Key firms involved in refurbishing Grenfell Tower have been accused of attempting to derail the public inquiry with a wall of corporate silence.
Design and build contractor Rydon, its subcontractors and suppliers have refused to comment on their work and the key issue of compliance claiming they need more information or are unable to provide information now.
Stephanie Barwise QC, representing survivors and the bereaved, launched a stinging attack on the construction firms at the public inquiry
She said: “It is inhumane to remain silent when so many seek understanding and answers, answers which are within the corporates’ gift.
“Despite their words of condolence to the victims, these corporates have no desire to assist this inquiry, even though their participation could save lives in the immediate future.
“The inability to produce a basic account of how, if at all, they considered Grenfell Tower complied with the Building Regulations is itself indicative of the culture of non-compliance which Arup’s fire expert Dr Lane has identified.”
Her criticism was echoed by Pete Weatherby QC, who warned them: “This is a public search for the truth. It’s not a game of cat and mouse.
“We call on all of the corporates who have yet to do so to set out most fully their positions in their opening statements.”
Barwise said: “Rydon, the main contractor under a design and build contract, is being obtuse in arguing, as it does in its position statement, that it was not responsible for critical decisions.
“Whether or not others had suggested or dictated the use of certain materials, Rydon would anyway have been under an obligation implied either by the design and build contract and/or the preconstruction agreement to warn Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea if the materials were unsuitable or hazardous or non-compliant.”
She revealed that architect Studio E’s specification had previously required higher quality materials than were in fact used.
Fire resistant Celotex, FR5000 not RS5000, was specified originally, and the rainscreen cladding proposed for the spandrel and column panels was an aluminium honeycomb core bonded between two zinc skins.
“Rydon was asked to submit alternative costs for Reynobond over Alucobond and zinc but, as detailed designer of the cladding, it would have been for Rydon or its subcontractors to consider the degree of resistance to fire necessary and to warn if it considered them insufficient,” she added.
“It is therefore disingenuous of Rydon to suggest that someone else made all the critical decisions before it became involved and it was stuck with them.
“No doubt others may share responsibility, but attempts such as this to reduce the significance of Rydon’s role are misleading.”
She added: “As to Rydon’s subcontractors, CEP, the subcontractor which purchased and fabricated the Reynobond panels, claims it cannot participate at all until it has had full disclosure.
“If CEP wishes not to incriminate itself, that is its choice, but it is disingenuous for CEP to plead inability to comment on the compliance of its own work. The same applies to Harley (the cladding contractor), as it does also to Studio E.
“These parties make no comment on the detailed criticisms of their work, nor do they even comment on drawings which they themselves drafted.”
Barwise said: “The time has come – indeed, is overdue – for the contractors and suppliers to clearly state their positions, and also to respond to the positions taken by others.
“Their stance that they need more than the documents they already have before engaging at all with any of the criticisms made of them is demonstrably untenable and disingenuous.
“These contractors should not be allowed, by their deliberate refusal to participate, to derail determination of the compliance issue, even though we are concerned with blatant non-compliance.”