Select Committee on Science and Technology Sixth Report


168. Opinion is divided on the current Proposals. While industry continues to argue that they remain unworkable, environmental NGOs claim that further concessions to industry risk undermining the legislation's effectiveness while still imposing most of the burden. We have taken a pragmatic approach to this legislation, to look at how the current Proposals can be optimised in terms of health, environment and industrial competitiveness. REACH is not perfect but any regulation is a compromise between competing demands. We share the view that it is better than the current EU legislation. There are concerns that the more risk-based approaches to regulation in Japan and the USA have not been effective in protecting human health and the environment from toxic substances. We conclude that the Proposals offer a good basis for negotiation during the co-decision process and have highlighted areas of concern; for example, we would like to see a pre-Registration system to identify substances of high and low concern and prioritise their Registration accordingly. At the Evaluation stage, we would like to see stronger oversight by the European Chemicals Agency. We have not been convinced by the arguments of the environmental NGOs that the current Proposals create insufficient provision for the substitution of chemicals of concern. The predicted impact of the Proposals has been extremely contentious and we believe that a further impact assessment will be necessary to give all stakeholders confidence in the legislation.

169. We agree with the Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environment Quality that "a number of changes have been made which are moving towards more workability but I think further improvements are necessary".[256] The UK Government has adopted, for the most part, a sensible position, which we attribute to a refreshingly objective stance to legislation. We urge it to argue its case strongly at the Council of the European Union and to use its influence when it assumes the Presidency in the second part of 2005.

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