Any chance of justice for those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire is being delayed and blocked.
The second phase of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry is likely to be paused until the end of next year.
The shocking admission was made by the inquiry’s chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick at the end of the hearing this week.
He was drawing to a close the first phase of the inquiry, which was looking into the immediate causes of the fire.
The second phase will examine the wider issues surrounding the fire—though not the policies and funding cuts that made such a fire almost inevitable.
Moore-Bick made his announcement after three days of summing up by lawyers representing the main parties connected to the fire.
“Given the scale of preparations that have to be carried out, I think it is unlikely that it will be possible to start phase two hearings before the end of next year,” said Moore-Bick.
“However, careful and detailed preparation which enables us to focus on the aspects of the programme that are of real significance should make it possible to ensure that proceedings, once begun, can be completed within a reasonable time.”
He went on to say that his interim report for the first stage of the investigation will be produced “as soon as possible, having regard to the volume of material that has to be digested”.
The main reason given by the inquiry team for the delay is that some 200,000 documents related to the fire need to be disclosed.
It is almost inconceivable that the inquiry’s organisers did not anticipate such a body of evidence would need to be sifted through.
The next stage of the inquiry must be easier for survivors and bereaved to attend. It should be held in west London, rather than in central London.
Moyra Samuels from Justice4Grenfell told Socialist Worker, “It’s increasingly clear that the people who are responsible for the fire are trying to throw each other under the bus. There’s a sense that some parties are not cooperating with the inquiry.
“Survivors and residents have been treated with contempt. They deserve much better.”
In their closing statements the organisations and companies involved tried to pass the baton of blame to each other.
Arconic—the firm which manufactured the cladding used on Grenfell Tower—set the tone for this legal game.
It said its cladding material used “in combination with the other materials”, alongside “other fire safety features (or lack thereof)” created the conditions for the fire.
Arconic is trying to shift blame on to the manufacturers of other products, the firm that installed the cladding and the firm that contracted that job out.
At no point has Arconic denied its cladding is flammable.
All the guilty must be held accountable, from those who installed the cladding, to the firms that manufacture flammable building materials.
But the buck stops at those at the top of government who created the environment that firms were allowed to make their profits at the expense of at least 72 people’s lives.