Retired British judge to oversee Grenfell Tower inquiry

France is considering legislative changes following the fire

Retired British judge to oversee Grenfell Tower inquiry

Picture by: Matt Dunham/AP/Press Association Images

In the UK, a retired judge has been appointed to lead the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Martin Moore-Bick served more than 20 years as a judge of the British Commercial Court and Court of Appeal.

He was also chairman of the Legal Services Consultative Panel, which advised on the regulation and training of lawyers and others offering legal services.

Police have warned a true total of those killed may not be known until the end of the year.

So far 100% of cladding samples taken from local authority buildings across the UK have proved to be combustible.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a "major national investigation" into the use of potentially flammable cladding.

Police believe at least 80 people died in Grenfell Tower including the latest to be named - a six-month-old baby who was found dead in her mother's arms.

Leena Belkadi's body was found with her mother Farah Hamdan in a stairwell between the 19th and 20th floor of the 24-storey tower block, Westminster Coroners Court heard.

French law change

France's top building fire safety adviser has said the country is planning a new law on cladding for tower blocks following the Grenfell disaster in London.

Jean-Charles du Bellay, who is the head of fire safety at the French Federation of Building, met with the country's Interior Minister this week to discuss what needs to be done to protect people in residential blocks and social housing.

He said it is inevitable that French regulations will be updated to make things safer.

A critic of what he says is poor building regulation in the UK, Mr du Bellay said: "The difference concerning the spread of fire in London was undoubtedly caused by the type of cladding on the exterior.

"In France, in the high-rise towers like Grenfell, we can only use non-flammable materials - they don't burn, they don't catch fire."

He insisted that a fire like that at Grenfell could never happen in France because flammable cladding is banned on buildings over 50 metres high. Grenfell was 67 metres.

However, Mr du Bellay has been asked by the French government to draw up new recommendations which will restrict such cladding on any building over 28 metres - around 10 storeys.

He believes the law could be implemented within weeks.

Acknowledging that it would involve vast expense, with cladding having to be removed from properties across France, he said simply: "Life doesn't have a cost."

He said there is a lack of clear regulation about fire safety in buildings in Britain, which makes major blazes more likely.

"In France we have rules that are written, and independent fire safety teams cross check every aspect of construction against what is written here (in the guides)," he said.

"Point by point, with a checklist. Yes or no. It's rigorous and it's strict."

He added that any building in France over 50 metres has three fire safety officers patrolling 24 hours a day.

If France does change the law it would be a strong response to the Grenfell tragedy in a country that is now investing vast sums in developing alternative, safer materials for tower blocks.