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Plans for future of chemical safety regs 'urgently needed'

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A commons committee of MPs has said businesses are spending millions of pounds preparing for safety regulations that may have no future once Britain leaves the EU.


Mary Creagh MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee criticised the government for failing to provide clarity that 'UK businesses urgently need': "This lack of clarity extends to plans for a future chemicals framework for the UK: the Government has admitted that it will be difficult to transpose regulations such as REACH into UK law, yet it has not yet offered a vision for the replacement,” she said.

The EAC’S report, published 29 April, highlighted the importance of the regulations in enabling the UK’s multi-billion chemicals industry to thrive, while also protecting public health and the environment.

Key findings included:

  • Writing EU regulations into UK law could not be done simply by having a line in the "Great Repeal Bill" deeming REACH to apply in the UK. REACH was written from the perspective of participants being in the EU, with much of it also relating to Member State co-operation and mutual obligations, oversight and controls, and freedom of movement of products.
  • Companies face significant costs (£250 million estimated) to prepare for REACH registration deadline in May 2018, yet it is unclear whether these registrations will remain valid once the UK leaves the EU in 2019. This uncertainty may already be having an impact on long-term investment decisions by companies.

Dave Bench, director of chemicals regulation at the HSE, was invited to give evidence to the EAC's inquiry on the benefits of REACH and how far it has contributed to better management of risk.

“In my view, the big success of REACH has been to provide consistent obligations on those within the chemical supply chain both in terms of what they have to do within the supply chain in relation to substances that they are involved with but also the amount of information and data on the characterisation of those substances.

"We now have much more information, much more knowledge about the range of chemicals in the supply chain, and that simply did not exist beforehand,” he said.

He added that it has enabled the HSE to use its data and information to know which substances 'to look at in more detail' and to take 'more direct regulatory action on'.

The Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) was introduced by an EU directive in 2007.

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