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Chemicals Industry

Volume 410: debated on Friday 19 September 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action she has taken to secure the future of the north-west chemicals industry; and if she will make a statement. [130994]

[holding answer 18 September 2003]: The chemical sector is very important to the north-west and DTI has worked very closely with the private sector lead North West Chemical Initiative to develop a strategy and action plan for the sector. The North West Chemical Initiative was established with the financial support of both the North West Development Agency and DTI.My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has recently announced that £50 million worth of regional selective assistance has been awarded to chlorine manufacturer Ineos Chlor (subject to EU Commission approval) to help modernise its Runcorn facility on Merseyside. Over 2000 direct jobs at the plant will be safeguarded by the aid, part of a £389 million investment programme by the company, safeguarding around a further 8,000 jobs in associated businesses which are dependent upon the Runcorn site.The UK Government fully supports the objectives of the new European chemicals strategy. However, it considers that the draft legislative text published by the Commission before the summer would not create a workable, efficient system that will provide the right level of protection of human health and the environment while avoiding unnecessary burdens to industry. Indeed, the UK Government consider that as currently drafted the legislation would be both too costly and damaging for the chemicals industry (particularly small businesses) and not effective enough in terms of protecting human health and the environment. We are working with other member states and the Commission to ensure that there are substantial changes to the legislation before it is finally agreed.