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Grenfell Inquiry panel members appointed for Phase 2

07 January 2020

The Prime Minister has appointed Thouria Istephan and Benita Mehra to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry panel.

The appointment of the panel members on 23rd December 2019 comes ahead of the commencement of Phase 2 hearings on 27 January.

Ms Istephan, a widely respected partner at Foster + Partners architectural practice, and Ms Mehra, a highly experienced chartered engineer, will start work immediately.

They will sit for the duration of the Inquiry alongside the Chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick.

Ms Mehra replaces Professor Nabeel Hamdi, an academic with expertise in housing, design and planning, who it was announced was no longer able to be on the panel.

Grenfell United, the main group representing survivors and the bereaved, have expressed anger and disappointment at the change to the inquiry panel. The group believes Hamdi was the only person on the panel with experience in the community.

Natasha Elcock, chair of Grenfell United, said: “The change of the panel, with an announcement snuck out just before Christmas, is hugely disappointing. Survivors and bereaved families campaigned for almost a year to have a panel added to the inquiry.

“We have faith that Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s background means he will be able to address the technical aspects of what happened at Grenfell but the inquiry is lacking experience of what it’s like to live in a community like ours and the culture at the heart of how people living in social housing are treated.

“We have now lost the panellist with community expertise. He has been replaced with an engineer, which is not what we asked for.”

Grenfell United members claim they have not been given an explanation for the change.

Commenting on the announcement of the new panellists, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "The Grenfell Tower Inquiry is now entering a pivotal stage, expanding its focus from the night of the tragedy to consider important wider issues around the refurbishment and management of the Tower.

"Today’s appointments will bring a rich diversity of expertise and the relevant experience required given the breadth and complexity of the next phase of the Inquiry.

"It is important the Inquiry thoroughly investigate what happened that awful night and ensure lessons are learned so that such a terrible tragedy never happens again.

"This Government’s commitment to uncovering the truth is absolute."

The letters exchanged between the Prime Minister and the Chair of the Inquiry about the appointments have been published on GOV.UK.

Further information about the inquiry can be found on the inquiry’s website.