Irish insulation giant shaken by revelations during inquiry into the fire

Labour’s shadow housing minister has asked the government whether it has considered banning Kingspan from public-sector deals following the revelations about its conduct that have been emerging from the Grenfell Inquiry.

The Irish materials firm has been hit by weeks of damaging headlines - including that it commissioned and deliberately “gamed” tests on competitors’ insulation. Its Kooltherm K15 foam board insulation was used on a small area of the Grenfell Tower although it was never specified.

Last November, the inquiry into the June 2017 fire that killed 72 people was read a series of emails from Kingspan technical manager Philip Heath who said a facade consultant could “go fuck themselves” after the specialist advised contractor Bowmer & Kirkland that K15 was not suitable for use on high-rise buildings.

A few days later the inquiry was shown a series of private messages between two of Kingspan’s technical team in which they joked about telling lies about their products’ safety.

Kingspan rejects any suggestion that the May 2018 test was “gamed” or “manipulated”.

In a written question, shadow housing minister Mike Amesbury asked housing secretary Robert Jenrick whether, considering the revelations, it had crossed government’s mind to “exclude Kingspan plc from eligibility for departmental and government contracts”.

Replying for his boss, housing minister Chris Pincher said the grounds for the exclusion of bidders from public procurement procedures were outlined in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 and that decisions needed to be based around “firm evidence”.

He added that while bidders can be excluded from a public procurement process for a variety of criminal offences and in other specific situations, individual contracting authorities, including local authorities, were responsible for their own decisions on these matters.

But he said this did not mean more changes relating to building safety records and public procurement would not be forthcoming, with the government announcing earlier this month that it was looking at new rules to exclude contractors that have engaged in “gross professional negligence”.

Last month, Kingspan said a new head of compliance, a 24-hour confidential hotline for worried staff and a clear-out of management at its UK insulation boards business were among the initiatives being taken by the firm following the Grenfell revelations.

The firm also said it had drafted in law firm Eversheds Sutherland to review that business.

Kingspan admitted the inquiry had thrown a light on “unacceptable employee conduct at its UK insulation boards business and historical process shortcomings by this business”, adding that it had “rightly been criticised”.