Lords warn of Brexit threats to chemical safety from sloth in regulation plans

The House of Lords’ European Union Energy and Environment Sub-Committee has warned of its “significant concerns” about the government’s preparedness to take on the regulation of chemicals. It said the government could be “risking people’s safety, not to mention the viability of the UK’s chemicals sector,” with clear implications for the water sector.

The sub committee highlighted its concerns in a letter to Defra minister, Thérèse Coffey, as part of ongoing correspondence “to monitor progress in establishing a UK chemicals database and whether the essential functions would be tested and ready for use on Brexit day.” It said the minister’s latest missive indicated that:

  • some chemical safety tests may need to be re-done, which would increase businesses’ costs, potentially reduce the number of chemicals available in the UK, and increase the amount of animal testing;

  • the minister had not stated whether the UK’s database of chemicals that are authorised for use in the UK will be ready in time, or explained the government’s contingency plan for if the database is not ready on Brexit day;

  • some companies were not aware of the government’s plans for post-Brexit chemical regulation; and

  • it was not clear whether the Health and Safety Executive will have enough resources to perform its new tasks as the UK’s chemicals regulator.

The sub-committee said it was “seeking reassurance on the outstanding issues.”

Chair of the sub-committee, Lord Teverson, said: “We are a mere three weeks away from potentially having to regulate chemicals for ourselves, and as far as we can tell we find ourselves with neither a functioning database nor a functioning regulator. The government is risking people’s safety, not to mention the viability of the UK’s chemicals sector, by not being adequately prepared.”

In November 2018 the sub committee warned that the government's preparations for regulating chemicals after Brexit were not progressing quickly enough, “risking human and environmental health and with potentially severe consequences for the chemicals sector.”