Benita Mehra quits after 'furore' over her appointment to the Grenfell Tower committee


Benita Mehra steps down amid tensions among Grenfell survivors

A key member of the Grenfell Tower inquiry has resigned after she was linked to the charitable arm of a firm which supplied the block's calamitous cladding.


Benita Mehra said that she was aware, and acknowledged the depth of feeling among some about her appointment.


Downing Street said it had accepted her resignation but maintained there was no conflict of interest.


It comes ahead of the second phase of the inquiry beginning on Monday.


Boris Johnson announced Benita Mehra was standing down from a panel advising the chairman of the inquiry, Sir Martin Moore-Bick.


There was rising pressure on the prime minister to reverse her appointment from the community devastated on 14 June 2017 by the fire.With less than two days until the hearing resumes into the blaze that killed 72 people, there are rising tensions in the community about the role of Benita Mehra.


Ms Mehri, an engineer, had been appointed to replace academic Prof Nabeel Hamdi as an expert panellist for the second phase of the inquiry.


Lawyers for more than 60 members of the Grenfell community who are the main participants in the inquiry urged her to quit.


The first phase of the inquiry established that Arconic’s panels were the reason why the flames spread so rapidly up the building and caused the inferno.


The second phase of the inquiry is due to examine the decisions which led to the installation of the deadly cladding system on a high-rise residential building and the broader story of what actions were taken.


In her resignation letter to the PM, Ms Mehra said she hoped to draw on her experience and knowledge of the construction industry, the community and governance within housing management to contribute to the vital work of the inquiry in discovering how and why the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower happened.


She stated that it was apparent her former role as president of the Women's Engineering Society had caused "serious concern" among a number of inquiry participants.


Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanked Ms Mehra for her commitment and said he was "grateful for her sensitivity to the work of the inquiry".


Mehra, an engineer appointed by the prime minister as an expert panellist, previously ran an organisation that received a £71,000 grant from the Arconic Foundation, the manufacturer’s philanthropic arm.


The £71,000 grant was the charity’s largest single grant that year and was spent on a mentoring programme that ended in December 2019. Mehra remains a trustee of the charity.


Mehra was appointed on 23 December, but her links to Arconic only emerged this month when members of Grenfell United (GU), the survivors and bereaved group, found that when Mehra was president of the Women’s Engineering Society she helped draft a successful grant application to the Arconic Foundation in 2017.


After a year-long hiatus, the inquiry is due to restart hearings on Monday. Phase one in 2018 examined the night of the fire on 14 June 2017 and found the cladding was the main source of fire spread and it breached building regulations.


Phase two, which is scheduled to take evidence for 18 months, will switch from the night of the fire and focus on the refurbishment of the building and its role in the blaze, as well as issues surrounding building regulations.


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