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Monday, January 04, 2021

A failure to step up

It is a little early in the new year to be confronted with irony, but the current UK government just cannot help itself.

Thus yesterday's Observer reports that the UK government has demanded that executives who supplied combustible cladding to Grenfell Tower “step up to the plate” after their refusal to give evidence to the public inquiry into the disaster provoked anger among the bereaved and survivors.

The paper says Stephen Greenhalgh, the building safety minister, has escalated a legal and diplomatic dispute over the position taken by three current and former executives at the French division of the US company Arconic. He told them to stop hiding behind an arcane French law:

Arconic made the polyethylene-filled aluminium composite panels that were the main cause of the spread of the fire, which killed 72 people. The witnesses, based in France and Germany, are wanted by the inquiry to account for their role in manufacturing, testing and marketing the cladding, which is now banned on high rise homes in the UK.

The former executives Claude Wehrle and Peter Froehlich, alongside Gwenaëlle Derrendinger, a current employee, are citing the rarely used 53-year-old French blocking statute and are refusing to attend six days of cross-examination due this month. Two UK-based Arconic witnesses will give evidence.

Greenhalg is absolutely right in demanding that these executives appear and give evidence at the inquiry, however two and a half years after the tragic fire, hundreds of people are still living in unsafe blocks of flats because the UK Government has failed to step up to sort out recladding them in safer material.

What is the minister doing about that?
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