Grenfell: Arconic told ‘misleading half truth’ to BBA

Claude Schmidt

Arconic told a “misleading half truth” when it presented only European fire test results for its Reynobond 55 PE cladding in rivet form, omitting details of a separate test on the cassette variant that had to be stopped, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has heard.

Giving evidence in French through an interpreter for a second day, Arconic director Claude Schmidt accepted lead counsel to the Inquiry Richard Millett’s suggestion that it was “half truth”, saying: “You can see it like that”.

Tests in 2005 resulted in a Euroclass B for the Reynobond 55 PE cladding in rivet format but the test on the cassette variant, which Arconic expected to perform better, had to be stopped after 850 seconds, leaving the technical department “puzzled”. The product later went on to achieve a Euroclass E in 2010.

Asked if the reason why, when applying for a BBA certificate, Arconic had not provided details of the 2005 test on the cassette variant was because it would have cast “serious doubt” on the performance of Reynobond PE, Schmidt said: “I’m not sure, really, and anyway it’s after analysing other BBA certificates from competitors, and their view, some of them never gave any information on the European classification and only talked about the class 0 for the total of their products.

"I think that if we’d really wanted to hide part of the truth, we could have simply carried out class 0 tests and mentioned the class 0 tests to the BBA.”

Millett replied: “Well, you say that would be hiding the truth; why didn’t you carry out any class 0 tests on Reynobond 55 PE, either in rivet or in cassette, and provide those results to the BBA, Mr Schmidt?”

Schmidt said: “I can’t say. And for class 0 it’s independent of the system’s form.”

The BBA awarded a product certificate for Arconic’s Reynobond cladding in the UK in 2008.

Asked if the 5B test on the cassette variant would have been “absolutely crucial safety information”, Schmidt agreed that it would. But when asked if it was “life and death stuff”, Schmidt replied: “That’s too strong.”

Negotiations over the BBA certificate were led by former Arconic technical manager Claude Wehrle. Wehrle has provided written evidence but has so far refused to appear in a hearing before the Inquiry, citing fear of prosecution under French law.

The Inquiry continues.

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  1. I don’t understand how the BBA could issue its certificates without checking, relying upon businesses to provide all the information, knowing that such businesses have a vested interest in marketing their products to given standards without necessarily reaching those standards. Surely, the fire testing facilities would have made a record of all their tests regardless of whether published and had a mechanism to make it possible to release to whichever authority required them. Otherwise it’s all blind, double-blind in some cases!

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