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Exiting the European Union (Consumer Protection)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:44 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 7:44 pm, 25th February 2019

I thank all right hon. and hon. Members who have contributed to this debate. I assure the House that the Government remain committed to supporting all the aims of REACH: to ensure a continuing high level of protection of human health and the environment; to promote alternative, non-animal methods for assessing chemical hazards; and to promote the free circulation of chemicals and enhance competitiveness and innovation.

By putting the regulations in place, we will make sure that we can operate a UK REACH regime after leaving the European Union. We are working closely with the HSE and the EA, as well as other regulators, to prepare for that national regime so that the change is as smooth as possible. We know the functions that are needed. I hope that in my opening remarks, I was able to convey the information that we will be providing the resources to fund the staff that are needed. I remind the House that the HSE will be building on the expertise that it already has from acting as the UK competent authority in the EU system and that it will be recruiting more staff to reflect its new and expanded role, as indeed, is the EA.

I do not agree that the arrangements that the REACH SI provides for on scientific advice are in any way weak. The UK agency must publish its scientific opinions, and when forming those opinions on authorisations and restrictions, the HSE must commission scientific knowledge and advice from suitably qualified or experienced persons who are independent of the agency. In a particular case, for example, where ECHA had already published robust evidence, the HSE must publish its justification for deciding not to take further advice. I assure the House that the HSE is not limited to getting its scientific advice from the UK, or indeed, even the EU.

The HSE must consult on and publish a statement about how it will comply with all these duties. That must happen within three months of exit, so we intend to have arrangements in place in UK REACH to allow stakeholders to observe discussions and considerations where this scientific advice is provided.