§ Mr. Spring
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what response he has made to the Health and Safety Commission's recommendations relating to the future of the regulatory regime for asbestos; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Gummer
I have written to the Health and Safety Commission welcoming and accepting its timely advice on a range of asbestos issues. It has recommended that we maintain our existing policy, to work with our EU partners to extend the ban on asbestos to all types of asbestos, with a limited number of exceptions for genuinely essential uses where safe and effective substitutes cannot be found at affordable cost.
The HSC has also said that, in the light of responses to its May 1996 discussion document "The future of the lead and asbestos regulations", it has asked the Health and Safety Executive to consider and develop, where appropriate, proposals for some changes to the Asbestos (Licensing) Regulations 1983 and the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 1987. It plans to publish a consultative document in 1998. This represents a progressive yet sensible approach to this difficult subject, and I welcome the initiative.