Documents considered by the Committee on 2 May 2018 Contents

1Persistent Organic Pollutants

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Environmental Audit Committee

Document details

Proposal for Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on persistent organic pollutants (recast)

Legal base

Article 192(1) TFEU, QMV, Ordinary legislative procedure


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Document Number

(39594), 7470/18 + ADD 1, COM(18) 144

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

1.1Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) resist environmental degradation for long periods due to their toxic properties with the effect that they bioaccumulate in animals and humans and in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Examples of POPs include pesticides such as DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).1

1.2As POPs become widely distributed geographically, it is a global issue and countries around the world have agreed under the Stockholm Convention2 to restrict the usage of POPs. The Convention is implemented into EU law through the POPs Regulation.3 The UK is a party to the Convention in its own right and as an EU Member State.

1.3The Commission proposes a recast of the Regulation with three objectives:

1.4The position of the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Environment (Dr Thérèse Coffey) is set out below. In summary, the Minister has possible concerns regarding the introduction of delegated acts. The Minister welcomes the use of the ECHA to assist in the implementation of the Regulation as it brings the POPs regime into alignment with the REACH Regulation,6 which will help prevent conflicting decisions for the same substances and align timelines at the international and EU levels. Finally, the Minister welcomes the proposals to simplify reporting but stresses that the impact of these changes on the UK will depend on the precise relationship between the UK and the EU and ECHA post-Brexit.

1.5It is possible that the recast Regulation will enter into force prior to the end of the post-Brexit implementation period on 31 December 2020. As a result, the Regulation could be directly applicable in the UK until the end of that period.

1.6We consider two issues of particular interest to the UK in the context of its withdrawal from the European Union. These we preface with an acknowledgement that the Regulation implements international obligations, which will apply in any event to the UK, so considerations moving forward relate primarily to how those obligations are implemented and applied rather than whether they apply.

1.7Most interesting is the proposal to extend the remit of the European Chemicals Agency to this Regulation. This is relevant in the context of the Prime Minister’s proposal that the UK seek associate membership of the Agency post-Brexit. To date, the EU has made no public acknowledgement of whether it will accept the Prime Minister’s proposition and what conditions it would apply. We ask the Government to what extent the uncertainty over the UK associate membership of ECHA will impact on its input into negotiation of this proposal. The Minister acknowledges that the impact of the simplification of reporting requirements are dependent on the withdrawal negotiations.

1.8Of secondary interest, but nevertheless relevant, are the proposals on the introduction of delegated acts. Such “tertiary legislation” is the type of legislation that we have identified as that which might be proposed, negotiated, adopted and applied during the implementation period without formal involvement of the UK in their adoption. We signal this only as an example of where the issue might arise: it is a wider implication of the implementation period and is not specific to this document.

1.9We retain this proposal under scrutiny and look forward to any comment on the issues raised above in addition to an update on the progress of negotiations and any view on the proposed areas where implementing acts—as opposed to delegated acts—would be required. We would welcome a response within 20 working days. We draw the document to the attention of the Environmental Audit Committee as that Committee has taken a particular interest in chemicals regulation post-Brexit.

Full details of the documents

Proposal for Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on persistent organic pollutants (recast): (39594), 7470/18 + ADD 1, COM(18) 144.

The Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum of 12 April 20187

1.10The Minister indicates possible concerns regarding the introduction of delegated acts and the ability for Member States to scrutinise and participate in decision making on the setting of thresholds and the nomination of POPs under the Stockholm Convention. It is not clear exactly, says the Minister, how the Commission will manage the approval of use of POPs in closed site systems nor how they will set waste thresholds for POPs in products. She believes that clarification over the ECHA’s role will be key. This includes whether there will be a requirement to use committees such as the Risk Assessment Committee and the Committee for Socio Economic Analysis to set maximum limits for POPs content within an article. The POPs element of the article above the maximum limit must be destroyed, usually at high temperature. The Government will therefore seek this clarification regarding the application of delegated acts during the negotiations.

1.11The Minister welcomes the use of ECHA to assist in the implementation of the regulation as it brings the POPs regime into alignment with the REACH Regulation. This, she says, will help prevent conflicting decisions for the same substances and align timelines at the international and EU level. The UK is supportive of strengthening the role of the ECHA, and will be seeking further clarification regarding its role in relation to the POPs Review Committee (POPRC) and reporting to ensure there are no additional resource impacts.

1.12The UK also supports streamlining reporting, digitalisation, and encouraging the use of the Information Platform for Chemical Monitoring (IPCheM). While there is no longer a requirement for triennial reports, a requirement is proposed to keep up to date data uploaded on the IPCHeM platform, allowing the ECHA to provide six-monthly reports to the Commission. The IPCHeM brings together chemical monitoring data under a new platform, established in 2015. It also brings the general EU reporting in line with the requirements under the Stockholm Convention, including requests for information for POPRC and the reporting for the convention under Article 13. The UK will seek clarification regarding the information and reporting requirements and standards which will be set by the ECHA going forward to align with the portal. Until the UK clarifies its relationship with the EU and the ECHA the precise impact of these changes once the UK has left the EU remains unclear.

Previous Committee Reports


1 Now largely banned, PCBs continue to occur in the environment through the disposal of old electrical equipment.

2 The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

3 Regulation (EC) No 850/2004.

4 The adoption of an implementing act by the Commission is subject to its scrutiny (to varying degrees of stringency) by a committee of the representatives of the Member States chaired by the Commission itself.

5 The main characteristic of the delegated act procedure is that the Council or the European Parliament may block the adoption of the proposed subordinate legislation by the Commission. Under the Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making of 13 April 2016, the Commission agreed to gather, prior to the adoption of delegated acts, all necessary expertise, including through the consultation of Member States’ experts and through public consultations.

6 Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals.

7 Explanatory Memorandum dated 12 April 2018.

Published: 8 May 2018