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Labour MP says Grenfell inquiry chair 'should spend a night on the 20th floor of a tower block'

3 min read

A prominent Labour MP has hit out at the appointment of an "upper middle-class, white man" without experience of life in a tower block estate to lead the Grenfell Tower inquiry.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick was announced as the chairman of the inquiry this week, but he has already said he is "doubtful" the investigation will be as wide-ranging as residents would like.

Tottenham MP David Lammy, who lost a friend in last month's fire, questioned "whose side" Sir Martin would take, suggesting he was "a part of the same establishment" as the people responsible for the disaster. 

While he acknowledged the former judge's legal expertise, Mr Lammy expressed disappointment that the Government had chosen a white man to lead such a sensitive inquiry.

He told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday: "It's a shame we couldn't find a woman to lead the inquiry or, indeed, an ethnic minority to lead the inquiry in 2017 and I think the victims will also say to themselves, when push comes to shove, there are some powerful people here - contractors, sub-contractors, local authorities, governments - and they look like this judge. Whose side will he be on?

"So, he needs to get close to those victims and survivors very, very quickly and establish that he is after the truth and he is fearless and independent and he won't be swayed because he too is a part of the establishment." 

Mr Lammy also suggested Sir Martin should spend time in a tower block himself before starting off his inquiry.

"Politicians have to always be careful of being in a critical place in relation to the judiciary, but he is a white, upper middle-class man who I suspect has never, ever visited a tower block housing estate and certainly hasn't slept a night on the 20th floor of one. I hope he will do that in the days ahead.

"The job is not just to be independent and judicious, I'm sure he's eminently legally qualified, of course he is, but is also to be empathetic and to walk with these people on this journey and to sit with them and understand that their lives were in the hands of the state and something badly, badly failed." 


Earlier this week Sir Martin said he was not sure if his inquiry would be able to satisfy the demands of residents.

"I'm well aware the residents and the local people want a much broader investigation and I can fully understand why they would want that," he said. 

"Whether my inquiry is the right way in which to achieve that I'm more doubtful and I will give that some thought and in due course make a recommendation."

Mr Lammy criticised those comments, saying: "I'm disappointed that he's expressed doubt of that kind before even meeting the survivors and victims. 

"This is not a court case there's not two sides, there are survivors and victims and it seems to me if you're leading an inquiry, you're working with them to get to the truth and you need to be looking at the terms of reference and scope of your inquiry with those people so I'm worried he's kicked off the inquiry framing it in a sort of small, tiny way."

Sir Martin has visited the Grenfell site and spoken to victims, and he also suggested there might be "other ways" to look into issues raised by victims.

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