Yesterday, 22nd December, the Prime Minister refused a petition organised by some of the bereaved of the Grenfell Fire for a panel-led public inquiry into the disaster that claimed 72 innocent lives at Grenfell Tower last June. At time of writing, the petition had been signed by 22,860 – all dismissed or disregarded by the decision of the Prime Minister.
Bereaved families of the Grenfell Tower Disaster – already facing a bleak holiday season without their loved ones – are heartbroken to have had their petition refused on the eve of Christmas.
In response to the news that Mrs. May has declined to add an additional expert panel to the Grenfell Inquiry, Adel Chaoui who lost four relatives in the fire and is leading the petition said:
“Not only does the news continue to ignore our concerns, but it seems to have been timed deliberately, on the last working day for most law firms, to limit the time available for us to take legal advice and, or challenge the decision. Under the Inquiries Act we have 14 days to bring a legal challenge by way of judicial review of the Prime Minister’s decision.
Given the news was never going to be well received, the timing raises serious questions about the Prime Minister’s judgement and intent. She demonstrated poor judgement and rank discourtesy in not having waited until the New Year to avoid upset during the holidays, but more concerning is the question of what could possibly be behind the intent to limit time available to respond?
With the Government’s failed promise to update fire regulation after Lakanal House, we feel serious questions should be asked about the decision not to appoint additional decision making panel members to support Sir Martin Moore-Bick who is leading the Inquiry.
We also find it questionable why the Prime Minister, at the very least, did not seek to solicit Sir Martin’s opinion on the matter when he clearly stated he could not make an unsolicited recommendation.
We continue to call on the Prime Minister to take action to build public trust in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and seek as much support for our petition as possible. In addition to potential legal avenues, we hope to secure 100,000 signatures within the next 5 months and force a Parliamentary debate on the question; in which the Prime Minister will be asked to publicly defend a decision to not give us a fair chance of justice.
“What we’re asking is not unusual for a public inquiry; it falls firmly within existing inquiries legislation. Given the scale of death and destruction, it cannot be right that the truth of what happened in Grenfell Tower will be judged by a single person.”
It may be worth noting that the Prime Minister said in her letter to Judge Moore-Bick that she does not intend to appoint further members of the panel “at this stage” which suggests this may not be her final decision and it may be kept under review, thereby extending the time limit. Lawyers representing the petitioners and other survivors will be writing to the Prime Minister next week to express our disquiet at the perverse timing of her decision, seeking urgent clarification as to what was meant by the statement that further panel members would not be appointed “at this stage” and asking whether, and in what circumstances, the composition of the panel might be re-considered.