The Grenfell Inquiry, Phase Two: Some background

On Monday 27th January, phase 2 of the Grenfell Inquiry began. During the first week an application was made by some Core Participants and witnesses for privilege from self-incrimination. This was granted by the Attorney General and hearings are due to begin on the 2nd March.

Some background on the Inquiry and the granting of privilege are provided below.

Grenfell Tower Inquiry: Overview

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry was divided into two phases. Very broadly, Phase 1 looked at what happened on the night and Phase 2 will look at how and why it happened.

Scope of the Inquiry

The Inquiry’s Terms of Reference are:

1. To examine the circumstances surrounding the fire at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017, including:

(a) the immediate cause or causes of the fire and the means by which it spread to the whole of the building;

(b) the design and construction of the building and the decisions relating to its modification, refurbishment and management;

(c) the scope and adequacy of building regulations, fire regulations and other legislation, guidance and industry practice relating to the design, construction, equipping and management of high-rise residential buildings;

(d) whether such regulations, legislation, guidance and industry practice were complied with in the case of Grenfell Tower and the fire safety measures adopted in relation to it;

(e) the arrangements made by the local authority or other responsible bodies for receiving and acting upon information either obtained from local residents or available from other sources (including information derived from fires in other buildings) relating to the risk of fire at Grenfell Tower, and the action taken in response to such information;

(f) the fire prevention and fire safety measures in place at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017;

(g) the response of the London Fire Brigade to the fire; and

(h) the response of central and local government in the days immediately following the fire;


2. To report its findings to the Prime Minister as soon as possible and to make recommendations.

Some feel that the Terms of Reference are not broad enough. The detailed list begins with the following General Note: ‘This list is intended as a guide to the issues on which the Inquiry’s investigations will focus. It is not a prescriptive list and is not to be understood as a pleading or statement of case. The Inquiry’s investigations may uncover the need to address further issues within its terms of reference but not contained in this list. Accordingly, the issues in this list may be subject to revision during the course of the Inquiry.’

The first hearing in Phase 1 opened on 14 September 2017, with the Phase 1 Report published on the 30th October 2019.

Grenfell Inquiry Phase 1 Report

Phase 1 found that the cladding failed to comply with Requirement B4(1) of Schedule 1 to the Building Regulations 2010, in that they did not adequately resist the spread of fire having regard to the height, use and position of the building. On the contrary, they actively promoted it. This is an important finding as Phase 2 will focus on why and how it ended up on the building.

The report was critical of the preparation and response of the London Fire Brigade and made several recommendations, including:

  • Owners and managers of high-rise residential buildings should have certain legal obligations, including: providing local emergency services with information about the construction of the external walls of their building and their key fire safety systems; carrying out regular inspections of lifts and fire doors; and providing residents fire safety instructions that they can reasonably be expected to understand. 
  • Improvements in the training of all personnel of fire and rescue services, to ensure they know the risk of fire taking hold in such external walls. 
  • Improvements in the LFB’s policies and training for the control room, to ensure better handling of larger volumes of calls, as well as improving communication between the control room and incident ground. 
  • The government should develop national guidelines for carrying out evacuations of high-rise residential buildings.

The governments response to the recommendations was published in January 2020.

Phase 2: Opening Statements

During the first week of the Inquiry many of the corporate core participants presented their opening statements. These can be viewed in full here. The following graphic depicts brilliantly the buck-passing we are witnessing in complex supply chain attempting to defer liability.

Grenfell Tower Supply Chain

At the last minute, a number of core participants and witnesses asked for privilege from self-incrimination which delayed hearings. They will begin again on the 2nd March after a month’s delay.

Privilege against self-incrimination

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry hearings were delayed as, on the 27th January, an application was made by some core participants and witnesses for protection from oral evidence being used against them in any further prosecution.

This was widely and inaccurately reported as immunity from prosecution which is inaccurate. It is fairly common to grant such protection in public inquiries, what was unusual was the timing.

The Chair, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, made an application to the Attorney General to grant this privilege both to individuals and certain organisations as in his view some of the organisations were too small to be separated from individuals (in my own words).

In another bizarre twist that left the bereaved and survivors waiting, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in a cabinet reshuffle, sacked Geoffrey Cox and named a new attorney general – Suella Braverman. On 26th February she made the decision to grant privilege to individuals but not organisations.

The following fact sheet was also published setting out what granting privilege means.

Grenfell Inquiry: Phase 2 Modules

Phase 2 will begin on Monday 27th January 2020 and is expected to continue into 2021. It will be located the ground floor of 13 Bishop’s Bridge Road, London, W2 6BU.

As at 21 January 2020, the Inquiry has received over 757,300 documents from material providers and BSRs, and has disclosed 20,753 documents over in Phase 1 and 93,206 documents in Phase 2. There are 606 individual Core Participants and 34 organisations. It is arguably the most complex Inquiry every undertaken.

The following modules will be considered.

Grenfell Inquiry: Key Players

Public bodies

  • RBKC – Local authority
  • London Police
  • Cabinet Office
  • Home Office
  • MHCLG – Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government
  • BRE – British
  • Mayor of London


KCTMO – Tenant Management Organisation – ALMO set up to manage properties for RBKC

Trade Unions

  • Fire Brigade Union
  • Fire Officers Association


There was a complex contractor and sub-contractor web for the refurbishment. Key players include:

  • Aluglaze – Window infill panels
  • Arconic Architectural Products SAS – Aluminium Composite panel manufacturer
  • Artelia Projects UK – Project Managers
  • Babcock – LFB training provider
  • Cadent Gas – Gas works
  • Celotex – Cladding insulation
  • CEP Architectural Facades – Supplied ACM Panels and windows
  • C S Stokes and Associates – Fire assessment
  • Curtins Consulting – Consultants
  • Exova UK – Fire Strategy and Materials testing
  • Harley Facades – Installed cladding
  • Kingspan Insulation Ltd – Cladding Insulation
  • J S Wright & Co Limited – Ventilation
  • Max Fordham – Building services engineer
  • Osborne Berry Installations – Glaziers
  • PSB UK – Ventilation systems installer
  • Rydon Maintenance – Contractor ‘Design and Build’
  • Siderise Insulation – Cavity Barriers
  • Studio E Architects – Architects
  • TrIIO – Gas supplier (part–owned by Skanska)
  • Thames Water Utilities – Utility company
  • Whirlpool Corporation – Appliance manufacturer

A list of the core participants can be found here.

The Grenfell Tower fire – what happened

The fire was a result of complex set of failures. The blog below summarises the expert evidence about what happened on the 14th June 2017.

The Grenfell Tower Fire: The context

The following are links to articles, threads that provide background about both the fire and the context. Inside Housing and journalist Peter Apps in particular have consistently provided detailed analysis and background of the fire. The links in the headings provide access to the digital publications (which are behind a registration wall)

What was known about cladding in central government

Testing and Certification

The decision to use the cladding

Fire doors and Windows

Warnings by residents

I would highly recommend following Inside Housing and Peter Apps in particular for in-depth background and context. There are a number of articles in front of their pay wall that provide invaluable background around failure to learn lessons (amongst other issues)

Suggested Resources

People to follow

This is a biased list based on my own experience and where I go for information. Based on what I understand will come up during the Inquiry, I believe these people will have useful technical information and views. (If your name should be here, please message me).

Andrew Chapman – regulations and government role

Flora Cornish – Community

Frances Maria – Chartered Architectural Surveyer and Fire Engineering

Geoff Wilkinson – building inspections

Gill Kernick – catastrophic events, culture, leadership (author of this blog)

Grenfell Inquiry – official account

Grenfell United – representing majority of bereaved and survivors

Jonathan Evans – technical issues and regulations

Kate Lamble – Editor and Presenter BBC Grenfell Inquiry Podcast

Peter Apps – journalist Inside Housing

Phil Murphy – stay put

Rags Martel – ITV covered Grenfell consistently and well connected with community

Robert Booth – Guardian Social Affairs Correspondent

Serpahina Kennedy – journalist, often write on Grenfell for the Guardian

Sue Bright – legal aspects

Martin Stanley – understanding regulations

Matt Wrack – Head of FB Union


Grenfell Inquiry – official website with access to all hearing and documents

Grenfell Enquirer (this blog) – blog by Gill Kernick

Understanding Regulation (Grenfell issues) – blog by Martin Stanley

BBC Grenfell Tower Inquiry Podcasts – podcasts produced daily in Phase 1 and weekly during Phase 2.

General Resources – more general resources posted on the Grenfell Enquirer blog

Please reach out if any inaccuracies/ errors. Thank you.

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