An MP has urged Theresa May to stop the Grenfell inquiry from being “distant and unresponsive” by appointing a panel of people from the community to help its chair.
Ahead a memorial to mark six months since the tragedy, Labour MP David Lammy added his voice to calls for the inquiry to be assisted by a panel of people from the community, after lawyers spent two days this week arguing over how survivors and families of those who died in the June 14 blaze, which killed 71 people, be heard.
Lammy’s intervention comes as the council leader Elizabeth Campbell revealed she had never met the prime minister and a campaign group called for the prime minister to stay away from a memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral on Thursday.
Lawyers argued for a panel to be appointed during two days of procedural hearings earlier this week, the inquiry’s first, and its chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick is now reflecting on what was said to respond.
But it is ultimately the prime minister’s decision whether to appoint a panel, as she herself called the inquiry.
“It has been made clear to me that the state has failed to regain the trust of the survivors, the families of the victims and the wider community,” Lammy wrote to May.
“The Public Inquiry has yet to gain the confidence of these individuals, who believe that it is being carried out in a manner that feels distant, unresponsive to and detached from their concerns.”
Lammy also called for the inquiry to be “human and empathetic” by following the model of the Hillsborough Inquiry, which saw those bereaved by the 1989 stadium disaster come to give evidence about their loved ones.
He added: “I have experienced first-hand the grief, anger and frustration of the Grenfell survivors, victims’ families and the wider community in North Kensington over the course of the last six months.
“The inquiry must leave no stone unturned and pull no punches in getting to the truth and holding those responsible to account for this tragedy in the pursuit of the justice that these people need and must receive.”
Human rights lawyer Michael Mansfield, who is representing survivors and relatives of those who died in the blaze, told the inquiry that two or four panellists should be appointed alongside Moore-Bick to form a decision-making panel.
He said at least one panellist should have “an expertise or a reflection of the community”.
Mansfield called this a “watershed opportunity” to repair the “process which has become disengaged”.
He added: “Whether it is by oversight or any other reason, there is a distinct feeling, today, that they have not - that is those people most affected - been included.
“So the restoration of public confidence generally and the restoration of confidence by those most affected, as claimed by the Prime Minister, are yet to be fully engaged.”
But Moore-Bick raised the possibility of a panel that merely advised the chair.
He said at the end of Tuesday’s hearing he would respond in writing to the arguments he heard. No date is yet set for the next hearing.
Meanwhile, Jody Bolton, a director of Justice4Grenfell, said May would be an unwelcome presence at tomorrow’s service.
She told The Telegraph: “We should be prepared that she will not be a welcome face because of the contempt with which her and her Cabinet have treated the survivors of Grenfell.”
Conservative councillors, including Kensington & Chelsea Borough Council leader Elizabeth Campbell, have been asked by families not to attend the service at St Paul’s, amid questions over the council’s role in failing to prevent the blaze.
Campbell, who took over after her predecessor resign amid the council’s heavily-criticised response to the fire, said she had not ever actually met May.
She told LBC: “I haven’t met Theresa May, no not at all. But she’s called me.
“I suspect Theresa May has also got other things on her plate.
“She meets with survivors and victims and I know she has a regular line to them, they come and see her in Downing Street.”