Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase Two commences despite resignation of panel member

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.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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