Grenfell fire: MP calls for inquiry chairman to quit

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The judge heading the Grenfell Tower inquiry has been urged to stand down by the MP for Kensington, who says those affected need “somebody we can trust”.

It follows a call on Monday for Sir Martin Moore-Bick to quit by lawyers representing some of the victims.

Labour MP Emma Dent Coad said Sir Martin was “a technocrat” who lacked “credibility” with the families.

Retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin has said he understands the “desire of local people for justice”.

The call comes as questions are raised over the efforts being made to rehouse those left homeless by the fire on 14 June.

At least 80 people are thought to have died in the Grenfell Tower fire in North Kensington, west London.

The final toll may not be known until the end of the year, say police.

Sir Martin’s appointment last week has been widely criticised but a source has told the BBC that he is prepared to be “open-minded” and “very broad” in his inquiry.

Although the remit will be decided by the prime minister, it is understood the inquiry will consider in detail whether the nature of the building regulations contributed to the fire.

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Ms Dent Coad said: “We need somebody who can do the detail but we need somebody who can actually understand human beings as well and what they’ve been through.”

She said she had spoken to hundreds of people affected by the fire.

“They need somebody they can talk to, somebody with a bit of a human face,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I don’t think he should do it. I don’t think there will be any credibility.

“Some people are saying they are not going to co-operate with it, so it’s not going to work.”

Her call for Sir Martin to stand down has been backed by shadow fire services minister, Chris Williamson, who said it was important that the chairman had the confidence of the community.

“I think it’s important that we listen to the survivors… local people are saying they don’t have faith in him,” he told BBC Radio Derby.

He said he agreed with shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s comment that the victims were “murdered by political decision”.

“If you look at decisions taken over the last three or four decades, it’s all about unbridled market economics – essentially deregulation – using public services as a cash-cow and cutting corners,” he said.

Who is Sir Martin?

Educated at Christ’s College, Cambridge, he was called to the Bar in 1969.

As a lawyer, he specialised in commercial law which involved dealing with disputes relating to maritime and land transport of goods.

Sir Martin went on to spend more than 20 years as a judge of the Commercial Court and Court of Appeal until his retirement in 2016.

Grenfell residents point to a case in November 2014, in which Sir Martin ruled Westminster City Council could rehouse a single mother-of-five more than 50 miles away in Bletchley, near Milton Keynes. The decision was overturned by the Supreme Court in April 2015.

Lord Falconer described Sir Martin, an adviser during his time as lord chancellor, as an “understated judge with very little personal ego”, who “got on with the job”.

He was very effective at filtering facts to reach a conclusion, including who was to blame, he said.

Grenfell residents have questioned whether Sir Martin’s background in commercial law is appropriate.

They have also been angered by his decision to allow Kensington Council – who was criticised for its slow and ineffective response to the disaster – to contribute to the inquiry.

Sir Martin said he had spent 10 years as a commercial judge looking into disasters at land and sea. “I see this as a similar exercise,” he told the BBC.

The inquiry must be “open, transparent and fair” to everyone involved, he said last week, before a visit to local residents and police at Grenfell Tower.

It should “establish as quickly as possible the cause of the fire and how it was able to spread so quickly”, he added.

Deadline day

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the prime minister promised that every family who lost their home would be offered a good quality temporary home within three weeks – the deadline for which is Wednesday.

On Monday, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs that commitment would be honoured.

Some families wanted to stay close to their former home, others preferred to deal with their bereavement by moving away and some wanted to stay in hotels for the time being, he said.

“Every household will receive an offer of temporary accommodation by this Wednesday, but every household will also be given the space to make this transition at their own pace, and in a way that helps them to recover from this tragedy,” he added.

One tenant from the 10th floor of Grenfell Tower, who only gave his name as Antonio, has turned down an offer of temporary accommodation.

“We want to move to a permanent accommodation so we can remake it and then we can call it home,” he told BBC’s 5 live.

Being moved from one place to another just so the government can say we’ve been rehoused and they’ve kept their promise, he said. “It’s not on.”

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