Grenfell Tower fire; first public inquiry

Public inquiry into London's Grenfell Tower Fire opens today

Tomorrow's inquiry will look at what caused the fire and will examine the refurbishment, the adequacy of safety regulations and the response of the authorities after the blaze.

A preliminary hearing will begin with opening remarks by inquiry chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick, a former judge of the Court of Appeal.

Speaking to reporters outside the hotel, she said that "sitting in a ballroom dripping with chandeliers says it all, actually, that we are from a different world and we are going to do this for you, little people".

He called the fire a "tragedy unprecedented in modern times" and said he and his team are acutely aware of the impact it has had on survivors, with more than twenty survivors attempting suicide since 14 June.

Many of those affected have also expressed disquiet about the fact that Moore-Bick and the other lawyers appointed to run the inquiry are all white and from establishment backgrounds, whereas the Grenfell community is largely made up of people from ethnic minorities and immigrant backgrounds.

Sir Martin paid tribute to those who died in the fire with a minute's silence during his statement, and also to the survivors of the fire, noting how numerous children who had escaped from the fire were able to sit exams within days of the tragedy.

Although evidence will not be heard on the first day, an interim report is expected by Easter 2018.

Survivors and their families will be watching events unfold on live-screens in Notting Hill Methodist Church. This decision is notable due to the criticism the ex-judge faced for excluding a wider examination of social housing policy.

But during his opening address, Sir Martin said the inquiry would address a broad range of issues, including the "motivations" for fitting the building with cladding that has been blamed for spreading the flames. "That will be an integral part of understanding how and why this fire occurred".

Labour has told Government the inquiry should not be reason to delay improvement measures to tower blocks across the country.

The inquiry chairman faced anger from the community in a series of public meetings created to help shape the terms of reference but, once these were announced, the inquiry was criticised for excluding an examination of wider social housing policy.

And seven in 10 blocks have only one staircase for evacuation, according to the shock results of a BBC Breakfast probe covering half of Britain's council and housing association-owned towers.

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