Phase 1 of the Grenfell Inquiry concluded on 12 December 2018. In a statement, Chairman of the Inquiry, Sir Martin Moore-Bick described how Phase 1 was about establishing the detail of what happened at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017 in order that Phase 2 will enable the inquiry to focus its attention on the critical decisions and circumstances that allowed the tragedy to occur. The Chairman confirmed that the preliminary work on Phase 2 had already been going on for several months.
In summing up Phase 1, Sir Martin Moore-Bick stated, ‘This inquiry is unlike any other in the number of core participants and, I would suggest, in the scope and complexity of the evidence it has considered and will yet have to consider.’
In the Chairman’s summary he described the breadth and width of Phase 1, which included the review, validation and disclosure of over 20,000 documents. This is in addition to the many hundreds of witness statements, including 668 statements from firefighters and 307 witness statements from bereaved, survivors and residents of Grenfell Tower. The Inquiry also heard from many expert witnesses.
Sir Martin Moore-Bick stated that he was, ‘very grateful to all those who have given evidence to the Inquiry, whether in the form of written statements or in person at the hearings, despite the difficulties many of them clearly experienced in doing so.’ He went on to say, ‘I have always made it clear that in discharging the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference, it will seek to carry out, as far as it properly can, an investigation into the deaths caused by the fire of a kind that will make it unnecessary for the Coroner to pursue her own investigations.’
The Chairman described how the Inquiry needs to understand all of the evidence and factors but also stated that where there is clear evidence, interim recommendations may be published. Sir Martin Moore-Bick said, ‘I think it likely that I shall want to consider some recommendations in the light of the findings in the Phase 1 report. In general, however, I think that before doing so it would be wise to canvass the views of those who have relevant experience in order to avoid unintended consequences of an undesirable kind. I shall consider how best to do that in the light of the proposals that come forward under the procedure that I have outlined.’
As a result of the sheer scale of preparations required the Chairman has stated that it is unlikely that it will be possible to start Phase 2 hearings before the end of 2019.
In the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, the need for fundamental reform of the building and fire-safety regulatory system was identified. In response, an independent review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety was commissioned under the leadership of Dame Judith Hackitt.
An Interim report in December 2017 was followed by the final report, ‘Building a Safer Future’, published in May 2018. Following the report’s publication, Dame Judith Hackitt called on the Government to develop a plan that would to provide a structure for the delivery of the review recommendations.
The ‘Building a Safer Future – Implementation Plan’ was published in December 2018. This document sets out the Government’s intended programme of work to deliver fundamental reform to the system to ensure that residents are safe, and feel safe, in their homes.
The Implementation Plan is seen as a firm commitment to improving standards through a cultural change across the system, engaging and supporting the owners of buildings, landlords and the entire construction industry to create and maintain a reformed system where residents’ safety is the priority, now and in the future.
As UK Fire Professionals, many of you will have been involved in the Grenfell inquiry process, or the building and fire-safety regulatory review either directly or indirectly. As a profession I know we are committed to seeing every opportunity for learning thoroughly examined and shared. As the memories of the tragic events of 14 June 2017 inevitably start to fade for those not affected or involved in the Grenfell Tower fire, we have a responsibility to ensure the profession maintains a focus and gives a voice to the importance of lessons learned to protect those we serve in seeking and maintaining fire-safe buildings and communities.
The establishment of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Constabularies and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) as a new single entity has led to the first tranche of inspections being completed and the publication of reports for the 14 FRSs inspected and an overall summary. The summary report states that most fire and rescue services are good at keeping the public safe from fire and other emergencies but raises concerns about how services carry out protection duties and the environment in which their staff operate.
It will be interesting to see the action plans adopted by Fire and Rescue Services in response to these first inspections and to understand how HMICFRS will act to support the implementation of identified required improvements.
As the public-facing UK agenda seems to focus on Brexit it is clear that the fire profession is not standing still but continues to seek progression and improvement. This issue of UK Fire provides an insight into our ongoing work and I am pleased to see the breadth of features herein.
As stated previously, the intention of UK Fire is to promote and support the raising of standards across our profession. Your views, submissions and feedback are welcomed and encouraged, so please keep in touch.
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