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Written Statements

Volume 663: debated on Wednesday 10 July 2019

Written Statements

Wednesday 10 July 2019

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Whirlpool Tumble Dryers: Product Recall

The Government’s No. 1 priority is public safety. We are committed to ensuring that the UK continues to have one of the strongest product safety regimes in the world.

I updated the House on 4 April and on 17 June. Following the publication of the review by the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) into the Whirlpool tumble dryer modification programme, I informed the House that OPSS had issued a decision letter placing a number of requirements on the company. Having reviewed Whirlpool’s response to the Government’s requirements, OPSS determined that it was inadequate.

Accordingly, on 4 June, OPSS notified Whirlpool of their intention to serve a recall notice in respect of as many as 800,000 remaining unmodified tumble dryers currently in use.

I am able to confirm that Whirlpool is now to issue a full product recall of all unmodified tumble dryers from consumers’ homes.

Whirlpool has agreed to undertake a number of actions required by OPSS, and which have been reviewed by an expert panel, consisting of an independent Queen’s counsel and three chief scientific advisors from the Home Office, health and safety executive and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Under the recall, consumers with an unmodified, affected Whirlpool tumble dryer will be entitled to a new replacement machine. This will be delivered and installed, with the old one removed, at no cost. A refund based on product age or a modification will be available to those consumers who do not want to take up the offer of a replacement dryer. Whirlpool have agreed to implement additional quality assurance procedures for any new modifications in consumers’ homes.

Whirlpool will deliver a significant consumer outreach campaign with wide ranging publicity of the product recall. Whirlpool have committed to deliver improved identification of, and outreach to, vulnerable consumers. They guarantee that there will be no charges for the delivery, installation or removal of affected machines. Whirlpool have also committed, and will be legally required, to provide OPSS with effective and timely reporting of progress made in the product recall.

As part of OPSS monitoring of the programme, OPSS is receiving weekly data reports from Whirlpool and it continues to monitor the situation very closely.

The actions taken by OPSS illustrate once again this Government’s commitment to ensuring the safety of consumers. No other European country has used the recall process in this way, and on this scale before for domestic appliance safety.

OPSS will closely monitor the recall and it will take further action should it be necessary to ensure public safety. It will continue to work closely with other Government Departments and key stakeholders to raise awareness of the recall.

The message for consumers who have an unmodified dryer is to stop using and unplug their dryer immediately and to contact Whirlpool for a replacement.


Housing, Communities and Local Government

Local Government Audit

Local government in England is responsible for 22% of total UK public sector expenditure. It is essential that local authority financial reporting is of the highest level of transparency to allow taxpayers to understand how their money is being spent.

The responsibilities for the framework within which local authority audits are conducted is the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. It gave effect to commitments to abolish the Audit Commission and its centralised performance and inspection regimes and put in place a new localised audit regime, refocusing local accountability on improved transparency.

Now the Act has been fully implemented, the Government are required to review its effectiveness. The Government want to use this opportunity to step back and review the effectiveness of the local authority financial reporting and audit regime. Developments in the sector have led to a perceived widening of the “expectation gap”; that is, the difference between what users expect from an audit and the reality of what an audit is and what auditors’ responsibilities entail.

This is why I am today announcing a Government commissioned independent review to assess the effectiveness of the local authority audit framework and of the transparency of local authority financial reporting. I have asked Sir Tony Redmond, a former local government ombudsman, former local government boundary commissioner for England and former president of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy to chair this review.

This new review will examine the existing purpose, scope and quality of statutory audits of local authorities in England and the supporting regulatory framework to in order to determine:

Whether the audit and related regulatory framework for local authorities in England is operating in line with the policy intent set out in the Act and the related impact assessment;

Whether the reforms have improved the effectiveness of the control and governance framework along with the transparency of financial information presented by councils;

Whether the current statutory framework for local authority financial reporting supports the transparent disclosure of financial performance and enables users of the accounts to hold local authorities to account; and

Appropriate recommendations on how far the process, products and framework may need to improve and evolve to meet the needs of local residents and local taxpayers, and the wider public interest.

A copy of the terms of reference has been placed in the Library of the House.


Women and Equalities

Opposite-sex Civil Partnership

This Government want to see more people joined in a legal union, in the way they want, with the person they love. Greater commitment leads to greater family stability, and greater security within relationships helps to protect children’s interests.

That is why the Prime Minister announced last October that we would extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. Since then, the Government supported the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc.) Act 2019, brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), through the parliamentary process.

The Act paves the way for opposite-sex couples to form civil partnerships. Now we are preparing to make those rights a reality through the supporting secondary legislation.

Today we have published a paper entitled “Implementing Opposite-Sex Civil Partnerships: Next Steps”, setting out how we intend to implement opposite-sex civil partnerships by the end of this year. This includes important issues such as parental responsibility and parenthood, financial benefits and entitlements and the protections we intend to put in place for religious organisations in relation to civil partnerships. The Government have already sought views from key stakeholders on most of these issues. We intend, wherever appropriate, to extend existing rights that apply to same-sex civil partners or opposite-sex married couples to opposite-sex civil partners. This document is not, therefore, a formal consultation.

The issue on which we are keen to hear views is conversion into and out of marriage. We know that there are some opposite-sex married couples who would have preferred to form a civil partnership, had this option been available to them, and may therefore wish to convert their marriages to a civil partnership. We are seeking views on proposals to introduce a new right for opposite-sex couples to convert from a marriage to a civil partnership for a limited period of time, before bringing this and the existing right for same-sex couples to convert from a civil partnership to marriage to an end. In this way, couples will have an opportunity to choose the relationship that best suits them, following which marriage and civil partnership will be once and for all established as two distinct and different legal unions by ending movement between them. Our consultation on conversion rights “Civil Partnerships: The Future of Conversion Rights” has also been published today and runs until 20 August.

I have placed copies of the documents in the Library of the House.

We are firmly committed to changing the eligibility requirements for civil partnerships by the end of the year at the latest. Our aim is that opposite-sex couples will be able to register and form civil partnerships by the end of this year. Any substantive changes on conversion are likely to follow in 2020, after the consultation exercise.