of their fear, not to speak of those in residential blocks across the country still anxious about a Grenfell-type fire in their homes.”
Hearings for the public inquiry resumed on Monday, having been suspended in March owing to the coronavirus (News, 20 March). Families and survivors, however, are not permitted to attend under the current restrictions, despite being able to meet in other settings.
Dr Tomlin said: “It is vital to keep the bereaved and those most closely affected by the fire at the centre of the response. I would very much hope that ways can be found for relatives to attend the hearings of the inquiry in a safe way. If people can meet in pubs and restaurants, it seems odd that they might not be able to be present at this vital process for them and the healing of their own trauma. God does not keep us at arm’s length, and so our attempts to do justice must try to do the same.”
The fire in Grenfell Tower which killed 72 people in June 2017 (News, 15 June) is understood to have been fuelled by newly installed AMC cladding — a highly combustible material that has since been banned.
In evidence given to the inquiry on Monday, Ray Bailey, the director of Harley Facades, the company that installed the cladding, said that the firm had not checked the safety of the design. It relied on architects and building-control officers to do this. He said that his company had been told that the insulation used on the project was safe to use in high-rise buildings.
The Metropolitan Police are conducting a parallel investigation into whether any criminal offences have been committed by anyone responsible for the design, maintenance, or construction of the building, including the addition of the AMC cladding during a refurbishment shortly before the fire.