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Architects and contractors accused of ‘buck-passing’ as Grenfell inquiry reopens

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The lead counsel to the Grenfell Inquiry has accused Studio E Architects and every one of the contractors that worked on the tower’s refurbishment of dodging blame for the 2017 tragedy

In his highly critical opening statement to the second phase of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, which opened today (27 January), barrister Richard Millett was damning of all the written submissions from the main parties involved in the tower’s revamp. 

He said the documents offered neither admissions nor acceptance of responsibility -– even though it was ‘unlikely’ the building could have failed to meet Building Regulations without someone being at fault – and that they were all guilty of ‘buck-passing’.

Last week, the statements of each core participant, including Studio E Architects and cladding manufacturer Arconic, were circulated around all those appearing in module one of the inquiry’s latest stage, allowing them to ’consider the position taken by the others’.

‘[However] with the exception of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea not any single core participant involved in the primary refurbishment of Grenfell Tower has felt able to make any unqualified admission against its own interests,’ said Millett.

‘With that solitary exception, one finds in these detailed and carefully crafted statements no trace of any acceptance of any responsibility for what happened at Grenfell Tower. Not from the architects, the contract managers, the main contractors, the specialist cladding subcontractors, the fire safety engineers, or the TMO [tenant management organisation].’

He added: ‘Nor, with the exception of Celotex who have made certain limited admissions which they assert were not causative, do we find any admission of any kind from those you made or sold the products made in the cladding.

‘Any member of the public, reading these statements and taking them all at face value, would be forced to conclude that everyone involved in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower did what they were supposed to do and nobody made any serious or causative mistakes.’

He said: ‘I had invited the core participants not to indulge in a merry-go-round of buck-passing.  Regrettably, that invitation has not been accepted.

‘The notion that the building was not compliant with [Building Regulation] Requirement B4(1) without anybody being at fault is unlikely.’

However he added that phase two of the inquiry was ‘not a dress rehearsal for civil claims or any criminal proceedings’, stating that the inquiry’s chairman, Martin Moore-Bick, was forbidden from making any ruling on any person’s liability.

His task was instead to ‘find the facts and make recommendations’ .

Millett said that the latest phase of the inquiry would be looking at: the reasons for the refurbishment, including its budget; the appointment of the professionals by the TMO; procurement of the design-and-build contractor; planning; the design and selection decisions for the cladding and other building materials; fire strategy pre and post refurbishment; and building control.  

See the full list of participants in phase two, module one of the inquiry here.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Industry Professional

    I suppose no one wants to risk admitting that they did anything wrong in case everyone else piles in and tries to dump all of the blame on them rather than admitting to anything themselves. Jeffrey (an engineer,) - comment made via the IHS.

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