Select Committee on European Union Forty-Ninth Report


Letter from the Chairman to the Rt Hon Michael Meacher MP, Minister for the Environment, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

  Your Explanatory Memorandum of 20 December 2002 on this document has been considered by Sub-Committee D.

  We have no problems with items (i) and (iv) of the proposed amendments to the existing Regulation (phasing out of critical uses of halons and bringing controls on bromochloromethane into line with the Montreal Protocol).

  Items (ii) and (iii), however, give us pause for thought. We can see that there are pragmatic reasons for permitting the export of surplus EU stocks of halons for critical uses in third countries, if that avoids the addition of an equivalent amount to global stocks. We also understand the argument for removing barriers to the export of used products and equipment (other than refrigeration and air conditioning) containing CFCs.

  What concerns us is that these substances will eventually have to be disposed of. We should like to be assured that there is no risk of them being exported to countries whose environmental standards, disposal facilities and technical competence are inferior to those of EU Member States, with the possibility of higher levels of releases to the environment than would have occurred had they been retained within the EU. We should be grateful for your comments.

30 January 2003

Letter from the Rt Hon Michael Meacher MP, Minister for Environment and Agri-Environment to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 30 January 2003, requesting clarification on the Explanatory Memorandum dated 20 December 2002 which dealt with the technical amendment to Regulation (EC) 2037/2000. I apologise for not having replied sooner. You will recall that the Committee asked, with regard to the export of halons and products and equipment other than refrigeration containing ozone depleting substances (ODS), for an assurance that there was no risk of them being exported to countries whose environmental standards, disposal facilities and technical competence were inferior to those of EU Member States.

  Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987) approved a decision at the fourth Meeting of the Parties on suggested minimum emission standards for destruction technologies. At the 14th Meeting of the Parties in Rome last year, Parties agreed a further decision (Decision XIV/6) approving various destruction technologies both for ODS and for foam containing ODS. Another element of Decision XIV/6 requires the Protocol's Technology and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP) to update the Code of Good Housekeeping in the Protocol's Handbook to provide guidance on practices and measures to ensure that, during the operation of approved destruction technologies, environmental release of ODS through all media and environmental impact of destruction technologies is minimised. As over 180 countries are Parties to the Protocol, the disposal of ODS should be undertaken to agreed international standards.

  Of course, it seems likely that standards, facilities and technical competence would be higher in the EU than in some other parts of the world, particularly in developing countries. But the UK would not be exporting halon for disposal. Under the UK Management Plan for Exports and Imports of Waste, any exports from the UK for disposal are banned. However, exports for recovery to OECD countries, and to non-OECD countries are permitted under the Plan, consistent with the UK's obligations under the Basel Convention. In instances such as these, exports of halon for recovery and re-use would be allowed, in line with the Government's policies to preserve the legitimate trade in wastes moving for recovery. Under Article 16(4) of the Waste Shipment Regulation 259/93 (EEC), the Competent Authority of dispatch is required to ensure that any such export of waste for recovery is managed in an environmentally sound manner at all stages.

  The Committee might note that halon will still be required for fire-protection systems and fire-extinguishers deemed as critical under Annex VII of EC Regulation 2037/2000 until suitable alternatives have been identified and introduced. In particular, this includes a range of military applications, such as use of halon to suppress fires in tanks, military aircraft and submarines where space constraint is a key consideration.

  Currently, no production of halon is allowed in the EU or other developed countries for critical uses because of the availability of recovered and recycled halon, when even CFCs are allowed to be to produced for essential uses and the basic domestic needs of developing countries. Therefore, in order to avoid the need for new production of halon, it would be preferable to facilitate export to countries with a shortage. Under the Regulation, it is already permitted to export halon in products and equipment for the support of critical use applications as listed in Annex VII. The amendment would not be expected to lead to an increase in the amount of halon exported, and officials have consulted the UK fire-protection industry on this point. It would mean, however, that halon could be exported in cylinders specifically designed for storage and transportation rather than in products and equipment not designed for shipment and, hence, potentially unsafe. The amendment would also place a reporting requirement on EU Member States to provide the European Commission with data on quantities of halon exported. Currently, there is no obligation on exporters to provide such information, although most UK exporters of halon products and equipment do so.

  The continued export of products such as second-hand aircraft, ships and cars is vital to the economic development of many developing countries. A prohibition would also have a significant impact on the UK's export trade. To give the Committee an indication of sums involved, export data for the years 1993, 1994 and 1995 show that UK exports of second-hand aircraft was estimated to be in the region of £200 million, £240 million and £320 million respectively. More recent data was not available, seemingly because trade codes changed after 1995.

14 April 2003

Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum 10902/98

Commons Lords
Politically important—Cleared.Date 16 December 1998
Report ref: (19389) HC 34—iv (Session 1998-99) Paragraph 8
Referred to Sub- Committee C (List B) Date: 7 December 1998

Referred to Sub- Committee C (List B) Date: 7 December 1998

Explanatory Memorandum 10253/00

  This was subject of an EM dated 28 September 2000. The Commons Committee cleared it as not important on 25 October 2000. The Lords Committee cleared it without reference to Sub-Committee on 3 October 2000.

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