FURTHER to the letter from Charles McQueen (July 3) regarding the testing of products used on Grenfell Tower, there is indeed a system of classification and testing under the Construction Products Directive. This was introduced as long ago as 1988. Member states are required to nominate what were then described as “notified bodies” to the European Commission. These are now called Technical Assessment Bodies and consist of organisations accredited by the UK Government as being suitable for testing construction products prior to selling into the single market.

A manufacturer can ask one of these bodies to provide a technical assessment to determine if it meets the recognised standards as set by the European Commission. If it conforms then the manufacturer can affix a CE mark to the product. In so doing the manufacturer is declaring that it is legally compliant for selling throughout the EEA and according to the commission, it has been “assessed to meet high safety, health, and environmental protection requirements”. However the commission then warns that this “does not indicate that a product has been approved as safe by the EU or by another authority”. In my view that immediately raises a question as to the validity of any CE marking.

Manufacturers are expected to indicate that they take responsibility for the conformity of the product with its declared performance. If the product fails and this results in a death, then both the manufacturer and the testing body can be sued. For that reason the latter is required to carry civil liability insurance to cover this. Sub-contracting to another more specialist body is allowed, but it is illegal to sub-contract further.

On BBC Newsnight the week before last it was claimed that they had “uncovered” the identity of such a testing company for one of the products used in Grenfell Tower. This is scarcely new. The information is readily available online because the commission is obliged to keep a public record of all notified bodies.

Kirsty Wark seemed surprised that it was a private company. The guidance issued with the original directive states clearly that “notified bodies are and must remain third parties independent of their clients and other interested parties”. The testing body cannot therefore be connected to a manufacturer or an arm of government. That’s the whole point about being impartial and that’s why they are mainly private companies.

The testing bodies in the UK have to be checked and accredited by the Department of Communities before notification to the commission. If a testing body is found to have wrongly tested a product and is therefore culpable in a death, then there is a possibility – albeit remote – that the relevant Government minister could also be held to be culpable. It is therefore imperative that the inquiry should examine the system of product testing and certification. The scale and extent of failure so far identified indicates that the system is not working and that every building type could be affected.

Robert Menzies,

2 Burnbrae Gardens, Falkirk.