Letter from the Chairman to Dr Alan Whitehead
MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport,
Local Government and Regions
Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum dated
15 May which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 10 June.
Sub-Committee B's remit covers energy, industry and transport
and it is approaching this social affairs subject from the point
of view of the possible consequences for industry.
As you know, the Scrutiny reserve on this document
has already been lifted, but we were somewhat concerned that you
have been prepared to support the de minimis limit in principle,
even when this might have unknown financial implications for UK
industry, which may turn out to be significant, and when the full
socio-economic impact is not known. We should be grateful, therefore,
if you could let us see the Regulatory Impact Assessment which
is currently being prepared. We are concerned that this was not
expected to be completed before a common position was achieved
at the Employment and Social Policy Council on 3 June.
19 June 2003
Letter to the Chairman from David Jamieson,
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Transport
Thank you for your letter of 19 June about the
Explanatory Memorandum (EM) dated 15 May on the proposal to include
a general prohibition in the above proposed Directive and your
request to see the Regulatory Impact Assessment. I would like
to explain why a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) based on a
de minimis limit is not at present required.
Progress in the Council's Social Questions Working
Group (SQWG) had been fast moving under the Spanish Presidency
and the UK government supported Spain in its objective to reach
political agreement to common position during its Presidency.
However, in considering the options for a proposal for a general
prohibition, the UK workers who were exposed to asbestos where
it was added intentionally and not those workers who may be exposed
to asbestos where it occurred naturally in other minerals. Although
the Marketing and Use Directive (1999/77/EC), and the UK implementing
legislation, prohibit the supply and use of asbestos and products
containing asbestos where the fibres are intentionally added,
this approach may not protect workers from inadvertent exposure
to asbestos fibres. The UK Government therefore decided that we
should support a position that would extend the current UK prohibition
and prohibit any product containing a quantity of asbestos which
would give rise to a risk to the worker (ie a de minimis
The Government shared the Committee's concern
about the unknown socio-economic impact of introducing a prohibition
using a de minimis limit. During discussion in Europe the
UK confirmed its support in principle for a de minimis
limit but said that we were not prepared to agree setting an arbitrary
de minimis limit without further scientific research to
establish a limit that protects workers and without assessing
fully the socio-economic impact. However, if the Presidency was
to achieve its objective to reach common position this was not
The UK's position was not supported and, at
the Employment and Social Policy Council on 3 June, the UK supported
a Council common position text which included a general prohibition
based on an "intentionally added" qualification.
The Council's common position is still subject
to second reading by the European Parliament. If adopted, the
Council's text will maintain the status quo in the UK and so a
Regulatory Impact Assessment based on the introduction of a de
minimis limit is not necessary at this time. If the UK Government
decides to revisit the possibility of extending the current UK
prohibition by using a de minimis limit it will only do
so following consideration of the full socio-economic impact in
the UK and in consultation with stakeholders, including industry.
I hope the above is helpful and I will ensure
that the Committee is alerted to any changes to this proposal.
9 July 2003
Letter from the Chairman to Mr David Jamieson
Thank you for your letter dated 9 July which
Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 22 July.
We regret that the UK's position was not supported
at the Employment and Social Policy Council on 3 June and that
you had no choice but to subscribe to a Council Common Position
text which included a general prohibition based on an "intentionally
We are pleased to note the promise you make
in your penultimate paragraph that if the Government were to reconsider
the possibility of extending the current UK prohibition by using
a de minimis limit, it would do so only after considering
the full socio-economic impact in the UK and in consultation with
stakeholders including industry.
23 July 2002
Letter to the Clerk from R J Church, Health
and Safety Executive
I wrote to you on 12 November 2002, to report
that the Agriculture and Fisheries Council adopted a common position
on the amended proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament
and of the Council amending Council Directive 83/477/EEC on the
Protection of Workers from the Risks related to Asbestos at Work
on 23 September 2002. A copy of the common position text is enclosed.
This proposal was the subject of Explanatory
Memorandum COM (O1) 417 (submitted on 15 May 2002). It was last
considered by the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee
on 22 May 2002 (31st Report, Session 2001-02) and was considered
not to raise questions of sufficient legal or political importance
to warrant a substantive report to the House.
The Explanatory Memorandum cleared scrutiny
in the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union on
21 May 2002 (1,104th Chairman's Sift). Sub-Committee B considered
it on 10 June and 22 July (Lord Brabazon's letters to Dr Alan
Whitehead of 19 June and 23 July and Dr Whitehead's letter of
9 July to Lord Brabazon refer).
Since I wrote to you in November there has been
significant progress with the proposal.
On 11 November 2002, the Presidency met the
EP rapporteur to discuss and agree the possibility of a second-reading
deal on the amendment to the asbestos worker protection directive
to avoid conciliation. The deal was to be based on the Council's
agreement to three amendments.
One of the amendments the EP proposed was the
reintroduction of a time period in article 3(3)article
3(3) exempts specified work activities from the full requirements
of the Directive. During negotiations in the Council's Working
Group, one of the UK's main objectives was the removal of the
time period in this article that we managed to achieve. There
was therefore concern that the Presidency was proposing, and possibly
receiving support, for a second-reading deal that reintroduced
this time period. Ireland shared this concern.
However, at a Social Questions Working Group
meeting on 18 November, the UK and Ireland received widespread
support in our opposition to the time period. The Presidency did
not receive support for the amendments as proposed by the European
On 20 November, UK Rep confirmed that the EP
rapporteur, was still interested in a second reading deal, but
he wanted his concerns about Article (3) addressed. The Presidency
prepared a further amendment which would introduce a new article
3(3a). The new text would require Member States to lay down practical
guidelines on what is meant by "sporadic and low-intensity
exposure". This approach was acceptable to the UK and we
were able to support the new Presidency text.
On 22 November, COREPER agreed a Presidency
compromise text, with two small amendments, and on 26 November
UKRep reported that the EP Committee on Employment and Social
Affairs accepted the Presidency text. On 27 November, UKRep further
reported that the EP report (incorporating the Presidency text)
was adopted unanimously in Committee.
Finally, during a Plenary debate in the European
Parliament on 16-19 December 2002, the EP adopted amendments based
on the Presidency text and agreeable to the Commission, clearing
the way for a second reading deal. A copy of the Council's Information
Note recording the decision in the Plenary is enclosed.
16 January 2003