Lidington jumps to defence of Grenfell fire inquiry judge

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Jul 05, 2017
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Sir Martin Moore-Bick has been criticised for a past decision in a housing case that was overturned by the Supreme Court

Philip Toscano/PA

The new Lord Chancellor has stepped in to defend the judge appointed to chair the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry, who is facing calls for him to stand down.

In marked contrast to his predecessor, David Lidington has moved swiftly to back Sir Martin Moore-Bick, whose appointment has come under attack. Lidington, who was sworn into his ancient office last month, said in a statement: “The public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster has understandably been the subject of much commentary. People have every right to feel passionate about this. The community – and the whole country – want answers following such a horrific tragedy.

“That is why it is right that there should be a judge-led inquiry into the disaster, and that the residents are consulted before the terms of reference are decided. Our judiciary is respected the world over as fair, free from improper influence, and truly independent from government and Parliament.

“As lord chancellor, I am clear that their motives and integrity should always be respected and not impugned by politicians. I have complete confidence that Sir Martin Moore-Bick will lead the inquiry into this tragedy with impartiality and with a determination to get to the truth and see justice done.”

Sir Martin, 70, who recently retired as a Court of Appeal judge, is held in high regard within judicial and legal circles. However, his appointment was immediately criticised as he had made a controversial ruling allowing Westminster Council to re-house a tenant 50 miles away. The decision was overturned by the Supreme Court. He has also dismayed some tenants and bereaved families by stating that his inquiry is unlikely to be able to answer all their questions.

In a letter to the editor in today’s Times, Stephen Solley, QC, said that while Sir Martin was “totally capable of doing a good job”, the best alternative candidate would be Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the lord chief justice, who will shortly retire from his post as the senior judge in England and Wales.

Emma Dent Coad, Kensington’s new Labour MP, has called for Sir Martin to be replaced by someone “with a human face” and warned that victims would not otherwise co-operate.

Lidington’s predecessor, Liz Truss, caused upset in the judiciary when she failed to speak out to defend judges who were condemned for ruling that parliamentary approval was needed to trigger the UK’s departure from the EU.

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