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inferno Kingspan worked with public relations agency to lobby MPs weeks after Grenfell Tower fire killed 72 people


The disastrous Grenfell fire tragedy in London killed 72 people

The disastrous Grenfell fire tragedy in London killed 72 people

The disastrous Grenfell fire tragedy in London killed 72 people

Irish insulation giant Kingspan called in a public relations agency to lobby MPs weeks after the Grenfell Tower blaze that killed 72 people in London, an inquiry has been told.

Cavan-based Kingspan used UK PR firm Portland in summer 2017 to try to convince “key decision makers” that combustible materials were safe if properly installed.

The firm, which manufactured the flammable Kooltherm K15 used on the refurbished London tower block, listed ideal political lobby targets on internal documents including then-Home Secretary Amber Rudd, and then-Housing Secretary Sajid Javid, who went on to be chancellor under Boris Johnson.

Michael Gove, who still serves in the Cabinet, was also noted as a “key decision maker” as the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs at the time.

Other MPs from across the House of Commons were also mentioned in the Kingspan Political Engagement Plan as people with whom the business wanted to get in touch.

The overview of the document said: “Some people will not want to meet you and they will not want to be lobbied. But there is still immeasurable value in getting Kingspan’s manifesto in front of these decision makers. We want them to read it.”

It said messages from the firm needed to be “punchy, memorable and easy to understand”. The document was shown as Kingspan’s Head of Technical and Marketing, Adrian Pargeter, gave his third day of evidence to the inquiry.

It continued: “There is still a lot of discussion to be had about approaching the public inquiry. We don’t know the inquiry’s terms of reference and we don’t know if Kingspan will be asked to give evidence.”

The terms of reference were laid out in August 2017, around six weeks after the fire, suggesting that the Portland document was published at some point between mid-June 2017 and the end of the summer.

Earlier this week, the inquiry was told that Kingspan had issues obtaining a Class 0 “limited combustibility” rating for its K15 product, and claimed it as such by only partially testing the product.

Closing his evidence yesterday afternoon, Mr Pargeter said he “never thought a fire like (Grenfell) could happen in the UK”.

He also claimed Kingspan had “learnt some lessons” and was “trying to make improvements” following the blaze.

He said the company wanted “to try and ensure that we improve the way we control bringing new products to market and in the marketing of those products”.

Kooltherm K15 was the minority material used on the refurbished Grenfell Tower. Most of the insulation came from another firm, Celotex.

The inquiry was halted yesterday for more than a month after a member of staff tested positive for Covid-19.
There will not be any more evidence heard until at least January 11, after a number of staff were instructed to self-isolate following the result.

The inquiry was due to sit for another week until December 17, when it was expected to break for Christmas until January 11.

Speaking at the end of yesterday’s hearing, inquiry Chairman Martin Moore-Bick said: “We learned earlier on today that one of the members of the inquiry team has tested positive for Covid-19.
“A number of members of the inquiry team and support staff are going to have to go into self-isolation for a couple of weeks.”

Staff had tried to reach a solution where witnesses could still give evidence, “but we've come to the conclusion that that simply is not possible”.

Online Editors