Lord Pickles stuns Grenfell inquiry as he says he's 'extremely busy'

Astonishing moment ex-minister Eric Pickles tells Grenfell inquiry he is ‘extremely busy’ and to stop ‘wasting his time’ as lawyer quizzes him over deaths of 72 people who perished in tower inferno

Former Cabinet minister Lord Pickles has provoked a backlash after telling the Grenfell inquiry he was ‘extremely busy’ as he urged the panel to use their time ‘wisely’.

The Conservative peer also drew sharp criticism for wrongly making reference to the ‘nameless 96 people’ who were killed in the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire.

There were 72 victims in the tragedy, all of whom have been named.

On the second day of his evidence to the Grenfell inquiry,  Lord Pickles at various points seemed to grow visibly frustrated over questions about his time in government.

The 69-year-old was communities and local government secretary between 2010 and 2015, during which time ministers engaged in a ‘red tape challenge’ to cut Whitehall bureaucracy.

Questions have subsequently been raised over that focus on slashing rules and regulations following the Grenfell tragedy, when combustible cladding helped the fire in the west London tower block spread.

Lord Pickles at various points seemed to grow visibly frustrated as he faced a second day of questioning as part of the Grenfell inquiry

Lord Pickles at various points seemed to grow visibly frustrated as he faced a second day of questioning as part of the Grenfell inquiry








During today’s evidence session, Lord Pickles grew exasperated as he was quizzed about documents from his time in office.

Pressuring the inquiry to speed up their questioning, he told lead counsel Richard Millett QC: ‘By all means Sir, feel free to ask me as many questions as you like – but could I respectfully remind you that you did promise that we would be away this morning.

‘And I have changed my schedules to fit this in. I do have an extremely busy day meeting people.

‘This is more important than anything but I would urge you to use your time wisely.’

An apparently stunned Mr Millett replied: ‘Right… May I please have an answer to my question?’

And Lord Pickles said: ‘I have answered it, I have answered it to the point of exhaustion, this document has no status.’

Lead counsel Richard Millett QC appeared stunned by Lord Pickles' remarks, before he continued to press the Tory peer for answers

Lead counsel Richard Millett QC appeared stunned by Lord Pickles’ remarks, before he continued to press the Tory peer for answers

After an adjournment in proceedings, the Tory peer did later apologise to both Mr Millett and inquiry chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick for being ‘discourteous’.

‘As soon as I left the room I took the decision to cancel everything,’ Lord Pickles said.

‘This is more important than anything I am doing and I apologise, particularly to you Mr Millett, if in any way I seemed as though I was being discourteous.

‘I fully understand that you’re doing a proper job.’

A total of 72 people died  in the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 - not a 'nameless 96' as Lord Pickles told the inquiry

A total of 72 people died  in the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 – not a ‘nameless 96’ as Lord Pickles told the inquiry

However, Lord Pickles risked further controversy when he got the number of Grenfell victims wrong.

As he ended his evidence session, Lord Pickles made reference to the ‘nameless 96 people who were killed’.

‘It’s them we should think about when we’re arguing the toss,’ he added.

‘Ultimately, as I think I said earlier, the dead deserve the dignity of being remembered by name and the dead deserve the dignity of a solution.

‘And I’m sure you will come to that.’

The Grenfell United group, which is made up of survivors and bereaved families from the tragedy, said they were ‘speechless’ at Lord Pickles’ comments.

‘How dare he refer to our loved ones we lost that night as ‘the 96 nameless’,’ they posted on Twitter.

’72 people died in Grenfell & none of them were nameless.’