Select Committee on Science and Technology Sixth Report


1.We believe that the REACH legislation should not be allowed to inhibit the use of recycled materials in production and that it should be amended to provide that recycled materials should be exempt on the basis that their constituent substances will have already gone through the REACH. (Paragraph 30)
2.We have sympathy with the view that cement should not be included within REACH but we are not persuaded that it should be exempt. We are in favour of high volume chemicals of demonstrably low risk being eligible for delayed Registration with less onerous testing requirements. (Paragraph 31)
3.Information on which substances are or are not covered is of great importance. We recommend that the scope of the legislation should be set out clearly and comprehensively to enable unambiguous understanding of what the legislation does and does not cover. (Paragraph 32)
4.We see little value in having two stages of pre-Registration for phase-in substances and recommend that a single, compulsory pre-Registration stage 1 year after the Regulation comes into force. The volume threshold for pre-Registration should be lowered to 10 kg to provide a clearer picture of the production of highly toxic substances. Such a move need not be burdensome and would allow prioritisation based on risk during Registration. (Paragraph 38)
5.We understand that the CIA has plans to establish a UK database of marketed chemicals. This is a welcome initiative and one that will enable UK be better prepared for the introduction of REACH. We recommend that the Government support this initiative and provide resources if necessary. (Paragraph 39)
6.In an ideal world REACH would embrace a system of prioritisation for Registration based purely on risk. However, we are concerned about the workability of such a system. While production volume is a crude proxy for risk, it is a useful starting point. We recommend that this approach remain, but that it is refined with the introduction of a single pre-Registration phase so that highly toxic low production volume chemicals can be dealt with more quickly and high production volume chemicals of low risk dealt with later by employing advanced computational techniques. We remain concerned about the 1 tonne threshold for carcinogens, mutagens and reprotoxins. The toxicity of these chemicals is such that we believe the volume threshold should be lowered to 10 kg. (Paragraph 40)
7.We agree that some audit of Registration dossiers is required. The WWF's suggestion that all submissions should be independently audited would bring the process to a halt, which is counterproductive. A better system would be a programme of spot checks, with a stated percentage of Registration dossiers checked for accuracy with sanctions for the submission of inaccurate data. (Paragraph 41)
8.REACH is an excellent opportunity to draw together comprehensive chemical data to help the sharing of test data. This will form a valuable resource. We believe that the European Chemical Agency should augment this with resources to help improve the access to chemical data already held by national libraries and international and overseas bodies. (Paragraph 45)
9.While we do not doubt the problems of late joiners and free riders on consortia formation, we consider that having identified the problems it should be possible to develop an equitable pricing formula. (Paragraph 49)
10.There is much to be gained from the promotion of one substance-one Registration. While the legislation could do more to provide incentives and encouragement to form consortia so that data sharing becomes the norm but not the rule, the mandatory formation of consortia is not workable. We consider the Government's position on this issue to be untenable. (Paragraph 52)
11.We recommend that Substance Evaluation remain the responsibility of Member States but their rolling programmes be subject to oversight by the European Chemicals Agency to ensure that Evaluations of chemicals are prioritised according to risk and rapidly undertaken. (Paragraph 61)
12. We do not find the Proposals' requirements for substitution excessively onerous. Where a substance of high concern is involved, it seems reasonable that any Authorisation should require that attention is given to the use of alternatives. We do not contest the fact that this imposes a burden on companies, but nor should they contest the importance of ending the production of substances of high concern. (Paragraph 77)
13.It is sensible for REACH to be compatible with existing EU legislation. The Proposals replace around 40 existing Directives and it is not clear why one - the IPPC Directive - is unaffected when it allows the emission of hazardous substances. We recommend that risks from emission points be considered in the Authorisation process. (Paragraph 80)
14.We conclude that the current wording of the Proposals with regard to substitution is acceptable, provided that "adequate control" is interpreted so that the risks of exposure to humans or the environment are remote during and after the lifecycle of the product. Substitution is an important element of the legislation and must be encouraged but its enforcement must be pragmatic. (Paragraph 81)
15.The Government believes that decisions about what precise time limits should apply for Authorisations can only be made on a case-by-case basis, and would need to strike the balance between acting as an effective incentive while avoiding imposing deadlines which are unrealistic. This is a sensible approach and we believe that time-limited Authorisations should be made subject to these criteria. (Paragraph 82)
16.We recommend that the Commission provide estimates of the number of animals likely to be used for testing as a result of the REACH Proposals and make clear statements that these animals' lives can be justified by the improvements to the environment and human health achieved by the new legislation. (Paragraph 89)
17.The Government has identified scenarios where there could be duplicate animal testing if one substance-one Registration is not imposed. While we sympathise with the desire to minimise testing, the response must be proportionate and that covering every eventuality could impose an unjustified burden on industry. (Paragraph 91)
18.The validity of the tests required by REACH is fundamental to its ability to protect the health and environment from toxic chemicals. If any party has any doubts about the application of the tests required by REACH, then we consider it to be dishonest to continue promoting the legislation until these doubts have been resolved or better tests introduced. (Paragraph 97)
19.We believe that the current rate of progress in developing and validating non-animal tests is too slow and that the European Chemical Agency must play a role in driving forward change. It is unlikely that animal tests can be replaced in the Regulation before it comes into effect but we believe that there should be a framework and a timetable for change embedded in the legislation. It will be several years before much of the test data is required. This provides a window of opportunity that should not be missed. (Paragraph 103)
20.Just as Lord Sainsbury, as Science Minister, has taken an interest in research into alternative, non-animal tests, the Minister of State for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality should use his influence to ensure that this research funding is directed towards new and sensitive environmental toxicology tests. (Paragraph 104)
21.We agree with the suggestion that the European Chemicals Agency's committees for risk assessment and socio-economic analysis should be merged. As well as streamlining its work, the move would ensure that these issues are not dealt with in isolation. (Paragraph 111)
22.We hope that locating the European Chemicals Agency at Helsinki rather than Ispra in Italy with the European Chemicals Bureau and the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods does not affect its access to the necessary chemicals expertise. Without the necessary skills and experience, the EU's new chemical regulation cannot be fully effective. It is also vital that European Chemicals Agency attains the confidence of all stakeholders. To achieve this, it must operate in a transparent fashion and decisions must be consistent. (Paragraph 112)
23.The European Chemicals Agency needs to be a powerful and authoritative body. While much of the Evaluation should be dealt with by Member States to make use of existing expertise and avoid unnecessary bureaucracy, strong direction and oversight will be required from the Agency to ensure that the Evaluation of substances is carried out promptly and rationally by Member States. (Paragraph 113)
24.Conclusions on the impact of environmental legislation cannot be generalised and to do so confuses the arguments as to how REACH can be improved to optimise competitiveness and benefits to human health and the environment. (Paragraph 120)
25.We believe that the REACH Proposals could have a significant adverse impact on trade with the US and Asia. This should be borne in mind by the Commission, the European Chemical Agency and Member States in the assistance they give to industry complying with REACH. (Paragraph 131)
26.REACH may lead to the loss of products, at least in the short term. Given that one of its aims is to remove dangerous chemicals from the environment, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Of greater concern is that very useful products will be withdrawn by companies rather than being put through the Registration process, regardless of whether they pose any danger to human health or the environment. (Paragraph 132)
27.We believe that the Commission should work harder to ensure that the accession countries are more fully and better prepared for the introduction of REACH. (Paragraph 137)
28.The REACH Proposals are not perfect and will force change on the European chemical industry. The UK chemical industry has a poor record of innovation in recent years and REACH provides an opportunity to reverse this trend. British companies should see it as an opportunity, not a threat. (Paragraph 144)
29.Academic chemistry in the UK has been suffering in recent years, with a string of closures of university chemistry departments. The Government must act to reverse this trend and support British industry in its attempts to compete successfully in the REACH environment. (Paragraph 145)
30.There is evidence that a number of chemical compounds are having significant environmental impacts but in too many cases the associations are poorly understood. If REACH is to be effective in protecting human health and the environment, it must be supported by good basic science and monitoring. We urge the Government and the Commission to give research in this area a high priority. (Paragraph 148)
31.A further impact assessment looks increasingly necessary if the legislation is to attain the confidence of all parties. It is unlikely that the European Parliament will give the legislation its first reading before the end of the year. This gives the Commission ample time to agree a methodology with interested parties and to undertake a further study which has widespread confidence. (Paragraph 152)
32.We accept that it is often difficult to quantify impacts, but establishing figures to a reasonable level of accuracy is important in getting the balance right between workability and environmental protection. We welcome the Commission's efforts to acquire a more sophisticated understanding of the complex chemical industry and the impact of REACH upon it. (Paragraph 155)
33.The Commission has made great strides in its openness and its responsiveness to suggestions. While we regret that alternative models to REACH were not considered in any detail before the White Paper was published, the Commission has shown itself open to constructive criticism of the REACH Proposals. We hope that this continues during the co-decision process, as the legislation still needs improvement. (Paragraph 159)
34.  The Government has played constructive and important part in the development of the legislation. The trilateral letter signed by the Prime Minister played an important role in making the Proposals more workable but the UK Government needs to keep up pressure to improve workability. (Paragraph 167)

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