Grenfell Tower Fire

The Government Is Using 'A Public Inquiry' to Dodge Grenfell Fire Questions

It can't be allowed to defer people's anger.

by Simon Childs
16 June 2017, 12:21pm

Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images

As the death toll of the Grenfell Tower fire rises to at least 30, with fears it will climb higher, public outrage is building. While the precise details are not yet known, it's blindingly obvious that this was a man-made disaster brought about by a litany of mistakes and negligence. The persistent warnings of the Grenfell Action Group were shamefully ignored. The victims of the fire are surely also victims of a housing system with a clear disregard for human life.

But not so fast! Government minsters want everyone to chill out while they hold a public inquiry to find out exactly what happened:

Theresa May, Sky News, Thursday

Journalist: In that quest for answers some people are wondering whether the government's decision to delay the fire safety report might have contributed to this disaster. And can you also guarantee to local authorities that there will be extra money for sprinklers in existing high rises?

May: What we need to do is to ensure that this terrible tragedy is properly investigated. That's why I'm ordering a full public inquiry, so we can get to the answers…

Sajid Javid, BBC R4 Today Programme, Friday

Sajid Javid: "…we need to find out what exactly has happened here."

John Humphries: "Look at the coronor's report from March 2013 after the terrible Lachanal House fire. He recommended that your department… I won't go into all the different recommendations… this is the important bit: 'with particular regard to the spread of fire over the external envelope of the building'. Precisely, precisely what happened at Grenfell Tower. That was recommended in March 2013… nothing, I repeat nothing was done."

Javid: This is why we need a public investigation, and that's why the Prime Minster was absolutely right to announce this yesterday…

Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House of Commons, Sky News, Friday

Angry local interjecting: …You know this fire could have been stopped long, long, long time ago? Because this block, and every single block in this area is suffering the same way, suffering the exact same way. There is basic stuff, there's not even sprinklers in there, that could have cost £200,000. They had £10 million to spend. They spent £8.6 million. Where is the rest of the money?

Andrea Leadsome: As the Prime Minister has said, there will be a full public inquiry…

An inquiry must be carried out, of course, but saying as much should not become a mechanism for the government to defer anger, draw things out and dodge responsibility with narrow terms of reference.

However, from the looks of it, while a lot of the issues are already known, it looks like "an inquiry" will be the substitute answer to absolutely everything.


Social Housing
Public Inquiries