Environment Bill

Written evidence submitted by the CHEM Trust (EB12)

Environment Bill


1. CHEM Trust welcomes the opportunity to submit written evidence to the Environment Bill Committee . Our comments are focus ed on th ose parts of the Bill covering REACH (Clause 125 and Schedule 19) .

2. CHEM Trust is a UK registered charity that works at EU, UK and international levels to prevent manmade chemicals from causing long-term damage to wildlife or humans, by ensuring that harmful chemicals are substituted with safer alternatives.



3. The regulatory framework for chemicals after the implementation period ends will not provide the same level of protection of human health and the environment as the UK currently enjoys. The framework established by the REACH Amendment Regulations last year will result in divergence from the EU that could lead to the UK becoming a dumping ground for hazardous chemicals. Provisions in this Bill give the secretary of state the power to d eregulate further, i.e. from provisions protecting the consumers’ right to know about chemicals in everyday products. F urther deregulation is likely as a consequence of trade deals with countries with weaker systems, such as the US. 

4. The framework was initially conceived to deliver REACH in the event of a ‘no deal’ exit and there was no opportunity to amend the regulations. This Bill provides an opportunity to address the weaknesses of a future UK standalone regulator and regime. In particular, CHEM Trust urges an amendment to ask that the UK makes it an objective to seek to continue to participate in the EU REACH system and European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) as part of future relationship negotiations .

Weakness of a future UK regulatory system

CHEM Trust is deeply concerned about the weakness of a future UK REACH and chemicals agency in the following areas.

- The capacity, resource, experience and expertise of Health and Safety Executive to   ​replicate the functions of the European Chemicals Agency in such a complex field .

- The Chemicals Safety database will effectively be empty from day 1 after the end of the implementation period. Although the names of EU REACH registered chemicals will be listed on the database, and importers will need to ‘notify’ chemicals to the database , companies will only provide the full registration data over a period of two years. This is a challenging timescale already, with some signs it may be relaxed, but without this information, it will be a shadow of the system it is replicating . Even with this registration data the UK database will have far less information on the use of chemicals than the EU system. This inadequate data will make it hard for the UK to defend controls on chemicals against legal challenges from companies that do not wish to see their chemicals subject to regulatory controls; such challenges are quite common in the EU system.

- It lacks institutional mechanisms for stakeholder engagement , that would enable environmental groups, industry, unions etc to contribute to the decision-making process. Within ECHA, stakeholders like CHEM Trust can participate in a wide range of committees, from the top-level Management Board to detailed technical committees – which helps to avoid mistakes and to ensure that decisions are made more independently and transparently. A very closed system will be created that does n’t retain this fundamental approach of REACH.

- Under Reach, substances are evaluated on a rolling basis after their initial registration and placement on the market , with new chemicals and controls coming up all the time. It is extremely likely that the UK system will be focussed on doing the essential basics of REACH especially in the short/medium term and w ill not have capacity to do lots of new processes, making it more likely it would become a light-touch regime.

o For example, there are a number of areas in which ECHA and other EU countries are taking action, that provide an early test of the UK’s likely future approach. For example, as revealed in the new film ​ Dark Waters ,​ Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) pollution is impacting people and wildlife worldwide. Recent testing commissioned by environmental charity Fidra has also revealed significant levels of PFAS in paper and board food packaging. In December 2019, the Netherlands announced their intention to draft a EU REACH restriction proposal to   ban all PFAS in non-essential uses , and Denmark, Luxemburg, Norway, Germany and Sweden have supported this plan .

Without a commitment to follow these decisions , and continued participation in ECHA, UK REACH risks becoming a frozen regulator – unable to create new restrictions and authorisations without access to the full chemical safety information. As with other product-based regulation, there is a real risk that if the UK fail s to match action in Europe on product chemical restrictions, we could see unscrupulous manufacturers encouraged to dump products on the UK market that fail to meet EU regulations.

The United States has long singled out the EU’s REACH chemicals regulatory system as a barrier to trade that hinders exports of US products. The US chemicals regulatory system is considerably weaker than the EU's, and closer harmonisation between the US and UK as part of a future trade deal could result in the further relaxation of UK regulations .

Provisions in the Environment Bill

The Bill gives the Secretary of State for Environment the power to amend UK REACH  and the  REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008 . Such amendments would have to be in line with  Article 1 of REACH , which outlines its aim and scope, and there are certain aspects of REACH that are considered ‘protected’. However, CHEM Trust is very concerned that this provides the Secretary of State with the ability to further reduce the level of protection of the public and the environment from hazardous chemicals.


Suggestions for amendment to the Environment Bill

We suggest the Bill is amended as follows:

· Articles 33-35 on information in the supply chain and providing a right to know for consumers about the most hazardous chemicals in products should be added to the list of protected articles.

· In considering consistency with Article 1 of the REACH Regulation, ministers must pay specific attention to the precautionary principle.

· Most importantly, CHEM Trust would also like to see an amendment that would make it an objective of UK-EU trade negotiations for the UK to remain within REACH and to seek associate membership of ECHA.

March 2020


Prepared 12th March 2020