Housing secretary Michael Gove has warned US-based cladding supplier Arconic that it can expect “commercial consequences” if it does not commit to contributing to the costs of remediating unsafe buildings.
The firm manufactured and sold the flammable cladding that was used on Grenfell Tower. But Gove has said on Twitter that Arconic had “not taken any responsibility – moral or financial – for their role in the Grenfell tragedy and building safety crisis”.
In a letter to its chief executive Timothy Myers, Gove wrote that the company had “failed to engage in a meaningful way in any part of the industry-wide negotiations that took place in 2022”.
He added that he was “appalled” by evidence from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry about the extent that Arconic employees had gone to “to conceal the flammable nature of your products, and to avoid promoting fire-retardant products to customers – because doing so would reduce your profits”.
Gove invited Myers to meet officials “to explain how you intend to scope, identify and pay for remediation works”.
He said that “a comprehensive package of financial support” was required from construction product manufacturers, warning that “companies that do not share our commitment to righting wrongs of the past must expect to face commercial consequences”.
Gove’s letter also says that Arconic’s annual reports revealed that between 2017 and 2022 it had spent an average of £8.9m a year on “legal advice and representation on Grenfell-related matters”.
“In stark contrast,” the letter adds, “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”.
Gove has given the firm until 12 April to respond. On Twitter, he stated that he would “use all tools at my disposal to make [Arconic] pay”.
Arconic has faced criticism for its approach to participating in the Grenfell Inquiry. A number of its executives refused to come to the UK to give evidence, claiming this could leave them open to prosecution under French law.
Gove’s move follows his threat to prevent housebuilders from building homes if they do not pledge to pay remediation money – as well as a similar letter he sent last week to Kingspan, which made combustible insulation used on Grenfell Tower.
In the letter, Gove credited Kingspan with taking a “positive step” in acknowledging that it should pay where its cladding had been used inappropriately. He added: “I sincerely hope it is a first step only” and invited the company to meet his officials for discussions on contributing to remediation costs.