Jeremy Corbyn has said he is deeply concerned that the Grenfell fire inquiry will not examine the wider implications of social housing policy and urged Theresa May to look again at the terms of reference.
The inquiry’s terms of reference, published last week, mean it will not look at the social and political conditions around the blaze, including the provision and state of social housing in the UK.
Theresa May and the former court of appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, who will chair the inquiry, were criticised by Emma Dent Coad, the MP for Kensington, where the tower is located, and the head of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) for the perceived failure to look at the context of the devastating fire in west London, in which at least 80 people died.
Following the publication of the terms, Corbyn wrote to the prime minister calling for further action.
In his letter, the Labour leader said there was a fear that the inquiry’s “priority is to avoid criticism” for policy issues “rather than secure justice for Grenfell survivors”.
“I am deeply concerned by the decision to exclude the broader social and political issues raised by the fire from the terms of reference of the inquiry,” he wrote.
“The fire has raised profound concerns about the way that social housing is provided and managed in this country, and I as well as many survivors worry that without a wider focus, the inquiry will fail to get fully to grips with the causes of the fire.”
After the terms were published, May said the wider implications of the fire on social housing policy would be examined separately by the housing minister, Alok Sharma. Corbyn said May must “immediately set out a clear, independent and thorough process for identifying and addressing the broader failings that led to the Grenfell fire”.
He also said he would be seeking assurances that Moore-Bick’s assessors “will include people from minority backgrounds in order to introduce a broader range of experiences and perspectives into the inquiry, as many residents have demanded”.
Corbyn also urged May to “grant indefinite right to remain in the UK to all survivors who need it”. Moore-Bick hinted last week that he believed the current 12-month amnesty for residents whose immigration status was unclear was insufficient.
Earlier this week, Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the FBU, said he believed the narrow scope of the inquiry would leave vital questions unanswered. Moore-Bick will examine the immediate causes of the fire and its spread, the design and refurbishment of the tower, and the regulations and fire safety measures in place.
He will also review Kensington and Chelsea council’s reaction to similar emergencies, the actions of the London fire brigade and the responses of central and local government.
Moore-Bick told May that any examination of broader issues was “not suitable for a judge-led inquiry”, but Wrack said it was not “remotely possible to seriously examine the causes, spread and results of the fire without examining ‘social, economic and political’ matters”.