Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 215 - 219)



  Q215  Chairman: Welcome to you all and thank you very much for coming along this afternoon to help us with our inquiry into EU Chemicals Legislation. I will kick off by asking you about the meeting which we had with the Commission last Monday. They denied that the legislation would place EU industry at a competitive disadvantage. Do you have evidence to the contrary?

  Ms Hackitt: What we do have is a great deal of concern among our members about the cost of this legislation if it is not implemented in the correct way. Before I say any more about that and I ask my colleagues to comment, I think the most important thing to recognise is that we believe this legislation needs to happen. We have no doubt whatsoever that the existing legislation needs to be replaced. It does not work well for existing substances and we are as keen as anyone to see new legislation brought into place. We believe it can be done in a way that is cost effective, proportionate and pragmatic, but we are not there yet. We think that the Commission themselves recognised that they were at risk of adding too much to the burden of the regulation with the scope and corrected that before they published the proposal in October, but we now believe the challenge that lies ahead is to make the regulation more workable and that there are many things that could be done to make the legislation more workable from where we are now.

  Q216  Chairman: So you are not concerned about competitive advantage and so on?

  Ms Hackitt: Yes we are because of the direct costs of conducting the test but also, I think, because of over-burdensome administration which could result from legislation.

  Q217  Chairman: What is that Commissioner talking to us about if there is no problem? How do you prove him wrong or right?

  Ms Hackitt: One of the things that we have been asking for for some time is a proper extended impact assessment that would look at some of these things. The Commission clearly believe that they have done an impact assessment and we would acknowledge that they have assessed some of the potential impacts of the legislation but it has not yet looked at things, particularly, we believe, that any assessment that assumes the European economy to be a closed one, has not adequately looked at the real life situation and assessed what will happen in a global industry and a global economy such as our industry now operates in today.

  Q218  Chairman: How do you make the regulations more workable then? What are the important ways in your view to make it more workable?

  Ms Hackitt: There are some very simple one liners, and we can talk about any of them in more detail. First and foremost we believe that there is more work that needs to be done in prioritising the substances that go through the system. We are not convinced at all that volume alone is the right criteria to be used to determine which substances are done first. That, in turn, would ensure that we did not waste time and resources unnecessarily on substances that do not need to be tested simply because they are high volume but we know them to be harmless. We think that prioritisation is important. We think the role of the Central Agency—which is far from clear in the current proposals—needs to be very carefully thought through because the role that that Central Agency plays and the impact it has on ensuring consistency, pragmatic decision making and timely decision making are the sorts of things that will make a huge difference between regulation that is workable, cost effective and delivers the results that we all want to see from this legislation.

  Q219  Chairman: You have talked about an independent impact assessment. Who is going to carry that out? Who is independent enough for you to carry that out? Who would you nominate? Who have you in mind?

  Ms Hackitt: I think there are any one of several consultants out there who could do the impact assessment. I think it is immaterial to us in industry who does that. What matters is how that work is scoped out and it ought, we think, to be done under a multi-disciplinary steering group in an open and transparent fashion that involves everyone who is interested in the output from it.

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