'Extremely Busy' Ex-Tory Minister Gets Number Of Grenfell Dead Wrong

"I have changed my schedules to fit this in," Lord Eric Pickles told the Grenfell inquiry.
Former communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles.
Former communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles.
Anthony Devlin via Getty Images

A former cabinet minister has got the number of people who died in the Grenfell Tower fire wrong and told the inquiry not to waste his time.

Lord Eric Pickles said that 96 people had died in the fire when he gave evidence to the official inquiry on Thursday.

However, the devastating blaze in west London actually killed 72 people in June 2017.

Pickles, who was communities secretary until May 2015, might have muddled up the number with the 96 people originally thought to have died in the Hillsborough disaster.

Earlier in the day, Pickles appeared to become frustrated by how much of his time the inquiry was taking up.

He told lead counsel to the inquiry Richard Millett QC: “By all means sir, feel free to ask me as many questions as you like, but could I respectfully remind you that you did promise that we would be away this morning and I have changed my schedules to fit this in.

“I do have an extremely busy day. But this is more important than anything, but I would urge you to use your time wisely.”

Millett replied: “Right, may I please have an answer to my question?”

However, later in the session Pickles apologised if he “seemed discourteous” and said he decided to cancel everything, adding: “This is more important than anything I’m doing.”

Pickles, who was chairman of the Conservative Party from 2009 to 2010, muddled up the number of dead at the end of his evidence when asked if there was anything he would have done differently.

He referred to the coroner’s recommendations following the 2006 Lakanal House fire in Camberwell which killed six people and injured 20 more.

The initial report from the Grenfell Inquiry found that lessons from the Lakanal fire had not been learned by the time of the Grenfell tragedy eight years later.

The former MP for Brentwood and Ongar went on to say the inquiry should not lose sight that “this isn’t about deregulation” and that it was about the “nameless” victims of Grenfell.

Seventy-two victims of the Grenfell Tower fire have been named and accounted for.

“It comes down to Michelle [Udoaka who died in the Lakanal blaze] and to the nameless 96 people who were killed in the Grenfell fire,” Pickles said.

“It’s them who we should think about when we’re arguing the toss. Ultimately, as I’ve said earlier, the dead deserve the dignity of being remembered by name and the dead deserve the dignity of a solution. And I am sure you will come to that.”


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