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‘I misspoke’: Lord Pickles apologises for ‘indifferent’ Grenfell Tower Inquiry gaffe

The former cabinet minister came under fire last week for getting the number of people who died at the 2017 Grenfell fire wrong and claiming he was short on time to give evidence at the inquiry

Lord Eric Pickles has apologised to Grenfell survivors and bereaved family members for getting the number of people who died in the fire wrong and claiming he was short on time at an inquiry into the disaster last week.

The former cabinet minister, who led the David Cameron government’s housing department between 2010 and 2015, sparked anger last week after he incorrectly referred to the “nameless victims” and the “96 people” who were killed in the 2017 fire. In total 72 people died in the fire and all have since been named.

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Lord Pickles also told the senior counsel to “use your time wisely” when being quizzed at the inquiry, claiming that he had “changed schedules” to fit his appearance in.

In response, Grenfell United, a group of survivors, residents and bereaved family members, called for Lord Pickles to be removed from government, where he is the UK’s Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, and for his life peerage to be revoked.

A Grenfell United statement said Lord Pickles’ error and attitude showed the “same indifference and carelessness to public safety he’s always had”.

Lord Pickles emailed the inquiry to apologise for the error, insisting his “mind was also on other tragedies” citing the Hillsborough Disaster where 97 people died – though the death toll only grew from 96 last year. 

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“In the last few weeks preparing for the Inquiry my mind was also on other tragedies, including Hillsborough,” said Lord Pickles in the email to Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the chairman of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

“In my final remarks I misspoke and referenced the 96 people that died in and immediately after Hillsborough.

“I apologise to the family and friends of the 72 people who died at Grenfell for this unintended mistake, which was unscripted. The dead are remembered not as a statistic but with dignity by their families, survivors and all of us.”

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry is currently in its second phase and is evaluating the role of central government in establishing the legislative regime and formulating guidance before the fire.

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