Grenfell Tower Inquiry Ends This Week

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THE FIVE years-long inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire that claimed the lives of 72 people entered its final stage this week with closing statements from lawyers representing survivors and the bereaved.

The lawyers presented to the inquiry a ‘minimalist rogues gallery’ of organisations, key organisations and companies that were ‘grossly negligent’, ‘fraudulent’ and ‘reckless’ and urged the inquiry chair, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, to deliver ‘unstinting criticism’ of government bodies responsible for ensuring building safety.

Lawyers described the Grenfell disaster as one of the greatest failings of the politics of the ‘rolled-back state’ and condemned the ‘failure of anyone to take responsibility either then or now.’

Stephanie Barwise KC named Arconic, the US firm that made the highly combustible cladding panels used to clad the tower, as the first in the rogues gallery.

Arconic knew its plastic-filled cladding was combustible but an executive emailed colleagues telling them: ‘We have to keep this VERY CONFIDENTIAL’ – emphasis in the original.

Barwise placed responsibility for exacerbating the deadly impact of the fire on the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and its tenant management organisation.

She said that RBKC’s housing director, Laura Johnson, rejected an annual inspection of door closes in the block on the grounds of cost, despite Fire Brigades regulations requiring regular inspections.

Missing door closers on the night of the fire meant that fire and the deadly smoke responsible for many of the deaths on the top floors spread rapidly.

Barwise said: ‘This conscious cost-benefit analysis with human life as the cost was not a legitimate way for a local authority to behave.’

Putting cost-cutting before human lives was, in fact, legitimised by the Tory government under David Cameron who hailed his policy of a ‘bonfire of red tape’ – including regulations to ensure safety in tower blocks.

Adrian Williamson KC named Celotex, which made the combustible insulation along with another manufacturer Kingspan, saying they ‘were fraudulent in their sales tactics and in their dealings with those who were charged with testing and certifying the products.’

Imran Khan KC stated that greed was the key motivator and that private sector organisations involved in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower with highly combustible cladding had shown a ‘callous indifference to anything – morality, honesty, life safety – that was not related to the bottom line of the business.’

Danny Friedman KC said the inquiry had uncovered a ‘host of public service sector services in decline, including the privatisation of the management of local authority housing and the degraded function of its building control’ adding this was ‘accelerated as part of austerity politics following the global financial crash.’

All the companies implicated and guilty of turning Grenfell Tower into an incendiary fireball in June 2017 were aided and abetted by a Tory government with an ‘unbridled passion for deregulation’ to maximise profits despite the risk to lives.

All these companies, along with the Tories and the Kensington and Chelsea Council, played a role in the Grenfell Tower fire and are responsible for the deaths of 72 people.

Later this week, the companies involved will be making their final statements arguing that they are completely innocent and were only following the regulations.

One thing is certain, the companies and individuals responsible will not face justice under a Tory government and capitalist state.

In 2020 they were granted immunity from ‘self-incrimination’ – in other words, immunity from prosecution arising out of any evidence they gave to the inquiry no matter how damning.

The inquiry itself has no powers to force any of the guilty to face justice but can only make recommendations to a Tory government which itself bears responsibility for this atrocity.

Grenfell families are demanding justice, but justice will never come from a capitalist system that puts profit first and disregards completely the lives of workers and their families.

The only way to secure justice for Grenfell is for the entire working class to organise a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers’ government and establish a workers’ state that will arrest the guilty and charge them for the murder of the 72 men women and children who died in Grenfell Tower.