Formula One team Mercedes has been branded “deeply disrespectful” after signing a partnership deal with a firm behind some of the insulation installed in Grenfell Tower.
Shadow levelling-up secretary Lisa Nandy said she hopes Lewis Hamilton – who drives for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team – is making his views “clearly known” to those who made the decision about the deal with Kingspan.
Her remarks come after Communities Secretary Michael Gove said he would write to the Mercedes team to ask it to reconsider the deal, adding it was “deeply disappointing” it had accepted the sponsorship.
Kingspan’s K15 insulation was one of the products installed on Grenfell Tower during its refurbishment, although the majority of the insulation used on the west London tower block was made by another company.
The victims of the Grenfell tragedy deserve so much better than this.
My letter to Michael Gove: pic.twitter.com/orcwkTJe5Z
— Lisa Nandy (@lisanandy) December 3, 2021
An inquiry is examining how Grenfell Tower came to be coated in flammable materials which contributed to the spread of flames which shot up the tower in June 2017, killing 72 people.
Ms Nandy said she supports Mr Gove in his criticism, but has written to him asking him to “take the same principled stance in relation to the decision by the Conservative Party to take millions of pounds in donations from property developers responsible for flats that have been covered in the same dangerous ACM cladding” since the fire in 2017.
On Kingspan, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “I couldn’t support him more. I was really heartened to see the very swift response from him criticising the decision.
“It’s an act of solidarity with a group of people who’ve been badly, badly let down for many, many years.”
But she added: “I’ve also written to Michael Gove this morning to ask him why then the Conservative Party has taken large sums of donations from developers who use the same cladding as Kingspan on blocks of flats across the country since the Grenfell fire in 2017.
“And whether he will also stand with the Grenfell community in condemning that decision and in returning the money in an act of solidarity as well.”
Asked if she thinks Hamilton should speak out about those who sponsor his team, Ms Nandy told the programme: “I think the key point is that it’s not his decision and I hope that he is making his views clearly known to the people who have made this decision.
Deeply disappointed that @MercedesAMGF1 are accepting sponsorship from cladding firm Kingspan while the Grenfell Inquiry is ongoing. I will be writing to Mercedes to ask them to reconsider. The Grenfell community deserves better. https://t.co/O9RThVXUuX
— Michael Gove (@michaelgove) December 2, 2021
“Lewis Hamilton has been an ally of the Grenfell community. He’s spoken out about this issue before.
“I suspect he will be doing that behind the scenes, but the key is to make sure that all of us across the political spectrum ramp up the pressure to ensure that this doesn’t go ahead.
“It is deeply disrespectful to people who lost everything four years ago. They felt very invisible in the political system. That was what allowed this to happen in the first place.
“We’ve got to send a clear and unequivocal message that they are invisible no more, that people’s lives matter, and that we’ll stand with them while this inquiry is ongoing.”
Hamilton has previously written about the Grenfell Tower fire on his Instagram account.
In 2020 he posted a picture with a caption that said: “Today marks three years since the horrific Grenfell Tower fire in London.
“Remembering the 72 souls we lost and their loved ones, and everyone affected by this tragedy.”
Meanwhile, the campaign group of survivors and bereaved relatives from the Grenfell Tower disaster have written to the Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff urging him to end the Kingspan deal.
A spokesman for the Mercedes team said on Thursday: “Our partner Kingspan has supported, and continues to support, the vitally important work of the inquiry to determine what went wrong and why in the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
“Our new partnership announced this week is centred on sustainability and will support us in achieving our targets in this area.”
Kingspan said in a statement: “The Grenfell Tower fire was a tragedy that should never have happened, and Kingspan supports the vitally important work of the inquiry to determine what went wrong and why.
“Kingspan played no role in the design of the cladding system on Grenfell Tower, where its K15 product constituted approximately 5% of the insulation and was used as a substitute product without Kingspan’s knowledge in a system that was not compliant with the building’s regulations.
“The new partnership with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team reflects the ambitious sustainability targets of both organisations.”