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  1. ITV Report

Grenfell Tower fire: Inquiry chairman vows probe 'can and will provide answers'

The public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed at least 80 people, has formally opened.

Retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, who is heading the investigation, began the proceedings with a minute's silence in remembrance of the victims of the tragedy.

But he was met with heckles as he addressed an audience at the Grand Connaught Rooms in Holborn, central London.

Sir Martin-Bick promised the inquiry "can and will provide answers to the pressing questions as to how a disaster of this kind could occur in 21st century London".

He stressed the purpose was "to get at the truth with the help of all those who have relevant evidence to give", rather than punish any particular party or award compensation.

But survivors of the disaster have already branded the process a "whitewash" and say they feel they are not being listened to.

Around 30 members of the local community gathered to watch the opening unfold, some leaving angrily before its conclusion, after Sir Martin said he would not be including residents on the inquiry assessment team.

One upset resident, who wished not to be named, said: "This is a whitewash, and that's all it will be."

Sir Martin Moore-Bick, a retired judge, is head of the investigation. Credit: PA

The inquiry's terms of reference have been a topic of much debate.

Sir Martin, a former Court of Appeal judge, faced anger from the community in a series of public meetings designed to help shape the terms of reference.

When these were announced, the inquiry was criticised for excluding an examination of wider social housing policy.

The inquiry will focus on:

  • The cause and spread of the fire
  • The design, construction and refurbishment of Grenfell Tower
  • The scope and adequacy of the relevant regulations relating to high-rise buildings
  • Whether the relevant legislation and guidance were complied with in the case of Grenfell Tower
  • The actions of the local authority and other bodies before the tragedy
  • The response of the London Fire Brigade to the fire and the response of central and local government in the aftermath

The inquiry is to be split into two phases, with the first looking at how the fire started and why it spread so quickly.

But Sir Martin also signalled his intent to examine how flammable material was installed on Grenfell Tower, saying he would examine what "motivated" decisions about the Tower's design.

It has been alleged that combustible cladding was wrapped around the 24-storey block to cut costs during the £8.6 million refit.

Sir Martin has promised the inquiry will 'get at the truth' of the Grenfell tragedy Credit: PA

Outlining the timetable for the inquiry, Sir Martin said: "The process of gathering evidence has already begun in earnest but there is much more to do.

"It has become clear that there are many potential witnesses still to be interviewed and many thousands of documents to be reviewed. The scale of the task is enormous."

Labour has warned the government that the inquiry should not be reason to delay improvement measures to tower blocks.

Shadow housing minister John Healey, in a letter to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, said it is "astonishing" that 13 weeks after the disaster the support for Grenfell survivors is still hopelessly inadequate.

"Thirteen weeks after the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower, it is astonishing that ministers still cannot tell tenants and the public how many of the country's 4,000 high-rise tower blocks are not safe, that promises of financial support for urgent work have not been honoured, and that the support for Grenfell survivors is still hopelessly inadequate."

An initial report into the tragedy is due to be published by Easter.

Concluding his opening statement, Sir Martin stressed that the scale of the task meant the initial report would need to be limited to the "first phase" of the inquiry, which means it will focuses on the causes of the blaze and how it spread.