POLITICS

Firefighters' Union Chief Threatens To Boycott Grenfell Tower Inquiry

'If we conclude it is a pointless stitch-up, we will walk away.'

26/09/2017 10:00 BST
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The public inquiry into Grenfell Tower should be boycotted if firefighters and survivors deem it “a pointless stitch-up”, the boss of the Fire Brigades Union has said. 

Matt Wrack said his members would be prepared to walk away if the government-ordered probe into the tragedy does not go far enough in establishing how it was allowed to happen.

He told Labour Party conference delegates that “any serious inquiry” should lay bare any relevant political and policy decisions made over the last three decades that led to changes in building and safety regulations.

“We are currently participating in that inquiry, but if we conclude - and if representatives of residents and survivors and the bereaved conclude - that the whole thing is a pointless stitch-up, then actually we may conclude that we will walk away and boycott the inquiry,” he said.

“I hope that doesn’t happen but I think we need to tell the inquiry people that is where we stand.”

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Matt Wrack said the FBU will walk away from the Grenfell inquiry if they conclude it is a 'pointless stitch-up'.

Wrack, whose union disaffiliated from Labour in 2004 and returned under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, said the June blaze was “the sort of scandal on which governments should fall”.

“Grenfell Tower was an atrocity.  You struggle to find words to describe it when 80 people die in their own homes, not through war, not through terrorism but through some crime, in my view, and a crime where people must be held to account,” he said.

“They say do not politicise Grenfell, but the truth is that when we examine this we will find - and any inquiry that is genuine will find - that what led to a situation where this could happen was a whole series of decisions that probably go back 34 years.

“Decisions that altered the safety regime, decisions that altered the housing regime, the inspections regimes and enforcement regimes; a process of deregulation and supposedly cutting red tape.”

He added: “We had the previous prime minister David Cameron saying health and safety was ‘a monster that should be slain’.

“This is the kind of language we have had off these people in power, and it is political decisions that have created the regime whereby that atrocity could happen.

“There is no getting away from the fact that it is a political matter and we should not be afraid of saying it is a political matter.  It is a national political scandal.”

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He said the inquiry, which was opened earlier this month by ex-judge Martin Moore-Bick, should order current and former government ministers, as well as firefighters who dealt with the tragedy, to give evidence.

″[They should be] cross-examined on what decisions they took, who gave them the advice, why they took it, who signed off the change in the regulations and who signed off the different policies they have introduced over the years,” he added.

Wrack said serious questions also needed to be asked about the capability of fire brigades across the country of dealing with repeat incidents.

“London sent 250 firefighters to the scene.

“There is not a service in the UK that could provide that level of response.

“For example, Plymouth has tower blocks that failed the [safety] tests.  They have some night duties where they have 18 firefighters on duty.  So clearly they could not have responded in the way London did.”

Independent assessors were appointed to the inquiry last week and Moor-Bick insisted they would have the necessary experience.

During the opening hearing, he said the examination “will provide answers to the pressing questions as to how a disaster of this kind could occur in 21st century London”.