Cosmetic Products

[back to previous text]

Richard Younger-Ross: I shall try to be brief. The cosmetics market is growing. It is clear from magazines that such productswhether sanitary or for vanityare being pushed more and more. Even men use them; not only when they appear on television, but even to stop the shine on their foreheads when under the bright lights in the House. Animal testing affects many people. Concern is felt throughout the country about it, but I do not know whether people's vanity makes them buy the stuff without realising the intellectual basis of the products and whether the products have been tested on animals.

The WTO should be challenged; that would be a way forward. We have a legal argument about testing, but it is a shame to duck the issue and not have a total ban. Many people are in favour of that, and of a more robust approach being taken. I understand the practicalities outlined by the Minister, but we must move forward to a total test ban. While we do not have such a ban, it is important that we have clear labelling. Companies such as The Body Shop market their animal-free testing products extremely well. Such an approach should be taken throughout the industry. We should know what products have been tested on animals and what products have not.

11.37 am

Mr. Wright: I applaud the Government's action on animal welfare in the short time that they have been in office. It is a bit tongue in cheek for the Opposition to suggest that, all of a sudden, they have become friends of the animal kingdom. During 18 years in power, Conservative Members did nothing in that respect. However, we shall find out on Monday how much they support animal welfare. I am extremely uncomfortable with the proposal, because I take the line that fur coats are worn by beautiful animals and by ugly people. In this day and age, we should not allow testing on animals for any cosmetic products. We should push that view. However, I understand the Government's explanation and I am willing to go some way with them on it and, hopefully, they may campaign for an

Column Number: 20

outright ban. The United Kingdom seems to be the leader in animal welfare. We have banned pig tethering in the farming industry, while it exists in the rest of Europe. We have taken on board other animal issues, too, yet we seem to be afraid of pushing such matters forward on to the world stage. I wish that we had it within ourselves to say, ''Yes, the United Kingdom believes in such issues'' and to challenge the world organisations. I am saddened that we are not challenging the WTO and pushing forward the sixth amendment, rather than adopting the seventh amendment.

We talked about consumer health versus animal welfare. It is not possible to put those two issues together in a discussion about cosmetics. There may be an argument in the medical world, but we are in danger of overstepping our rights to take decisions as sentient beings. Having said that, I am prepared to accept the seventh amendment as a move in the right direction, but wish to register my sadness in doing so.

I am sure that I speak for many hon. Members when I say that there should be a worldwide outright ban on animal testing. The directive is one step on that road. I will not rest until the day that we have an outright ban on animal testing throughout the world. If that is not accepted, there should be no market in the United Kingdom or the EU for products tested on animals.

11.40 am

Miss Johnson: I thank hon. Members for their contributions to the debate. We have had a useful discussion of the issues. I will tackle some of the questions raised in the closing remarks of those hon. Members who contributed in the last stage of the discussion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth and the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Richard Younger-Ross) both mentioned challenging the WTO. The question is not whether we challenge the WTO, but of us belonging to the WTO and working within its rules. The challenge would come from another WTO member should we pursue a course of action in contravention of its rules. The Government have always framed policy development in full knowledge of WTO rules and to withstand challenge, which is an important factor in guiding the way in which we have moved forward on this subject.

I agree with the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) that we must balance human health and animal welfare. However, I also agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth that animal welfare is important. Indeed, the hon. Member for Eastbourne will be tested on future occasions, not least on Monday, on his views and those of his colleagues on animal welfare.

I wish to be clear for the benefit of my hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth; the Government wish to see no animal testing whenever practicable alternatives are available. With every enthusiasm and motivation, we encourage others to move forward in developing alternatives to tests. We must be clear about why the reserve was lifted. I reiterate the points that I made to the European Scrutiny Committee on

Column Number: 21

9 January. Had we not lifted the reserve when we did, no progress would have been made at the November Internal Market Council, which would have risked the common position falling into disarray.

As it is, we have an amendment to put before the EU. We cannot guarantee that the European Parliament will adopt the seventh amendment, but we will do all that we can to secure a Second Reading for it and to ensure that the process goes ahead on the agreed timeframe. It is important that we do that so that the amendment to the directive is adopted and we may move forward.

The hon. Member for Eastbourne was right to say that we are talking about the art of the possible. We can move ahead in Europe only if we have sufficient support from other member states. That was the reason behind the Belgian presidency's work to produce the compromise text and it is among the reasons why we have decided to move forward as we have. As I have said, if we move ahead in the EU in a way that seems to be protectionist, we will not only fall foul of WTO rules, but raise questions about why we are behaving in such a way when we should be developing measures that could be accepted internationally.

I am grateful for the hon. Member for Eastbourne's comments about progress on testing since 1998. This Government introduced the voluntary ban on testing in the UK and the changes in licensing arrangements, although I believe that the ban on testing was introduced in 1999, not 1998. The hon. Gentleman

Column Number: 22

rightly mentioned putting three lawyers in a room, but his point about three legal opinions emerging might be an underestimate. We could get four, five or more legal opinions from putting those lawyers in a room.

It would be wrong to draw an exact parallel with the question of steel tariffs, and that is why we must adopt the position that we have on cosmetics. We were right to condemn strongly the United States for imposing tariffs to protect a domestic industry. We believe that the US is contravening WTO rules. However, it would be hypocritical of the UK and the EU to try to get a marketing ban while knowing that all the legal advice that we have received from the Commission, our advisers and other quarters says that that would contravene WTO rules. We are acting consistently to promote animal welfare and to try to achieve the results in the UK that Labour Members, especially, want as quickly as is practical.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee takes note of the unnumbered explanatory memorandum dated 14th November 2001 from the Department of Trade and Industry on the amended draft Directive of the European Parliament and the Council amending for the seventh time Council Directive 76/768/EEC on the approximation of the laws of member states relating to cosmetic products; and welcomes it as a positive step towards maintaining the current high levels of protection for human health and safety whilst promoting animal welfare.

Committee rose at thirteen minutes to Twelve o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Benton, Mr. Joe (Chairman)
Cunningham, Tony
Havard, Mr.
Henderson, Mr. Ivan
Ladyman, Dr.
Luke, Mr.
Murrison, Dr.
Swire, Mr.
Wright, Mr. Anthony D.
Younger-Ross, Richard

The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 119(5):
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry)
Miller, Mr. Andrew (Ellesmere Port and Neston)
Pearson, Mr. Ian (Dudley, South)
Waterson, Mr. Nigel (Eastbourne)

Previous Contents

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

©Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 13 March 2002