Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from Stephen Ladyman MP, Minister of State for Transport, Department for Transport to the Chairman

  I am writing to let you know where things stand with the draft Vehicle Approvals Directive that was the subject of EMs 11641/03 and 14469/04 and for which there remains a scrutiny reservation by your Committee. I last wrote about this in my letter of 18 July 2005,[51] and explained that some progress had been made during the Luxembourg Presidency on several aspects of this complicated dossier. However, there had been no progress made, in the first half of 2005, regarding the lead times for the new arrangements, which will have an impact on UK industry. There was also no progress on the "small series" type approval issues that are of particular concern to the UK, although good progress had been made in bi-lateral discussions with the Commission, with an agreement in principle on the "small series" issues.

  I am pleased to say that progress was made in the second half of 2005, and the basis for political agreement has been reached. We expect that agreement to be reached formally at a future Council meeting during the Austrian Presidency. Overall, the draft text is now acceptable from the UK's standpoint. Discussions will be taking place to determine whether a second reading deal with the European Parliament will be possible.

  The original EM and previous correspondence drew attention to concerns for UK industry about the prospective limitations on "small series" type approvals and individual vehicle approvals. These are important for our independent specialist car manufacturers, which produce vehicles ranging from kit cars to those for disabled people. They are also of significance to many commercial vehicle bodybuilders. We have continued to consult these sectors of industry as the discussions in Brussels have progressed and have been successful in securing the key exemptions and flexibility critical to the continued viability of these businesses.

  In relation to the specific issues identified in the EMs, there have been increases in the number of vehicles permitted to enter service under the "small series" type approval schemes: from 50 to 75 per type per year for national approvals; and from 300 to 1,000 per type per year for the harmonized EC small series scheme. Whilst these limits are not ideal, industry has indicated that they are reasonable in the context of the overall package, where there will be off-setting advantages of easier access to European markets for low-volume producers. We have achieved exemptions from the prohibitively expensive approval elements such as destructive testing and the "on-board diagnostic" elements of exhaust emission control systems, which are only viable for mass-production.

  For individual approvals—these will be needed where, for whatever reason, a manufacturer's type approval is not available—our case for accepting standards that achieve the "maximum practical level of protection", rather than the Commission's disproportionate and impractical proposal for equivalence with type approval standards, has also prevailed.

  For the transitional lead-times that are of particular importance to the commercial vehicle sector, there are—perhaps almost inevitably—compromise periods roughly midway between our ideal and the Commission's proposals. Given the prolonged period it has taken to progress this dossier, the net effect is actually not too far from what we originally envisaged, and I am pleased to be able to report that industry is broadly content.

  The draft Directive provides for Member States to contribute to a review of the new type approval procedures within 24 months of its application and for a subsequent review by the European Parliament.

  Notwithstanding the remaining procedural hurdles this draft Directive has to clear both in Europe and nationally, my department is developing a comprehensive implementation plan that will involve industry and other interested parties. This is intended to ensure that we take account of their views and produce user-friendly procedures for both granting and accepting vehicle approvals under the anticipated new regime.

10 March 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Stephen Ladyman MP

  Thank you for your letter of 10 March 2006 providing an update on the progress of the draft Vehicle Approvals Directive which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 27 March 2006.

  We are relieved that the Government has had a great deal of success in ironing out the potentially undesirable elements of this proposal, particularly those which might have a detrimental impact on independent low volume manufacturers in the UK.

  As at present it is not known whether the European Parliament will accept the amendments on the draft Directive, we would be grateful to you if you could provide us with a report on any further progress. We will maintain the scrutiny reserve on this proposal.

29 March 2006

51   Correspondence with Ministers, 45th Report of Session 2005-06, HL Paper, 243, p 160-161. Back

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