To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the potential effect of the change in approach to including Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) on the UK REACH Candidate List on (a) consumer and environmental protection from SVHCs, (b) consumers’ right to know about SVHCs in products, (c) the number of substances added to the UK SVHC candidate list and authorisation list in comparison to the EU’s and (d) the capacity of HSE to conduct Regulatory Management Options Analysis on substances identified for prioritisation; and if he will publish any assessments made by his Department on the effect of those proposals.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if he will publish the evidence for the reasons given by his Department for introducing new principles for including Substances of Very High Concern on the UK REACH Candidate List, including the (a) the scale, nature and effect of the issue of a substance on an incorrect or more than one regulatory pathway, (b) whether that issue can be foreseen and mitigated against by monitoring how it is resolved at an EU level and (c) how the potential merits of this approach outweigh the potential costs.
Last year the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) legislation was brought into UK law, retaining the fundamental approach and key principles of EU REACH and ensuring a high level of protection of human health and the environment.
Within UK REACH, the Candidate List is a list of substances of very high concern (SVHCs) that can be prioritised for inclusion on the Authorisation List. Once a substance is added to the Authorisation List, it may not be used after the specified ‘sunset date’ unless the Secretary of State has granted a business-specific authorisation for that use.
The substances on the EU REACH candidate list were automatically carried forward to UK REACH. In future, substances will be added to the list on the basis of the best UK scientific advice, taking into account our own risk assessments.
Defra, the Welsh and Scottish governments have agreed an interim approach to adding new SVHCs to the list (published on gov.uk: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-reach-approach-to-including-substances-of-very-high-concern-on-the-candidate-list). This is based on expert advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency (EA), as well as feedback from a range of stakeholders.
We believe that focusing the Candidate List on identifying substances that are genuine candidates for authorisation – the statutory purpose of the list – will more effectively enable substitution away from the most hazardous substances. The regulatory pressure from inclusion on the Candidate List can be diluted if there is little realistic chance of added substances being made subject to authorisation.
As part of our approach, HSE and EA will conduct analysis to identify the most effective regulatory action to manage the risks from a chemical. When substances are on the incorrect regulatory pathway it can lead to unintended consequences such as regrettable substitution, where a hazardous substance is replaced by a substance with similar hazards; this can then increase the time taken to effectively control the risks. Both the HSE and EA are well placed to act as a strong and effective regulator to operate UK REACH. Both organisations have substantial expertise having worked on some of the most complex dossiers under EU REACH.
This approach makes no practical change to helpful consumer information.