Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140 - 149)



  Q140  Dr Harris: Yes, you said that earlier.

  Dr Delbeke: To some extent we will need animal testing to bring essential information on the table, so I think that we are today not yet in a situation where we can afford in not having animal testing if we want to know beforehand, in a reasonable way, the impact on health and the environment.

  Q141  Dr Harris: Do you see it as part of your job to explain to the citizens of Europe that there is a need for, albeit minimum, animal testing? Or do you think it is someone else who should be making that case?

  Dr Delbeke: I think that we made that point. I think my Commissioner is standing up and saying that we live today in a world where, unfortunately, we cannot yet afford scrapping all plans for animal testing, and, by the way, we are managing a Directive on that which is currently being reviewed in order to be sure that we not only minimise but that we also have the animals involved in this having a fair treatment and decent treatment, et cetera, and we do this in a stakeholder involvement with all those concerned, including all the sides of the equation, if I may say it like that, the industry, tester laboratories and the NGOs involved in it. I know it is a very heated debate but we try to push it as far as we can.

  Q142  Mr Key: Dr Delbeke, REACH will impact on international trade. Apart from the Untied States, which countries or international organisations have fed in information and opinions to your consultations?

  Dr Delbeke: I have not a comprehensive list with me but I do remember that we had repeated discussions with the Japanese, with the Chinese, with the Koreans—in short, with a lot of south-eastern trading partners.

  Q143  Mr Key: Did you or your Commissioner manage to meet US Secretary of State Colin Powell?

  Dr Delbeke: My Commissioner has not met with Mr Powell on this issue.

  Q144  Mr Key: How would you describe the contribution of the United States administration, in view of the very strong lobbying that they have been undertaking?

  Dr Delbeke: We are in touch with several stakeholders in the United States and we observe that we have a debate going on there very similar to what we have with Europe, but there is not a proposal like REACH that is currently on the table.

  Q145  Mr Key: How would you describe the approach of the United Kingdom Government?

  Dr Delbeke: I think that the United Kingdom is a very important player in this discussion, a very constructive player. We have excellent relations. I observe that in the negotiations in Council, for example, they make very helpful and innovative proposals.

  Q146  Mr Key: Why do you think only three of the accession states submitted opinions in the consultation?

  Dr Delbeke: The accession states have a fairly limited chemical sector.

  Q147  Mr Key: But then so has Finland and Sweden.

  Dr Delbeke: True. They are perhaps important users of chemicals, those countries that you just mentioned.

  Q148  Mr Key: But so are accession states.

  Dr Delbeke: Yes. But we know that generally, in the field of the environment, the higher your income is, the higher the concern is with your health. I think that is a very important driver in this. You are mentioning Finland and Sweden which are particularly high income countries. In all the new Member States that we are going to have, we know that the income levels are far below what they are in Sweden and Finland. I would invite you to contribute your concern for that into the awareness raising and the general attitude towards the environment which is quite different there.

  Q149  Mr Key: If I were to accept what you have said about how seriously different states will take this, is it also true that you will acquiesce in some states not forcing compliance as rigorously as others?

  Dr Delbeke: Actually, I did not say that. I think, when it comes to compliance, that we are going to be as rigorous as with others, but we have transitions schemes, and have been negotiating some different environmental regulations which are already in place. For some, we have considerable transition periods. So the compliance question is not there as of 1 May, but it is spread out over time, depending on what kind of regulation you are talking about.

  Mr Key: Thank you.

  Chairman: Dr Delbeke, we have come to the end of our session. You need some light relief now, I am sure. Thank you very much indeed for very frankly and honestly talking to us about his burning issue. It has been most helpful and it will be very helpful to our inquiry. Thank you.

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