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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:14 pm on 9th May 2018.

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Photo of Tulip Siddiq Tulip Siddiq Labour, Hampstead and Kilburn 3:14 pm, 9th May 2018

I thank my hon. Friend Carolyn Harris for securing this important debate. I congratulate her on raising this important issue that matters to so many of us and our constituents. Also, a bit cheekily, I take this opportunity to congratulate her on her recent election as deputy leader, although I am not sure whether that is allowed.

The move to establish a new Office for Product Safety and Standards is welcome, but I will echo a few of the things that my hon. Friend Yvonne Fovargue has said about how there will be only limited improvement should the Government fail to establish an effective product register site for all UK recalled products.

I am part of a group of mothers in my constituency who often talk about how we keep our babies, toddlers and newborns safe. We are usually awash with information about the best nappies to use, whether to use formula or to breastfeed, and which car seat should be used, but one of the things that we struggle with is finding out which products that we use for our newborns should be recalled: for example, tumble dryers, which most of us use; baby monitors, which are often fitted to the cots that children sleep in or are at least in their rooms; or bottle or milk warmers that in the past have been recalled, which we do not have much information about.

If we want to find out information about those products, we have to go through individual websites to try to find out which one is faulty and which one we should use, at the same time as trying to look after our young children, which is not the easiest of things to do. We found out that the communication from manufacturers about faulty products is simply not good enough. In a consumer survey carried out by Electrical Safety First, only 21% of people said that they had ever responded to a product recall, and 47% had never even seen a recall notice. That is certainly the experience that I have had, along with the constituents that I am speaking about.

Manufacturers often fail to be clear about what dangers their product poses. If they said more clearly what accidents, deaths and fires were linked to the product that they have recalled, more people would act on the recall notice. In fact, in a survey, 77% of consumers said that if they knew what was exactly wrong with the product that they were using and what dangers it could pose to them and their families, they would be more likely to take the product recall notice seriously.

It is shameful that recall success rates are rarely more than 10% or 20%. If we sincerely want recalls to be successful where necessary, we should not leave it up to consumers to hunt through thousands of websites to find out information. It is not reasonable to expect new parents who are already dealing with newborn children to check every website of every manufacturer from whom they have ever bought a product. My hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield talked about how many people actually know the product’s serial number or what is on the back of every product that they have bought: what make it was or in what year it was bought. It is simply not possible for consumers to have such information at their fingertips.

We must make sure that consumers are equipped with information about the products they have bought to ensure that they can keep themselves and their families safe. Will the Minister agree that it is vital that the OPSS outline the detail behind its commitment to establish a single national database for UK product recalls? In particular, we need to know what resources and funding the OPSS will have to publicise the site’s existence. After all, we know that public awareness is key to successful product recall.