Real worries over the future trading arrangements for chemical companies on Teesside and beyond after the UK leave the EU were front and centre when Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham challenged Ministers from the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs.
Alex raised the ongoing discontent of the industry over the Government’s plans for the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) regulations which govern the rules and standards for chemical production, during a meeting of the Environmental Audit Committee.
“Is there scope for the Statutory Instrument on REACH to be changed at this stage? I am not quite sure what the protocol is, and the fact that it has been passed by the Commons already, but are there going to be any changes to reflect the ongoing concerns of industry about the REACH regulations before it reaches the Lords?”
The Minister, Dr Coffey, attempted to deflect from Alex’s question by telling the Committee that industry would rather the regulations be transferred rather than them not going through the House of Lords.
Probing further on the matter, the Stockton North MP urged the Minister to confirm whether the industry were happy with the regulations as published – with the Minister responding that the industry have not come up with a single example of where this will be a problem, and that they are still in ongoing discussions with the Chemicals Industry Association.
The Minister said:
“I think there are aspects of it that we simply reject their assertions. There are other elements and in particular this is about the import of chemicals from non-EU in EEA areas where we are waiting for them to give us their evidence. So far they have not come up with a single example of where this will be a problem, but of course we are open to working with industry. We do not want to disrupt the supply chain and so there are still ongoing discussions with the Chemicals Industry Association in regard specifically to that issue. I am confident it will proceed next week in the Lords.”
Speaking after the meeting, Alex said:
“The Minister isn’t listening to me – but more importantly she isn’t listening to the industry who have concerns about this particular statutory instrument. The Government must do more – and I’ll keep pushing to make sure that the concerns of industry are being listened to.”