Chemical Provisions in the Environment Bill

Following the Queen’s Speech, the Environment Bill has been introduced into Parliament

Here is the link to the Bill documents.

The Bill now contains chemicals-related provisions with enabling powers to amend the Articles REACH as it applies in UK law and the REACH Enforcement Regulations.  These provisions are clause 122 and Schedule 20 in the Bill.  The relevant paragraphs in the Explanatory Notes are 967-969 and 1612-1624, and in the Delegated Powers Memorandum are 511-535.

The REACH Regulation draws a distinction between the Articles and Annexes of the Regulation.  As REACH is carried into UK law the Annexes can be amended by the Secretary of State through Statutory Instrument but the Articles cannot generally be amended.  However, this risks freezing the UK REACH Regulation in its current form. The power in the Bill will allow the Secretary of State to take further steps where necessary to ensure a smooth transition to a UK chemicals regime following the UK’s exit from the EU.  It will also make it possible to keep the legislation up to date and respond to emerging needs or ambitions for the effective management of chemicals.

For example, the Secretary of State may want to amend the detailed operation of the regulatory processes such as evaluation, authorisation and restriction to ensure they remain efficient and effective and respond to the experience of applying them in a UK-only context. The Secretary of State may also want to amend the provisions on independent scientific advice if experience shows that they need to be refined to take account of the fact that they are operate more effectively.

The REACH Exit SI inserted provisions designed to provide a smooth transition into the UK system for existing dutyholders under the EU REACH Regulation.  At the same time the policy intention is to preserve the underlying principles of the EU REACH regime, including ensuring a high level of protection of human health and the environment.  It is important that it remains possible to amend the transitional provisions to ensure both a smooth transition into the UK REACH system and continued effective management of chemicals for the protection of human health and the environment.

A number of safeguards are included in relation to the exercise of this power. The Secretary of State must publish an explanation of why she considers any amendments to be consistent with Article 1 of REACH (aim and scope).  There is also a series of protected provisions which cannot be amended.  These relate to the fundamental principles of REACH, the role of the Devolved Administrations, and the transparency of the regime.

The REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008 were made under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972.  However, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 repeals the European Communities Act. This means that after exit day the only way to amend the Enforcement Regulations will be by providing new powers through primary legislation.

The next stage will be Second Reading in the House of Commons, which is the debate on the main principles of the Bill.  We haven’t got a date for that yet but the convention is that there should be a minimum of two weekends between Introduction and 2nd Reading.

Please get in touch with Keith.Bailey@defra.gov.uk if you have further questions.

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