CROYDON COMMENTARY: The former Croydon Central MP this week backed calls for a public inquiry to be held urgently into the Conservative government’s mishandling of its response to the coronavirus pandemic. But as one loyal reader observes, ‘Lord’ Barwell has questions to answer about his own conduct when in office
He is mentioned several times on the Grenfell Tower Inquiry website. That’s because when he was Minister of State for Housing and Planning, he failed – like his predecessors – to action the recommendations from the review set up by the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group. That review was established after six people died and more than 20 were hurt in the 2009 blaze at Lakanal House in Camberwell.
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry notes, “Starting with Eric Pickles through to Gavin Barwell there was a startling failure to embrace recommendations and warnings about safety in high-rise residential buildings.
“By September 2016, then Housing Minister Gavin Barwell confirmed in Parliament that the department had not made formal plans to review the regulations but intended to do so ‘following the Lakanal fire’.”
Note that the Grenfell fire occurred on June 14 2017, killing 72 people, and injuring 70 others. If only Gavin had got his finger out, all those people might still be alive.
The best bit is when the chairman of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, said in answer to journalist Pete Sawyer’s question about legal powers to compel witnesses to attend, “the position is that a refusal to comply with a request for documents or to give evidence does amount to a contempt which is punishable in the same way as it would be punishable by a court.”
Someone asked from the floor, “Does that apply to Gavin Barwell as well?”
Sir Martin replied, “If I wanted Gavin Barwell to give evidence and directed him to attend, yes.”
So far Baron Barwell hasn’t been called.
Will he be compelled to attend when Phase 2 of the Inquiry begins next Tuesday, June 1? We’ll have to wait and see.
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