The 'Under the Inquiries Act' of 2005 was designed to "deliver valuable and practicable recommendations in reasonable time and at a reasonable cost." However, concerns for the Act have been expressed by many as it legally allows those who have evidence that will incriminate them the right to withhold it.
Who on Earth would voluntarily offer information up that would incriminate them? Well, not those behind the tragic Grenfell Tower disaster, as just today the firms involved in the refurbishment of the building have asked for immunity from prosecution before offering up their evidence.
Specifically, the cladding company Harley Facades, building contractor Rydon and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation have all asked for a guarantee from Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox that they will be protected once they give up their evidence. The reason why this has been so badly received is that these firms, Harley Facades in particular, have already been widely blamed for the extent of the disaster.
The incident that took place back in 2017 killed 72 people, with the families of those affected expressing how insulted they were when the requests for immunity were read out by inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick. The reason for this disgust was justified once it was found that the cladding was the "principal" reason for the rapid and "profoundly shocking" spread of the fire at the 25-storey building. Furthermore, it also concluded that "many more lives" could have been saved if the advice to residents to "stay put" had been abandoned earlier.
Despite this, the Attorney General has agreed that no evidence given by witnesses, whether oral, written or in document form, 'will be used in evidence against him or her in any criminal proceedings’ except if they are charged with conspiring to or giving false evidence to the inquiry.
Essentially, this means that no matter how aware these firms were of the potential hazards - with reports showing that they knew 2 years prior to the incident that the building was a substantial fire hazard - and how little action they took to correct their mistakes, they will never be pursued in a criminal investigation. That is unless they tried to knowingly obstruct the inquiry's process.
As for what the take away from this is, it appears that it no longer matters in the eyes of the law what careless and fatal actions you do or do not take, just whether you lie about it after to the authorities. That leaves one question to be answered; if a decision has already been made as to the level of responsibility these firms have to bear, why ask them to give evidence at all?