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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:56 pm on 9th May 2018.

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Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith 2:56 pm, 9th May 2018

I am grateful for that answer. Perhaps, because of the limited time, I will limit myself to making one point. Will the new office pass the Whirlpool test? Whirlpool is untypical in some ways, because one particular design fault has affected 5.5 million tumble dryers; I think it was estimated that one in six homes in the country is affected. That is not the only problem with Whirlpool. We have also had the issue that led to the Llanrwst inquest and the sad, tragic deaths there. The Whirlpool reaction has been extraordinarily unhelpful. If the office can deal with Whirlpool, it can probably deal with a number of other issues.

I remind members that over 12 years a number of different brands manufactured tumble dryers that were liable to catch fire and did in many hundreds, if not thousands, of cases. The concentration was initially on the slow speed at which they were repaired or replaced and then the fact that half of them were not identified at all. That threw up the lack of a registration or recall process. Whirlpool persistently resisted a recall or even giving the correct safety advice. That is bad enough, but through Which? and the BBC’s “Watchdog” programme—which has done an incredible job in exposing this negligent behaviour by Whirlpool and is now being broadcast weekly—we have discovered that that was not the only problem.

The replacement and repaired machines were themselves faulty and large numbers of them are now catching fire. We could well be back where we were, except for the fact that people have been lulled into a false sense of security in the belief that they now have safe goods in their home when they often do not. How does the Minister intend to approach the Whirlpool issue and learn from it? Will we have a proper registration process? Will we have a clear database of products that are at risk and are recalled? Will we insist on recall, rather than this rather botchy repair method? Will that be within the remit of the new office?

Finally, we are coming up to the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, which we are dealing with on a daily basis. It was started by a particular type of fridge freezer. If the Minister cannot answer this question now, I would be grateful if he would write to me. I have had contradictory answers from his Department and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. When will we get a verdict on that? Is it coming through the police inquiry or his Department? When will we know exactly which fault caused that fire? We know it is in a particular model of fridge freezer, but we need to know more, because if there is a further risk, it needs to be demonstrated and publicised.