Kelly Tolhurst – 2019 Statement on Whirlpool Tumble Dryers

Below is the text of the statement made by Kelly Tolhurst, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in the House of Commons on 10 July 2019.

The Government’s number one 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.

Kelly Tolhurst – 2019 Speech on Business Late Payments

Below is the text of the speech made by Kelly Tolhurst, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in the House of Commons on 19 June 2019.

With permission, I wish to make a statement about the Government response to the “Creating a responsible payment culture” call for evidence, which I have published today.

The Government are committed to supporting small and medium-sized enterprises to start well and grow, including through a network of 38 growth hubs throughout England that provide advice, guidance and support. As part of our industrial strategy, we have an action plan to unlock more than £20 billion of investment in innovative and high-potential businesses. Where we see practices that unfairly constrain SMEs’ finance choices, we are prepared to act. For example, we recently removed a barrier that was preventing some SMEs from using invoice finance because of prohibitive contract terms imposed by their customers. The new measure is expected to provide a long-term boost to the UK economy worth almost £1 billion.

Last year, we launched a call for evidence asking for views on how to create a responsible payment culture for small business. Although a number of measures are already in place to tackle late payment—from the prompt payment code to the ability to charge interest on late payments and the increased transparency through the payment practices reporting duty—the call for evidence told us that there is more to do to improve the payment landscape. That is why I am announcing today that I will now take further and firmer action to tackle the scourge of late payments while maintaining a holistic approach to cultural change by using all the avenues available to us in this space.

I will shortly launch a consultation to seek views on strengthening the small business commissioner’s ability to assist and advocate for small business in the area of late payments through the provision of powers to compel the disclosure of information. I will also seek views on the merit of the commissioner’s potentially being able to issue penalties for poor payment practices. In respect of large businesses that have poor or unfair payment practices, we want to seek views on whether the commissioner should be able to apply sanctions, such as binding payment plans or financial penalties.

I am also announcing today that responsibility for the voluntary prompt payment code is to move to the small business commissioner and be reformed. This will unify prompt payment measures with the commissioner’s other responsibilities and address weaknesses in the operation of the current code. We have seen the impact of the strengthening of the code since our announcement in October: earlier in the year, we saw the removal from the code of five businesses and the suspension of 12 others. The next compliance round is currently under way.

I will take a tough compliance approach to large companies that do not comply with the payment practices reporting duty. The legislation allows for the prosecution of those who do not comply. I will use this enforcement power against those who do not comply, where necessary. We are already writing to the businesses that we have assessed as being within scope to remind them of their duty.

The Government will launch a business basics fund competition, with funding of up to £1 million, which will encourage small and medium-sized enterprises to utilise payment technology. We have recognised that tech adoption has had a positive impact on the productivity of small businesses. This competition is coupled with the small business commissioner’s strategy to deliver advice, signpost and provide a clear pathway for small businesses when they feel that they need support.

I also intend to establish a ministerial-led group to bring together key Government Departments to act on improving prompt payment across both the public and private sectors. We are working with UK Financial Investments and the financial sector to review the role that supply chain finance plays in fair and prompt payments, including the potential for an industry-led standard for good practice in supply chain finance. This review will report back to the Business Secretary by the end of the year.

We also want to bring greater transparency to how supply-chain finance is reported in company accounts and assessed in audits. Working with the Financial Reporting Council, we want to develop guidance and build that into its sampling of companies’ accounts. Supply-chain finance can provide an affordable finance option for SMEs, but they need to be assured that the terms are fair.

Our modern industrial strategy aims to make Britain the best place in which to start and grow a business, and removing barriers to growth is key to that aim. The response to the call for evidence and the package of measures that I am announcing today will ensure that we will continue to tackle the issue of late payments. I offer great thanks to the Federation of Small Businesses and its Fair Pay campaign, which has campaigned so hard for movement from the Government. I also thank the hundreds of businesses that have taken part and engaged comprehensively with the Department in assessing the call for evidence.

Finally, I thank the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee for its significant work on this issue and the work that it will continue to do. I am sure that it will hold us to account on the improvements that we are announcing today. I will place a copy of the Government’s response in the Libraries of both Houses today. I commend the statement to this House.

Kelly Tolhurst – 2019 Statement on Recall of Tumble Dryers

Below is the text of the statement made by Kelly Tolhurst, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in the House of Commons on 17 June 2019.

The Government take the safety of electrical products very seriously. For our children, relatives and families, we all want our homes to be places of safety and security. I provided an update to the House at departmental questions last week on the most recent steps taken by the Office for Product Safety and Standards in respect of Whirlpool tumble dryers. This follows the OPSS review of the actions taken by Whirlpool in relation to its corrective action. The findings of the review were published on 4 April. The OPSS review examined in detail the modification programme put in place by Whirlpool as well as technical documents supplied by Whirlpool. The review concluded that the risk posed by modified tumble dryers is low.

The Office for Product Safety and Standards produced a list of required actions for the business to take, and Whirlpool was given 28 days to respond, outlining the actions that it would take. The response received from Whirlpool was considered to be inadequate. As a result, the OPSS has written to Whirlpool to inform the company of its intention to serve a recall notice under the provisions of the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 in respect of the unmodified tumble dryers that remain in homes in the UK. As required by law, Whirlpool was given 10 days’ notice of that intention, which allowed it time to submit its views prior to the service of the recall notice or to seek arbitration in line with the provisions in the GPSR. Officials in the OPSS are reviewing Whirlpool’s response to determine whether it fully meets the requirements laid down in the draft recall notice.

At this time, all enforcement options remain on the table, including serving a formal recall notice. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further while the legal process is ongoing, but I will update the House in due course. It is important to stress that consumers who have had their affected tumble dryers modified can continue to use them and that those with an unmodified affected tumble dryer have been urged to unplug them and to contact Whirlpool. I encourage all consumers to register their appliances to ensure they receive updates on product modification and recalls. The OPSS will continue to monitor the situation closely and will take any steps it deems appropriate to ensure that consumers in the UK continue to enjoy the high levels of protection they have come to expect.

Kelly Tolhurst – 2019 Statement on Smart Data Consultation

Below is the text of the statement made by Kelly Tolhurst, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in the House of Commons on 11 June 2019.

Today I will be placing a copy of a consultation document entitled: “Smart Data: Putting consumers in control of their data and enabling innovation” in the Libraries of both Houses. This outlines the conclusions of the Smart Data Review that was announced in the Modernising Consumer Markets Green Paper and consults on future action by the Government.

The consultation sets out our vision for an economy where consumers’ data works for them and not against them. Data needs to be smart: easily and instantly accessible to consumers and be able to be safely and securely transferred to third party services who can use this data to provide innovative services for consumers. This is what we mean by smart data.

The consultation focuses on introducing new smart data initiatives to improve consumer outcomes and promote innovation in regulated markets. The key proposals we are consulting on include:

Accelerating the development of innovative data-driven services through the establishment of a new cross-sectoral smart data function to support, manage and govern the delivery of smart data initiatives

Introducing an open communications initiative in the telecoms market to require communications businesses to provide consumers’ data to third party providers at the consumer’s request to increase switching and stimulate innovation

Establishing a vulnerable consumer challenge to encourage data-driven innovation to improve outcomes for vulnerable consumers

Introducing strong data protection requirements and a cross-sectoral approach to regulation of third-party providers using smart data to build trust and minimise burdens on business.

These initiatives build on the approach in open banking, which is enabling consumers to ask their bank to share their current account transaction data securely with third parties. We have seen an explosion of new services that seek to make life easier for consumers—for example, through bringing together their current accounts into one platform or finding new ways to help consumers build an accurate credit score.

As announced by the Prime Minister yesterday, we are also signalling our agreement with the recommendation of the digital competition expert panel’s recommendation to establish a new digital markets unit to promote, among other things, data mobility and data openness across all sectors. As we take forward proposals on smart data, we will work closely to co-ordinate and integrate the recommendations as appropriate.

Kelly Tolhurst – 2019 Statement on the Post Office Network

Below is the text of the statement made by Kelly Tolhurst, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in the House of Commons on 4 June 2019.

I wish to provide an update to hon. Members on the steps that the Government are taking to ensure the long-term sustainability and resilience of the post office network.

The Government set the strategic direction for Post Office Limited, to maintain a national network accessible to all and to do so on a sustainable financial basis and allow the company the commercial freedom to deliver this strategy as an independent business.

We recognise the Post Office’s distinct social purpose and the important role post offices play in communities across the country, which is why our 2017 manifesto committed to safeguard the network, protect existing rural services and work with the Post Office to extend the availability of business and banking services to families and small businesses in rural areas.

Between 1997 and 2010 the post office network reduced in size by 37%, resulting in the loss of over 7,000 post offices. Since 2010 we have invested over £2 billion in the network. This funding sought to increase the viability of the network by making it more accessible, modern and tailored to customers’ needs while reducing the long-term burden on the taxpayer.

The Government have no programme of post office closures. Post Office Limited has opened over 400 branches since April 2017 and the Government are committed to ensuring the long-term sustainability and resilience of the network. We not only place a contractual commitment on Post Office Limited to maintain a network of 11,500 branches, but also stipulate stringent access criteria to ensure that this large network is accessible to citizens across the country. More than 93% of the UK population live within one mile of their nearest branch, with more than 99% within three miles.

There are now over 11,500 branches and the post office network is at its most stable since 2013, having changed in size by under 1% over this period. This overall change accommodates a level of churn in what is an extremely diverse network, as branches close and are replaced, and Post Office Limited is therefore used to working quickly with local stakeholders to provide replacement services.

Government subsidy ensures that branches serving our rural communities that need additional support receive it so that they can stay open. In order to provide value for money for the taxpayer the subsidy to the post office has reduced. This fact reflects the progress that the business has made: returning to profit after 16 years of losses, providing a stable network and reducing its reliance on the taxpayer.​

Beyond 2021, Government remain committed to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the network and will work with Post Office Limited to achieve this.

It is crucial that running a post office is attractive and sustainable for postmasters, and they should be fairly remunerated for the services they provide. Post Office Limited’s successful renegotiation of the banking framework with 28 high street banks, announced on 15 April, secured a significant increase in the overall fees they receive from the banks. As a result of this, they will double and, in some case, treble the rate that agents receive for processing deposits from October 2019. For example, in a main post office branch, postmasters will receive £8.16 for processing a £8,000 cash deposit, compared with the £3.12 they currently receive.

98% of the post office network is franchised and postmasters are vital to the delivery of the network. The remuneration for delivering post office services should be combined with a successful retail offer in order for postmasters to thrive in today’s competitive retail environment.

The Government have rightly moved with the times as many of us now prefer to access services online. Whilst this has an impact on the Post Office, we cannot ignore people’s desire to transact with Government digitally from the convenience of their own homes. However, we are also committed to ensuring that its services are accessible to all citizens and the post office network does and will continue to play a key role in this.

We are committed to working with Post Office Limited and our postmasters to develop the business and offer, in order to maintain the delivery of services that our constituents want and need, so that the Post Office remains at the heart of communities across the country.

Kelly Tolhurst – 2019 Statement on the Companies Register

Below is the text of the speech made by Kelly Tolhurst, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in the House of Commons on 7 May 2019.

One of the key foundations of our modern industrial strategy is delivering a strong, transparent and attractive business environment in the UK. The strength of the UK’s business environment is founded on our fair and open regulatory frameworks. The companies register is the base on which that strength is built.

While the overwhelming majority of UK corporates operate wholly legitimately, concerns have been expressed about the misuse of UK corporate entities, the filing of false information on the companies register held at Companies House and the use of innocent people’s information on the register to commit fraud and other acts of harm.

In the last three years there have been almost 10,000 complaints to Companies House from people concerned about their personal details, with worries including fraud and misuse of personal details topping the list.

We are therefore seeking views on a series of reforms to limit the risks of misuse. These include measures to: provide greater certainty over the identity of those shown as owning, running or controlling companies, including identity verification; improve the accuracy and usability of data on the register; protect personal information; ensure compliance and take action against offenders; and deter abuse of UK-registered corporate entities. We are committed to minimising burdens on law abiding businesses, especially the smallest. The consultation will therefore look at the best way to minimise burdens on businesses.

These reforms build on our global reputation as a trusted and welcoming place to do business and a leading exponent of greater corporate transparency.

The UK has one of the highest ratings for cracking down on anonymous companies, and the Government’s proposed measures build on the Britain’s world-leading anti-corruption activity. In 2016, the UK became the first country in the G20 to introduce a public register of company ownership, while new protections against identity fraud for company directors were introduced in 2018.

These measures will boost the reputation of the UK’s business environment, ensuring reliability of the UK’s company register. Knowing that a company’s information is accurate and transparent is a fundamental part of a leading business environment—giving entrepreneurs and businesses the confidence they need to do business in the UK.

I will place a copy of the consultation in the Libraries of both Houses.

Kelly Tolhurst – 2019 Statement on Whirlpool Tumble Dryers

Below is the text of the statement made by Kelly Tolhurst, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in the House of Commons on 4 April 2019.

The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) will imminently publish its review of Whirlpool’s tumble dryer modification programme.

In 2015 Whirlpool identified a design issue in several tumble dryer models which could lead to increased risks of fire incidents due to excessive lint accumulation at the rear which then ignites. The company then undertook a modification programme to address the issue. However, concerns were raised about the modification programme and in May 2018 my predecessor, the hon. Member for Burton (Andrew Griffiths), commissioned OPSS to review the actions taken by Whirlpool.

Following a review of the modification programme, as well as consideration of technical documents supplied by Whirlpool, the OPSS has concluded that the risk is low and further reduced by the modification. However, shortcomings were found in the testing and quality assurance procedures, and the business must improve its monitoring and management of risk. They must also continue their consumer outreach programme and use more creative methods to contact affected consumers.

Given the full circumstances of the current position, in particular that the overall level of risk is low and that efforts have been made by Whirlpool to address the identified problem and to comply with its legal obligations, formal enforcement action is not justified at this stage. However, OPSS has produced a list of requirement actions for Whirlpool to take in light of the findings of the review, and OPSS will continue to monitor the programme. Should Whirlpool fail to take the expected action within appropriate timescales, enforcement action would need to be considered.

The main findings of the review are:

The ongoing risk from tumble dryers modified by Whirlpool is low and consumers can continue to use them.

Whirlpool has made efforts to address the identified problem but must do more.

OPSS is requiring Whirlpool to take further action and will continue to monitor the steps taken to ensure the efficacy of the modification in consumers’ homes over the long term.

The modification and outreach programme should continue, with new and different methods used to reach consumers.

The safety of consumers is the number one priority for Government. We acknowledge the steps Whirlpool has taken to reach consumers and modify their tumble dryers, and we will continue to monitor the situation.

Kelly Tolhurst – 2019 Statement on the Nick Stace Review

Below is the text of the statement made by Kelly Tolhurst, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in the House of Commons on 26 March 2019.

The UK consistently ranks as one of the most entrepreneurial nations in the world, but there is more we can do to break down the barriers that stop some of our best and brightest young people from all backgrounds starting their own business.

Our modern industrial strategy sets out our plan to make the UK the best place to start and grow a business. We want to ensure we are driving forward a thriving entrepreneurial culture across all corners of society. Harnessing untapped talent will be key to achieving this.

To help us realise this ambition, my Department has this month launched an independent review into how best to tackle the barriers facing aspiring young entrepreneurs, aged 18-30, in England. The review will look at issues including access to finance, access to advice, support and business networks so that we can close the gap between entrepreneurial ambition and reality.

It will also look at the support on offer to young entrepreneurs from disadvantaged and low-income backgrounds and adds to efforts by the Government to improve diversity in the business community, following the Rose review into female entrepreneurship published earlier this month.

The review will be led by Nick Stace, chief executive of the Prince’s Trust. To support the review, Government and the Prince’s Trust are bringing together a steering group comprised of entrepreneurs with experience and insight. Details of this group will be set out in the coming weeks.

The review will make recommendations to Ministers later this year about what can be done to ensure young entrepreneurs are properly supported as they start building the businesses of the future.

Kelly Tolhurst – 2018 Statement on the Retail Sector

Below is the text of the statement made by Kelly Tolhurst, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in the House of Commons on 13 September 2018.

The UK’s retail sector is a driving force in our economy and plays an important social role in communities across the UK. The industry employs 3.1 million people and generated £93 billion of gross value added in 2017—5% of UK GVA.

Change has always been an inherent part of the UK’s dynamic retail sector and the Government are clear that we want all types of retail to thrive now and in the future. We are supporting the sector as it undergoes structural change and responds to changing consumer expectations, embraces new technology and prepares for EU exit.

Government and industry have recognised that positive action is needed to ensure the sector thrives in the future. To achieve this, and as part of the industrial strategy, we established the Retail Sector Council in March.

The council is jointly chaired by the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility and Richard Pennycook (chair of the British Retail Consortium). All retail activity in the UK is represented: large and small; independents; and traditional and online or disruptive retailers. Through the council the Government are helping the retail industry to come together to develop sector-led solutions to support its productivity and growth. The council has now met twice and is identifying its priorities and actions to be agreed at the next meeting later this year.

In addition, the Government are also committed to supporting the retail sector through a range of measures.

In July the Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) appointed a panel of experts to diagnose issues that currently affect the health of our high streets and advise on the best practical measures to help them thrive now and in the future. Chaired by Sir John Timpson (chairman of Timpson—the multiple service retailer) the panel will focus on what consumers and local communities want from their high streets. They are holding a series of evidence sessions across the country to hear directly from communities. The panel will look at the current challenges and work out options to ensure our town centres remain vibrant. The panel of experts have a wealth of experience and include representatives from the retail, property and design sectors.

We have taken action to reduce the business rates burden faced by some businesses, with reforms and reductions worth over £10 billion by 2023, and the ​Government are currently reviewing the wider taxation of the digital economy to make sure all businesses pay their fair share.

The Government understand the concerns of those affected by job losses in the sector, and the uncertainty this can cause. Where job losses occur, Jobcentre Plus, along with other Government Departments, works with the companies affected to understand the level of employee support required to get people back into employment as soon as possible.

British retailing is transforming and the Government are committed to doing all they can to ensure the sector continues to thrive.