Sunday, 30 July 2017

Inquiries ~ some updates

Grenfell Tower Update:

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry continues to consult regarding the Terms of Reference.  The consultation period was extended to 4th August 2017 - Grenfell Tower Inquiry website.   The "Inquiry Team" has been appointed. Richard Millett QC is Counsel to the Inquiry.  He has extensive experience of handling complex commercial disputes in a range of specialist areas, with an emphasis on advocacy in court, arbitration and other tribunals. Mr Millett will be assisted by Bernard Richmond QC and Kate Grange QC.

The Department for Communities and Local Government is publishing information about developments relating to Grenfell Tower - HERE.   One important development is that the government has set up a review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.  The first results from large scale tests of building cladding systems have also been published. The latest tests simulate a tall building and allow experts to understand better how different types of cladding panels behave with different types of insulation in a fire.  See BBC News - 60 Blocks fail new fire test.

A project to refurbish Grenfell Tower was completed in May 2016 and the work included the external cladding - see this announcement by Rydon - "Rydon has completed the refurbishment to Grenfell Tower for Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), upgrading the 24-storey 1970s building as part of a £67m borough-wide regeneration.  The £10m project included extensive remodelling of the bottom four floors creating nine additional new homes, improved communal facilities for the residents, and improved spaces for two local businesses. Externally, rain screen cladding, replacement windows and curtain wall façades have been fitted giving the building a fresher, modern look. All of the remodelling & refurbishment works were completed with residents still in occupation on the upper twenty floors."

It has been reported that the Metropolitan Police Service has said that there are "reasonable grounds" to suspect that CORPORATE manslaughter may have been committed - BBC News 27th July.  This has been confirmed in a brief statement issued by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation Ltd (KCTMO) and also in a statement by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea - HERE.

At least one MP - Emma Dent Coad MP - is claiming that Kensington and Chelsea Councillors involved in the refurbishment cannot remain in their roles - Independent 28th July.  In 2006 Dent Coad became a Councillor in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.  She was a council appointed member of KCTMO from 27th June 2008 until 31st October 2012.  In June 2017 she was elected to Parliament as MP for Kensington.

Previous posts related to Grenfell Tower are:

Contaminated Blood:

On 11th July, the Prime Minister announced that there would be an inquiry into how contaminated blood infected thousands of people with Hepatitis C and HIV during the 1970s and 80s - Government announcement 11th July and The Guardian 11th July.  As things currently stand, The Department of Health (DoH) is the sponsoring department for the inquiry and are leading on the establishment of the inquiry including the consultation on its scope and form.   The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health Jackie Doyle-Price faced questions from MPs in the House of Commons on Thursday 20 July 2017 mainly focusing on the involvement of the Department for Health into the inquiry. Ms Doyle-Price told MPs that the government has made no final decision on the scope or format of the inquiry, or its leadership. However, she said that it is normal practice for public inquiries to be sponsored by the relevant department.

The former bishop of Liverpool who chaired the Hillsborough Independent Panel has been drafted in to help save the contaminated blood inquiry, which is being boycotted by hundreds of victims infected with HIV and hepatitis C. The Right Rev James Jones has been asked to break the stalemate by hosting talks with victims.  They were given contaminated blood by the NHS and they lack trust in the Department of Health (DH) to set up an independent investigation - The Guardian 26th July 2017.

Leigh Day Solicitors 24th July 2017 said - "The whole process from the initial consultation stage until the end of the inquiry must be open and transparent and must be seen to be open, transparent and unbiased.  Having DoH leading, even during the dialogue stage, will not achieve this.  The whole process must have the total confidence of those affected from start to finish in order to provide a proper investigation into this scandal.   It is vital that an independent government department is put in charge of the inquiry as soon as possible.”

An ex gratia payment scheme is in place and was reformed in 2016.  A man who was infected with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) from contaminated NHS blood was granted permission on 30th January by the High Court to bring judicial review proceedings in relation to the government’s discretionary payment scheme.  He considers that scheme is discriminatory because those infected with HCV are paid less that those who contracted HIV from the blood - see Leigh Day Solicitors 15th February 2017.

See also House of Commons Briefing - HIV and Hepatitis C infection - 13th July 2011

Undercover Policing:

In March 2015 an Inquiry into Undercover Policing was set up under the chairmanship of Sir Christopher Pitchford.  Sir Christopher has been replaced by Sir John Mitting - Press Notice 26th July 2017 and the inquiry continues.

Previous post 23rd March 2016.

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse:

This Inquiry is also continuing - website.  It has very wide terms of reference.  It is likely to be on-going until around the end of 2020 - Telegraph 17th October 2016

Research Briefing - Inquests and Public Inquiries

Research Briefing - Non-statutory commissions of inquiry

Institute for Government - July 2016 - The role of Public Inquiries

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