Britain’s official equality watchdog is to launch its own review of the Grenfell Tower fire amid misgivings about the scope of a forthcoming public inquiry.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it intended to interview survivors and those affected by the disaster to assess whether authorities failed in their human rights obligations.
Whether the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC), which owned the west London block, fell short in its duty to protect life, prevent inhuman treatment and provide safe housing will likely be a key focus of the work.
Protesters outside the Grenfell Tower public inquiry (Jack Hardy/PA)
Seventy-one people died when a fire tore through the building on June 14, its spread thought to have been aided by flammable material installed during a recent refurbishment.
EHRC chairman David Isaac suggested in an interview with the Observer that he was concerned the judge-led probe ordered by the Government “currently overlooked” human rights.
Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the retired Court of Appeal judge leading the process, was criticised for omitting issues such as social housing policy from his terms of reference.
Sir Martin Moore-Bick (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
The EHRC was rejected in its application to be a core participant in the inquiry, but is expected to conclude its work by April 2018 and publish a summary of its findings complete with recommendations.
This could mean its investigation will surface ahead of Sir Martin’s interim report, which officials are concerned might not be ready by the spring, as was initially hoped.
But Mr Isaac denied that the watchdog’s work was intended to be adversarial.
He told the newspaper: “It’s to be complementary to it. We will be calling on experts, particularly legal experts, looking at the international human rights obligations, asking for submissions from a whole variety of stakeholders.
“It’s not a parallel inquiry. It’s to look at what we think is important and what’s missing from the official inquiry, which is the human rights and equalities perspective.”
The move is still likely to reignite debate about the troubled inquiry, which has been beset by criticism since its launch in June.
Most recently, a petition demanding the probe be overhauled was issued by families of around 50 victims and Grenfell United, the body set up to represent survivors.