Conservative Reaction to the vote on REACH

The Conservatives overriding priority in the creation of the REACH legislation has been to protect human health. To achieve that, we need greater scientific knowledge. The European Commission proposed a new policy for the registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (REACH). The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution said this would take 50 years to implement and millions of animals would be destroyed through testing. Their and our policy has been to find a system which prioritises the more dangerous chemicals for evaluation and authorisation and limits the need for testing on animals.

Parliament has now voted for the First Reading of the Regulation. We welcome the key conclusions on the Registration of chemicals and the reduction in animal testing. The concept of One Substance, One Registration is good, as is the lighter touch requirement for small firms, unless they are dealing with hazardous substances. There are, however, still problems with Authorisation, which, as drafted, could be an unnecessary cost on jobs in Europe and could drive companies overseas to countries where chemicals are less well regulated. We also want to ensure that home companies are not disadvantaged and so propose that imports should meet comparable standards, while not being in conflict with WTO rules.

Chemicals can build up and persist in the environment, accumulating in the bodies of wildlife and humans. Those that interfere with our hormone systems (endocrine disrupters) are of particular concern. Priority should be given to the testing of these chemicals. We certainly support a sensible system of substitution, as and when safer alternatives are available and validated and allowing for a reasonable period of phasing out of the old chemical.

We want to see a new chemicals regime; one that would genuinely increase our knowledge about chemicals and that would both improve human and environmental health and minimise animal testing. That is why we gave qualified approval to the First Reading of REACH and now issue the challenge to the Council of Ministers and the British Government to provide a more balanced proposal for Authorisation and Scope. If, but only if, they do this, we shall be able to vote for REACH at Second Reading. Then we shall be able to provide greater protection and information for our citizens and a manageable system, which will benefit and not harm our industries and jobs, including those in our smaller firms.

With best wishes

Yours sincerely,

Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Atkins Signature

The Rt Hon Sir Robert Atkins MEP.

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