A member of the Grenfell Tower inquiry panel has resigned over links to the firm that supplied the building’s cladding.
Benita Mehra had connections to Arconic’s charitable arm, the Arconic Foundation.
Tendering her resignation to the prime minister, the engineer said she recognised and respected the “concern” and “depth of feeling” among survivors and the bereaved about her appointment.
Survivors’ group Grenfell United said Ms Mehra had done the “dignified thing by resigning” and that her departure “helps lift growing anxiety ahead of phase two”.
But it added that the government “should never have put families in this situation” and accused it of failing to “carry out basic checks”.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said Ms Mehra’s resignation was “welcome news” and her appointment should “never have been made in the first place”.
The fire in June 2017 claimed 72 lives – the first phase of the inquiry finding that the cladding was the “principal” reason for the flames’ rapid spread.
This is the right decision but why on earth did @BorisJohnson put Benita Mehra and the Grenfell community in this position in the first place? And who will replace her given the Inquiry resumes next week? The PM must come to the Commons on Monday to apologise and give answers. https://t.co/Pon2yBTpWM
— John Healey MP (@JohnHealey_MP) January 25, 2020
Ms Mehra had been due to replace an academic, Professor Nabeel Hamdi, on the panel for the second phase of the inquiry, due to begin on Monday.
Since her appointment was announced shortly before Christmas, it has emerged she was an immediate past president of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES).
According to the society’s website, it received funding from the Arconic Foundation for an apprentice conference last year.
Ms Mehra said her role at the WES was unpaid and the grant from Arconic was ringfenced to fund the mentoring scheme.
She wrote to Boris Johnson: “For these reasons, I did not link any aspect of my former role as president of the WES to my panel member role for the Grenfell Tower inquiry. In hindsight, this was a regrettable oversight on my part.
“I am confident that had I continued in my role at the inquiry I would have approached my work with complete independence and impartiality at all times. However, I recognise and respect the depth of feeling among some core participants about my appointment.”
The report following the first phase of the inquiry, published in October, said the cladding supplied by Arconic did not comply with building regulations.
Arconic said a “confluence of unfortunate circumstances” rather than the “mere presence” of the panels had caused the spread of the fire.
Boris Johnson said: “I can confirm that Benita Mehra wrote to me yesterday to offer her resignation from the Grenfell Tower inquiry panel and I have accepted.
“I would like to thank Benita for her commitment and I am very grateful for her sensitivity to the work of the inquiry.”
SOURCE : https://news.sky.com/story/grenfell-inquiry-member-resigns-over-links-to-cladding-firm-11917882