Grenfell Tower fire: Michael Gove warns firms of ‘severe consequences’

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Michael Gove has called for investors to “use their influence” to encourage the three firms to pay for remediation on unsafe buildings.

Levelling up secretary Michael Gove has written to shareholders of three cladding companies involved in the Grenfell Inquiry, urging them to use their influence to “engage constructively in helping us reach a just resolution for all concerned”.

Mr Gove wrote to investors in Kingspan, Arconic and Saint-Gobain, having warned the manufacturers that they will face “severe consequences” if they do not deliver a plan to fix unsafe buildings.

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The department for levelling up, housing and communities (DLUHC) has confirmed the letter was sent to shareholders including Blackrock, Vanguard and Fidelity Management and Research, as well as investors such as Norges Bank, the central bank of Norway.

The department added that, so far, the three manufacturers have not contributed anything to the cost of fixing buildings in the UK that their products have made unsafe.

Mr Gove’s letter follows a civil settlement awarding damages to hundreds of bereaved family members, survivors and local residents in relation to the Grenfell Tower fire, which tragically killed 72 people in 2017.

The long-running Grenfell Enquiry, which is separate to the civil case and remains ongoing, has found “shocking behaviour” by all three of the firms, a statement from the DLUHC continues, “including the sale of flammable products that were wholly inappropriate for their end use, apparent mis-selling of construction products through inaccurate marketing information, and misappropriating safety test results thereby perpetuating the sale of high-risk products on the market”.

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72 people tragically lost their lives due to the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, with more than 70 others injured. Credit: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images.72 people tragically lost their lives due to the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, with more than 70 others injured. Credit: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images.
72 people tragically lost their lives due to the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, with more than 70 others injured. Credit: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images. | Getty Images

Mr Gove said: “I have always been clear that those responsible for the building safety crisis must pay. But despite the fact that their products continue to put lives at risk, some cladding firms have no intention of doing what’s right and addressing their moral and financial obligations to innocent residents.

“Today we ask responsible investors to use their influence to encourage these companies to come forward immediately with a comprehensive financial package for remediation work. It cannot be right that cladding companies continue to profit whilst so many innocent, hardworking people face financial hardship and misery.

“To those cladding companies who fail to do the right thing: you will face severe consequences and I will use all commercial and legal tools available to me to ensure you take responsibility.”

Michael Gove, levelling up secretary, sent the letter to investors in the three firms asking them to “use their influence to encourage these companies to come forward immediately with a comprehensive financial package for remediation work”. Credit: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images.Michael Gove, levelling up secretary, sent the letter to investors in the three firms asking them to “use their influence to encourage these companies to come forward immediately with a comprehensive financial package for remediation work”. Credit: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images.
Michael Gove, levelling up secretary, sent the letter to investors in the three firms asking them to “use their influence to encourage these companies to come forward immediately with a comprehensive financial package for remediation work”. Credit: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images. | Getty Images

A spokesperson for Saint-Gobain said the company supports initiatives aimed at ensuring buildings are designed and constructed so they are safe.

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They continued: “Celotex, a business within Saint-Gobain Construction Products UK, welcomed and has fully co-operated with, the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry, which has done and will continue to do much to inform all relevant stakeholders as to where industry standards should be improved and the regulatory regime, and its enforcement, enhanced.

“In addition to measures designed to improve regulations and standards for the future, Celotex acknowledges that redesign and replacement of unsafe cladding systems designed and constructed in the past is a valid objective. However, the solution for achieving that is far from straightforward.

“Saint-Gobain Construction Products UK continues to engage with the Government on these important topics, including responding to Michael Gove’s recent correspondence, and welcome further co-operation with the secretary of state.”

A spokesperson for Kingspan said: “In circumstances where we are responsible for the inappropriate use of our K15 insulation board, and its safe retention cannot be supported by testing, we will pay our share of remediation costs.”

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They said the company has offered to contribute to a joint-government and industry-wide scheme “that is equitable and shared across the entire construction industry, to support the wider fire safety issues on buildings where those responsible can’t or won’t pay”.

Arconic was approached for comment.

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