Final day of inquiry sessions after four years of hearings

Many firms giving evidence at the Grenfell Inquiry have indulged in a “merry-go-round” of “buck-passing” to protect their own legal position, the counsel for the inquiry has said in his closing remarks.


Richard Millett counsel for the inquiry

Richard Millett, counsel for the inquiry, was the final speaker to give a statement to the inquiry yesterday after more than four years of hearings.

Millett said it was “regrettable” that many of those responsible for the building and the building environment being as it was on the night of the fire “sought to exculpate themselves and to pin the blame on others”.

Millett, said: “Many core participants have adopted a particular technique; namely, the deflection of criticism by reference to causative relevance, and then, in turn, to take a narrow and technical approach to causative relevance in order to escape blame for the fire and the ensuing deaths, but then to blame others without any regard necessarily to causative impact.”

Millett used Celotex as an example. The insulation manufacturer has admitted that its marketing literature for its RS5000 product used on the tower concealed the “existence of the layer of magnesium oxide” added to fire safety tests, said Millett.

However the firm then blamed “the professionals in the design team for not reading the marketing leaflets in full in order to ensure that the system being fitted at Grenfell Tower would be identical to that tested,” Millett said.

He said: “So is Celotex blaming the professionals for their failure to read Celotex’s misleading document?”

Millett presented a “web of blame” graphic (see below) showing which companies are blaming others for the tragedy, which killed 72 people in June 2017.

web of blame grenfell

Millett said: “A tragedy of these dimensions ought to have provoked a strong sense of public responsibility.

“Instead, many − not all, many − core participants appear simply to have used the inquiry as an opportunity to position themselves for any legal proceedings which might or might not follow in order to minimise their own exposure to legal liability.”

>>See also: Celotex says ‘misdescribed’ test result had no bearing on use of its product

>>See also: Cladding company Arconic attacks ‘agenda’ against it

>>See also: Rydon says its ‘not passing the buck at Grenfell Inquiry’

Also giving closing statements on the final day was Jason Beer, giving evidence for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). Beer said the DLUHC apologises for “its failure to ensure effective whole-system oversight of the regulatory and compliance regime”.

He added: “The department recognises that it failed to appreciate that it held an important stewardship role over the regime and that, as a result, it failed to grasp the opportunities to assess whether the system was working as intended.”

Fire engineer Exova also gave a statement. The firm was earlier this week included in a “rogues gallery” of firms responsible for the tragedy by a lawyer for a Grenfell bereaved families group, who said it “ought to have produced a fire strategy which explained how the functional requirements for the external wall were to be met”.

However, Sean Barrington, representing Exova, challenged this. He said: “It cannot be correct in particular that Exova, who was not part of the post-contract design team, and who nobody at the time regarded as being a part of that team, and who nobody at the time told that these decisions either were being made or had been made, should be lumped together in lists with those of who share all those characteristics.”

Inquiry chair Martin Moore-Bick will now write the final report, which is expected later next year. Criminal proceedings by the Met Police may follow after that.