Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the aim of the Inquiry?

  • There is often a strong feeling, particularly following high-profile controversial events, that an independent public inquiry should ascertain what happened and why, and identify what can be done to prevent such an event happening again. 

  • The aim of the Inquiry is to establish the facts and circumstances that led to the explosion, to establish how it occurred on the day, and to make recommendations seeking to prevent a recurrence of any similar event.

  • While criticisms may be made of individuals or organisations, it is not the role or function of an inquiry to ascertain liability, responsibility or ascribe blame or to punish any one or to award compensation or damages.  Inquiries are not courts.

  • The Terms of Reference for the Inquiry are:

    1. To inquire into the circumstances leading up to the incident on 11 May 2004 at the premises occupied by the ICL group of companies, Grovepark Mills, Maryhill, Glasgow.
    2. To consider the safety issues arising from such an inquiry, including the regulation of the activities at Grovepark Mills.
    3. To make recommendations in the light of the lessons identified from the causation and circumstances leading up to the incident.
    4. To report as soon as practicable.

2. What is the nature of this Public Inquiry?

  • Public Inquiries can take different forms.  This Inquiry is under the Inquiries Act 2005.  The Inquiry is an inquisitorial process, not adversarial.

  • There are no “parties”.  Those concerned in the process are not entitled, as of right, to cross examine or investigate information.  They may only do so in limited circumstances as prescribed for by the statutory rules and at the discretion of the Chairman. 

  • It is for the Chairman to examine the information and satisfy himself as to the factual circumstances sufficient to inform his recommendations and conclusions.   Any information from, or findings by, an Inquiry are not admissible in evidence in court proceedings unless the rules and processes of those court proceedings are satisfied.
  • The Inquiry is inquisitorial in order to enable the matters giving rise to concern to be examined independently for specific purposes prescribed by its terms of reference, within a reasonable timescale, and without the burden adversarial examination imposes on both time taken and the public purse. Adversarial examination in the United Kingdom is reserved to the proper courts for the determination of the rights and the liabilities of individuals and persons and any award of damages or compensation.  

3. Who are Core Participants?

  • A Core Participant is usually someone who played or may have played a direct and significant role in relation to the matters to which the Inquiry relates; or who has a significant interest in an important aspect of the matters to which the Inquiry relates; or who may be subject to significant or explicit criticism during the proceedings at the Inquiry, or in the report (or any interim) report to be delivered to Ministers.

  • A Core Participant is not necessarily a Core Participant for the entirety of the Inquiry. 

  • The Chairman has admitted ICL, HSE, Calor Gas, J Gas and on each of the individuals who suffered injury in the disaster, and the immediate next of kin of those who died in it, who have applied.  In relation to the next of kin the Chairman has decided that there should be one appropriate representative e.g. the surviving spouse, eldest child, one or other parent failing which, the nearest relative.

  • The Chairman does not consider it necessary for a Core Participant who has been bereaved or who is an injured survivor to have legal representation and several have chosen to represent themselves. There are no rights to be decided and no issue as to compensations or damages can be addressed.  They are receiving the assistance of the Inquiry Secretariat and any questions they may raise, and which the Chairman decides to allow orally, will be asked of witnesses for them by Junior Counsel to the Inquiry. 

4. What is the role of the legal adviser for a Core Participant?

  • The role of solicitors and counsel engaged on behalf of Core Participants is to assist their Core Participant clients to assist the Inquiry, usually in respect of issues which will directly affect them, either operationally or commercially, in respect of lessons which may be identified or recommendations that might be made.   None of the considerations that apply in judicial proceedings apply. 

5. What is the statutory basis for this Public Inquiry?

  • This is the first joint public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 and it has been established by the Scottish Ministers and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.  It is subject to the Inquiries ( Scotland ) Rules 2007.  Its setting up date is 21 January 2008.

  • The Inquiries Act is intended to provide a comprehensive statutory framework for Inquiries set up by Ministers to look into matters of public concern.  The Act applies throughout the UK . 

  • The Inquiry has been established jointly by the Scottish Government and the Department of Work and Pensions because it is likely to focus on health and safety issues relating to the supply, management and use of LPG in small installations.  Health and Safety is reserved to the UK Government.

6. What power will the Inquiry have?

  • The purpose of the Inquiry is to establish the circumstances which led up to the explosion, to consider the lessons to be learned, and to make recommendations in order to prevent, so far as is possible, such an incident ever happening in the future.

  • The Inquiry is to establish the facts so far is necessary to fulfil the Chairman’s Terms of Reference, not to apportion blame and it has no power to determine any person’s civil or criminal liability.  It cannot award compensation or damages. These are matters for the proper courts. 

  • However, the Inquiries Act 2005 makes clear that inquiries should not be hampered in their investigations by a fear that liability may be inferred from a determination of fact.

  • Therefore, given the special nature of the proceedings, the fact finding process will be approached in a different way from that experienced in the normal courtroom setting.

  • The Chairman of a public inquiry may accept for the purposes of their Inquiry any fact as having been proven.  It is not necessary for any fact to be proven to any standard that may be required in the civil and criminal courts.  There are no rules of evidence. 

7. What format will the Inquiry take?

  • The Chairman has been very open in inviting applications and representations to assist him in his approach.  

  • The Chairman invited applications to participate as Core Participants and those the Chairman considered appropriate to admit, were admitted. 

  • The Chairman issued invitations to Core Participants to submit statements of case, stating what issues they wished the Inquiry to address having regard to the Terms of Reference, what aspects of the circumstances leading to the explosion they wished to explore and the topics in which they wished to participate, what they would wish to seek to establish and setting out how each topic would assist the Chairman in fulfilling his Terms of Reference.  These statements stand in place of opening statements and have been published on the web site.  It remains entirely a matter for the Chairman’s discretion as to the extent to which he permits these to inform his approach and his interpretation of his Terms of Reference.

  • A similar invitation was issued to interested persons.

  • The Chairman has made it clear that those individuals who were bereaved, or who were injured and survived, may come forward to the Inquiry Secretariat at any time with any questions they may have, or which they consider should be asked, or which they consider should have been asked of a witness.  Where they have legal representation at public expense, the legal representative will apply in respect of any such questions.  Where they are self-represented the Inquiry Secretariat is ready to assist them.

  • The Chairman has made it clear publicly that he is prepared to consider questions from any interested person.

  • The Chairman, in advance of the public hearings has disclosed to Core Participants, subject to undertakings as to confidentiality, the Inquiry statements and bundle to enable the Core Participants to submit any applications they may wish to make to raise questions with witnesses. 

  • The decision as to which questions are to be allowed rests with the Chairman, having regard to the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference.

  • It is likely the Chairman will invite further participation from Core Participants, and in particular from those who may be affected commercially or operationally by any recommendations that might be made.

8. Why is this being taken forward as a joint inquiry with the UK Government?

  • The issues raised by the accident cut across the reserved/devolved divide in the devolution settlement.  For example, health and safety issues are reserved matters.

  • Scottish Ministers and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions agreed the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry.

9. Can the families use the outcome of the Inquiry to raise a separate law suit against ICL Plastics, ICL Tech or individual directors?

  • The Chairman is concerned to ensure that the proceedings are conducted expeditiously and that the Inquiry does not stray into questions relating to the current actionsof damages thatcertain of the victims and next of kin are pursuing, or such other issues as to liability or responsibility as may exist.  These are the preserve of the proper courts.

10. What will the Inquiry cost?

  • It is not possible to say at this stage what the overall cost of the Inquiry is likely to be.  The cost of the Inquiry will depend to a large extent on how long it takes to complete its business.  Ensuring proper focus is maintained on the Terms of Reference and the inquisitorial approach will contribute to its speed and cost effectiveness.

  • In making any decision as to the procedure or conduct of the Inquiry the Chairman is required to act with fairness and with regard also to the need to avoid any unnecessary cost (whether to public funds or to witnesses or others) and within the terms of the Notice of Determination by Ministers, (who have exercised their power to impose further conditions and qualifications on the awards the Chairman may make in respect of legal costs at public expense), the Inquiry Rules and the Inquiry’s protocols.
  • Ministers are required to publish the costs within a reasonable time after the end of the Inquiry.

11. Why has the Community Central Hall in Maryhill been chosen as the location?

  • An extensive site search was carried out by the Scottish Court Service, in conjunction with a firm of property agents and the Scottish Government’s estates team.  The options considered included commercial premises, serviced vacant offices and publicly owned premises including community facilities.

  • It was established that large conference venues, hotels and public halls in Glasgow were unavailable due to high cost, unsuitability of accommodation or to lack of availability within the timescales required.   Glasgow High Court and Sheriff Court premises were discounted as both facilities are under considerable pressure from the volume of their normal business.

  • The Community Central Hall was selected as an appropriate venue because of its accessibility to the community most closely affected by the event. In the days immediately following the explosion it provided support and refuge for families and friends. A memorial service was subsequently held there and it continues to provide a meeting place for some of those affected by the explosion.   With some upgrading and refurbishment it was considered to be a viable and cost-effective location and that the upgrading would leave a lasting benefit to the local community.

12. How much did the refurbishment of the Community Central Hall cost? 

  • This was carried out by the Scottish Courts Service on behalf of the Scottish Ministers and the Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions.  Questions relating to the works and expenditure should be addressed to the Scottish Courts Service.

13. What benefits will remain for users of the Community Central Hall once the Inquiry is finished?

  • To enable the Inquiry to be held in the Community Central Hall it has been necessary to undertake certain refurbishment works and to fit it out to meet the needs of the Inquiry, particularly in terms of technological support. These works were agreed with the Hall’s Management Team. The works have be undertaken by contractors on behalf of the Scottish Courts Service in a phased programme, designed to minimise disruption to existing users of the Hall. 

  • The refurbishment works include:

    1. necessary measures to meet with fire, health & safety and disability discrimination requirements for the proposed use of certain areas by the Inquiry
    2. up-grading of toilets
    3. re-decoration works to include general upgrade of the building fabric

14. How long is the Inquiry likely to run?

  • The first stage of the Inquiry will commence on 2 July. The second stage is scheduled to commence on 21 October. 

15. How many individuals will be seen throughout the course of the Inquiry?

  • At this stage we expect that up to 55 witnesses may be called to give evidence in Phase 1 of the Inquiry proceedings. 

16. Are some of the bereaved families and injured survivors having to pay for the cost of their legal representation at the Inquiry?

  • No.  

  • Ministers have issued a determination under section 40(4) of the 2005 Act. This sets conditions and qualifications on the extent of the award the Chairman may make in respect of legal representation and restricts the amount which may be paid to a recognised legal representative. 

  • The terms of the determination do not impinge on the Chairman’s decision as to whether or not to make an award for funding for legal representation at public expense.

  • In making a decision as to whether to make an award for assistance with the costs of legal representation at public expense the Chairman is required as a matter of law to take account of the financial resources of an applicant.  This requires him to set a test. 

  • The Chairman invited representations as to what the appropriate criteria for taking into account the financial resources of an applicant might be. No representations were received other than an oral statement that the test for Legal Aid would not be appropriate.

  • The Chairman concluded, that for the purposes of an application for funding for legal representation at public expense as a core participant, by a person who has been bereaved or injured and who is part of a larger group with the same interests that if:

    1. they provide evidence that they are in receipt of benefits, or that their income is no greater than £20,000 gross per annum, he will accept that evidence and on that basis consider making an award;

    2. their income is greater than £20,000 gross per annum but they can demonstrate financial hardship or lack of disposable income, he will consider whether to make an award in the circumstances of each case.

  • In the event that the income of a person who is a next of kin or injured survivor is over the threshold set by the Chairman,  it is open to them to submit an application together with representations,  or should it transpire that an award is not made, to represent themselves as others are doing, or, alternatively, to pay for representation on their own behalf. 
  • The Chairman has made it clear that, where a core participant’s income exceeds the threshold he is prepared to receive representations and to consider whether to make an award in the circumstances of each case.  

17. Is it true that the Scottish Government and UK Government want a contribution from the families towards the costs of the Inquiry?

  • No.  The Scottish Government and the Department for Work and Pensions have a budget in place to jointly fund the Inquiry and there has been no suggestion on the part of the Scottish and UK Governments that there should be any contribution to them from the families towards the costs of the Inquiry.

18. What communication will there be with the families/media/public during the proceedings?

  • A key function of the Inquiry Team is to support the families and injured survivors during the Inquiry. The Inquiry Team will be on hand at the Inquiry venue throughout the hearings and will be available to answer any questions the families and injured survivors might have as to the procedures and operation of the Inquiry. 
  • The Inquiry website is the main vehicle for communicating with those with an interest in the Inquiry.  Key information about the proceedings and regular updates including a daily transcript is intended to be available on the Inquiry website.
  • The Inquiry Team is located in the office adjacent to the Inquiry venue and can be contacted during the hearings on the following numbers:
    Inquiry Office number in this period: 0141 333 9533

    Alternatively, the Inquiry Team can be contacted on the following mobile numbers: 07920 477 533 or 07743 494 359

    Media enquiries should be directed to "The BIG Partnership" on: 0141 333 9585

19. Are the participants legally obliged to appear?

  • The Chairman may by notice require a person to attend the Inquiry to give evidence. Where a person fails to comply with such a notice, the Chairman, or after the Inquiry the Minister, may certify the matter to the Court of Session.  The court may make an enforcement order as if the matter had arisen in proceedings before the court. 

20. Do you plan to restrict the numbers of people who attend the Inquiry?

  • We do not intend to place any restriction on the numbers of people who attend the Inquiry.  Members of the public are free to attend as they wish subject to there being no restriction order in respect of any information being disclosed to the Inquiry.  At present no such information will be before the Inquiry. 

21. How long after the Inquiry has finished will Lord Gill publish his report?

  • Lord Gill will publish his report as soon as practicable after the end of the Inquiry.

22. Why are some people being called as witnesses while others are having their statements read?

  • The Inquiry is placing into the public domain the information from witnesses which has been identified as relevant to informing the Chairman in the fulfilment of his terms of reference.  Some of the information from a number of survivors and eyewitnesses is of limited factual value, but is nonetheless relevant for the Inquiry and for those interested in the outcome.  Witnesses whose statements are to be read have been given the opportunity to attend on their own behalf, so that both they and the public can be assured that the Inquiry has given due regard to the importance of their information.