The manufacturers of the cladding on Grenfell Tower have been accused of being “little more than crooks and killers,” the inquiry into the fire disaster has heard.
Lawyers for a group of bereaved, survivors and residents told the public inquiry that the companies manufactured and provided products which they knew or suspected to be dangerous in pursuit of profit, despite knowing the construction materials “would burn with lethal speed.”
‘In pursuit of commercial gain’
The latest stage in the inquiry - module two - will scrutinise the production, testing and scale of the materials used in the building’s revamp, which led to 72 people being killed in a fire in June 2017.
Addressing inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick, Sam Stein QC told the inquiry on 9 November, “In hearing the evidence within module two, sir, you and the panel may well come to the conclusion that the manufacturers, Arconic, Kingspan, and Celotex, are little more than crooks and killers.
“These companies knew their materials were dangerous to life, they knew their materials would burn with lethal speed.
“And yet they marketed their products into an uncaring and under-regulated building industry, which spread them around residential buildings like a disease.”
In written submissions to the inquiry, Mr Stein, along with Adrian Williamson QC, added, “The companies, in pursuit of commercial gain, manufactured and/or supplied products which they knew or suspected to be dangerous for use above 18 metres.
“They promoted them assiduously and cynically. And they manipulated those who had the crucial roles of testing and certification to ensure their products remained on the market.”
Firms dispute the claims
Arconic made the thermoplastic-filled aluminium composite material (ACM) panels used on Grenfell Tower, which fuelled the fire’s spread, while Celotex produced most of the combustible foam insulation used on the tower, and a smaller amount of Kingspan insulation was also used.
These firms have disputed the claims against them.
On behalf of main design and build contractor, Rydon, Marcus Taverner QC attacked Arconic and Celotex. In written submissions to the inquiry, he said, “Disclosure currently available reveals that both Arconic and Celotex knew that their products, if used on projects such as Grenfell Tower, presented a danger to the lives of the occupants but, nonetheless, promoted and allowed their use.”
The lawyers said the public should have been protected by testing and certification organisations including the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and the British Board of Agrement (BBA).
Lawyers for Celotex have said Arconic misled the market about the fire safety of its cladding panels, and that the architects and fire consultants on the Grenfell project failed to carry out investigations into the fire performance of the materials used.
Celotex also said the combustible nature of its own Rs5000 insulation product was “clearly highlighted” in its marketing literature and “was or should have been known to construction professionals” considering it for use.
The inquiry is still ongoing.