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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
22 January 2018
Volume 635

Written Statements

Monday 22 January 2018

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Working Group on Product Recalls and Safety

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Yesterday the Government published their response to the report of the Working Group on Product Recalls and Safety, and announced the establishment of a new Office for Product Safety and Standards.

Setting up the Office for Product Safety and Standards represents a significant upgrade in the Government’s approach to product safety in the UK and will, for the first time, give us dedicated expertise to lead on national product safety challenges. It demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that UK consumers receive the highest possible levels of protection from unsafe goods, and that UK businesses are protected from the unfair competition posed by substandard and unsafe products (including imports) and can have confidence in meeting their responsibilities to supply safe goods.

The Working Group on Product Recalls and Safety was set up in October 2016 to provide advice to Ministers on tangible improvements that could be made in the safety of white goods and the recalls system. The Working Group is chaired by Neil Gibbins, former Deputy Chief Fire Officer for Devon and Somerset and former Chief Executive of the Institution of Fire Engineers; and brings together product safety experts, the fire service and trading standards professionals.

The group published its recommendations in July 2017. The Government accept the recommendations in full and are now taking action to address them.

The recommendations, and the headlines of the Government’s response to each, are as follows:

There is a need for centralised technical and scientific resource capability to support decision making and co-ordination of activity of Local Authorities and the businesses that they regulate. The Government fully accept this recommendation and today we are establishing the Office for Product Safety and Standards to deliver this capability.

A detailed Code of Practice should be developed with input from all relevant stakeholders; this should be informed by behavioural insights research. This should set out expected good practice with regard to product safety corrective actions (including recalls). The Government fully accept this recommendation and commissioned the British Standards Institution who published a draft code in November. The draft code was widely welcomed and finalised text is expected to be published by March this year.

Full consideration should be given to establishing central capacity to co-ordinate product safety corrective actions at a central level. The Government fully support this recommendation and the Office for Product Safety and Standards will be responsible for providing incident management capability and for maintaining a comprehensive database of corrective actions and recall programmes for consumer goods.

Systematic and sustainable ways to capture and share data and intelligence should be established and agreed by relevant parties—this should make use of existing systems used by Trading Standards and the Fire Service. The Government fully accept this recommendation and the Office for Product Safety and Standards will establish an intelligence capability that brings together the widest possible range of information and evidence to inform the understanding of risks at industry and product level. Work has already begun to map available data sources and available expertise.

Manufacturers and retailers should continue to work together and through standards setting bodies to develop technological solutions to product marking and identification. This recommendation was aimed at manufacturers and retailers however the Government would welcome further thinking from the business community on the practicalities and costs of taking this forward. The Government themselves are undertaking research on indelible marking which may prove useful to industry in their considerations.

Primary authority provides a key mechanism for ensuring that businesses, local authority and BEIS (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) expertise is shared to ensure the protection of consumers. The Government support this recommendation. Primary authority helps businesses to improve their compliance and it supports local regulators in delivering protections for the public. The Office for Product Safety and Standards will work with primary authorities and businesses to provide additional compliance advice based on the latest scientific and technical knowledge.

The registration of appliances and other consumer goods with manufacturers by consumers should be encouraged to make corrective actions (including recalls) more effective. The Government welcome the ‘Register my Appliance’ initiative developed by the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances. The Government will continue to work with retailers, fire services and others to see what more can be done to improve the registration of appliances.

An expert panel bringing together trade associations, consumer and enforcement representatives and BEIS should be established. The Government fully accept this recommendation and is looking to build on the foundations of the Working Group on Product Recalls and Safety. The Office for Product Safety and Standards will also work closely with the BEIS Chief Scientific Adviser to consider the potential role and make-up of additional scientific and technical committees.

The establishment of the new Office for Product Safety and Standards will deliver on the Working Group’s key recommendation which called for centralised technical and scientific capability to support effective decision making and to help co-ordinate the activity of local authorities and the businesses that they regulate. It also provides the capability needed to address the other recommendations made by the Working Group.

The Office for Product Safety and Standards will enable the UK to meet evolving challenges—responding to expanding international trade, the growth in online retail and the increasing rate of product innovation. It will also help the UK to put in place the most effective system for regulation and enforcement of product safety in preparation for our exit from the European Union.

The Office will:

provide incident management capability to respond to national product safety issues;

improve the information available to consumers on the Government’s product recall website;

provide central scientific and technical expertise on product safety issues;

provide support for local authority Trading Standards teams, and for district councils in Northern Ireland;

support checks at UK borders and the interception of unsafe imports;

provide improved intelligence and risk analysis to guide enforcement activities; and,

work with UK business to ensure they are able to meet their compliance requirements.

The Office for Product Safety and Standards will initially be based in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and will have an operating budget of around £12 million per year when it is fully operational. In the longer term, the Government will examine the options for making the Office an arm’s length independent body and will look at associated funding options. This will be subject to further consideration and public consultation before any decisions are made.

The Government’s response to the Working Group’s report marks the culmination of longer term work on product safety and recalls. An independent review of the recall system was undertaken by Lynn Faulds Wood in 2015, with her review published in February 2016. The Working Group has built on that review and made its own recommendations.

On 16 January 2018, the BEIS Committee published its report “The Safety of Electrical Goods in the UK”. The Government will respond to the Committee in due course.

The Government response to the Working Group on Product Recalls and Safety sets out in full how we are addressing each of the Working Group’s recommendations. That response has now been published, and copies of the documents have been placed in the Library of each House.

[HCWS418]

Treasury

ECOFIN: 23 January 2018

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A meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) will be held in Brussels on 23 January 2018. European Finance Ministers will discuss the following:

Early morning session

The Eurogroup President will brief Ministers on the outcomes of the 22 January meeting of the Eurogroup, and the Commission will provide an update on the current economic situation in the EU.

Deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU)

The Council will hold a policy debate on the deepening of the EMU.

Current financial services legislative proposals

The presidency will present information on the current legislative proposals in the field of financial services.

VAT: simplification of rates and simplification for SMEs

The Commission will present proposals to reform the rules on VAT rates and structures and to simplify VAT obligations for SMEs.

Presidency work programme

The Bulgarian presidency will present its work programme for January to June 2018, followed by an exchange of views.

European semester 2018

The Council will be asked to adopt Council conclusions on the Annual Growth Survey 2018 and the Council conclusions on the Alert Mechanism Report 2018. The Council will also be asked to approve a Council recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area.

Action plan to tackle non-performing loans in Europe

The Council will exchange views on a factual report by the Commission regarding the implementation of the action plan to tackle non-performing loans in Europe.

[HCWS419]

Defence

Devonport Collection

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My right hon. Friend Earl Howe has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have today laid before Parliament a Ministry of Defence Departmental Minute describing a gifting package which the Department intend to make to the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

Devonport Dockyard had a museum known as the Adelaide Gallery in the first half of the 1800s comprising a number of artefacts including figureheads and items such as flags from ships that served at Trafalgar. Sadly a fire in 1840 destroyed the majority of the collection. However, with the help of volunteers the museum was opened, within the Naval Base estate, in the disused Old Admiralty Fire Station in April 1969. Since opening, the “Devonport collection” has been enhanced by a group of willing volunteers who have accumulated artefacts of both local and national significance.

The current collection is made up of over 100,000 artefacts spanning the period 1588 to the present day. The collection includes naval stores, uniforms, medals, badges, personal kit and also model ships. It also includes silver, china and kitchenware, weights and measures as well as larger items such as figureheads. The total cost of the proposed gift is estimated at approximately £650,000.

The expansion of the collection is such that artefacts are now displayed in eight galleries across three buildings and is managed by a group of over 30 dedicated volunteers and uniformed staff. Currently, members of the public can only visit the collection by appointment.

Given the changes to the Naval Base site and the wider area under the Plymouth and south-west peninsula city deal and the complexities associated with supporting such an extensive collection of historical material, I propose the gifting of the Devonport collection to the National Museum of the Royal Navy in order that it can be suitably conserved and more widely displayed in Plymouth for current and future generations allowing greater access to the public.

The Departmental Minute, which I have today laid before Parliament, describes a gifting package to the National Museum of the Royal Navy that will comprise a number of historical items which need the continued support of the professional services that the Museum can provide.

Gifting is expected to be undertaken as soon as possible after the completion of the Departmental Minute process.

[HCWS417]

Housing, Communities and Local Government

Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from Non-Domestic Rates) Bill: EVEL

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I am today placing in the Library of the House the Department’s analysis on the application of Standing Order 830 in respect of any motion relating to a Lords Amendment, for Commons Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from Non-Domestic Rates) Bill.

Attachments can be viewed online at:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-01-22/HCWS420.

[HCWS420]

Work and Pensions

Funeral Expenses Payment

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I am pleased to announce that it is my intention to lay regulations in the House later today that will make some enhancements to a number of the eligibility conditions relating to the social fund funeral expenses payments scheme, and simplify the process for making a claim. The scheme makes a contribution to paying the costs of funerals being arranged by people on qualifying benefits.

The changes, which we plan to bring into force on 2 April, were the subject of a public consultation exercise in summer 2017 which generated an overwhelmingly positive response for our proposals. This package of proposals will, among other things, enable claimants to receive contributions from charities, relatives or friends without them being deducted from the overall sum payable toward funeral costs. In future, claimants will have six months from the funeral date in which to make an application for help with funeral costs instead of the current three months. They will also have the option of submitting any evidence needed in support of their claim electronically.

[HCWS416]