Grenfell and other bereaved families demand next PM act on public inquiries

<span>People bereaved by the Grenfell Tower fire, the infected blood scandal and Covid-19 are among those making the call.</span><span>Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA</span>
People bereaved by the Grenfell Tower fire, the infected blood scandal and Covid-19 are among those making the call.Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

Families bereaved by the Grenfell Tower fire, the infected blood scandal and Covid-19 have called on the next prime minister to guarantee that potentially life-saving ideas that emerge from public inquiries and emergency planning exercises are acted upon.

They want a new mechanism to increase public confidence that reports that cost hundreds of millions of pounds to produce won’t gather dust and will instead be followed up. They will issue their joint demand together beneath the ruin of Grenfell Tower after joining hundreds of members of the west London community in a silent march on Friday evening to mark the seventh anniversary of the blaze that killed 72 people, including 18 children.

Related: Grenfell bereaved and survivors must wait until 2027 for suspects to face trial

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the charity Disability Rights UK have also said the government’s failure to implement evacuation plans for vulnerable residents, one of the main recommendations from the 2019 first phase report of the Grenfell Tower inquiry, will mean “disabled people will continue to face unnecessary and avoidable danger and or death”.

With British public life hit by a wave of scandals – from the Post Office to Covid procurement – they are among groups concerned that more needs to be done to formalise how lessons are learned.

Writing in the Guardian, Natasha Elcock, who escaped from the 13th floor and is chair of the families group Grenfell United, said: “The past seven years have shown us nothing but failure by those who should protect us. And these failures are not restricted to North Kensington. We have seen the same indifference to human life in the infected blood campaign, at Hillsborough and most recently during Covid.”

Last month detectives from the Metropolitan police told Grenfell survivors they must wait until at least 2027 – a decade after the blaze – before those suspected of being responsible for the disaster could face criminal trials.

The demand for a new mechanism to safeguard change comes as:

  • Fifty-eight people and 19 companies and organisations suspected by police of crimes related to Grenfell brace for the publication of the final public inquiry report into the disaster on 4 September.

  • The Fire Brigades Union warned Keir Starmer that a Labour government must end the deregulation of building standards, which was a key cause of the Grenfell disaster, to ensure 1.5m new homes it has pledged over the next parliament are safe.

  • The London Eye will be illuminated in green lights on Friday night in commemoration.

  • Representatives for thousands of high-rise leaseholders said the pace of making existing homes affected by Grenfell-style fire defects remains “shockingly slow – and at this rate, it could take decades”.

  • Architects and landscape designers have started putting together competing pitches for a permanent memorial on the site of the west London tower block that is expected to be partially or completely demolished.

Details of a national oversight mechanism to monitor compliance with recommendations from inquests, public inquiries and official investigations have been drawn up by Inquest, a charity that provides expertise on state-related deaths and their investigation.

Speaking before the Grenfell anniversary march, Jason Evans, the director of Factor 8, the infected blood scandal campaign, said public inquiries serve little point if we don’t act on what they find and introducing a formal body to oversee inquiry recommendations would help instil public confidence.

“Sir Brian Langstaff, who chairs the infected blood inquiry, has such little faith in government that he has refused to close the inquiry until the government responds to his recommendations,” said Evans. “That alone shows you why proper oversight is needed.”

Lobby Akinnola, the spokesperson for the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, said: “I lost my father, Femi, to Covid in April 2020 as the country was caught unaware and unprepared for the pandemic but this needn’t have been the case.

“The government had carried out Exercise Cygnus and knew that the country’s health system would collapse under the weight of an influenza-like pandemic. Yet the key learnings went unaddressed and over 200,000 lost their lives. Had something like the national oversight mechanism existed, ensuring the government implemented recommendations, my father may still be with me and, what is more, our NHS wouldn’t be in the state it’s in.

“It’s vital that this independent body is created so that the safety of the public is not left to political whims of those who happen to be in charge.”