Paul Morrell has been announced as co-chair of a government review into the testing of construction products following shocking disclosures by material manufacturers in the Grenfell Inquiry.
Morrell, who served as the government’s first chief construction adviser under Gordon Brown and David Cameron, will lead the independent review alongside construction legal expert Anneliese Day QC.
The review, announced earlier this year, will examine how to strengthen the current system for testing construction products to ensure these materials are safe and perform as marketed.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the review was prompted by evidence heard during the Grenfell Inquiry which suggested that some of the UK’s leading construction product manufacturers, including Kingspan, Celotex and Arconic, had “played with the system” to obtain combustible materials certified safe under current test regimes.
Jenrick said: “The Grenfell Tower investigation heard many suggestions that some building product manufacturers may have played with the system to test these materials and compromised the safety of residents.
“We take these allegations very seriously and will await the final recommendations of the investigation – but it is clear that action is needed now to ensure that products used on buildings always meet the highest safety standards.”
The review committee will discuss with stakeholders to get their views on how the construction product safety testing system could be improved and report back later this year with its recommendations.
The government has already announced that a new national regulator for construction products will be established within the Bureau of Product Safety and Standards and will have the power to withdraw from the market any product that poses a significant safety risk.
It will also have the power to prosecute and impose a fine on any business that breaks the rules.
The second module of Phase 2 of the Grenfell Inquiry, which ran from November 2020 to March this year, heard testimony from manufacturers of the materials used in the coating of the Grenfell Tower, which turned out to be the main cause of the catastrophic fire that killed 72 people in June 2017.
The module learned how one of the products, Celotex’s RS5000 insulation, was in fact the same as a combustible insulation product that the company had renamed as safe for use in high-rise buildings after rigged a fire test.
The investigation revealed how another product, Kingspan’s K15 insulation, had been marketed as safe for use above 18m for almost 15 years based on a test report of a different product. , a witness claiming the discrepancy between the product’s test report and what was being sold in the market was “common knowledge” at the company.
And Arconic, which supplied the ACM cladding panels for the tower, had obtained a certificate for its Reynobond PE product by providing the British Board of Accreditation certifier with evidence of testing a different version of the product.