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Grenfell refurbishment firms expressed no trace of responsibility, inquiry told

Firms involved in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower have expressed "no trace of responsibility" for the catastrophic fire, despite experts saying the work failed to comply with building regulations, an inquiry has heard.

Protesters outside the Grenfell Tower public inquiry Credit: PA

The second phase of the investigation into the disaster opened on Monday and will consider how the high-rise block came to be wrapped in flammable cladding, which phase one found was the main reason for the rapid spread of flames.

A protester outside the Grenfell Tower public inquiry Credit: PA

Counsel to the inquiry Richard Millett QC said in his opening remarks:

With the sole exception of RBKC (Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea), not a single core participant involved in the primary refurbishment of Grenfell Tower has felt able to make an unqualified submission against its own interests. With that solitary exception, Mr Chairman, one finds in those detailed and carefully crafted statements no trace of any acceptance of any responsibility for what happened at Grenfell Tower.

Not from the architects, not from the contract managers, main contractors.

Any member of the public reading those statements and taking them all at face value would be forced to conclude that everyone involved in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower did what they were supposed to do and nobody made any serious or causative mistakes.

All core participants who played a material part in Grenfell Tower have laid out a detailed case that it relied on others, and how in no way was the work it did either substandard or non-compliant (with building regulations).

In every case, what happened was, as each of them would have it, someone else's fault.

– Richard Millett QC

Mr Millett told chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick he should bear in mind a conclusion reached in the first part of the inquiry, that work "did not comply with certain key aspects of the building regulations".

The lead architect for the refurbishment, Studio E, said it "did not have any knowledge that the products used on the tower were unsafe" and called itself a "conscientious, ethical, and responsible" firm.

In a statement to the inquiry, it said:

Product manufacturers produced materials and testing data which had the effect of misleading designers to consider that their products were safe. Studio E considers that it acted as would be expected as a reasonably competent architect in its position", the firm added, saying it "hopes that this investigation establishes why so many professionals and building control departments across the country considered these materials to be suitable for use.

– Studio E statement