Select Committee on European Scrutiny Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-24)



  20. The two things are not in a vacuum, I mean.
  (Miss Johnson) Well, nothing is in a vacuum, but the fact is that I think there is a distinct difference between the kinds of things we are talking about. This is actually something that is going to be agreed on a scientific basis and they have agreed, so clearly it is possibly to achieve agreement and what we need to do is achieve more agreements.
  (Ms Drage) My understanding, Mr Cunningham, is that the OECD have validated the test against cancer for the ingredients of potential cosmetic products and that two or three more are in the pipeline, going through a rigorous scientific test to ensure that all countries who are members of the OECD can accept these because clearly they all want to ensure the health and safety of any of the ingredients that go into babycare products, shampoos, soaps, all the things that count as cosmetics.

  21. Perhaps you can drop me a line and tell me which ones have been approved.
  (Miss Johnson) We would be happy to drop the Committee a line.

  22. My understanding was that there were not any.
  (Miss Johnson) No, there are some and progress is being made.


  23. Minister, perhaps I can just try and draw this evidence session to a conclusion with this question. The Secretary of State's letter of the 18th December says that all Member States will for the first time be committed to banning any testing of cosmetic products on animals across the European Union. But was not such a commitment an integral part of the Sixth Amendment, and would it not be more accurate to say that what has now been agreed represents a weakening of that commitment?
  (Miss Johnson) No, it does not because it is, as I have said, actually about what is practically achievable and what we believe is legally sustainable and those two points are not trivial points. They are actually points which will either allow us to make progress or hinder our progress. Now, if we had gone down the path of continuing to support the Sixth Amendment, we would have lost both any legal certainty and probably would have hit legal challenge. The legal uncertainty would have undone the whole process for however long the legal process takes, but the estimates I have received are three or four years of considerable uncertainty while the whole process stalls. As it is, we are hopefully, if we get agreement and it will obviously be the subject of considerable further European discussion, both EU and Parliament discussion, to make sure that we do actually achieve progress on this and we do therefore end up with alternatives which are being developed according to a realistic timescale and we therefore make considerable progress of the kind that has not been made in the EU before. The Sixth Amendment of course has never been implemented and I can only re-emphasise that. I think I made that point before, that they are alternatives. There has been no implementation up until now and indeed there will be no implementation unless we sort this out over the next six months and that leads me back to the point about why it was unfortunately necessary to lift the scrutiny reserve and to make progress at the time at which we did, even though I recognise it has caused some problems for you.

  24. It certainly has because we do not take it lightly when the Government lifts our scrutiny reserve and indeed in the past we have been very critical of the sometimes cavalier manner in which some departments have lifted the reserve and I can assure you that we will not be very keen in this Parliament about what happens with reserves put on by this Committee. Minister, thank you for seeking to reassure us by coming this morning. I think it is fair to say that some of us are still concerned greatly about it to the extent that some of us are not convinced by the argument given by the Government, but you have put your case to the Committee as I would expect and thank you very much for doing so and thank you to you and your colleagues for coming along this morning.
  (Miss Johnson) Thank you.

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 4 February 2002