Government ‘failed to publish report on Grenfell-style cladding 20 years ago’

Former government official Anthony Burd admitted to the Grenfell Inquiry that a report should have been made public in 2002.

28 February 2022

The Government failed to publish reports stating that Grenfell-style cladding was unsafe for use on high-rise buildings 15 years before the fatal fire, an inquiry has heard.

Former government official Anthony Burd has admitted two September 2002 reports, which outlined how “aluminium rainscreen panels with a polyethylene core” did not pass fire safety tests, should have been made public at the time.

A review conducted by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) for the Government showed that out of 11 cladding products analysed, seven failed fire safety tests and “aluminium sheet product” was “one of the worst performing” materials.

Mr Burd became a fire safety professional at the then-Department for Environment, Trade and the Regions in 1998, and was head of technical policy for building regulations at the then-Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) between 2007 and 2013.

(PA Graphics)

Speaking at the inquiry into the blaze which killed 72 people on June 14 2017, Mr Burd defended the Government over the theory that there was a “cover up”, and said he was “confident” that statute and guidance at the time should have prohibited the use of the cladding on skyscrapers.

When asked by lead counsel to the inquiry, Richard Millett QC, why reports outlining the findings of the BRE review were not published until the Grenfell Inquiry began, Mr Burd said he “didn’t realise” they had not been published but agreed that they should have been.

He said: “I can only envisage that it has in effect fallen between BRE and the department.

“It’s typically Government policy with public money that these should be published.

“From my perspective I didn’t realise that they hadn’t been published, but I agree that they should have been published.”

When asked whether this meant there was a “cover up”, Mr Burd told the inquiry: “No there was not.

“From my perspective sat here today, there was no cover up.”

Mr Millet said: “Some people looking at this might think that the Government deliberately covered up the test results showing that ACM panels with a Class 0 badge performing disastrously at height was covered up and the Government let them be used at height for another 17 years.

“What would you say to that?”

Mr Burd replied:  “I can see how that might appear and why people might think that.

“I can only provide you with my assurance that this is not what happened from my perspective.”

Mr Millett asked again whether there was a “cover up” because “the Government might know that releasing these results might immediately trigger a cladding crisis”.

Mr Burd told the inquiry: “From my perspective, we didn’t really explore it too heavily, but this work, albeit in generic form, did go back to the AIG and the BSI joint committee, so some of the generic data did indeed go out.

“Ultimately a pass/fail criteria was set that would ensure that if these types of systems were tested, they would have failed.”

The inquiry continues.

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