Daniels, R (on the application of) v Prime Minister & Anor, Court of Appeal - Administrative Court, May 04, 2018, [2018] EWHC 1090 (Admin)

Resolution Date:May 04, 2018
Issuing Organization:Administrative Court
Actores:Daniels, R (on the application of) v Prime Minister & Anor
 
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Case No: CO/70/2018

Neutral Citation Number: [2018] EWHC 1090 (Admin)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

ADMINISTRATIVE COURT

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 4th May 2018

Before :

LORD JUSTICE BEAN

and

MR JUSTICE EDIS

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Between :

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Hugh Southey QC, Allison Munroe and Philip Dayle (instructed by Birnberg Peirce) for the Claimant

Julian Milford (instructed by Government Legal Department) for the Defendant

Hearing dates: 4th May 2018

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JudgmentLord Justice Bean :

  1. On 14 June 2017 a fire broke out at Grenfell Tower in Kensington. 71 residents died in the fire, and hundreds more were made homeless. The fire was one of the most shocking national tragedies in living memory. The charred shell of the building is still a prominent feature of the West London landscape.

  2. Mr Joseph Daniels, father of the claimant Mr Samuel Daniels, was among those who died in the fire. Mr Daniels senior was an elderly disabled man who lived in flat 135 on the 16th floor of Grenfell Tower from 1983 onwards.

  3. On 22 June 2017 the Prime Minister made a statement to the House of Commons. In it she stated:-

    ``... as the scale of the tragedy became clear, we quickly decided there had to be an independent public inquiry. As I said to the House yesterday it will be chaired by a judge to get to the truth and find who was responsible - and to provide justice for the victims and their families who suffered so terribly''.

  4. Later in the statement she said:

    ``I am also clear that we cannot wait for ages to learn the immediate lessons - and so I expect the Chair of the Inquiry will want to produce an interim report as early as possible.''

  5. On 28 June 2017 the Prime Minister wrote to Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the recently retired Vice-President of the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal, as follows:-

    ``You have agreed to be the Chairman of the Public Inquiry into the Grenfell Tower tragedy, which is being established and held under the provisions of the Inquiries Act 2005 (``the 2005 Act'').

    This letter serves as the formal written instrument of your appointment as Chair to the said Inquiry for the purposes of 4(1) of the 2005 Act.

    You have agreed to consult the victims, family members and other interested parties on the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry with the intention of providing me with your recommendations. I will then reflect those recommendations in the final Terms of Reference, which will be published. I will write to you again when I set out the Final Terms of Reference and confirm the Inquiry setting-up date.

    It is not proposed to appoint any other members to the Inquiry Panel at this stage. As agreed, you will now discuss draft Terms of Reference with victims, family members and other interested parties. Any future decision to appoint panel members will be taken in consultation with you and with your consent.''

  6. It is convenient at this stage to set out the relevant provisions of the Inquiries Act 2005 to which this letter referred. Section 3(1) states that ``an inquiry is to be undertaken either (a) by a chairman alone or (b) by a chairman with one or more other members''. Section 3(2) states that references in the Act to an inquiry panel are to the chairman and any other member or members.

  7. Section 7 provides:-

    ``Further appointments to inquiry panel

    (1)The Minister may at any time (whether before the setting-up date or during the course of the inquiry) appoint a member to the inquiry panel--

    (a)to fill a vacancy that has arisen in the panel (including a vacancy in the position of chairman), or

    (b)to increase the number of members of the panel.

    (2)The power to appoint a member under subsection (1)(b) is exercisable only--

    (a)in accordance with a proposal under section 5(1)(b)(ii), or

    (b)with the consent of the chairman.

    (3)The power to appoint a replacement chairman may be exercised by appointing a person who is already a member of the inquiry panel.''

  8. Section 8 provides:

    ``Suitability of inquiry panel

    (1)In appointing a member of the inquiry panel, the Minister must have regard--

    (a)to the need to ensure that the inquiry panel (considered as a whole) has the necessary expertise to undertake the inquiry;

    (b)in the case of an inquiry panel consisting of a chairman and one or more other members, to the need for balance (considered against the background of the terms of reference) in the composition of the panel.

    (2)For the purposes of subsection (1)(a) the Minister may have regard to the assistance that may be provided to the inquiry panel by any assessor whom the Minister proposes to appoint, or has appointed, under section 11.''

  9. Section 9 is headed ``Requirement of impartiality''. Subsection (1) provides that ``the Minister must not appoint a person as a member of the inquiry panel if it appears to the Minister that the person has (a) a direct interest in the matter to which the inquiry relates, or (b) a close association with an interested party, unless, despite the person's interest or association, his appointment could not reasonably be regarded as affecting the impartiality of the inquiry panel''.

  10. Section 11 provides:-

    ``Assessors

    (1)One or more persons may be appointed to act as assessors to assist the inquiry panel.

    (2)The power to appoint assessors is exercisable--

    (a)before the setting-up date, by the Minister;

    (b)during the course of the inquiry, by the chairman (whether or not the Minister has appointed assessors).

    (3)Before exercising his powers under subsection (2)(a) the Minister must consult the person he proposes to appoint, or has appointed, as chairman.

    (4)A person may be appointed as an assessor only if it appears to the Minister or the chairman (as the case requires) that he has expertise that makes him a suitable person to provide assistance to the inquiry panel.

    (5)The chairman may at any time terminate the appointment of an assessor, but only with the consent of the Minister in the case of an assessor appointed by the Minister.''

  11. On 26th July 2017 Mr Michael Mansfield QC wrote to the Prime Minister and Sir Martin expressing a number of concerns about the impending Grenfell Tower Inquiry. He urged that several matters should be taken into account ``in order to restore public confidence, trust and commitment and to encourage participation, all of which are currently in jeopardy''. I will refer to his categories A and B:-

    ``(A) That the terms of reference are drawn as widely as possible both geographically (this is not just about Grenfell and RBKC it is a national failure) and historically (this is not some recent aberration) and factually from general housing policy, gentrification, attitudes to safety and expenditure, fire regulations, prevention, inspection, planning, building, authorisation, certification through to contingency and aftermath planning and provision of basic requirements for food, clothing, housing, medical and mental welfare plus the dissemination of advice and information.

    (B) That the chair should be on a panel of at least three, one of whom represents the interests of the community and diversity, and another the impact of privatisation and fragmentation.''

  12. Sir Martin replied on 8 August 2017. On the questions of the terms of reference and the constitution of the Inquiry panel, he wrote:-

    ``I have taken note of your suggestions. I am not able to say at this stage whether the Inquiry will have the very wide-ranging scope you suggest, but I do expect it to pay close attention to matters such as attitudes to safety and expenditure, fire regulations, fire prevention, building and fire regulations, inspection and certification, and warnings given by residents to the Council and the Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) concerning fire safety and their response.

    I am already giving thought to the need to have others involved as assessors or members of the Inquiry panel. A decision on that will be taken after the Terms of Reference have been set.

    I intend to make arrangements for as many people as possible to attend the Inquiry's hearings and for the hearings to be streamed live to other locations and made available on the Inquiry's website. I understand that steps have already been taken to preserve documents in the possession of the Council and the TMO.''

  13. Two days later, on 10 August 2017, Sir Martin wrote to the Prime Minister:-

    ``Under section 5 of the Inquiries Act 2005 (the Act) you are responsible as the minister sponsoring the Grenfell Tower Inquiry for establishing its terms of reference and specifying its setting up date. You asked me to consult the victims, family members and other interested parties on the scope of the terms of reference with a view to providing you with my recommendations.

    I have carried out the consultation you requested which took the form of meetings with local residents and other interested parties as well as an invitation to respond to a consultation document posted on the Inquiry 's web site. Over 550 written responses were received, all of which have been acknowledged and carefully considered. A brief summary of those responses is enclosed. In the light of them I recommend that you set Terms of Reference for the Inquiry in accordance with the enclosed draft, which cover, among other things, not only the fire itself, but matters such as the history of the building, its most recent refurbishment, the state of building and fire regulations, and aspects of the relationship between the residents of the tower and the local authority, including in the days immediately following the fire. I also recommend that a setting up date be specified as soon as possible so that the Inquiry can begin its work. If it can do so promptly, it should be possible for me to hold a preliminary hearing in mid-September. I hope to be able to provide you with an initial report dealing with the cause of the fire and the means by which it spread to the whole building...

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