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  1. ITV Report

Grenfell refurbishment firms 'criminally failed to consider safety', inquiry told

Grenfell Tower. Credit: PA

Companies which refurbished Grenfell Tower are responsible for the deaths of 72 people "as sure as if they had taken careful aim with a gun and pulled the trigger", the inquiry into the disaster has heard.

Sam Stein QC, for victims, bereaved and survivors, said: "Those companies responsible, killed when they criminally failed to consider the safety of others.

"They killed when they promoted their unsuitable dangerous products in the pursuit of money ... and they killed when they entirely ignored their ultimate clients, the people of Grenfell Tower.

"So why have no admissions been made to their own failures? Perhaps there is no real mystery. Imagine the financial consequences ... think about the drop in trade, the loss of profit, the insurance implications."

The inquiry has already heard that designers, contractors and fire safety consultants had "expressly foreseen" the risks of installing the planned cladding system which would fuel the rapidly spreading fire in June 2017.

Main contractor Rydon, external wall subcontractor Harley Facades, refurbishment architects Studio E and fire inspectors Exova are alleged to have known the proposed cladding in which the 129-flat tower was to be encased would burn and fall off if exposed to external flames.

Grenfell Tower. Credit: PA

Celotex, which supplied the flammable insulation, saw the building as a "flagship" for its product and cynically exploited the "smoke of confusion" surrounding building safety regulations, the hearing was told on Thursday.

The firm actively promoted its RS5000 insulation product for use on the 220ft (67m) tall building despite knowing it should have been recalled after safety tests, counsel for victims Stephanie Barwise QC said.

In a statement submitted to the inquiry, she said: "The insulation and cladding panels' manufacturers, who became involved in actively promoting their products specifically for use at Grenfell, knew that some were ill-informed about the building regulations/guidance and exploited that lack of knowledge.

"The degree of contempt demonstrated by the manufacturers for safety is extraordinary, especially given both Arconic and Celotex understood that their products were combustible and indeed highly flammable."

Arconic increased its UK sales target for the dangerous cladding used on Grenfell Tower in the years before the blaze after it was given the second-lowest fire safety rating in European tests, Ms Barwise said.

The US conglomerate was accused of trying to offload its Reynobond PE cassette cladding in Britain after it was given a European class E rating, threatening sales on the continent in markets such as Spain.

An email between two Arconic officials while the refurbishment was still ongoing showed a spike in sales targets in the UK between 2013 and 2014.

Ms Barwise said: "For the year 2014 we see an almost doubling of the planned sales from the previous year.

"Arconic plans to sell 65,000 square metres, bringing in a revenue of #1.885 million and a profit margin of £500,000."

The email exchange also showed that the Grenfell Tower project was one Arconic was "confident" it would secure for use of its Reynobond PE product.

Ms Barwise said this contradicted the firm's position that it was only a manufacturer which sold a product - saying its distributors "targeted potential contractors in projects".

Its Reynobond PE panels featured a polyethylene core and were marketed with a fire safety certificate issued in Britain, stating the product was Class 0, the minimum requirement for external surfaces of buildings.

Separate European tests had given it a fire safety rating of E, which was short of the required European status of class B, the inquiry has been told.