HC Deb 26 May 1999 vol 332 cc163-4W
Mr. Stinchcombe

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to propose to his European partners amendments to EC Directive 90/220/EEC.[83261]

Mr. Meacher

The Government are currently negotiating the amendment of Directive 90/220/EEC. The European Commission published its proposal for the amendment of the Directive in February 1998. An orientation debate was held in June 1998 under the United Kingdom Presidency, and detailed negotiations took place in the Council Working Group under the Austrian Presidency in the second half of last year. At the December Environment Council, Ministers agreed that while substantial progress had been made, further detailed negotiations were required to resolve many of the outstanding issues. The German Presidency has indicated it will seek to reach a common position at the June Environment Council.

The position of the Government with regard to the original Commission proposal has been laid out in Explanatory Memorandum 6378/98, submitted to the House of Commons on 23 March 1998. In response to a request from the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee, I wrote to the committee on 27 November with details of the Government's priorities in the negotiations. A Scrutiny debate was held in the House of Commons European Standing Committee A on 24 March 1999, and the Government submitted a further Explanatory Memorandum (7138/99) on 30 April following the publication of the Commission's amended proposal taking account of the publication of the European Parliament's Opinion.

The priorities of the Government are to ensure that the revised Directive meets growing public concerns regarding ethical, environmental and social issues and achieves a more transparent regulatory regime. In addition, the Government support many of the amendments proposed by the European Parliament and incorporated into the amended Commission Proposal. In particular, the Government welcome changes to clarify the requirements for the environmental risk assessment, the stronger requirements for public information and consultation, and a new Article on consultation of the Commission's ethical committee.

All of these documents are available in the House of Commons Library.