Select Committee on European Communities Seventeenth Report


Letter from John Battle MP, Minister of State for Energy and Industry, Department of Trade and Industry, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 18 January[4] concerning Explanatory Memorandum (EM) 6363/98 of 14 December on the proposed Directive relating to noise emissions of outdoor equipment.

  In answer to the Sub-Committee's questions on the EM, I can advise as follows:

    —  In paragraph 15 of the EM, we indicated our concern to the Commission over the lack of consistency between the Noise Directive and Machinery Directive. The Commission recognised our concern and agreed the need to maintain consistency between the testing methods and standards utilised by both Directives. However, they did not agree that a manufacturers EC Declaration (which is available to 95 per cent of the products under the Machinery Directive) was suitable for equipment subject to noise limits. Significantly, a number of member States did agree with the UK, therefore, the Austrian Presidency addressed our concerns in their revised text.

    —  In paragraph 17, we sought to make use of a manufacturer's EC Declaration which is in line with other EC Declarations made under a number of Directives, including the Machinery Directive. Regulating a system of EC Declaration would be no different from regulating a system which relied on independent third parties or Notified Bodies. Products would still need to be checked by the relevant authorities during market surveillance under both systems. A system using EC Declaration can significantly reduce the cost burden on industry by removing the charges made by Notified Bodies. It also removes the additional layer of bureaucracy needed to deal with the notification and monitoring of Notified Bodies as well as the general administration of such a system. Discussion at the Council Working Group has shown that most member States, with the exception of Germany, Netherlands and Belgium, support EC Declaration. As mentioned above, the Austrian text reflects EC Declaration, however, we expect Germany to raise this matter again now that they have the "Chair". We will continue to muster support from other member States and fight against unnecessary controls.

    —  Regarding paragraph 28 the Machinery Directive does not address the effects of vibration on people nearby other than those operating the machinery itself.

    —  Regarding paragraph 30, Austria, Finland, Italy, Spain and Greece supported the UK negotiating line. Germany has shown the strongest resistance to the UK line and to a lesser degree France, Netherlands and Belgium, with the others more or less neutral.

    —  In paragraph 14, we identified a subsidiarity problem concerning the over-prescriptive demands being placed on the member States regarding market surveillance. Progress has been made to resolve this problem by the Working Group and changes have been made to the new text which significantly reduce our concerns. However, a small concern remains regarding the role of the Commission in the proposed Committee to deal with Market Surveillance issues. We will continue to raise these concerns at the Council Working Group.

  I hope the above information has provided the clarification needed to enable the Committee to remove any scrutiny reservations.

27 January 1999

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to John Battle MP, Minister of State for Energy and Industry, Department of Trade and Industry

  Thank you for your letter of 27 January which was considered by Sub-Committee B at its meeting this morning.

  In the light of the explanations and assurances in your letter, the Committee lifts the scrutiny reserve on this proposed Directive.

  It notes with concern, however, your confirmation that the Machinery Directive deals only with the effects of vibration on the operators, and would be grateful for your views on how the issue of such effects on those nearby such equipment is to be addressed.

18 February 1999

Letter from John Battle MP, Minister of State for Energy and Industry, Department of Trade and Industry, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 18 February, lifting the scrutiny reservation on the proposed Directive relating to noise emissions of outdoor equipment. I shall ensure that both you and the Committee are kept informed of the progress of the Directive.

  The Committee has noted its concern that effects of vibration on those standing nearby the equipment are not covered by this Directive. I understand from the European Commission that they did not include environmental vibration in this proposal due to the fact that the subject of mechanical vibration emitted from machines is much more difficult and complicated than that of noise emissions.

  I understand there are standards available to measure the effect of vibration on recipients (immission), but there are no simple standards for measuring vibration output (emission) for this type of machinery. Each part of a machine will vibrate at different levels and, whilst it is possible to measure the level at a known specified point (eg the operator's seat, engine, or nominated point nearby), it is not possible to combine the different vibration levels in any meaningful way that would indicate the overall vibration output of the machine itself. Therefore, to include vibration emissions within the Directive for noise emissions would be a very difficult and lengthy process and the setting of limits across different machine groups would be, at best, very difficult, and perhaps at worst, meaningless.

  The effects of vibration in the environment are currently dealt with under local controls where more meaningful measurements can be taken, and moreover, where actions to reduce the levels of vibration can be taken where necessary. In the UK, local authorities have powers under the Environmental Protection Act and the Control of Pollution Act to impose operating restrictions and abatement.

  I hope this is helpful.

6 March 1999

4   Printed in Correspondence with Ministers, 4th Report, Session 1998-99, p 43. Back

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