UK Secretary for Housing, Michael Gove, has warned Mercedes that the government may consider changing advertising laws to prohibit Kingspan logos from appearing on their cars.
Mercedes’ announcement of a partnership with building materials company Kingspan drew outrage from Grenfell United, a group of survivors and families of victims of the 2017 Grenfell Tower disaster, in which a fire engulfed a residential tower block, killing 72 people.
The group described the sponsorship deal as “truly shocking”, citing evidence unearthed during a public inquiry into the tragedy that revealed Kingspan management may have misled authorities about the fire safety performance of their insulation materials that were later installed on Grenfell Tower. Gove also expressed his disapproval of the deal over social media.
Wolff responded publicly to an open letter from Grenfell United yesterday, apologising for any “additional hurt” that the team’s sponsorship deal with Kingspan had caused families and accepting an offer to meet with the group to discuss concerns.
In reply, Grenfell United said that “only meaningful action against those responsible can go towards a legacy for change for which our 72 will be remembered for, and not the horrific way in which they died.”
Following Wolff’s letter yesterday, Gove has offered a second response to Mercedes, highlighting that the British government and wider parliament are likely to consider whether to act to address the concerns of Grenfell families.
“It is important to note that, as Secretary of State, the planning controls for outdoor advertising spaces in England are a statutory responsibility that falls to me,” said Gove in a letter to Wolff.
“Currently, broadly speaking, adverts displayed on enclosed land, such as within sports stadia, or those displayed on vehicles, are excluded from direct control of the relevant authorities. My cabinet colleagues and I will keep this system under constant and close review to ensure that the advertising regime remains fit for purpose and reflects the public interest.
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“I am conscious that there are very real questions about whether Parliament would support a statutory regime that enabled a core participant in a public inquiry into how 72 people lost their lives to advertise its products publicly to millions of families across the country.”
Gove urged Mercedes to reconsider the deal with Kingspan, believing it could tarnish the reputation of both the team and its driver Lewis Hamilton in the view of the British public.
“The achievements of Mercedes and Sir Lewis Hamilton in recent years represent a British success story of which we are all proud,” Gove continued.
“I hope you will reconsider this commercial partnership. which threatens to undermine all the good work the company and sport have done.”
The shadow housing secretary – Labour MP Lisa Nandy – voiced her agreement of Gove’s stance on the issue, saying she was “heartened to see [Gove’s] swift criticism of the decision by the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 team to strike a sponsorship deal for the Grand Prix this weekend with a company, Kingspan, which is currently under scrutiny for its role in the Grenfell fire in which 72 people lost their lives.”
Nandy also Gove and the Conservative party for accepting “millions of pounds in donations from property developers responsible for flats that have been covered in the same dangerous ACM [aluminium composite material] cladding since the fire in 2017.”
Phase two of the public inquest into the 2017 disaster will resume on Monday.
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