HC Deb 31 January 2003 vol 398 cc1068-9W
Sir Nicholas Winterton

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether it is her Department's policy(a) to introduce manufacturer/ importer declarations on products manufactured outside the European Union stating that an article does not contain and release chemicals restricted in the EU and (b) to increase the use of animal testing in order to produce the test information required by the European Union's chemicals management system REACH; and if she will make a statement.[Transferred] [87024]

Mr. Meacher

The Government supports the overall aim and approach set out in the Commission's White Paper of February 2001 on a Strategy for a Future Chemicals Policy. As part of the process of developing its position in preparation for negotiations on the resultant legislation (expected in 2003) the Government published a Position Statement on 9 December, copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House. This is not a definitive statement of the Government's negotiating position, not least because the Commission has still to publish proposals for legislation. The Statement focuses on the main elements of the system itself and how it might function.

In negotiating the legislation when it emerges, the Government will have three overarching objectives:

Creating a fast, efficient and workable process of testing, screening and assessing chemical substances to provide the information necessary to control those substances of concern, starting with the most harmful, because of their impacts on human health or the environment;

Keeping animal testing to the minimum necessary to protect human health and the environment; and

Maintaining or enhancing the competitiveness of the chemical industry.

In addition, we also want to see a system that is transparent to all interested parties in its operation and that provides consumers, workers and users of substances with the level of information they require about the substances with which they come into contact.

In practical terms we believe it would be difficult to enforce a requirement where every substance that had gone into the manufacture of an article was registered in accordance with the proposed new regulations. However, it may be possible to place a requirement on importers of articles to make a declaration that the imported article did not contain any labile substance of high concern which was likely to be released.

On animal testing, as stated above, the Government wishes to ensure that vertebrate animal testing is kept to the absolute minimum necessary to provide sufficient information for decision-making on health and environmental protection. For example, one early estimate of the number of extra animal tests necessary to meet the system described in the White Paper came to 12 million, whereas the ideas outlined in the Government's Position Statement would require far fewer (around 1.3 million).

The Government and Devolved Administrations position statement on the New European Chemical Strategy, a copy of this is in the House Library and can be found on the Defra web site at www.defra.aov.uk