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Pressure grows on Grenfell inquiry judge as Labour frontbencher calls on him to quit

Pressure grows on Grenfell inquiry judge as Labour frontbencher calls on him to quit

Agnes Chambre

4 min read

A Labour frontbencher has called for the retired judge appointed to lead the Grenfell Tower inquiry to quit.


Shadow Fire Minister Chris Williamson said Sir Martin Moore-Bick should step down or the Government should fire him – though Labour has made clear that view is not shared by Jeremy Corbyn.

Sir Martin has faced criticism from campaigners after he said the scope of his investigation into the disaster would be “limited to the problems surrounding the start of the fire and its rapid development”.

He has also faced questions about a ruling he made in favour of Westminster Council rehousing a tenant 50 miles from her previous home – a decision that was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court.

The Government has defended the former judge, and said his reputation was being “impugned”.

But Mr Williamson told Radio 4’s World at One the circumstances should disqualify him from leading the public inquiry.

“I’m concerned about the breadth of this inquiry. An inquiry that doesn’t [look at] why multiple warnings were ignored, especially after the deadly Lakanal fire, it isn’t frankly good enough.

“If you look at his record it does seem that there have been one or two cases where he has tended to come down when he’s made his judgements on the side of the establishment and it’s been has been overturned in the Supreme Court on that basis...

“I think he should step down and if he isn’t prepared to do that then the Government needs to sack him and find somebody else.”

The Derby North MP added: “I think what is important for the Government to do is canvass the views of the survivors, had they done that in the first place then grievances would have been aired earlier and then we wouldn’t be in the situation now where the Government is going to have to back down. I hope they will back down and listen to residents.”

Elsewhere in the interview, he agreed with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell that the victims of Grenfell had been “murdered”.

Mr McDonnell made the controversial comments during a fringe event at Glastonbury festival last weekend.

Several backbench Labour MPs subsequently criticised the remarks, while Shadow Housing Minister John Healey also distanced himself from the language used.

But today when Mr Williamson was asked if he agreed with Mr McDonnell, he said: “I do. It’s a problem which dates back three or four decades now where public services have been used as a cash cow, an opportunity to make money from the private sector and we've got to move away from that.”

GROWING PRESSURE

Mr Williamson's comments mount more pressure on Sir Martin after fellow Labour MPs David Lammy and Emma Dent Coad also called for him to be removed.

Ms Dent Coad, the newly elected Kensington MP, said: "How anybody like that could have any empathy for what these people have been through, I just don't understand. I don't think he has really, I mean his record, we need someone we can trust there.”

However, Labour's official policy is not to demand Sir Martin's resignation.

A party source said: “Jeremy Corbyn has not called for him to go, but has called for a two-part inquiry, transparency and the full involvement of residents.”

THEIR MOTIVES AND INTEGRITY SHOULD ALWAYS BE RESPECTED’

Meanwhile, Conservative MP and former Attorney General Dominic Grieve defended Sir Martin’s appointment, telling Radio 4 he had “all the necessary qualifications”.

Mr Grieve added: “I have absolutely no doubt in my mind he will be able to do a very good and thorough and impartial job. It has been mentioned about the remit of his inquiry, but of course, he doesn’t set the remit, he can’t be criticised. If the remit is not wide enough then that’s something that has to be considered separately.”

David Lidington, the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, also backed Sir Martin. 

“Our judiciary is respected the world over as fair, free from improper influence, and truly independent from government and Parliament,” he said in a statement.

“As Lord Chancellor, I am clear that their motives and integrity should always be respected and not impugned by politicians.

“I have complete confidence that Sir Martin Moore-Bick will lead the inquiry into this tragedy with impartiality and with a determination to get to the truth and see justice done.”

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