Select Committee on European Union Forty-Ninth Report


TRANSPORT OF DANGEROUS GOODS (10793/02 AND 10795/02)

Letter from John Spellar MP, the Minister of State to the Chairman

  I must inform you that two proposals currently before the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union have been considered by COREPER and the European Council, have been opposed and will not be adopted.

  The proposals discussed in Explanatory Memorandum 10793/02 and 10795/02 (submitted to your Committee by the Department for Transport on 23 July 2002) were listed for decision by the European Council on 3 October. The proposals are concerned with the time limits within which pressure drums, cylinder racks and tanks for the transport of dangerous goods must comply with the Directives specified.

  My Department considered placing a reserve on these proposals so that the scrutiny process could be concluded when your Committee resumed business after the summer recess. However, we were aware that the proposals, developed in close co-operation with the Department, had been brought forward by the European Commission specifically to assist the United Kingdom and Ireland by extending the time limit, and that it would therefore be difficult to argue for a reserve to procedural reasons. We concluded, therefore, that in this instance it was preferable to allow business to go ahead as scheduled.

  In the event, other Member States have opposed the proposals, and they will not be adopted. The time limit for implementation of these provisions remains 1 July 2001. This will have no effect in the United Kingdom: we will continue to plan for implementation of these provisions from 1 July 2003 as part of a wider project to introduce consolidated Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail Regulations.

21 October 2002

Letter from the Chairman to David Jamieson MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport

  Thank you for your Explanatory Memoranda 10793/02 and 10795/02 dated 23 July 2002 which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 14 October 2002.

  We agree that the Commission is right to seek a Council Decision on their proposal to delay the implementation of these Directives until 30 June 2003. We note the importance to the United Kingdom of ensuring that any legal uncertainty about the status of tanks and cylinders built in the UK 1 July 2001 and 1 July 2003 be removed.

  We note, too, that Ministers have decided to transpose these proposals and to implement the Directives in the new 2003 Consolidated Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail Regulations currently being drafted by the Health and Safety Executive.

  Under the circumstances, the Scrutiny reserve on these documents is lifted. However, we should be grateful to be kept informed of the progress of the documents, in particular if there is any likelihood of the Commission failing to secure the postponement it has asked for.

21 October 2002

Letter from the Chairman to John Spellar MP, Minister of State, Department for Transport

  Thank you for your letter dated 21 October which crossed with mine of the same date.

  As you will see, we were content to lift the Scrutiny reserve on this document. We now note that the proposals will not go forward because of opposition of other Member States.

  You claim that this will have no effect in the United Kingdom, but surely these proposals were designed to remove the legal uncertainty between the current time limit for implementation of 1 July 2001, and the UK's implementation from 1 July 2003. Has this legal uncertainty been removed?

30 October 2002

Letter from John Spellar MP

  I wrote to Lord Brabazon of Tara on 21 October, crossing with his letter of the same date, about two proposals discussed in Explanatory Memorandum 10793/02 and 10795/02 (submitted to your Committee by the Department for Transport on 23 July 2002). He wrote to me again on 30 October asking for further information.

  Since then, the passage of these proposals has taken an unexpected course. I have waited to be quite certain of the outcome before writing again.

  I told you that we had lifted the scrutiny reserve on two proposals that were listed for decision by the European Court on 3 October. We also reported that since the proposals had been opposed, they would be rejected. However, it appears that the blocking minority necessary for rejection did not materialise. With no clear vote either for or against, the European Council had the option of making no decision, and that is what they did. The Commission then took advantage of a procedure (Council Decision 1999/468/EC) under which if the Council had neither accepted nor rejected a proposal within three months, the Commission can formalise the decisions themselves. The Commission therefore published these decisions on 7 November.

  We are very pleased with this sudden and unexpected turnaround. The point you asked about and which I could have made more fully in my earlier letter was that the anticipated loss of the proposals left us in no more uncertain a position than we were before the proposals were put forward. But this is now behind us. The Commission's decisions bring a clear benefit to UK industry by removing the legal uncertainty surrounding the way in which these types of tank are manufactured. They also remove the risk of infraction proceedings against the UK on this point.

2 December 2002

Letter from the Chairman to John Spellar MP

  Thank you for your letter dated 2 December which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 16 December.

  We are as delighted as you by this unexpected turn of events. In particular, we are reassured that the Commission's decisions remove the legal uncertainty surrounding the way in which these types of tank are manufactured and the risk of infraction proceedings against the UK on this point. Thank you for keeping us informed.

17 December 2001


 
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