Grenfell inquiry: justice denied

In March 2019, Scotland Yard announced that it did not anticipate bringing any criminal charges in relation to the Grenfell fire until 2021. The fire, on 14 June 2017, killed 72 people and razed Grenfell Tower in west London to the ground. The announcement follows the decision by the Grenfell Inquiry chair, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, to delay the second phase of the investigation to 2020 at the earliest. It is clear, as FRFI has repeatedly stated, that the inquiry itself is a sham, designed to let those responsible for deaths at Grenfell off the hook – including the local council, the contractors, the housing management organisation, the architects and their suppliers – by delaying the demand for justice for so long that it becomes meaningless.

Moore-Bick has offered a life-line to companies like Rydon, the contractors who led the lethal refurbishment of Grenfell Tower in 2014-2016 and allowed a toxic and flammable combination of cladding and insulation to be used on the 24-storey block. Rydon was due to submit a preliminary statement at the end of the first phase of the inquiry in December 2018 but withdrew at the last minute; it now has plenty of time to get its arguments together. Not that it appears worried about the outcome of the inquiry: its profits rose to £20m last year. In an early indication of the pass-the-parcel game of blame that is likely to ensue when the companies and institutions involved give evidence, Rydon said it saw no need to make provision for any eventual pay-out to victims, ‘given the limited nature of the work commissioned, the approvals received in relation to it and the interrelationship with work undertaken by other parties.’

Meanwhile, it is clear that Kensington and Chelsea council – which bore ultimate responsibility for the welfare of tenants at Grenfell – is also feeling pretty comfortable. It has emerged that last summer it awarded bonuses of £93,174 to just 12 members of its senior management team – nearly £8,000 per employee – and £131,800 to 52 of its housing team. This despite the fact that 67 Grenfell households remain without a permanent home.

In March 2019, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission published the results of its own inquiry into the fire. It found that ‘local authorities and public services failed in their human rights obligations to protect life and provide safe housing’ and said the failures should be addressed immediately, without waiting for any conclusions from the inquiry, to prevent any future such disaster. They are quite right. Across Britain, working class people continue to live in homes that pose serious fire risks. Yet government figures released in March show that cladding is only being removed at a rate of about six blocks a month, many residents of the 354 affected tower blocks across the country face living in a potential fire-trap for at least the next five years.

The Grenfell inquiry and criminal investigation are designed to fail the people of Grenfell. As Shah Ahmed, one of the survivors, said: ‘They are not asking the right questions…This inquiry is a lawyer’s argument when the arguments of the bereaved, survivors and residents should prevail.’ But the very process is deliberately one of covering up the real issues and sidelining not just the victims but anyone who wants the truth about Grenfell to be known and the guilty to be brought to justice. Only a movement that refuses to be fobbed off with crumbs of appeasement from the British state can achieve that. That means criminal charges now.

The RCG is organising a protest outside Kensington and Chelsea Town hall on Wednesday 26 June, more than two years after the fire to continue to demand:

Cat Wiener

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 269 April/May 2019