WITNESSES from the firms responsible for creating a death trap at Grenfell Tower are to be granted immunity from prosecution arising out of any evidence they give to the inquiry into the tragedy that killed 72 people.
The immunity from ‘self incrimination’ extends not just to the companies involved in installing and making the cladding known beforehand to be a deadly fire hazard but to the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO), the private company paid by the council to run and maintain Grenfell Tower.
Immunity was granted by the newly appointed Tory attorney general Suella Braverman following a request from the inquiry’s chairman.
This followed the threat by corporate witnesses to refuse to give evidence to the inquiry. Instead they demanded that as individuals they be granted total immunity from prosecution for any crimes they admit to.
Already certain individuals and the companies they work for have been incriminated by early statements and the revelations in documents uncovered previously, and now they have been granted total immunity in exchange for their continued ‘cooperation’ with the inquiry.
Braverman in her letter to the inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick wrote: ‘The undertaking I am providing to the inquiry means it can continue to take evidence from witnesses who otherwise would likely refuse to answer questions.’
Since when has a refusal to answer questions before any court on the grounds of self-incrimination been grounds for granting immunity?
In fact Braverman’s letter clearly demonstrates that the Tories and the inquiry are determined that no individual will be held responsible for the criminal act of cladding a tower block in highly flammable material in order to save money. No one will face jail time for the wanton disregard for the lives of workers and their families in the pursuit of profit.
Michael Mansfield QC representing Grenfell victims had previously denounced the demand for immunity as ‘abhorrent’ and accused the corporate witnesses of trying to ‘dictate the terms in which they will provide their assistance’.
Stephanie Barwise QC who represents another group of victims said that the timing of the demands was ‘highly disingenuous and bears all the hallmarks of sabotage of this inquiry’.
In fact, far from impeding the progress of the inquiry there is already overwhelming evidence placed before it that the main designers and the contractors who installed the cladding had predicted two years before the inferno that the cladding was a deadly fire risk.
It has already heard evidence that the US multi-billion conglomerate, Arconic, knew in 2011 that its panels used as cladding were ‘not suitable for use on building facades’ and failed fire safety tests.
It has heard evidence that Grenfell Tower was turned into a ‘death trap’ with the company Rydon using these cheap panels and doing a shoddy job leaving gaps between the window frames and cladding that enabled the fire to sweep the block. Now the Tory attorney general has ruled that those really responsible have immunity under the law.
The entire Grenfell inquiry was a sham from the start designed to divert blame away from the real criminals – the Tory Kensington and Chelsea council, the TMO who put the lethal cladding up and Rydon the company that did the refurbishment.
In the dock with these criminals is the Tory government that closed down ten fire stations in London, slashed 552 firefighters’ jobs and axed 14 fire engines in the city. A Tory government that just months before Grenfell boasted about how fire regulations in housing had been slashed in their drive to abolish a ‘health and safety culture’ that harmed ‘money-making businesses’.
Grenfell was not an accident.It was the inevitable result of a Tory government working hand in glove with these companies to make a profit out of building deathtraps for workers and their families.
Only by the working class mobilising its massive strength by calling a general strike to kick out the Tories and bringing in a workers’ government that will expropriate all industry along with the banks and advance to a socialist society will justice be obtained and the real criminals arrested and charged with murder.