Cleared from scrutiny; drawn to the attention of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee and the Committee for Exiting the European Union
Communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: The annual Union work programme for European standardisation for 2018
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
(38999), 11785/17+ ADDs 1–2, COM(17) 453
10.1Each year the Commission must publish an annual work programme that identifies EU strategic priorities for European standardisation and the standards it will ask the European standardisation organisations (ESOs) to develop in support of new or existing legislation and policies. On 25 August 2017 the Commission published its standardisation work programme for 2018, which highlights the role of standards in supporting the various overarching policies and strategies and recognises the strategic importance of international cooperation in order to achieve coherence between international and European standards.
10.2On 21 September 2017 the Minister of State for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Margot James) produced an explanatory memorandum which indicated the Government’s broad support for European standardisation as well as the Commission’s proposed action plan to address the stock of unpublished harmonised standards. However, the Minister did not provide any information about the policy implications of the UK’s impending withdrawal from the European Union for standards. In its report of 13 November, the Committee therefore sought extensive additional information on this point.
10.3The Minister’s responses to the Committee’s questions, taken together, appear to imply support for the status quo on standardisation both within Europe and internationally. The Minister states that engagement with industry stakeholders has shown that they value the current approach to standards-making and that UK business values British Standards Institution (BSI) participation in European and global standardisation processes. The Minister says that the EU (Withdrawal) Bill means that the UK will retain current EU laws and rules, including EU legislation that references standards, on exit day. Finally, she indicates that the Government does not currently have any plans to change how it approaches standards-making.
10.4Regarding the statute changes that will be necessary to secure the BSI’s membership of the CEN and CENELEC—the two principal European standardisation organisations—the Minister states that BSI’s independence from the Government, and CEN and CENELEC’s independence from the EU, mean that it is up to BSI to determine how and when it negotiates with its fellow members of CEN and CENELEC.
10.5The Minister emphasises that standards are different from governmental regulation in that participation in standards is voluntary, they are mostly business-to-business arrangements, and that many European standards simply replicate international standards.
10.6We welcome the Government’s responses to our questions about the implications of exiting the European Union for standards-making. The Government indicates that engagement with UK stakeholders shows that they value the current approach to standards-making, and that the Government does not currently have any plans to change its current approach. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill will retain current EU laws and rules, including EU legislation that references standards.
10.7We also note the Government’s finding that UK business seems to value BSI’s participation in the European and global standardisation processes; and its assessment that, given the BSI’s independence from the Government, and CEN and CENELEC’s independence from the EU, it is up to BSI to negotiate to secure the necessary statute changes within these organisations to continue its membership of them.
10.8Given that the Minister has answered our questions about the implications of exiting the EU for standards-making, and we have no concerns regarding the Annual Standardisation Work Programme 2018, we now clear this file from scrutiny. We draw this chapter to the attention of the Committees for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Exiting the European Union.
Communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: The annual Union work programme for European standardisation for 2018.: (38999), + ADDs 1–2 , COM(17) 453.
10.9Detailed background information on the operation of European standardisation organisations CEN, CENELEC and ETSI, the relationship between standards and regulation, and the Annual Union Standardisation Work Programme for 2018, is provided in Chapter 9 of our report of 13 November 2017.
10.10In that report, we concluded that, although European standardisation organisations (ESOs) are not EU agencies:
10.11In the Committee’s first consideration of the Annual Union Standardisation Work Programme we asked the Government to clarify:
10.12The Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Margot James MP) provides the Committee with answers to each of our questions.
10.13The Minister’s response appears to be relatively supportive of the status quo on standardisation, noting that participation in standards is voluntary, they are mostly business-to-business arrangements, and that international standards have primacy and many European standards simply replicate them.
10.14The key points the Minister makes in response to the Committee’s questions are that:
10.15The Minister does not directly answer the Committee’s question about the extent to which European standards could limit technical barriers to trade which might otherwise arise due to regulatory divergences between the UK and the EU, post-withdrawal. Instead, the Minister notes, variously, that: standards are a means of limiting technical barriers to trade; European standards have reduced the number of individual national standards that businesses need to comply with; only a fifth of European standards can be used to demonstrate conformity to EU policies and legislation; the remainder represent business-to-business agreements; 30% of the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and 70% of the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC) standards are identical to international standards; and European standards are voluntary, and businesses are free to demonstrate conformity with European legislation in other ways.
106 European Commission, Communication: The annual Union work programme for European standardisation for 2018 (11785/17) ()
107 Explanatory Memorandum 11785/17 from the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy ()
108 First Report HC 301–i (2017–19), (13 November 2017).
109 The European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC), and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).
110 First Report HC 301–i (2017–19), (13 November 2017).
111 Letter from the Minister (BEIS) to the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee ()
22 December 2017