Exiting the European Union (Consumer Protection)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:25 pm on 25th February 2019.

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Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb Chair, Science and Technology Committee (Commons) 7:25 pm, 25th February 2019

I associate myself with the concerns raised by the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh, by the Opposition spokesperson, Sue Hayman, and by the Scottish National party spokesperson, Patricia Gibson. For those who raised the specific point about the risks of no deal, the most serious concerns could be avoided by the Government simply ruling it out. That is why it is so important for Parliament to assert its authority this week, to prevent the disaster of leaving the EU with no deal.

I will confine my main remarks to a question raised by Rolls-Royce, which contacted me in my capacity as Chair of the Select Committee on Science and Technology. I challenged the Minister during her opening remarks, but I have to say that I was not convinced or satisfied with her response so I want to return to the issue. The concern is that, as it stands, the draft statutory instrument looks as if it is flawed, and that flaw could have very serious consequences for UK companies.

The UK REACH SI takes account of a number of scenarios, addressing, for example, the issue of an EU authorisation held by a UK entity on which a UK downstream user is dependent and, equally, that of an EU authorisation held by an EEA entity on which a UK downstream user is dependent. However, it has been put to me that the scenario that is not addressed—I really would like the Minister to deal with this specifically—concerns an application for EU authorisation submitted by an EEA entity for which a decision has not yet been made and on which a UK downstream user is dependent.

According to Rolls-Royce, approximately 10 applications for authorisations to use or supply particular chemicals are waiting for a decision by the European Commission, which, as its decision-making process proceeds, takes advice from the European Chemicals Agency and from member states. The likelihood is that the applications currently submitted will not be decided by 29 March. The applications have been submitted by an EEA entity, not by a UK company. However, UK companies downstream in the supply chain—the end users of those chemicals—are reliant on the EEA manufacturer and supplier holding a current authorisation. In the event of no deal, if the EEA entity manufacturing and supplying the chemical to a UK company has not received its authorisation from the EU by 29 March, the UK company that uses that chemical would immediately become non-compliant with the UK REACH SI.

I would be delighted if the Minister intervened on me to address this specific question: what will happen to those companies, including many small and medium-sized enterprises that probably have no idea about all this complexity, that will immediately become non-compliant after 29 March? The consequences for them are potentially disastrous. They would be acting unlawfully in using those chemicals in this country after 29 March. I would be delighted if the Minister reassured the House now. If she is not able to do so, then this statutory instrument has to be opposed because it will have devastating consequences, quite apart from the other concerns that have been expressed in this debate. I urge the Minister, who remains silent, to take this away, rethink it and ensure that it addresses those concerns properly and fully. Without doing so, there will be very serious consequences.