A former cabinet minister has challenged the Grenfell inquiry not to waste time giving evidence, before they are wrong about the death toll from the disaster.
Lord Pickles, who served as Secretary of State in the then Department for Communities and Local Government between 2010 and 2015, sparked anger after advising the lead solicitor of the inquiry to ‘use your time to wisely”, because he had an extremely busy day.
Pickles said: “Of course sir, feel free to ask me as many questions as you like, but may I respectfully remind you that you promised we would be away this morning and I have changed my hours to fit into that.”
The first report of the Grenfell Inquiry revealed that lessons from the 2006 Lakanal House tower fire had not been learned at the time of the Grenfell disaster.
In response to this, Pickles said he came to the idea that a quicker response to the coroner’s recommendations in 2013 would have “made no difference”.
“It’s not about deregulation,” he added, but about the “unnamed victims” and the “96 people” who were killed. 72 people were killed in the Grenfell fire, all of whom have been named. The figure of 96 used by Pickles is the number of people who died in the Hillsborough disaster – the death of a Liverpool fan last year was ruled the 97th.
The inquiry’s chief solicitor, Richard Millett QC, said: ‘You were spectacularly out of touch with what was going on in your department. Pickles replied that it was “unusually unfair” for the attorney to say that, and that his department was “huge”.
Millett said, “Your department has always been subject to the deregulation agenda and you are now seeking to recast that narrative and downplay what was in truth your government’s enthusiasm for a deregulation agenda, which led to a complete lack of appropriate checks and balances. with regard to personal safety.
Pickles replied, “I think that would be mean.”
At the end of the hearing, the chairman of the inquiry, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, thanked him for his time, saying: “I am sorry this has interfered with your preparations for today, but there were things we had to ask you.”
Survivor group Grenfell United criticized Pickles for what it called his “utter disregard” for the victims and called for his removal from government and the House of Lords.
“His utter disregard for what happened and for those who are no longer with us is horrendous, given that he had the ability as housing minister to reform building security,” they wrote. declared.
“Eric Pickles must be removed from government and the Lords. Otherwise, the government continues to show the disregard it has always had for the safety of the people in this country.
Several UK homebuilders yesterday signed a government pledge to address fire safety issues in buildings built since 1992.
The new Building Safety Pledge commits developers to removing unsafe coatings and addressing fire safety issues on all buildings 11 meters or more tall that have been developed over the past 30 years, and to claim no funds from the Government fund for building safety.