Schedule 19 - Charges for single use plastic items

Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 19th November 2020.

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Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 3:00 pm, 19th November 2020

I beg to move amendment 187, in schedule 19, page 229, line 9, at end insert—

“provided that such regulations do not regress upon the scope or purpose of REACH regulations as applied prior to the amended regulations being enacted”.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 3, in schedule 19, page 229, line 9, at end insert—

“(1A) Regulations made under this paragraph must not regress upon the protections or standards of any Article or Annex of the REACH Regulation.

(1B) Subject to sub-paragraph (1A), the Secretary of State—

(a) must make regulations under this paragraph to maintain, and

(b) may make regulations under this paragraph to exceed parity of all protections and standards of chemical regulation with any new or amended regulations of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the regulation of chemicals.”

This amendment would set a minimum of protections under REACH and remove the possibility that a Secretary of State might lower standards than are in place currently, whilst reserving the right for them to set higher standards should they choose.

Amendment 198, in schedule 19, page 229, line 13, at end insert—

“both in general and, in particular, the precautionary principle referred to in Article 1(3).”

This amendment would require Ministers, in considering consistency with Article 1 of the REACH Regulation, to pay specific attention to the precautionary principle.

Amendment 174, in schedule 19, page 229, line 32, at end insert—

“provided that such regulations do not regress upon the scope or purpose of the REACH enforcement regulations as applied prior to the amended regulations being enacted”.

New clause 11—Ongoing relationship with EU-REACH—

“(1) The Secretary of State must not use regulations under Schedule 19 to diminish protections provided by REACH legislation.

(2) The Secretary of State must by regulations seek to maintain regulatory parity with any new or amended regulations of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the regulation of chemicals after IP completion day.

(3) It is an objective of Her Majesty’s Government as part of any trade negotiations with the European Union to seek to secure associate membership of the European Chemicals Agency for the United Kingdom after IP completion day to enable it to continue to participate in the EU-REACH framework.

(4) Regulations under subsection (2) are subject to the affirmative procedure.

(5) In this section, ‘IP completion day’ has the same meaning as in section 39 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.”

This new clause would require continued parity with REACH.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

As you have indicated, Sir George, amendment 187 is being dealt with alongside a number of other amendments, in my name and those of other Opposition Members, and a new clause, which we fully support, in the names of a number of Members who were on the Committee but are on it no longer.

Hon. Members will be aware that we have now moved away from conservation covenants, trees and biodiversity towards a very important new issue: chemical regulation, imports, exports and trading in this country post January 2021. The amendments, and indeed the schedule that they amend, deal with a particularly perverse decision by Her Majesty’s Government upon leaving the EU. They do not wish to have a negotiation or a discussion with the ECHA, the European Chemicals Agency, about associate membership of the agency, under which the REACH regulations—on the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals—sit, and I will come to that in a moment. Instead, they wish to wholly recreate a UK series of REACH regulations to be regulated by the Health and Safety Executive rather than the ECHA.

The REACH regulations are one of the substantial achievements of the EU. They are a series of regulations that comprehensively sort out the transportation, trade, appearance on particular markets, and safety of chemicals across the EU. They also provide a comprehensive regime for identifying chemicals—a sort of institutional memory of what has gone on with chemicals. Companies that deal with chemicals have to systematically provide additions to the European database of chemicals, which now stands at something like 23,000 different chemicals. That database is available to all EU member states to inform their policies relating to what they consider acceptable for chemical trade and chemicals landing in their countries, what they can avoid bringing into their countries, and what safety regulations should be applied to the chemicals. All of that has a tremendously advantageous effect on how we steward our environment.

I would go so far as to say that the REACH regulations have played a tremendous role in protecting Europe from all sorts of chemical harm, chemical malpractice and dumping of chemicals in markets an. It is generally environmentally advantageous to have regulations in such a good form, in such a comprehensive way and available for all to look at.

I might add that the REACH regulations were brought about in the EU substantially through the agency of the UK. It was UK regulations and the advance of the situation that we had in the UK at the time that persuaded those involved and assisted the development of the REACH regulations. What we did for European chemical safety is something we can proud of.

One might think that one threw all that away at one’s peril, but that is precisely what the Government have just done. They have decided that, despite quite strong indications that the UK could have engineered an associate relationship with the ECHA. The EU would have been happy for that to proceed, not least because a close, harmonious relationship in dealing with activities relating to various chemicals across Europe is a great advantage for everybody across Europe. Close harmony on chemical standards is beneficial all round.  Frankly, the Government have made a perverse decision, which I cannot fully understand, to effectively completely recreate everything that was in EU REACH on a free-standing basis, subsequent to the HSE in the UK.

Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

My hon. Friend is making a powerful and important point from a safety perspective. Does he agree that it is odd that the Government have yet to provide a single good practical reason or advantage for severing ties with the world-leading EU chemicals system?

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

Yes, indeed. My hon. Friend is right. I have not found anyone who has said what the reason is for doing it. On the contrary, every professional body and every joint industry body in this country—all the bodies concerned with chemicals; there is not one dissenter—has said that a close relationship with the EU and a continuing close association with or within the REACH regulations would be immeasurably to the UK’s advantage, and, indeed, would be an advantage all round.

Hon. Members might say, “Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?” because the estimated cost of the industry variously accommodating itself to the new duplicate regulations in the way that is proposed is about £1 billion. That is damaging to our economy, and needless expenditure for a lot of people. Not only that, but it is needless expenditure for what appears to be, in the Bill at the moment, a substantially deficient system in the UK.

Among other things, the suggested system does not take account of a lot of the checks and balances and arrangements in the original REACH articles, which we will come to later. The database that I have talked about, if it is recreated in the UK, will take an estimated six, seven or eight years to get to a position where it will be even remotely comprehensive regarding chemical lists. Again, that is a huge amount of work for no purpose, other than us apparently having a sovereign REACH—now known in the trade as British REACH or BREACH. I think that describes fairly well what it looks like there will be in the UK REACH arrangements as set out in the Bill.

The amendments that we will put forward this afternoon would not on their own make up for the Government’s calamitous decision to go their own way on REACH in the UK, but would at least ameliorate some of the worst effects of that changeover. I will not speak to the amendments in the first group individually, but they seek, in different ways, to try to make sure that the starting point for UK REACH is that we do not, at least consciously, regress from what there was before, so that its starting framework is as close as possible, including those articles, to what REACH consists of at the moment. Yes, that does mean we would be duplicating something, but at least it would be duplicated properly, with a number of safeguards and checks and balances. I will come later to protected and non-protected articles, which, frankly, the Government appear to want to play games with.

The amendments would set a framework for how REACH is to be brought about for the UK. New clause 11 was tabled by Dr Offord and by my hon. Friend Alex Sobel, who was previously a member of the Committee. I think my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge were added to it. Nevertheless, we want to support it.

The new clause sets out clearly:

“The Secretary of State must not use regulations under Schedule 19 to diminish protections provided by REACH legislation.”

It continues:

“The Secretary of State must”—

I emphasise must—

“by regulations seek to maintain regulatory parity with any new or amended regulations of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the regulation of chemicals” and that it should be

“an objective of Her Majesty’s Government as part of any trade negotiations… to secure associate membership of the European Chemicals Agency for the United Kingdom” if possible. The Government would therefore be rowing back on some of the decisions made about going it alone.

Other amendments state how there should be no regression, which is a principle we stand by. That is the minimum we would expect from any new regime in the UK, even if it is not based on associate membership of the ECHA. I therefore commend the amendments to the Committee and ask it, for the sake of good chemical regulation, whichever route we take, to think about them carefully.

We have one go at this and, if we do not demand in the legislation now that the new regulations are as good as the existing ones, we may open all sorts of doors to future chicanery, malpractice, poor decision making, chemical dumping and so on. I am sure the Committee wants nothing to do with any of that, and by agreeing to the amendments and setting down a series of principles by which REACH will be undertaken in the UK, we have an opportunity to have nothing to do with any of it in the future, with REACH working properly, even if it is separate from its EU counterpart.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley 3:15 pm, 19th November 2020

I can put the hon. Gentleman’s mind at rest. His memory was not defective: he has attached his name to new clause 11.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I thank the hon. Member for his comments. Like him, I take this whole area extremely seriously. It is imperative that we establish our own independent chemicals regulatory framework for Great Britain, UK REACH, and that we do not diverge in terms of our standards. I must say that EU REACH will continue to apply in Northern Ireland under the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol.

We are absolutely committed to maintaining high standards of protection for the environment, consumers and workers, but we want the autonomy to decide how best to achieve that for Great Britain. We will consider the best ideas from both inside and outside the EU, alongside the best evidence within the UK, but there are no plans to diverge from EU REACH for the sake of it.

As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, we were instrumental in designing the whole process in the first place, which we kicked off during our presidency in 1990. That should provide some reassurance about how seriously we take this and how there is no intention to regress. I assure stakeholders that our regulatory system will be developed and managed in line with what is best for the UK and reflect our commitment to high levels of environmental protections.

I understand what hon. Members are aiming for in amendments 187, 3, 198 and 174 and new clause 11 as regards not reducing standards of protection, but I do not believe that the amendments are necessary. There are already a number of safeguards in schedule 19. Any changes to REACH must be consistent with article 1, which includes the purpose of ensuring a high level of protection of human health and the environment. We are not moving away from that and schedule 19 clarifies that.

There are 23 protected provisions—principles that cannot be changed. These include provisions relating to the fundamental principles of REACH, such as the progressive replacement of substances of very high concern. I think the hon. Member is going to deal with those shortly, so I will not go into any more detail about them yet. The Secretary of State must also consult on any proposed amendments and obtain the consent of the devolved Administrations in respect of devolved matters.

I particularly do not agree with amendment 3 or new clause 11(2). What they seek to do is impose dynamic alignment with the EU going forward. They would lock the UK into the EU’s orbit. We must be able to follow the evidence and have the freedom to adopt approaches that are the most appropriate for us. We should be able to look inside this country and elsewhere in the world, not just in the EU, for the best ideas.

New clause 11 goes further still. It would require the Government to seek to negotiate associate membership of the European Chemicals Agency, ECHA. We continue to push for a chemicals annex to a free trade agreement to enable data sharing, but the Government have been clear that the UK will not agree to any outcomes that bring with them an obligation to align with EU laws or give jurisdiction to any EU institutions, including EU agencies or the European Court of Justice. Associate membership of ECHA would bring all of those consequences with it.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I want to tease out what the Minister is saying about the fact that there is a proposal to try to get some data sharing under way with the EU. I presume she is referring to access to the wonderful database of 23,000 products that ECHA controls. The Minister appears to be saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had access to that database, without any of the obligations that go with maintaining the database in the first place?” I would not have thought it likely that anyone would agree to that in a hurry. Would she agree with it, if it were the other way around? I do not think so. Surely that is not a serious proposal and should only go ahead on the basis that some sort of obligation sharing was also part of the offer.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

It was short for the shadow Minister. The Government’s approach to negotiating a future relationship with the EU includes a proposal for a chemicals annex as part of the EU free trade agreement. I thought the hon. Member for Southampton, Test might welcome that. A deal on data sharing with the EU could mitigate the need for industry to provide full-data packages. If that were to happen, we would be responsible for the updating of this as it went along. That is a clear direction of travel.

We continue to push for that, but the EU continues to reject any sectoral annexes. However, securing the chemicals annex is still our preferred outcome. It would obviously be in the interests of both UK and EU businesses, including those that will want to continue selling their chemicals into the GB market. The EU must, though, respect the UK’s position on no ECJ jurisdiction and no alignment.

As regards amendment 198, I recognise the importance of the precautionary principle for each, but I do not believe the amendment is necessary or desirable. Article 1 states that REACH is underpinned by the precautionary principle: that means that it is firmly bound into the safeguards I have already described. However, emphasising the precautionary principle could also have unintended consequences. It risks creating uncertainty about how to interpret article 1 as a whole. This is because article 1 sets out a series of overarching aims for REACH, as well as underpinning it with the precautionary principle, so I do not believe that such a consequence would be desirable.

Amendment 174 moves on from REACH itself to the UK REACH enforcement regulations. Paragraph 2(2) of schedule 19 says that any amendments must be “necessary or appropriate” for the enforcement of REACH. Taken with the protections in paragraph 1 of the schedule, I believe we are already providing what the hon. Member actually wants. There is a lot of detail there, but I therefore ask the hon. Member to withdraw these amendments.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

Well, the hon. Member is certainly not going to withdraw these amendments, because we think they are crucial to the establishment of any reasonable REACH regime in the UK. In a minute, we will come to some further particularly bad elements of schedule 19, which even allow the Secretary of State to chip away at protected areas that are in that schedule in the first place. What we are doing is laying down a marker that seeks to hold a line somewhere, as far as diminution and dilution of REACH regulations in future are concerned, so it is important that we put these amendments to a Division. We would particularly like to ensure that amendments 187, 198 and 174 and proposed new clause 11 are all recorded as a divided vote this afternoon.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 39 Environment Bill — Schedule 19 - Charges for single use plastic items

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: 3, in schedule 19, page 229, line 9, at end insert—

“(1A) Regulations made under this paragraph must not regress upon the protections or standards of any Article or Annex of the REACH Regulation.

(1B) Subject to sub-paragraph (1A), the Secretary of State—

(a) must make regulations under this paragraph to maintain, and

(b) may make regulations under this paragraph to exceed

     parity of all protections and standards of chemical regulation with any new or amended regulations of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the regulation of chemicals.”—

This amendment would set a minimum of protections under REACH and remove the possibility that a Secretary of State might lower standards than are in place currently, whilst reserving the right for them to set higher standards should they choose.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Question negatived.

Amendment proposed: 198, in schedule 19, page 229, line 13, at end insert “both in general and, in particular, the precautionary principle referred to in Article 1(3).”— (Dr Whitehead.)

This amendment would require Ministers, in considering consistency with Article 1 of the REACH Regulation, to pay specific attention to the precautionary principle.

Division number 40 Environment Bill — Schedule 19 - Charges for single use plastic items

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I beg to move amendment 107, in schedule 19, page 229, line 16, leave out sub-paragraph (4).

This amendment removes the high degree of discretion when setting REACH Chemical regulations afforded the Secretary of State by Clause 127 in the Bill. Without this amendment the Secretary of State is able to make wide provisions to chemical regulations.

This amendment illustrates the continuing problem we perceive with the way that the REACH regulations— or the breach regulations, as I call them—are to be set out in the Bill and implemented as the new regime. Paragraph 1(3) of schedule 19 refers to

“protected provision of the REACH Regulation”,

which are set out in the schedule. Having indicated that there are protected provisions in the REACH regulations, sub-paragraph (4) states that there is nothing to

“prevent any protected provision…being amended by provision made under this paragraph by virtue of section 127(1)(a).”

What appears to be the case here is like other elements of the Bill. The protected provisions of the REACH regulations under paragraph 6 of the schedule include the articles that deal with its principles and scope, animal testing, information for workers, and so on. By the way, we shall later consider the fact that a number of the articles that we think should be protected do not appear in the list, and our amendments would include them in it. However, we must first address the point that the list, even once it is agreed, seems to be infinitely malleable.

I wonder what is the purpose of our agreeing the protected list this afternoon if there will continue to be a sub-paragraph in the schedule stating that if someone decides in future that they do not particularly like it, they can zap particular protected provisions, which will no longer be protected. That is a rather cavalier way, at the very least, of going about translating protections that were in the REACH regulations into a UK equivalent. It must be apparent to anyone that the measure is not, aside from the good intentions of present Ministers, worth the paper it is written on for recreating a REACH regime with similar standards to the previous EU ones.

If paragraph 1(4) is left in the schedule, we will simply be digging a hole in which to bury the protected clauses for the future. They will not really be protected, and we shall not be able to refer to them in the long term as the substance of the REACH regulations in the UK. The amendment would simply remove the sub-paragraph so that the protected provisions would actually be protected, as they should be. The Secretary of State would not have the ability to remove the protected articles.

The Minister has already referred to several assurances that can be based on the fact that article 1 is protected. It is, indeed, in the list of protected articles, but it is not exempt from the Secretary of State’s ability to remove articles. It is nonsense, to be honest, and pretty shabby nonsense, looked at in any reasonable way.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

My hon. Friend makes a powerful case. I find myself wondering what he thinks the purpose of all that is. He sets out clearly that the protections we have now can be swept away. Who benefits from that?

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I presume it would be someone at a future date who did not particularly like the idea that we should have high standards of chemical protection, perhaps because they thought we should have a let-it-all-hang-out, free trade, laissez-faire arrangement that would let all sorts of stuff come in from all over the world that was not subject to that high standard of chemical protection—someone who would be quite happy for those items to flood into the country at a future date—and there would be nothing we could do about it, because our protections would have been knocked over by our own Government.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Amendment 107 relates to provisions that are listed in the table in paragraph 6 of schedule 19. If I hold up my copy of the Bill—it is slightly disintegrating through overuse—Members will see that I have highlighted the table, which lists different articles relating to the protected provisions. I agree with the hon. Member for Southampton, Test about the importance of the provisions, which enshrine the fundamental aims and principles of REACH. That is why we have set out a sizeable list of them and they will not change.

It may be helpful if I explain the reason for sub-paragraph (4). An ability to make

“supplementary, incidental, transitional or saving” provisions is a standard provision in legislation. The aim is to make sure we avoid inconsistencies, discrepancies or overlaps developing in the statute book, but it would not enable us to make wholesale changes to the protected provisions. I honestly believe that the hon. Gentleman is seeing shadows. He is seeing malign opportunities and things that will occur in the future, when they are not there.

Article 1 of the REACH provisions, on aim and scope, sets out the purpose as ensuring a high level of protection of human health and the environment, promoting alternatives to animal testing and the principles that are primarily responsible for the chemicals that are sold and used. REACH is underpinned by the precautionary principle.

I want to pick out a number of the provisions—hon. Members may wish to turn to page 231 of the Bill. Article 5 is on the “no data, no market” principle. Access to the market is dependent on registering the chemical with the Health and Safety Executive. Article 25(1) is the principle that animal testing should be carried out only as a last resort. Article 35 covers the right of workers to access information received by their employers concerning the safety of chemical substances or mixtures. Article 55 covers the aim of the authorisation process to progressively replace substances of very high concern. Article 4A covers the principle that decisions that affect devolved matters can be taken only with the consent of devolved Administrations. Article 109 covers the duty on HSE to adopt operational rules to ensure transparency in matters of chemical safety. None of those things is going to change. They are all in there. The annexes are included among the protected provisions, as REACH already contains all the necessary powers to amend them. Duplicating powers in the Bill would cause legal confusion and uncertainty.

I want to give an explanation of where a little bit of tweaking might be required, as an example of how we could use the consequential amendment power, which I think is what the hon. Gentleman is worried about. One of the REACH protected provisions, article 35, states that workers and their representatives shall be granted access by their employer to the information they receive on chemical safety under articles 31 and 32. However, articles 31 and 32 apply only to substances such as individual chemicals and mixtures of chemicals—for example, commercial preparations such as paints and cleaning fluids. They do not apply to substances in what are called articles—for example, toxic heavy metals that might have been used in a piece of electronic equipment. The worker does not have that knowledge at this date in time.

If we decided to expand articles 31 and 32, so that information on dangerous substances in items such as electrical products must be sent down the supply chain, we would want to make consequential amendments to article 35, so that workers would have the right to access that information. As we gather more evidence and science moves on, more comes to light about all those different chemicals and whether, for example, something used in my hairdryer, which I use every other day, is damaging me. We want the right to amend that so that the people who produce those items, and everybody else, would know.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 3:45 pm, 19th November 2020

The Minister is making quite a substantial case. She is stating that the apparent contradiction between paragraphs 1(3) and 1(4) of schedule 19 is resolved by reference to clause 127(1)(a), which includes

“supplementary, incidental, transitional or saving provision”,

meaning that those protected articles could be amended so that, at a subsequent date, they would do what they are supposed to do rather better. Clause 127(1)(b), however, states:

“A power to make regulations under any provision of this Act includes power to make…different provision for different purposes or areas.”

Will the Minister explain how that complete power to do something different if she feels like it does not undermine the idea that amendments should only be

“supplementary, incidental, transition or saving provision”?

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

Order. I have been very tolerant of the length of interventions, because I genuinely believe that sometimes an intervention can help to progress the discussion. I make no criticism of the hon. Member for Southampton, Test, but I hope that future interventions will be kept to a single point and will be as brief as possible.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thank you, Sir George. It was a detailed intervention. I reiterate what I said about the purpose of the consequential amendments and how useful they will be. I will not run through the whole example again, but there are others like it. Those provisions are in the Bill with a view to protecting people, not to undermine or regress.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

I was not going to come in on the point about hairdryers, which we do not all use. The general element of scaremongering from the Opposition effectively amounts to a feeling that once we are out of reach of the REACH regulation, we are going to be vulnerable to all sorts of horrors. In fact, pages 187 and 188 of the explanatory notes are clear that the Bill allows the Secretary of State the future power to amend the REACH regulation, but only in very specific ways, and almost everything currently in those regulations will be recreated under a UK banner. Does the Minister agree that we should be more confident of what the future will look like?

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I wholeheartedly agree. That is what I was trying to get at in the beginning: given that we basically helped to set up those regulations in the first place, we are hardly likely to want to lower standards. Indeed, I would say that we might want to raise them. That will all have to be done on the advice of the experts and the rest. We have no intention whatsoever of lowering our standards.

Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The Minister says that the Government have no intention of lowering standards, but the ECHA—the European Chemicals Agency—has an annual budget of approximately £100 million and 400 staff, while the Government have promised only £13 million to cover those costs. How can that be commensurate with the protection that we need?

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

By using it better and more efficiently!

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

In the chuntering from the Back Benches, some sensible points are being made. Work is ongoing, but given that we were so influential on this in the first place, we have a lot of specialists and experts who are and will be engaged in setting up the system.

I am going to wind up now, Sir George. I think I have addressed all the points I wanted to address, and given quite a detailed explanation. I ask the hon. Member for Southampton, Test if he will kindly withdraw amendment 107, but I am not holding out much hope.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

We will not withdraw this amendment. The Minister’s attempted explanation has increased our resolve, because I do not think it took account of what is in the legislation. By the way, explanatory notes are not legislation—we ought to bear that in mind.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 41 Environment Bill — Schedule 19 - Charges for single use plastic items

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: 174, in schedule 19, page 229,  line 32, at end insert

“provided that such regulations do not regress upon the scope or purpose of the REACH enforcement regulations as applied prior to the amended regulations being enacted”.—(Dr Whitehead.)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 42 Environment Bill — Schedule 19 - Charges for single use plastic items

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendments made: 72, in schedule 19, page 230, line 47, leave out

“the National Assembly for Wales”,

and insert “Senedd Cymru”.

See Amendment 28.

Amendment 73, in schedule 19, page 230, line 48, leave out “Assembly” and insert “Senedd”.—(Rebecca Pow.)

See Amendment 28.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I beg to move amendment 227, in schedule 19, page 231, line 22, at end insert

“and take account of all relevant scientific evidence and advice through the Agency’s science advice mechanisms”.

This amendment requires the Secretary of State and any relevant devolved authority to take into account the relevant independent scientific advice when making decisions.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 228, in schedule 19, page 231, line 30, at end insert

“take account of all relevant scientific evidence and advice through the Agency’s science advice mechanisms, and”.

This amendment requires the Secretary of State and any relevant devolved authority to take into account the relevant independent scientific advice when making decisions.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

These two amendments are what one might call blindingly obvious amendments. They seek to ensure that, before making regulations, the Secretary of State should not only consult with the bodies and persons indicated, but

“take account of all relevant scientific evidence and advice through the Agency’s science advice mechanisms”.

Be guided by the science, quite simply. That might be quite important in terms of some of our concerns about other clauses.

That is why we have tabled the amendments. I fear that they will not get a very positive hearing, but I feel sure that the Minister will agree with the sentiments behind them. I would not like us to end up as Trumptown-on-Sea and go in the opposite direction. I offer the amendments for the purpose of elucidation. We think that it is a very important principle, albeit a rather obvious one, and will therefore divide the Committee if the Minister is unable to take the amendments on board. It would be nice if she took some amendments on board, given that they are meant in the best possible way, but I fear that that will not be the case.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I understand why the hon. Gentleman has tabled amendments 227 and 228. It is obviously really important that decisions in the field of chemicals regulation are based on strong science and robust evidence. That is a no-brainer. That is why any proposals to amend REACH in the future must be subject to consultation, and the agency in particular must always be consulted. We are absolutely in agreement on that. It is up to the agency to decide how to mobilise its various scientific advice mechanisms and then reflect the opinions that emerge in its consultation response. That is the role of the Health and Safety Executive, as it has the necessary expertise and experience. The Government will of course take the agency’s considered advice into account.

To that extent the amendment is necessary, but it goes beyond that, requiring the Government to go back and take those opinions into account directly. That would require the Secretary of State to bypass the agency’s expert assessment and potentially replace it with his own interpretation. Perhaps the current Secretary of State would be quite capable of that, but who is going to come along afterwards? We do not want that to happen, and I do not believe that it would be a desirable outcome or a good use of HSE’s scientific expertise.

Amendment 228 has the same aim, but in respect of the REACH enforcement regulations. Again, I understand why the hon. Gentleman has tabled the amendment. Obviously, I absolutely agree with him about the importance of science and the evidence, but the amendment risks the same undesirable consequences as amendment 227. I am sure that that is not really his intention, and therefore ask him to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I am sorry to have to do this again, but we do not think that such an obvious addition can be subject to the undesirable side-effects in the way that the Minister describes. We think that the amendments should simply be added to the Bill and we wish to emphasise that by dividing the Committee.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 43 Environment Bill — Schedule 19 - Charges for single use plastic items

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: 228, in schedule 19, page 231, line 30, at end insert

“take account of all relevant scientific evidence and advice through the Agency’s science advice mechanisms, and”.—(Dr Whitehead.)

This amendment requires the Secretary of State and any relevant devolved authority to take into account the relevant independent scientific advice when making decisions.

Division number 44 Environment Bill — Schedule 19 - Charges for single use plastic items

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 4:00 pm, 19th November 2020

I beg to move amendment 229, in schedule 19, page 231, line 31, at end insert—

“(4) The Secretary of State, or any relevant devolved authority, shall make transparent the reasons for all decisions taken under this regulation by publishing this information in the public domain.”

This amendment requires the Secretary of State, or any relevant devolved authority, to publish an explanation as to how they reached a decision.

Although the amendments are set out for individual debate, they all refer in one way or another to a requirement to operate the UK REACH regulations transparently, publicly and openly. They mandate giving access to information by providing requirements to publish and for Ministers to report. Later amendments address the question of why the elements that are in the REACH articles at the moment are not included in the protected articles that the Minister has already talked about—articles concerned with the right to know, the publication of material and so on.

The question we want to ask through these amendments is related to basic issues around transporting chemicals, the harm that they might do and what might happen to people if they ingest products that have not been properly certified—all those things. Why are protections in terms of the publication of documents or decisions and the public right to have access to the decision-making process all missing from this part of the Bill? I would have thought that the Minister would agree that they should be present in some form or other. I do not know whether it has just been overlooked or whether there is any reason—I am jumping forward a little—why the very good protections in terms of transparency, public access and so on in the original REACH articles should not be translated directly into protected articles in the UK.

We will seek to divide the Committee on some of the amendments. In different ways, they are designed to place in the UK REACH regulations those issues of the right to know, public access and the interrogation of decisions. I am sorry that they are not in there. They should be. I do not think, Sir George, that we need separate debates on all these amendments, because they all address that principle in different ways and, for that reason, they should all be supported.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

I will have to take the further amendments the hon. Gentleman refers to, because they are all on the amendment paper, but if Members do not want to proceed with them, that is relatively easily dealt with—if nobody wishes to speak to them or move them, they effectively fall.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I understand why the hon. Member for Southampton, Test tabled amendment 229, which I will talk to now. The amendment calls for transparency in decision making, which I completely support, but I do not think that the amendment is necessary. There must be consultation on any proposals under these provisions, as set out in paragraph 5 of schedule 19. The timely publication of responses is a fundamental part of the Government’s consultation principles. Any legislative changes as a result of that consultation will be subject to the affirmative procedure, which gives the opportunity for explanation and scrutiny, which I know the hon. Gentleman will welcome.

There is an important difference in procedure between the powers in the Bill and decision making under REACH. The Secretary of State’s decisions under REACH are given effect through a statutory instrument using the negative procedure or through Executive action, whereas powers in the Bill are exercised through the affirmative procedure, with the higher levels of explanation and scrutiny that that entails. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I am anxious not to overthrow procedure completely, but it might be acceptable to the Committee if we were able to indicate that we would, in principle, wish to divide the Committee on a number of amendments that we feel particularly strongly about, without actually proceeding to divide the Committee. Might the Committee think that that was an acceptable procedure at this time in the afternoon?

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

I am not quite sure what the hon. Gentleman proposes. Can he be a bit clearer?

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

Yes, I can. We face a debate on essentially the same points about transparency, public access and so on, which we feel strongly about. We particularly want the Minister to explain why articles are missing from that list of potential REACH articles. We may have a brief debate about that subsequently. However, we intend, in principle, to divide the Committee on all these amendments, which would of course take quite a while to complete. However, if we were able to state that, in principle, we wish to divide the Committee on those amendments, we could perhaps have an indicative Division on this this particular amendment.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

I think I now understand what the hon. Gentleman is saying. It would be an ingenious new addition to the rules of the House, but I am afraid that that is way above my pay grade.

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Assistant Whip

On a point of order, Sir George. Would it be helpful to suggest to the shadow Minister that we debate the current amendment, but that he does not press the subsequent amendments to a Division?

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

The situation is straightforward. If the hon. Member for Southampton, Test wants to make his point about the issue, the best way to do it is to have a Division on the lead amendment. When we come to the subsequent amendments, it is a question of saying, “Not moved,” or of saying, “Moved formally” and we will then take a vote. There will have to be some sort of Division, but the hon. Member for Southampton, Test does not have to take part in it if he feels that the point he is trying to make has already been established with regard to the lead amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 45 Environment Bill — Schedule 19 - Charges for single use plastic items

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I beg to move amendment 108, in schedule 19, page 231, line 37, at end insert—

Article 13 (General requirements for generation of information on intrinsic properties of substances)”.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 109, in schedule 19, page 231, line 38, at end insert—

“Article 26 (Duty to inquire prior to registration)

Article 27 (Sharing of existing data in the case of registered substances)

Article 30 (sharing of information involving tests)”.

Amendment 176, in schedule 19, page 231, line 38, at end insert—

“Articles 32, 33 and 34 (communication in the supply chain & a right to know for consumers)”.

This amendment includes Article 32, 33 and 34 of REACH (communication in the supply chain & a right to know for consumers) in the “protected provisions” that may not be amended under Schedule 19.

Amendment 110, in schedule 19, page 231, line 39, at end insert—

“Article 40(2) (third party information)”.

Amendment 111, in schedule 19, page 232, line 25, at end insert—

“save insofar as they contain endpoints for tests using animals”.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

As I said, these amendments deal with elements of the REACH articles as they stand that we would seek to be protected in the translation into UK jurisdiction. We are concerned that the articles mentioned in the amendments have been left out, all of which are concerned, one way or another, with public access, the right to know and transparency. My hon. Friend the Member for Putney may say a few words on that in a minute, so I will restrict my remarks to that.

I also indicate to you, Sir George, that although we would in principle seek to divide on all the amendments if the Minister is not able to accept them or to give a fully satisfactory explanation, we will seek to divide on the lead amendment only.

Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Labour, Putney 4:15 pm, 19th November 2020

The Bill gives the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs the power to amend UK REACH and the REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008—REACH being the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals, for the benefit of those reading in Hansard. However, specified elements of REACH are excluded, as we said earlier, from the Secretary of State’s amending power. We are referred to the table that the Minister mentioned earlier and told, “It is all there and included.” It is not all there and included.

We would like to highlight some articles that have not been included in the protected provisions—specifically, article 13 in amendment 108, articles 26, 27 and 30 in amendment 109 and—an interesting set of articles—articles 32, 33 and 34 in amendment 176, which are highly important to the REACH regulations actually working for consumers and those within the supply chain of chemicals. The provisions refer to everyday products that we and our constituents would all use, including paints, cleaning products, clothes, furniture, electrical appliances and, as already mentioned, hairdryers.

In article 32, which I would argue should be a protected principle, there is the duty to communicate information down the supply chain free of charge and without delay. In article 33, the duty is to communicate information on substances in articles for the consumer free of charge within 45 days. In article 34, the duty is to communicate information on substances and preparations up the supply chain.

There are duties up the supply chain, down the supply chain and to the consumer. That is all protected, and it absolutely should happen to ensure that, as the Minister has said, when more information, science and data come to light as we go along with new products and chemicals, the consumer and all of those in the supply chain have a right to know what that new information is, and what is up and down the supply chain. The consumer should know what is in the products that we consume.

Under article 33, suppliers of articles that contain a substance of very high concern are required to provide sufficient information in response to consumer requests about those products to allow their safe use, including disclosing the name of the substance that is used. However, that will be taken out of a protected requirement. There are substances that, for example, meet the criteria for classification as carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic to reproduction and persistent bioaccumulative toxic. This is an essential public policy safeguard, and it is unclear why the Government wish to exclude it from the list of protected provisions. Other things are included in that list. It is seen as beneficial to have a list of protected provisions. Why are those provisions not protected?

That is the question we are asking by tabling these amendments. We are saying that it is important to the whole of the REACH regulation that these things are included and cannot be subject to change by the Secretary of State.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I thank hon. Members for amendments 108, 109, 176, 110 and 111. I understand the desire to protect further provisions of UK REACH in the Environment Bill. However, I do not believe that these amendments are necessary or, in many cases, desirable—shock, horror!

The protected provisions of REACH are intended to ensure that the fundamental principles of REACH cannot be changed, while allowing a flexibility to ensure UK REACH remains fit for purpose. The intention is not to freeze detailed processes. Any proposed amendments by the Secretary of State are subject to consultation, to the consent of the devolved Administrations in respect of devolved matters and to the affirmative procedure, ensuring a full debate in Parliament, which I know Opposition Members will welcome.

Amendment 108 applies to article 13 of REACH, which sets out detailed provisions about alternatives to animal testing, including when animal tests can be waived—I think the hon. Member for Putney was referring to that. She wants us to avoid unnecessary animal testing and to promote alternative approaches. We agree with that aim, but adding this article to the list of protected provisions could make that more difficult. For example, it could prevent us from extending the range of tests for animal testing that may be omitted where there is appropriate justification.

The same objections apply to the articles that would be affected by amendment 109, that is, articles 26, 27 and 30, and by amendment 176, that is, articles 32, 33 and 34. These articles are not just about the principles of information sharing. They also include prescriptive details about how information should be shared with the REACH supply chain and how the agency should deal with inquiries. We should not bind ourselves to these detailed procedures going forward but instead remain free to adopt new ways of working that draw on our experience of applying REACH in the UK. The whole idea is that we will improve and benefit.

Amendment 110 would protect REACH article 40(2). Again, the point is that we do not want to freeze the detail of how REACH operates. Instead, we need the flexibility to amend REACH, to ensure that it works for the UK. In this case, article 40(2) includes specific details, such as timescales for publishing information.

I do not believe that amendment 111 is necessary or desirable. I agree that we may consider it appropriate to amend the REACH annexes to drive the use of non-animal alternatives, but the power to amend the REACH annexes is already within REACH itself, which makes it unnecessary to add an overlapping power to the Bill.

I therefore ask the hon. Member for Southampton, Test to consider withdrawing his amendments.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I think I have already indicated that although we do not wish to withdraw these amendments, we will seek—for the purpose of the record, as it were—an indicative division on amendment 108. However, the fact that we will not press all the subsequent amendments to a vote does not mean that we would not ideally like to divide on them. However, we are doing this for the sake of the comfort and sanity of the Committee this afternoon, and I hope that will be appreciated.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 46 Environment Bill — Schedule 19 - Charges for single use plastic items

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

Before I put the question on amendment 109, which again was tabled by Dr Whitehead, I wonder if it would be helpful if I try to explain the hon. Gentleman can achieve what he wants to achieve. With advice, I think there are two options, which apply to amendments 109, 176 and 110. I take it that the hon. Gentleman, in principle, does not want to have a Division, but does not want to concede the principle; I think that that is approximately his position. When I call each amendment and he says, “Not moved”, then there would not be a Division. The other option is that he can move each amendment, but then simply remain silent when I put the question. So, when I say, “As many of that opinion say aye”, he should just not say anything and then there will not be a Division in that instance either. Those are the only two options available to the hon. Gentleman, so I will leave them with him. The advice I have given is intended to be helpful to him and to the Committee.

Amendment proposed: 109, in schedule 19, page 231, line 38, at end insert—

“Article 26 (Duty to inquire prior to registration)

Article 27 (Sharing of existing data in the case of registered substances)

Article 30 (sharing of information involving tests)”.—(Dr Whitehead.)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Question negatived.

Amendment proposed: 176, in schedule 19, page 231, line 38, at end insert—

“Articles 32, 33 and 34 (communication in the supply chain & a right to know for consumers)”.

This amendment includes Article 32, 33 and 34 of REACH (communication in the supply chain & a right to know for consumers) in the “protected provisions” that may not be amended under Schedule 19.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Question negatived.

Amendment proposed: 110, in schedule 19, page 231, line 39, at end insert—

“Article 40(2) (third party information)”.—(Dr Whitehead.)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Question negatived.

Amendment proposed: 111, in schedule 19, page 232, line 25, at end insert—

“save insofar as they contain endpoints for tests using animals”.—(Dr Whitehead.)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Question negatived.

Schedule 19 agreed to.