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Exiting the European Union (Consumer Protection)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:28 pm on 25th February 2019.

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Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 6:28 pm, 25th February 2019

I do not think we are losing our influence. The measure was taken by ECHA after the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Currently, a country can only be a member of ECHA by being a member state of the European Union, so this is forward planning. Some of these assessments can take time to go through the ECHA process, and therefore, given that the HSE would not be a relevant authority for future ECHA authorisations, I would not want to criticise ECHA for having made that decision. Meanwhile, the HSE has the competence, and it has started recruiting people to undertake the different activities it will need to do.

I will now move on to decision making and working with the devolved Administrations. Just as the HSE inherits the role and functions of ECHA, the responsibilities of the European Commission will pass to the Secretary of State. For example, the Secretary of State will make decisions to authorise the use of a substance of very high concern or to restrict chemicals on the basis of an opinion from the HSE, as covered by articles 60 and 73.

REACH also covers devolved matters such as environmental protection. For that reason, the Secretary of State must act with the consent of the devolved Administrations where a decision relates to an area of devolved competence, as set out in proposed new article 4A in schedule 1. A safeguard clause allows the devolved Administrations, and indeed the Secretary of State, to take urgent action where it is needed to protect human health or the environment. This must then be followed up with the normal restriction process to see whether there should be a UK-wide control, as set out in article 129.

On transferring existing UK registrants into the UK REACH system, the regulations contain a range of transitional provisions to provide legal continuity to business and to protect supply chains. All registrations held by UK companies will be automatically transferred, often known as “grandfathered,” to the UK REACH system at the point of exit, as set out by proposed new article 127A in schedule 2, which means there will be no break in their access to the UK market.

Companies will need to provide the HSE with information to support their registrations in two phases: initial information within 120 days and the full information within two years. That is set out in proposed new article 127B in schedule 2.