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It is right that the building safety minister is using his voice and platform to put pressure on these employees of Arconic who are resisting calls by the 'inquiry to “do the right thing” and ignored warnings that non-attendance runs the risk of “adverse inference and criticism”. The inquiry has been communicating directly with the French government via the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to try to get them to appear.'
'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.'
'In November, the inquiry said it would “empty-chair” the trio if they did not attend. It would set out email evidence relating to their actions and frame the questions they needed to answer.
A fourth Arconic executive, Claude Schmidt, has said he will only give evidence if the inquiry accepts “certain conditions”, which have not been made public. The inquiry said last month they were largely unacceptable.
Schmidt still works for Arconic. Grenfell United, the survivors and families group, has said “there is no way Arconic staff should be dictating terms about what they are asked or not asked”.'
07 December 2023