No. 38 - Session 2003-2004  12 May 2004



The Science and Technology Committee today publishes its Sixth Report of Session 2003-04, Within Reach: The EU's New Chemicals Strategy (HC 172-I). The Report considers the European Commission's Proposals for a new EU Chemicals Strategy, which were published on 29 October 2003.

The report concludes that the Commission's "REACH" Proposals are an acceptable alternative to existing legislation. The Committee found that more needed to be done to adapt the Registration of chemicals to ensure that where the risks are well known, chemicals of high concern are Registered first but that the Registration of chemicals of low concern can be delayed. To this end, a single pre-Registration phase should be introduced.

The Government is pressing for one-substance-one Registration. The Committee found that there were many complicating factors involved and that while this should be the norm, it could never be the rule. The Government's position was considered to be untenable.

The Committee expressed concerns that insufficient was being done by the European Commission to assess the number of extra animals required for testing to comply with the legislation and that they should be making the case that this was a price worth paying for the benefits to the environment and human health. It was felt that the introduction of non-animal tests was too slow and that REACH presented an opportunity to change this.

The proposed European Chemicals Agency needs to be a strong, authoritative and pragmatic, the Committee concluded, if it is to ensure consistency across the EU, the rapid Evaluation of chemicals of concern and a sensible approach to enforced substitution.

Impact assessments conducted so far by the Commission and others have failed to achieve widespread confidence. Since it is unlikely that the European Parliament will consider the legislation by the end of 2004, there is an opportunity for a further study which can command the support of all parties.

Chairman of the Committee, Dr Ian Gibson, said "Our look at the European chemicals legislation has convinced us that not everything that comes out of Brussels is all bad, but the Government has got to keep the pressure up to avoid landing us with expensive and bureaucratic legislation that does nothing to save the whale, or anything else".

Hard copies of the Report can be obtained from TSO outlets and from the Parliamentary Bookshop, 12 Bridge Street, Parliament Square, London SW1A 2JX (020 7219 3890) by quoting HC 172-I. The text of the Report will also be available via the Committee's internet homepage:

Further information on the work of the Committee can be obtained from Committee staff on

020 7219 2793/4. Previous press notices and publications are available on our website.

Notes for Editors

1. Under the terms of Standing Order No. 152 the Committee is empowered to examine the "expenditure, policy and administration of the Office of Science and Technology and its associated public bodies". The Committee was appointed on 12 November 2001.

2. The Committee's inquiry was announced on 29 October 2003 in Press Notice No. 47, Session 2002-03.

3. The Committee took evidence from: WWF, Greenpeace, British Retail Consortium, Marks and Spencer and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection on 19 January 2004; the EC Directorates General for Environment and Enterprise on 2 February 2003; and the Chemical Industry Association, the Rt Hon Alun Michael MP, Minister of State for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality and officials on 9 February.