Housing secretary fires off letter to another products firm involved in 2017 tragedy
Michael Gove has turned his guns on products firm Arconic as he continues to ramp up the pressure on manufacturers to put their hands in their pockets and help pay for cladding remediation work in the wake of the Grenfell fire.
Yesterday, the housing secretary revealed he had written to another products firm, Kingspan, whose K15 insulation was used in the Grenfell Tower refurbishment, asking it to meet him before Easter to discuss how much money it was prepared to stump up in the light of “your record trading profit”.
Now Gove has fired off a letter to Timothy Myers, the chief executive of the US products firm Arconic, which supplied aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding panel for the Grenfell refurbishment.
The inquiry into the 2017 fire, in which 72 people lost their lives, has heard allegations that Arconic misled customers over the fire performance of the panels.
Last November, the firm, which, in results published last month, improved turnover 19% to $9bn (£7.3bn) last year and made $706m (£570m), was named first in a ‘ranking’ of firms responsible for the tragedy by a lawyer representing bereaved families and survivors.
Announcing he had sent Myers a letter yesterday – headlined ‘Arconic contribution to remediation costs’ – Gove tweeted the firm has “not taken any responsibility – moral or financial – for their role in the Grenfell tragedy and building safety crisis. They’ve instead spent around £9m per year on lawyers to defend themselves. I will use all tools at my disposal to make them pay.”
I have written to @arconic who have not taken any responsibility - moral or financial - for their role in the Grenfell tragedy & building safety crisis. They’ve instead spent around £9m per year on lawyers to defend themselves. I will use all tools at my disposal to make them pay pic.twitter.com/FFF84p4ZHA— Michael Gove (@michaelgove) March 30, 2023
In his letter, Gove, who said he wants a reply from Arconic by 12 April, berated Myers “about the extent your employees went to so as to conceal the flammable nature of your products and to avoid promoting fire-retardant products to customers – because doing so would reduce your profits”.
He said Arconic had “failed to engage in a meaningful way” in any part of the industry-wide negotiations about compensation which took place last year.
“You have not contributed any funding – not a single dollar or cent – towards the cost of fixing dangerous buildings, despite the fact that your flammable products continue to put lives at risk in the United Kingdom today. I invite you to meet my officials to explain how you intend to scope, identify and pay for remediations works.”
He told Myers that other firms had begun to “acknowledge their responsibility and role in paying for remediation”.
But he told Arconic he was sticking up for people who have bought or rented homes in good faith “whose safety continues to be threatened by your products”. He added: “Those companies that do not share our commitment to righting wrongs of the past must expect to face commercial consequences.”
Last year, a lawyer for Arconic told the Grenfell Inquiry there was an “agenda” against his client and hit back at claims its fire safety certification for its ACM cladding was misleading.
Stephen Hockman, KC, said: “It has sometimes seemed to our clients that there has been an agenda throughout to subject them to condemnation even before the case has been fully heard.”
Arconic has been contacted for comment on Gove’s letter.