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It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Jim Fitzpatrick and to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I will not repeat what my hon. Friend said, except to say that we are all grateful for the expertise and support that we get in trying to deal with these issues, for your involvement over time and for the Select Committee’s involvement now.
It is probably right to say that the announcement of the new office was rather subdued. I think that it came at a weekend; we were all expecting an oral statement or at least some explanation of its role, but we have had to wait really till today to address that matter. I am grateful to my hon. Friend Carolyn Harris for initiating the debate and for her expertise on the matter.
We know what needs to be done. We had the Lynn Faulds Wood report two years ago. We had the Government’s own working party report. We have had much expert advice, including from the London fire brigade, Which? and Electrical Safety First. The difficulty is that not much is happening. There is a fear—if I can be blunt with the Minister —that this is really window dressing; it is simply a way of being seen to do something. We are told that it is a new office and has additional funding—£12 million. Can the Minister confirm, first, that that is additional money? Secondly, I think that that is when it is fully operational. When will the office be fully operational in that way? Its remit appears to be quite limited. It appears to be mainly the same people doing the job, and it appears to have the same limitations because of the reliance, still, on the local network of underfunded trading standards organisations.