Jeremy Corbyn: Grenfell Tower inquiry needs ethnically diverse panel to support judge

Posted On: 
17th July 2017

People from "minority backgrounds" should sit on a special panel to advise the judge leading the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster, Jeremy Corbyn has demanded.

Grenfell Tower after the blaze
Credit: 
PA Images

In a letter to Theresa May, the Labour leader said the measure was necessary in order for the nvestigaton to earn the support of residents and the families of the victims.

Retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick was chosen to head the investigation into the tower block fire which left at least 80 people dead, but the appointment has been criticised by many within the Labour party.

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Mr Corbyn has not followed some of his MPs in demanding the judge be replaced, but he has urged the Prime Minister to bring in other representatives to support the judge.

He suggested the Macpherson Inquiry into the Metropolitan Police after the murder of Stephen Lawrence – which had a three-person panel as well as the inquiry leader – as a possible model for the Grenfell investigation

In a letter to Mrs May, Mr Corbyn said: “It is important to note that effective inquiries command confidence because of both what they examine and how they are conducted.

“With this in mind, I urge you to consider broadening the inquiry team to a model more similar to that used in the Macpherson Inquiry, including with representation from those from minority backgrounds, in order to support the judge leading this inquiry.

“The importance of residents and victims’ families having full confidence in this inquiry cannot be underestimated...

“Yet, as you will be aware, for a number of residents this confidence has so far been lacking. Choosing one of the options at your disposal to introduce a range of perspectives and experiences into the inquiry will help to both build trust and deliver justice.”

Mr Corbyn’s call came in a letter setting out Labour’s proposals for the terms of reference of the inquiry.

The Opposition wants a two-part process, with the first stage looking into the immediate questions about the disaster itself, such as how the fire spread so quickly, the advice given to residents, whether previous warnings about fire safety were ignored, and the treatment of the Grenfell families afterwards.

The second stage would then have a broad remit into “matters arising from the Grenfell Tower fire” so it could look at wider issues about building regulations and housing policy, under Labour’s proposals.  

Other Labour politicians have hit out at Sir Martin, including local MP Emma Dent Coad urging him to stand aside for “someone who can understand human beings”.

“How anybody like that could have empathy for what those people have been through, I don't understand,” she added.

Chris Williamson, the Shadow Fire Minister, argued the judge should be sacked because he had delivered judgements “on the side of the establishment” in the past.

Tottenham MP David Lammy expressed regret that a “white, upper-middle class man” who had not lived in a tower block was chosen.

“It is a shame we couldn’t find a woman to lead this inquiry – or indeed an ethnic minority to lead the inquiry in 2017,” the Labour MP said.