Fire chiefs call for cladding answers ahead of Grenfell Inquiry restart
Fire chiefs have said it is “imperative” that an inquiry establishes why Grenfell Tower came to be covered in dangerous flammable cladding.
The hearings into the disaster which, according to official figures, killed 72 people in 2017 will reopen on 6 July after being halted in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Attendance will be limited to comply with social distancing guidelines. Only members of the panel, the counsel to the inquiry, the witness giving evidence and their legal representative, support staff, and an invited journalist will be allowed to attend.
Parliamentary committee debating the need to fix all high-risk buildings
Ahead of the restart, head of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) Roy Wilsher said:
It is imperative we find out why a non-compliant, extremely dangerous cladding system was on Grenfell Tower, along with hundreds of other buildings across the country.
The bereaved, survivors and families deserve answers and I truly hope they get the answers they need from Phase 2.
Some 2,000 residential buildings are still wrapped in dangerous cladding, with thousands of homeowners sleeping in potential fire traps every night, according to the report by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (HCLGC).
During the break in hearings, a parliamentary committee debated the importance of fixing all serious fire safety defects in high-risk residential buildings, saying it could cost up to £15bn.
They must give answers
A pledge from the attorney general has promised that oral evidence given to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry on behalf of companies cannot be used in any future prosecution over the blaze. Protections for anything said by individuals to the public inquiry were guaranteed in February. But in June, Suella Braverman QC extended this to cover “legal persons” or companies.
This means that people who can’t be separated from their firms, including senior directors, executives, and sole traders, cannot refuse to answer questions from the inquiry by invoking the legal right against self-incrimination.
Braverman said in a statement:
The bereaved, survivors and their relatives have been very much in my mind in making my decision and I hope that the extension to the undertaking helps them to find the truth about the circumstances of the fire.
It is important to know that I am granting the extension in the knowledge that it will not jeopardise any future criminal investigation or prosecution and that it does not offer anyone immunity from prosecution.
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