Grenfell Tower inquiry beginning to look like a stitch-up – MP
Emma Dent Coad wants core participant status at the probe for herself and other Labour councillors.
The Grenfell Tower public inquiry is beginning to look like a stitch-up, Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad has said.
The MP made the claim because she and other Labour members of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council have not been granted core participant status in the investigation headed by Sir Martin Moore-Bick.
Labour councillors have complained there is a “clear conflict of interest” if they are represented at the inquiry by lawyers acting for the Tory run authority.
At present the Labour councillors have core participant status under the general heading given to the council as a whole.
Asked if she thought the inquiry was a “stitch-up” because of this, Ms Dent Coad said: “It’s beginning to look like that. We are feeling marginalised and neutralised. That’s not good.
“I really object to being represented by the lawyers of a discredited organisation which is under criminal investigation.”
Labour leader on the council Robert Atkinson said: “We will be witnesses for the prosecution. We will be hostile witnesses. And yet we are being forced to share council representation for the defence.”
Mr Atkinson said that if Labour had the same representation at the inquiry as the rest of the council “there will be guilt by association”.
Ms Dent Coad, who is also a councillor and said she lost friends in the tragedy, added: “This is not an issue of joint enterprise. We did not stand by and let something happen in front of our eyes. We have been fighting for years on this and this is why we cannot let the lawyers of this discredited organisation represent us.”
Councillor Pat Mason said the inquiry had “less and less credibility on the ground”, adding: “We don’t believe the inquiry is credible either. We don’t believe that it’s a fair process. If you are excluding people and using obscure rules in the Public Inquiry Act to block out evidence, then you are not going to get all the evidence.”
John Cooper QC, who is representing the Labour group on the council, said core participant status would mean having full disclosure and being able to question witnesses.
Mr Cooper said: “If we do not get core participation status in this inquiry, then I’m very convinced at the moment justice will not be done.”
The public inquiry into the tragedy which claimed 71 lives last June has proved controversial.
More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to take action to build public trust in the probe.