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Office for Product Safety and Standards — [Sir David Amess in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:42 pm on 9th May 2018.

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Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative, Stirling 2:42 pm, 9th May 2018

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I pay tribute to Carolyn Harris and congratulate her on securing this important and timely debate.

Product safety standards is a subject on which we should all be focused. It is not so long ago that I wrote a column for my local newspaper, the Stirling Observer, which focused on product safety—especially of tumble dryers. I received an unexpectedly high response to that article compared with others I had written on more current constitutional issues that we might debate in the House and in Scotland.

I also reflect on the first ever surgery I attended as a newly elected Member, in the Mayfield Centre in Stirling. We advertised the event but only two constituents came along to speak to me, so I had some time to speak to the caretaker. He was delighted to speak to his new MP, because he wanted to point out to me an issue that, so far as he was aware, no one was speaking about: the regulation and safety of tumble dryers. Little did I know that, within a few weeks of that, I would be a member of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee and that we would be conducting an inquiry into the safety of tumble dryers.

This is an important subject, as has already been mentioned by the hon. Member for Swansea East. Our inquiry found, as can be read in the published report, that companies such as Whirlpool have not made enough of an effort to take responsibility for their products and the consequences of their use when they are deemed dangerous. In fact, the report identified that a million faulty tumble dryers are in everyday use in this country. We also identified in the report gaps in the regulatory regime.

I should mention that, during the hearings that we conducted, Whirlpool made commitments about its willingness to respond to the concerns that we raised. We asked it to resolve issues with defective machines within two weeks. It said that it would do it within a week, but we have no way of measuring whether the company has been true to the commitment that it made and put on the record.