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House of Lords Hansard
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23 January 2017
Volume 778

Question

Asked by

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the case for improving the product recall system and manufacturing standards for white goods.

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My Lords, in asking the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, I refer Members to my declaration of interests.

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My Lords, the Government consider product safety to be paramount. We have set up a specific working group on product recalls and safety to look at further options to improve the safety of white goods and the recall system. The working group brings together key stakeholders from a range of trade associations and consumer groups, the fire service and trading standards professionals.

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My Lords, the London Fire Brigade attends, on average, one fire every day caused by white goods where there is no fault on the part of the householder. We have seen a death in Wealdstone and, more recently, a devastating fire in Shepherd’s Bush caused by a Whirlpool tumble-dryer. Does the Minister agree that Whirlpool’s advice issued in Australia, which was not to use the product, and its advice until recently in the UK that, “You can use it but don’t go out or go to bed” are unacceptable? Will he agree to meet the chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Dr Fiona Twycross, London Fire Brigade officials and me to discuss this matter and ensure that we can improve safety, save property and avoid injury and death?

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My Lord, the noble Lord knows that trading standards has the main responsibility in this area, rather than the Government directly. I am certainly happy to arrange a meeting with my colleague Margot James in the other House with him and whomever he wants to bring to talk about the whole recall system in more detail. I note that the deputy director of the London Fire Brigade sits on the working group that is looking at recalls more generally.

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I accept that the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, clearly makes a good point, but I am sure he appreciates, as no doubt the Minister will confirm, that if the Government insist on us leaving the single market, in future any manufacturer selling goods into the European Union will have to accept any new European Union standards, which we will have had no role in determining.

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Clearly, if we carry on selling products into the European Union—as we will—we will have to comply with the standards in the European Union, as we do in any other market in the world.

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My Lords, I declare an interest in that my daughter has an interest in one of those flats that was burnt out in Shepherd’s Bush. She tells me that that could have been avoided by people just fitting a part—I think costing 10p—in front of the vent that was accumulating the dust. Suppliers of these white goods should be providing information about how essential it is to clean the filters.

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My Lords, I bow to my noble friend’s expertise on the subject of laundry but there is no doubt that the instructions on these machines talk about cleaning the filters and removing the lint from the filters. That is clearly important. However, there is a problem in this particular machine that does require modification. There is no doubt that if everyone registered the product when they bought it, many of the recall problems that we are facing would be addressed. But only 47% of those who buy these tumble-dryers actually register the machine in the first place.

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My Lords, how does the Minister respond to the idea of a single register of UK product recalls, as proposed by Andy Slaughter MP in an Early Day Motion in the other place?

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My Lords, there is no doubt that recall can be improved and this issue is being considered by the working group, which has given its interim findings to my honourable friend in the other House, Margot James. It is due to give its final report in March, when we will be able to respond more fully to the noble Lord’s question.