Documents considered by the Committee on 25 April 2017 Contents
15Vehicle type approval
Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; scrutiny waiver granted
Proposed Regulation concerning vehicle type approval.
Article 114 TFEU, ordinary legislative procedure, QMV
(37497), 5712/16 + ADDs 1–4, COM(16) 31
Summary and Committee’s conclusions
15.1The Commission has proposed a framework Regulation focussed on improving enforcement of vehicle type approval standards, which we have held under scrutiny since March 2016. Most recently, in February 2017, we heard from the Government about its developing, mainly supportive, view of the proposal and its expectation that the current Presidency would be continuing previously slow Council consideration of it. We asked to be kept informed about developments in Council discussions and also about the Government’s post-Brexit expectations in relation to international vehicle type approval standards, particularly those developed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
15.2The Government has now told us that negotiation in the Council Working Group had proceeded well, that the Maltese Presidency intended to reach a General Approach on the proposed Regulation at the Competitiveness Council on 29 May 2017 and that this might be achievable, subject to further Working Group discussion. On this basis it has asked us for a scrutiny waiver, given consideration of a further update before the Council would not be possible. In support of this request the Government has given us a very detailed account of Working Group discussion of provisions important to the UK. The Government has also commented about the post-Brexit position on international vehicle type approval standards, mentioning particularly a recent strengthening of the role of non-EU governments in standard setting by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
15.3We are grateful to the Government for the information it has now given us. In the light of this we grant the scrutiny waiver it has requested, for use at the May 2017 Competitiveness Council and subject to its positive expectations being met. The Government should report the use of the waiver and the outcome of the Council to the successor Committee in the next Parliament.
Full details of the document
Proposed Regulation on the approval and market surveillance of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles: (37497), 5712/16 + ADDs 1–4, COM(16) 31.
15.4In January 2016, the Commission proposed a Regulation to replace the existing EU framework legislation which governs type approval and market surveillance of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles. Changes proposed focus on better enforcement of the existing standards.
15.5When we considered this proposal in March 2016 we noted the Government’s generally positive response to the proposal, particularly in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal. We recognised the case for better enforcement of the existing type approval standards and asked for more information from the Government about its fuller analysis of the implications of the proposed Regulation, about the outcome of the consultations it was undertaking and about its consequent negotiating aims.
15.6In February 2017 the Government told us about its efforts to establish, with stakeholders, the impacts, costs and benefits of the proposal. It also said that significant progress in Council working group consideration of the proposed Regulation had so far been very slow, but that the Maltese Presidency intended to continue these discussions. The Government, noting the apparent desire of some Member States to maintain the current system as far as possible, said that it intended to support the majority of the measures included in the draft text, with some refinements. It pointed particularly to ensuring that powers proposed for the Commission were sufficiently defined and were to be used appropriately.
15.7Whilst grateful to the Government for this information, we retained the document under scrutiny pending further reports about Council consideration of the proposed Regulation. We asked also to hear from the Government, when it next reported, about its assessment of how much weight the UK would carry post-Brexit in adoption of international vehicle type approval standards by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE), which would be applicable in the EU in accordance with the proposed Regulation.
The Minister’s letter of 19 April 2017
15.8The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Andrew Jones), first told us that the negotiation in the Council Working Group had proceeded well under the Maltese Presidency and its intention was to reach a General Approach on the proposed Regulation at the Competitiveness Council on 29 May 2017. He said that the Government believed this might be achievable, subject to the progress made in the next Working Group on 26 and 27 April 2017. On this basis he asked us for a scrutiny waiver as it would not be possible for us to consider a further update before the Council.
15.9The Minister also told us that:
- the European Parliament recently voted to agree a number of amendments to the proposal, which in general were more radical and more stringent for manufacturers than the amendments made in Council Working Group; and
- the Government would be assessing these carefully ahead of the trilogue discussions and would then be able to provide an update on its views.
15.10The Minister commented further that the Government was generally content with the indicative outcomes from the Working Group negotiations as it had managed to retain the key measures of the proposal, against the early reluctance it saw from a range of delegations. He said that the Government had also been successful in removing the few provisions which it considered to be its red lines. He then gave us a summary of the key areas.
15.11First, in relation to market surveillance, the Minister said that:
- the Government had been very supportive of the proposals to introduce a market surveillance requirement, and had previously agreed to this in the equivalent frameworks for motorcycles and agricultural and forestry vehicles;
- at a late stage of the negotiation a minimum level had been proposed which would require Member States to conduct one test for every 50,000 vehicles registered in the previous year;
- based on the 2016 figures this would require the UK to conduct 54 tests—this was approximately in line with what the UK’s new Market Surveillance Unit was doing under its current programme of emissions testing;
- the Government was initially reluctant to agree to a minimum level as it also specified categories that these tests should be selected from and it wanted to retain full flexibility;
- as some Member States were, however, concerned about their ability to conduct this testing, without a legislative requirement to do so, the Government was persuaded that this was an appropriate method to increase the testing that would take place across the EU;
- it would continue to work with the Presidency to refine the requirements;
- the Government had also been supportive of the Commission undertaking its own testing and was pleased that this had remained a part of the proposal, despite some opposition;
- the original proposal was for this testing to be funded by a levy on type approvals within Member States, via a national fee structure (Article 30);
- this was not acceptable to the UK and many other Member States and the Government secured its removal—this testing would now be funded from the Commission’s existing budget;
- the UK’s own Market Surveillance Unit was likely to consist of around three dedicated staff with additional senior oversight—they would oversee the various testing programmes which would be conducted by the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) or contracted out to third parties; and
- the Government’s recent market surveillance testing had required it to seek type approval data from other EU authorities and so it had pressed for an addition to the text of the proposed Regulation to require that this should be provided without undue delay, which had now been included.
15.12On peer review the Minister said that:
- the Government had strongly supported the proposed system of peer review, both of type approval authorities (Article 71) and by including other Member States in the assessments which would be required for the designation of a technical service by a Member State (Article 77);
- there was, however, substantial opposition to both of these systems and so there has been changes to both of them throughout the negotiation;
- the current proposal for type approval authorities was for them to be subject to peer-evaluation in respect of any activity which they carried out related to the assessment and monitoring of technical services;
- if all of their designated technical services had been accredited by a national accreditation body then they were to be exempt from this requirement;
- whilst the Government pressed to retain the wider scope of the original proposal it believed that this would still be a useful improvement on the current system;
- similarly technical services would either be subject to evaluation by a joint assessment team, consisting of the Member State intending to designate the technical service, representatives from at least two other Member States and the Commission, or should be accredited by the national accreditation service; and
- the joint assessment was originally proposed to be repeated every five years but this was now to be covered by the peer evaluation of the type approval authorities’ assessment of the operations of their designated technical services.
15.13The Minister then told us that:
- the Government had been very supportive of the introduction of an advisory forum to promote good practice, exchange information and develop working methods and tools;
- this was widely supported within the discussions and changes to the proposal were mostly to set out in more detail the topics that the forum should discuss; and
- the Government was content with this development and expected this to be a sensible system for sharing knowledge and expertise across type approval authorities which should improve the consistency of testing and approvals.
15.14Turning to time limits on type approvals, the Minister said that:
- the Government was unsure about the suitability of the five-year time limit on the range of systems and components that form part of a vehicle (Article 33);
- this was amended early in the negotiation to cover only the whole-vehicle type approval and the Government successfully pushed for the timeframes to be extended to fit in with natural product cycles;
- it had also been concerned about the impact on final-stage manufacturers and so had pressed for the time limit to only apply to the approval of the base vehicle;
- the time limit was, however, a controversial requirement as the views were mixed on whether it would be effective and it had now been removed from the proposal, as a concession;
- the Government saw some merit in ensuring that new standards are brought in in a timely way, which was the intention behind this proposal; and
- if the time-limit requirement remained out of the final Regulation then it would need to be considered in negotiations on future proposals on new environmental and safety standards.
15.15On a possible impact on the VCA the Minister said:
- there was previously an inconsistency between Articles 71 and 72 regarding the separation of technical services and type approval authorities; and
- this had been clarified within the last draft version of the document and it was now clear that a Member State could continue to designate an approval authority as a technical service.
15.16The Minister next said, in relation to the separation of design and testing services, that:
- technical services in the UK had expressed concern that the requirement for them ‘not be involved in the process of design … of the vehicle’ was a risk to their business model;
- it had been suggested that, if required to choose, they would continue their work with manufacturers in the run up to testing, rather than remain as a designated technical service, which could impact on the availability of technical services for manufacturers;
- while the Government understood the intention behind this aspect of the proposal, it was sceptical that this change would contribute to the proposal’s overall aims;
- for now, however, it remained in the draft and the Government believed its removal was unlikely; and
- this would mean that a manufacturer would need its vehicle to be tested by a different technical service to any that had been involved in the design process.
15.17Regarding end-of-series procedures, the Minister said that:
- the Commission wanted to use this opportunity to simplify the EU-wide procedures for end-of-series vehicles—those produced just before a change of standard;
- the proposal made the system automatic rather than permission based;
- the Government supported simplification of the system but resisted removal of the control that it had around the number of these vehicles that could be sold in the UK market; and
- it had succeeded in retaining control but it was not possible to simultaneously simplify the procedures.
15.18The Minister told us that the Commission’s proposals for the provision of renewal and maintenance information mirror the current procedures. He commented that this was an area where the European Parliament had, however, proposed several amendments which were of concern to industry. He said that the Government intended to follow this closely during the trilogue discussions to seek a suitable and proportionate outcome.
15.19On safeguard procedures, the Minister said that:
- an important improvement over the current system would be the introduction of the process for Member States to challenge approvals where doubt was cast on their compliance or safety, and of restrictive measures in the short term until an EU-wide decision was taken on the compliance or safety of a product;
- the Commission would be the arbiter in any cases of dispute between Member States, with the final decision agreed via an Implementing Act; and
- this was refined during the Working Group discussions but remained broadly as originally proposed.
15.20The Minister, noting that the Commission was seeking an administrative power to fine non-compliant manufacturers where Member States had not taken action, told us that:
- the Government saw this as an area where responsibility fell to Member States;
- as the proposal was, however, clear that the Commission could only act where a Member State had failed to act then the Government had not pressed for its removal at this stage; but
- the proposal was contentious with many Member States and so might still be removed from the draft text.
15.21The Minister also responded to our question about the post-Brexit situation in relation to EU and UN-ECE vehicle type approval standards, saying that:
- the outcome of negotiation of the proposed Regulation would have a continuing effect in the UK after Brexit, as the vehicles approved and manufactured in accordance with these requirements were likely to continue to be the majority of UK new registrations for many years;
- it was therefore important that the Government continued to seek the best outcome for the immediate and longer term, in the remaining discussions;
- additionally, the UK was currently very influential in the vehicle standards work of the UN-ECE and the Government fully expected this to continue; and
- regarding the adoption of standards, the recently revised voting arrangements for the UN-ECE 1958 Agreement increased the ability of non-EU governments to influence international regulations in this area.
Previous Committee Reports
Thirty-one Report HC 71-xxix (2016–17), chapter 16 (8 February 2017) and Twenty-fifth Report HC 342-xxiv (2015–16), chapter 6 (9 March 2016).