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Grenfell: Celotex accepts marketing literature was ‘misleading’

19 November 2020
Paul Evans

The former head of marketing at Celotex has accepted that the literature produced to market the combustible RS5000 insulation used in Grenfell Tower was “misleading” but denied that it was deliberately so.

Giving evidence to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry for a second day, Paul Evans was questioned further by Richard Millett QC about the build-up of the system that was used in RS5000’s second BS8414 test, and how it was marketed subsequently.

His evidence follows evidence earlier this week from product manager Jonathan Roper, who reported directly to Evans.

Truncated slides

Millett asked Evans about Roper’s evidence earlier this week, in which Roper claimed that following a May 2014 board meeting at Celotex, he was asked by Evans to remove references in presentation slides to 6mm magnesium oxide board that had been added to the RS5000 test rig to help it pass a May 2014 test, after it failed the first time in February 2014.

Evans confirmed that a shorter slide pack omitting the information had been created but that he could not remember giving Roper instructions to remove it.

Evans said: “It wasn’t at my direction. I don’t recall ever asking Jon to shorten that presentation down.”

Millett asked: “The reality, do you accept, as Mr Roper accepted candidly, is that this truncated slideshow or slide set is thoroughly misleading, because it omits the reference to the failed test and omits any reference to the 6 millimetres of magnesium oxide?”

Evans replied: “Yes, it doesn’t represent the system that we – that was designed or that was tested second time round with the magnesium oxide.”

Millett asked: “Do you accept that it was deliberately misleading?”

After a pause, Evans replied: “On the basis that it’s come out, then, yes, that was done deliberately.”

Millett said: “The rational possibilities are either that he did it off his own bat or that he was asked to do it. Now, do you accept that it’s not very likely that he would have done it off his own bat, that he would have decided to truncate, in a thoroughly misleading way, a candid statement of the second test?”

Evans said: “I don’t know.”

Millett said: “You don’t know. Well, let’s try the second of those: he was asked to do it.”

Evans said: “He wasn’t asked to do it by me, and I don’t know whether he was asked to do it by anybody else.”

Millett later asked: “Can you think of a single reason why anybody else on the project team would have given Mr Roper these instructions to truncate the slideshow without your knowledge?”

Evans replied: “No, I can’t.”

Misleading market material

Later on in the hearing, Millett turned to the marketing material produced for the launch of RS5000. He read out a statement Evans gave to the Inquiry prior to the hearing, in which Evans said: “The marketing proposition for RS5000 was quite simple. We saw [Kingspan] K15 as the benchmark and were moving into the rainscreen cladding market for both below and above 18m applications in competition to Kingspan.

“Importantly and recognising that the testing of RS5000 to BR135 and to BS8414-2 had involved the product being tested as part of an overall system we were keen to make it absolutely clear in the marketing literature that the product approval to the two standards had occurred as part of a system so the product was not approved in isolation for use in any application or system.”

But Millett then highlighted that marketing documents that described the system used to test RS5000 omitted any mention of the 6mm layer of magnesium oxide, or that 8mm fibre cement cladding panels were used to cover the magnesium oxide.

Millett asked: “Do you accept that those omissions make the statement and the drawing thoroughly misleading?”

Evans accepted it was “thoroughly misleading”. He said: “On the basis of what we tested and what we know now, what I know now, versus that, then yes, it’s not a reflection of what was tested.”

Millett said: “Yes. So any designer looking to follow your words of warning that we saw on the previous page, and to try to replicate exactly the cladding system that you were describing as having passed the test, would in fact be designing a cladding system that had not passed the test.”

Evans replied: “Yes.”

Millett asked: “Those omissions and misdescriptions were not an accident, were they, they were quite deliberate?”

Evans said: “On my part, the system that we put into the marketing materials was the system that I at the time believed that we had tested.”

Millett said: “You knew by 19 June [2014] that the system as tested included a magnesium oxide layer of 6 millimetres, and two orange 8-millimetre panels of Marley Eternit. You knew that because you had seen the report, and you had discussed it at the 19 June meeting. Indeed, you had seen the previous slideshow in its 17-page form which identified the 6 millimetres.

“Those two pieces of information, I would suggest to you, led you to know very well that the list of components set out in the description of the test we see here was materially inaccurate and misleading?”

Evans said: “Based on the information that – and I know I’ve seen things and seen documents, but the detail that I was aware of and what I was being told was okay to go to market was what we put in there.”

Millett said: “Can you account for how this, what I would suggest is a thoroughly dishonest and misleading document, could go out to the market on your watch as head of marketing, Mr Evans?”

Evans said: “Only by relying on other people to give information, and decisions have been made and things have been moved on which has led to us promoting the system this way.”

Evans asserted that he didn’t study a report in relation to RS5000’s second test “carefully”. When asked if this would have been a dereliction of his duties, Evans said he was “relying on people within the project team to support me”.

Millett said: “No, but you can’ t pass the buck to people in the project team to support you. Your role was to supervise Mr Roper.

“He was a young graduate, fresh out of university in his first job, who you had given a big project, and you were his line manager; it would have been a dereliction, an abandonment of your obligations to Celotex, not to keep a very close eye on his work, but critically, not to read that report very closely.

“Do you not accept that?”

Evans said: “No, I think there was other people in the business who would have read that report, and also the fact that anything that was coming in to me I was also feeding in to other departments and in to senior management in Celotex.”

Millett asked: “The only explanation for you allowing what are now three misleading documents sent out to the market on your watch is that you yourself knew and approved these dishonest and misleading statements, Mr Evans; do you not accept that?”

Evans replied: “I would have approved the documents based on the knowledge that I had when I was doing that and I don’t — that knowledge didn’t include — I hadn’t gone back to include that knowledge that I had, and that wasn’t deliberate at all, no.”

In an opening statement given by Celotex at the start of module 2 of phase 2 of the Inquiry, it said: “Celotex recognises that the matters which emerged during its investigations involved inappropriate and unacceptable conduct on the part of a number of employees. This was of real concern to Celotex’s current management. Some of the employees involved had already left the company. Those who remained were the subject of disciplinary proceedings. Six employees resigned between December 2017 and March 2018.”

The Inquiry continues.

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