Cosmetic Products

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Richard Younger-Ross: In my previous question, I was trying to get at the number of experiments, in particular with regard to the size of the market. If the argument is going to be won in the wider world, it is important to bring to its attention how many animals are affected, and to contrast what we do in the EU with what happens in the United States of America.

I return to the impact on the EU market. If the seventh amendment is adopted, will that put our market at a disadvantage, in relation to imports from outside the EU? I do not know the cost difference between non-animal experiments and animal-based experiments, but if our market will be put at a disadvantage, should we not take measures to protect it?

Miss Johnson: I do not believe that it puts our market at a disadvantage. It is clear that there are no economic issues with regard to this matter.

We do not have the data on the number of animal tests. Cosmetics firms will not share that data with us, so it is impossible for us to get it. However, as I have said, only a small percentage of the tests that are carried out on animals in Europe are conducted for the purpose of testing cosmetics ingredients. At present, 0.3 per cent. of animal tests undertaken in Europe are for cosmetic purposes in the wider sense.

Mr. Luke: My hon. Friend referred to the correspondence last year between the European Scrutiny Committee and her Department. On 9 January 2002, there was discussion about the legal advice that had been received. What legal advice was given? We are not prohibiting the importation of cosmetics, but setting standards that may make it slightly more difficult for companies to export their products to us. That is different from a complete trade ban. There has been a straight prohibition of steel imports in America. Will my hon. Friend go into more detail about the legal technicalities that were put to her?

Miss Johnson: My hon. Friend will understand that it is not possible for me to go into detail about the legal advice that we received, because it could prejudice the outcome of a WTO case, if one arose. The sixth amendment would cause a problem with the WTO rules and would be incompatible with them, whereas the seventh amendment is more likely to be acceptable to the WTO and much less likely to invite challenge.

Mr. Ivan Henderson (Harwich): Under the seventh amendment, what advantages would there be to cosmetics companies to find an alternative, given that until an alternative is found they can still sell within the European Union cosmetics that have been tested on animals?

Miss Johnson: The incentive is that the OECD will be looking for alternatives and will ensure that they are developed. It is up to member states to maintain pressure through the EU and the OECD to ensure that those alternatives are developed. We want the tests to be developed as soon as is practicable and will exert pressures to make sure that the process continues. There is always the risk that people will drag their heels, but it is up to us to make sure that progress is made and we shall be doing our best to do that.

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Mr. Swire: I agree with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Dr. Murrison). Will the Minister dwell on the distinction that he made between cosmetics that enhance, such as perfumes, fragrances and toothpastes and preventive products that have real medical connotations, such as sunblocks? Some of us would be happy to allow greater flexibility in areas that have greater medical connotations than in areas of cosmetic enhancement.

Miss Johnson: I understand the point raised by the hon. Gentlemen, but whether tests that are used for certain areas can be used for other areas is probably beyond me technically and may be beyond them, too. If tests used for one area can be adapted for use in other areas and there are not separate requirements, we may be able to cover the continuing use of sunblock, for example, as easily as we could by disaggregating the two products, thus covering those cosmetics about which the hon. Gentlemen are not so concerned. We cannot make such a distinction within the scope of the directive. We would probably have to change it and we might not gain anything by doing that, although I sympathise with the objective.

Mr. Wright: Further to my previous question about the WTO, if the sixth amendment were adopted rather than the seventh, and there were a challenge within the WTOas the Minister suggested would be likelywhat would be the scenario within Europe? Although the Minister said that we would be in danger of losing the progress made to date in restricting animal testing, surely the status quo would prevail within the EU and we would be no worse off?

Miss Johnson: If the seventh amendment were not adopted, we would fall back to being uncertain about the industry's future. It would be difficult for us to find a way ahead in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggests. Legal argument is not a productive outcome for anyone. It is expensive, time-consuming and leads to a time vacuum, as I explained when I last spoke about this subject. I fear that we would return to the position in which there was continued uncertainty for many years and no progress was made on developing non-animal testing or on a ban. It would be foolish to enter into a state in which it was likely that legal proceedings would be taken, when we can pursue a course that will have the same effect but involve much less risk.

Mr. Waterson: Will the Minister comment on the concern expressed by some organisations that EU multinationals will simply circumvent the provisions by commissioning tests outside the EU while continuing to manufacture and sell their products within the EU?

Miss Johnson: Assuming that the European Parliament adopts the seventh amendmentalthough the debate has not yet concludedthe test developed will be used and required within the EU for activity within the EU. Therefore, those wishing to import will be required to meet the standards adopted by the EU, just as products created within the EU will have to meet the standards.

The standards adopted by the EU will be internationally accepted. If tests that do not involve

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animals are developed, many companies and countries will wish to adopt them. I do not believe there to be a lack of sensitivity on the subject. Although there has been a reluctance to move forward, that reluctance can be overcome by the availability of externally validated, internationally accepted tests.

Dr. Murrison: May I press the Minister on the difference between sunblocks and cosmetics? I am sorry to be vexatious, but I am warming to the theme. It is wrong to include sunblocks in the broader group of cosmetic products. All Opposition Members would agree that most people understand cosmetics to include perfumes and so forthtoothpaste, at a stretchand there is no way that such products should be tested on animals. We are quite clear about thatno problem at all.

I have difficulty, however, in accepting the duplicity of the Government's message. On one hand, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Public Health says that prevention is very important, but on the other hand, this legislation would in some ways increase the difficulty of prevention. Incidences of malignant melanoma are increasing and we approach summer, when the problem is especially acute. Is the time right to disaggregate sunblocks from the raft of perfumes and toiletries that comprise the core subject of today's discussion?

Miss Johnson: The hon. Gentleman may be warming to his subject, but I feel that it may be getting a little overexposed. Sunblocks will be continue to be available following testing on animals while non-animal tests are not validated. When non-animal tests are validated, sunblocks will be produced on that basis. There is no continuing risk. The Government are not duplicitous in their message about the importance of protecting people, especially children, from the sun when they are in the UK and abroad to ensure the result that skin cancer is kept to a minimum. Skin cancer is a growing problem and the creams play an important role in achieving that result. I accept the hon. Gentleman's point about the importance of the creams, but nothing is put at risk by the proposals.

Mr. Henderson: What opposition exists in the EU to the sixth amendment? If there is opposition, what reasons have been given for that?

Miss Johnson: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question because it allows me to highlight that there is less than full support throughout the EU. Austria, the Netherlands and Germany are the only countries apart from the UK that have introduced a testing ban on cosmetics. That sets the scene in the first place. Denmark has neither a voluntary nor legal ban on animal testing, but it wishes to impose a ban on non-EU countries that sell cosmetics in the EU that have been tested on animals. That is a contradictory position. Alliances with other countries show that only a few member states are prepared to support our position, and other countries refuse to move to the extent that we have.

Dr. Ladyman: The Minister will agree that the future of the manufacturing industry in this country lies largely with knowledge-based and advanced

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products. In the pharmaceutical industry and, I believe, the cosmetic industry, it is generally accepted that a customer does not buy a physical product but the intellectual effort that was involved in its development. If the Minister agrees with that, does she agree that a product that is tested on animals is not the same as a product that might do the same thing, but that was developed by a different intellectual process? If she agrees with me about that, should we challenge the WTO, which bans discrimination against similar products, about that by telling it that a product that is developed by a more advanced, non-animal technique is not a similar product because it has a different intellectual background and, therefore, a consumer purchases a different intellectual property?

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