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Grenfell Tower inquiry panel broadened in apparent U-turn

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Media captionKarim Mussilhy from the Grenfell United group welcomed the news

The government has agreed that two experts will sit with the judge investigating the Grenfell Tower fire, following pressure from campaigners.

They had called for a diverse panel to oversee proceedings, saying the inquiry risked being a “whitewash”.

Theresa May, who had earlier rejected calls for a panel, said the hearings will now have the “breadth of skills and diversity of expertise”.

Grenfell Tower inquiry panel broadened in apparent U-turn
Grenfell Tower inquiry panel broadened in apparent U-turn

The blaze in west London on 14 June last year killed 71 people.

Judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s inquiry will start taking evidence on 21 May.

Up to now he had been helped by a legal team, civil servants and three assessors in reviewing and identifying documents and relevant material.

‘Impartial and independent’

Survivors’ groups had however been urging the prime minister to bring in a panel to help oversee the hearings.

More than 156,000 people signed a petition calling for individuals from a range of backgrounds to sit alongside Sir Martin.

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Image caption The fire on 14 June last year killed 71 people

The Grenfell United group, which represents survivors and the bereaved, said the change in the government’s stance had come about after lots of hard work.

It said it would mean the inquiry could “get to the truth of why our community was not listened to when we raised concerns”.

Adel Chaoui, the Grenfell United spokesman who lost four relatives, said survivors were “relieved” by the announcement.

He added: “This panel means that the inquiry will have the expertise it needs to get to the truth of why our community was not listened to when we raised concerns, why such a dangerous refurbishment could be allowed to go ahead and all the issues that led up to that awful night.”

Karim Mussilhy, who lost an uncle, said: “We’re disappointed that we’ve had to go through all of this to get the prime minister to listen. But she has listened and we thank her for taking our consideration seriously.”

Skills and expertise

Mrs May had previously rejected calls for additional panel members, although she said this could be reviewed.

In a statement announcing the change, Mrs May said she wanted the panel to have “expertise relevant to the broad range of issues to be considered in phase two, and to best serve the increasing scale and complexity of the inquiry”.

In a letter to Sir Martin, she said: “I hope this decision will provide reassurance to victims and the survivors of the fire, the local community, and members of Grenfell United, who have been clear… that you are the right person to lead this inquiry but who also believe that, in phase two, it would be beneficial to have additional panel members”.

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Media captionMarco and Gloria as fairy tale heroes

Mrs May said she would write to Sir Martin again “once suitable panel members have been identified”.

The announcement came the day a group of people affected by the fire in North Kensington were invited to speak to Mrs May at Downing Street.

Among them was artist Damel Carayol, who lost his niece in the fire. He presented Mrs May with a print of his painting entitled Grenfell Tower: Eyesore!! Final Straw.

Image copyrightRelative Justice Humanity for Grenfell/PA
Image caption Damel Carayol presented Theresa May with a print of his painting inspired by the tragedy

Downing Street said the print would be displayed in No 10.

MPs will also hold a debate about the Grenfell fire in the Commons on Monday.

The Labour MP for Kensington, Emma Dent Coad, said Parliament would debate the appointments and the inquiry and she planned to seek clarification on the way it would operate.

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