Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:06 pm on 9th May 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Emma Hardy Emma Hardy Labour, Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle 3:06 pm, 9th May 2018

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Yvonne Fovargue and to speak in this exceptionally important debate, secured by my hon. Friend Carolyn Harris.

As we have seen on too many occasions in the last few years, product safety can be the difference between life and death. According to the consumer magazine Which?, faulty goods can cause as many as 3,120 fires a year. That is 60 fires a week or one fire every three hours. Since the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, Britain has led the world in workplace and consumer safety. High standards have ensured that we can to live and work safely without risk of death or injury in our daily lives. British safety has been a global success story, with our standards adopted across the middle east, Asia and the Commonwealth. It is right, therefore, that we welcome the introduction of the Office for Product Safety and Standards as the next step in ensuring that product safety in the UK remains world class, that it is placed right at the heart of the economy and that we avoid any sense of a race to the bottom on regulatory standards.

To do that effectively, as well as all the actions mentioned by my hon. Friends, the Government need to take a couple of extra actions as well. The Office for Product Safety and Standards must be properly financed, resourced and staffed. I welcome the £12 million that the Minister has already mentioned. The motto at the heart of the office must simply be that safety cannot be done on the cheap. The Government must provide the resources to allow it to attract the talent that it needs in order to be effective in maintaining and reinforcing the high-quality regulation that exists for consumers.

The points raised by all my hon. Friends are absolutely crucial in dealing with these problems with white goods and electrical safety. Having a new office gives us an opportunity to expand its remit and include workplace safety items as well. A company called Arco, based in my constituency of Hull, supplies health and safety equipment and services. It tells me that it has seen worryingly levels of non-compliance in a wide range of workplace safety items, including things such as high-vis jackets and non-steel toecap boots. It has carried out some tests on some of these products in a laboratory in Hull. It has revealed that up to 50% of boots containing steel midsole protection on the consumer market are actually made from brittle or mild steel, which is subject to corrosion. Many of these products have passed the CE branding procedure at the test stage, but they simply do not protect employers or consumers to an adequate standard.

We all know that protective equipment is often the last line of defence for consumers and workers against serious injury or fatality, so I think the Office for Product Safety and Standards should expand its remit to reflect this urgency. The Government should also act to give a new legislative footing to products and workplace safety that is fit to meet the evolving challenges of product safety, reflects the concerns of the industry, and gives the office real teeth to make it really effective. Product safety and standards are one area that all of us, regardless of party, can get behind. We all want to see consumers protected and safety promoted. I hope that the new Office for Product Safety and Standards can be a resounding success, which it will be if the Government follow all of the recommendations mentioned in the debate.