Grenfell Inquiry findings ‘won’t be published until 2024’

DLUHC may see draft criticisms before end of this year, however
Photo: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Live News

By Jim Dunton

04 May 2023

The public inquiry probing the failings that led up to the Grenfell Tower fire has confirmed it will not publish its final report on the disaster until next year.

In an announcement just weeks ahead of the sixth anniversary of the west London tower-block blaze that claimed 72 lives, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry said it now did not expect to deliver its phase-two report to prime minister Rishi Sunak until 2024.

The inquiry team had previously expressed hopes of publishing the report – which will look at government’s role in the disaster as well that of construction firms and product manufacturers –towards the end of this year.

In its statement, the team said everyone involved in the inquiry wanted the report to be published as soon as possible.

But it said individual chapters were at different stages of drafting and several stages were still incomplete. 

“When the draft is nearing completion, it will be necessary to write under rule 13 of the inquiry rules to those who may be subject to criticism, explaining the basis on which such criticism may be made,” the statement said.

“The inquiry hopes to complete the drafting of the report before the end of 2023. Various practical steps will then need to follow, such as proof-reading, typesetting and printing, all of which take time.

“We shall send the report to the prime minister, as required by our terms of reference, as soon as we can but that will probably not be possible before the beginning of next year.”

The panel said it would be for the PM to decide when the report will be published and by whom.

“The panel and whole inquiry team will spare no effort to finish work on the report as soon as possible and will continue to do their utmost to complete the work within the time indicated,” the statement added.

The inquiry panel, which is chaired by retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, took its final evidence in July last year. Sessions in the spring spent weeks questioning past and present Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities officials about their oversight of building regulations and knowledge of safety concerns in the years before the fire.

In closing statements to the inquiry last November, DLUHC’s counsel acknowledged the department’s “failure to realise that the regulatory system was broken” and that the situation “might lead to a catastrophe”.

Inquiry lead counsel Richard Millett KC said companies and other organisations involved with the flawed refurbishment of Grenfell Tower had created a “merry-go-round of buck-passing” and a “spider’s web of blame” for the inquiry panel to unpack.

He observed that DLUHC had made “pithy but pointed” criticisms of the design teams who contributed to the state of Grenfell Tower on the night it was engulfed by fire. But he said the department did not seem to have reflected on the extent to which its own failings had contributed to that situation, effectively playing down its role.

The first phase of the inquiry has already established that the aluminium composite material cladding added to the outside of Grenfell during its 2014-16 refurbishment, and the insulation fitted behind, was the principal reason fire engulfed the block so rapidly in the early hours of 14 June 2017.

Its phase-one report found the refurbishment gave the building a new exterior that not only failed to “adequately resist the spread of fire”, as required by building regulations, but one which “actively promoted it”.

The second phase of the inquiry has been probing how such a situation could have arisen – and has looked back at similar fires related to unsafe cladding, including government’s oversight of the issue.

A consistent line of questioning in evidence sessions featuring former government ministers and DLUHC officials involved their knowledge of previous fires.

One in particular, 2009’s Lakanal House fire in south London, prompted a coroner to flag concerns about confusing wording of building-safety rules and poor understanding of regulations in the construction industry.

Frances Kirkham used her powers as a coroner to set out her concerns in a formal letter to then-communities secretary Eric Pickles under a process designed to prevent future deaths. 

Pickles told the inquiry that officials at what was then the Department for Communities and Local Government had told him he “shouldn’t worry” about the issues raised after the Lakanal fire, in which six people died.

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