HL Deb 26 January 1999 vol 596 c142WA
Lord Kennet

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Written Answer by the Lord Donoughue on 8 December 1998 (WA 84) concerning World Trade Organisation (WTO) regulations, to the effect that "measures necessary for the protection of human, animal or plant life or health" may be taken "provided that these are based on scientific principles and are not maintained without sufficient scientific evidence" means that application of the precautionary principle is being disallowed by the WTO when "sufficient scientific evidence" is not available; and, if so, whether they will take steps to secure a reversal of this practice to ensure that the precautionary principle is always applied. [HL440]

Lord Donoughue

The Government fully support a precautionary approach in cases where there may be a serious risk to health. As I stated in my previous reply, the WTO rules provide that, in cases where relevant scientific information is insufficient, members may provisionally adopt measures on the basis of available pertinent information. They must then seek to obtain the additional information necessary for a more objective assessment of risk and also review the measure within a reasonable period of time. In sum, the rules allow for the use of the precautionary principle, while seeking to avoid its abuse through the introduction or maintenance of protectionist measures where there are no reasonable grounds for doing so.