The first phase of the Grenfell Inquiry ends tomorrow, exactly 18 months from the day of the fire. This week, there have been various summings-up and a few last minute desperate claims of innocence. For example, the head of Whirlpool (which owns Hoover) made the extraordinary claim that the fire was started not by an electrical fault in the Hoover fridge-freezer alleged to have been the cause but by someone on the 4th floor (say) dropping a cigarette which then blew into the flat below to set light to the same fridge-freezer. As has so far been typical of the Inquiry, absolutely no investigation into what might be behind this statement has been made. But here's a bit of my dot-joining thoughts on it:
- BEIS recently passed as safe both the actual model that caught fire and the product type (owned by Whirlpool) but in practice tried to hide the test report that actually shows there was/is a serious fire-risk in this product (as reported by electrical experts to the All Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group)
- BEIS obviously wants attention kept off of products that caught fire in the tower, and certainly those that are faulty like flammable furniture that isn't supposed to be
- Intertek, a test house not a group of "independent technical experts" as claimed, were commissioned by BEIS in contempt of proper procurement rules for government departments, perhaps because Intertek does a lot of testing work for white goods manufacturers
- BEIS has utterly failed to do anything about Whirlpool washing machines which keep catching fire, despite being heavily criticised by the BEIS Select Committee Chair
Which might or might not explain why the head of Whirlpool would make such a claim about a flying cig based on absolutely no evidence, rather than cite the 60+ page Intertek report that exposes his products as a fire risk (even if BEIS has lied about its findings)
Tonight, I listened to the BBC's summing-up of the Inquiry so far. They did their usual "balanced" report, claiming for example that Grenfell residents/survivors are split equally between those who think the Inquiry is doing a good job and those who don't. Really? Every resident that I've spoken to is utterly disillusioned with the Inquiry.
A few days ago, Judge Moore-Bick announced that Phase 2 won't start until the end of 2019 at the earliest, possibly into 2020, despite it originally having been scheduled for spring 2019. He puts this down to the fact the Inquiry will be releasing the 200,000 documents accumulated so far (but only to Core Participants). This "work won't be complete until Autumn next year," he says. "There is lots to do and it's likely to identify new questions . . . 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 the proceedings, once begun, can be completed within a reasonable time." (My emphasis.)
Here we see the casual but utterly deliberate establishment tried and tested tricks – the self-selected undefined timings; the false conflations; the unjustified linear assignments to tasks that could and should be running in tandem. For example, note that he calls the distribution of documents "work", when it clearly isn't: it's something that could easily have been going on simultaneously with the other work over the past 18 months. Also incredibly, in saying that when they start again they should be able to get to the really significant stuff, he is dismissing the 18 months work done so far.
Grenfell residents meanwhile are exhausted, ill and suffering from grief and stress. So far, they've seen absolutely no justice at all and precious little truth. A year is a very long time, and my gut feeling is that this is designed to kill off the residents, both as in their challenge and perhaps even to a degree literally. This is how we do things in this country: what is supposed to be an Inquiry for the benefit of the people who suffered from the fire is clearly and more or less cynically built entirely around the needs of the establishment, both industry and government.
Moore-Bick also said he was "particularly grateful" for the 307 statements received from those who have lost relatives, survivors, and local residents.
But what he's actually saying is that those statements fell into Phase 1 which is not the significant part of the Inquiry. This, believe me, will be the reason given much later in the day, couched in more subtle words of course, for why the Inquiry has done absolutely no investigative work into those statements, and challenged nothing in any of the other witness statements it has received over the past 18 months.