Grenfell Tower Inquiry meeting fails to calm anxiety over process

Concerns over the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire remain after campaigners and survivors attended its first hearing.

Chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick faced criticism for not taking questions from those affected, while the choice of the Grand Connaught Rooms as a venue for the hearing was branded "tasteless".

Emma Dent Coad, MP for Kensington, described it as a "cold and clinical process".

Speaking outside, she told the Press Association: "There has been huge anxiety about how this would happen.

"A lot of anxiety - and some people have literally come out here today for the first time. They've been stuck, they've been within their community.

"They made a huge effort to come here and then what do we have - it was a very cold, clinical process and then the judge got up and walked out.

"It was very odd, I found it quite strange."

Ms Dent Coad said while she believes Sir Martin will do a "meticulous" job, the inquiry into the blaze would not provide a "full answer" for those affected.

She said: "We are not going to get justice from this. This will come up with some answers, but this is not part of that legal process which will lead to justice."

The Labour MP described the venue - a grand room lit with chandeliers - as "tasteless".

She said: "It was very strange for us to come to a ballroom with glittering chandeliers to start this inquiry.

"I thought it was quite inappropriate and kind of set the tone between the 'us and them' aspect. I don't think that went down very well with a lot of people."

Yvette Williams, co-ordinater for Justice for Grenfell, said the hearing had been easy to follow and understand.

But she criticised Sir Martin for failing to appoint a community adviser to the panel's top team and ignoring a question from Michael Mansfield QC, who represents some survivors.

She said: "At the end, to not even give 15 minutes to questions is appalling.

"So I'm hoping that the civil service advisers have gone back to him now and said actually that was a bit of a faux pas."

Joe Delaney, an evacuee from a block adjoining the tower who works with the Grenfell Action Group, said he is concerned legal representation could be forced on survivors, depriving them of the opportunity to question witnesses themselves.

He said: "Moore-Bick's got to do a hell of a lot to gain trust, let alone regain trust.

"I'm concerned that he's already attempting to control the process by saying that he's going to invoke the power that he has to force core participant groups with different legal representation to only have one legal representative speak at the inquiry at certain points."

He added: "I have quite a few questions for the companies and various individuals who are going to be involved in this process.

"And if I'm not allowed to get those questions answered and if others aren't allowed to get their questions answered, then what the hell is the point of this £15 million process.

"A £15 million debate about cladding? No thank you."

Tottenham MP David Lammy said: "The first thing that Sir Martin Moore-Bick has to do is gain the trust of the community.

"The Grenfell public inquiry is not a trial, the families must come first and it is his job to hold powerful organisations to account on their behalf.

"For that reason, and for justice to be done and for it be seen to be done, Sir Martin Moore-Bick has to walk alongside the Grenfell families, he has to be on their side and he has to be absolutely fearless when it comes to what went on within the local authority, within the tenant management association and within the various contractors and subcontractors."

Mr Lammy said he was "disappointed" by the lack of community representation on the panel and repeated his belief that the terms of reference for the inquiry should have included the provision and management of social housing in the country.

He added: "We do need answers and we do need them quickly.

"Only time will tell whether Sir Martin Moore-Bick remains true to his word in not shrinking away from making recommendations that could lead to prosecution and ensuring that this inquiry provides answers to how this tragedy was allowed to happen and who is culpable."