The second phase of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has begun today and focuses its attentions on issues including the refurbishment of the building and how the tower block was wrapped in cladding that enabled the fire to spread that led to the tragic death of 72 people in 2017. However, Benita Mehra (past-president of the Women’s Engineering Society) has resigned as an Inquiry Panel member with immediate effect due to her previous charity receiving funding from Arconic, the supplier of Grenfell Tower’s cladding.
In her resignation statement, Mehra expressed her empathy for the depth of feeling regarding her appointment to the Inquiry Panel.
While the Cabinet Office has defended her appointment, it’s yet to comment on whether they will aim to replace her. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has claimed that the appointment should never have been made. In addition, Grenfell United, the group representing survivors of the tragedy and bereaved families, states that the Government has once again failed to carry out basic checks.
However, the Cabinet Office has said: “There are robust processes in place to ensure the Grenfell Tower Inquiry remains independent and that any potential conflicts of interest are properly considered and managed. As with any public appointment, due process has been followed in this case and Benita Mehra’s appointment was approved.”
This resignation has compounded the feelings of Grenfell United and others that the inquiry process is failing to serve the bereaved and survivors and needs to “bring this process back to putting families at the centre”. It also poses the question as to how robust and suitable the Governments processes are for bringing justice to the families of the deceased and getting to the bottom of this tragedy.
What’s next for second phase?
The second phase will take place at ‘a new hearing centre, closer to the community and replaces the previous unpopular conference room in the heart of London’s legal district’. Beyond a location change, the source of evidence is set to change from the harrowing accounts of affected persons in Phase One. In Phase Two, the evidence will come from e-mails, technical specifications and planning documents.
“The second phase of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry will examine how the cladding products were testedand how the residents’ complaints to Grenfell Tower’s management were dealt with.’ It’s set to run until June 2021. More than 93,000 documents have so far been disclosed which will certainly give Phase Two a slower pace.
The lead architect of the refurbishment, Studio E, the building contractor Rydon and the cladding sub-contractor Harley Facades Ltd are due to give evidence.