Grenfell Tower inquiry member stands down after Unite reveals potential conflict of interest

A newly-appointed Grenfell Tower fire inquiry panel member has resigned after Unite revealed she was linked to the charitable arm of a firm which supplied the block’s deadly cladding.

The union wrote to Benita Mehra before Christmas urging her to “recuse” herself from the hearing after it emerged that while president of the Women’s Engineering Society from 2015 to 2018, she accepted a grant of £71,000 from the Arconic Foundation, the charitable arm of Arconic, the company which supplied the flammable  cladding fixed to the exterior of Grenfell Tower.

Unite said if Benita Mehra did not voluntarily withdraw from the inquiry, it would directly challenge her participation when the inquiry resumes and will also consider other avenues to challenge her involvement.

In Unite’s letter to Ms Mehra, which was sent by solicitors Howe and Company, a number of the core participants, who are principally bereaved family members of loved ones who died or are survivors of the fire, gave their personal reasons why they believe Ms Mehra is unfit to act as an advisor.

They include: “I strongly disagree with her sitting on the panel and I personally, and many survivors and bereaved families, believe the inquiry should not start while she is appointed.”

“The appointment of Ms Mehra to the panel is not right. She has a clear conflict of interest. If Ms Mehra remains, the inquiry would no longer be legitimate. I would have no confidence in the inquiry or its process. If she does not stand down or is not removed I will consider boycotting the inquiry.”

“The appointment makes me feel as though we are being treated as doughnuts.”

Unite assistant general secretary for legal services Howard Beckett, said: “Benita Mehra has a clear conflict of interest and she should play no role in the inquiry.

“Benita Mehra’s claim that there is no conflict of interest is simply not plausible.

“If she will not voluntarily stand down, then Unite, on behalf of the people we are representing who survived the fire or who lost loved ones in the tragedy, will examine all measures to ensure that Benita Mehra is forced to withdraw,

“If Benita Mehra is allowed to continue as an adviser any findings or recommendations made by the inquiry will forever be tainted.”

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