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Grenfell Tower probe may be too narrow for blaze survivors, admits inquiry chief

The judge hailed the meeting with survivors as “very useful” and expressed optimism that an interim report could be produced within a year.

The judge leading the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire has expressed doubt that the probe will be broad enough to satisfy all survivors.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick travelled to the site of the disaster in north Kensington on Thursday morning, later meeting those who escaped the inferno.

Afterwards, he said: “I’ve been asked to undertake this inquiry on the basis that it would be pretty well limited to the problems surrounding the start of the fire and its rapid development in order to make recommendations about how this sort of thing can be prevented in future.

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“I’m well aware the residents and the local people want a much broader investigation and I can fully understand why they would want that – whether my inquiry is the right way in which to achieve that I’m more doubtful.”

Referring to a more wide-reaching examination of the Grenfell blaze, Sir Martin said: “I will give that some thought and in due course give a recommendation, but there may be other ways in which the desire for that investigation could be satisfied.”

The judge hailed the meeting with survivors as “very useful” and expressed optimism that an interim report could be produced within a year.

Calls had been made for initial findings into the cause of the fire to be published amid mounting concerns that the inquiry could take years.

On the report, he said: “I think it could be very challenging for two reasons. First, we don’t know exactly how much material there will be to collect – I suspect quite a lot, and it’ll have to be digested so we can come to sound conclusions, albeit as quickly as we can.

“I think it’s impossible to say how long it’s going to take; I have said on other occasions a matter of months, some people have talked about two or three months. I don’t think that’s realistic; on the other hand I would be very disappointed if we couldn’t get a preliminary report out in under a year.

“I would rather not say with any precision now when that is likely to be.

“I would hope to be able to answer the basic factual questions such as how did the fire start, how did it spread, how was it able to engulf the building in such speed and also questions such as what internal precautions there were, what steps were available for alerting residents and allowing them to escape.”

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He added: “From my brief meetings with the residents of the tower and local people, it’s quite clear many of them will have evidence to give which will be of great value to the inquiry.”

The judge also addressed concerns that his ruling on a housing case in November 2014 would cause issues for the inquiry.

In the proceedings he had sided with Westminster City Council’s decision that mother-of-five Titina Nzolameso should be rehoused 50 miles (80km) away.

His ruling was later overturned in the Supreme Court.

With permanent accommodation for the Grenfell Tower residents being an urgent concern, there were fears that his involvement in the case could inflame sensitivities.

Sir Martin said: “I was rather surprised to see myself described as controversial. The case is one of many that I have decided over my time as a judge. I have been a judge for over 20 years and, particularly in the Court of Appeal, one deals with an enormous range of work, much of which involves local government or central government.”

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