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Hazardous Substances

Volume 453: debated on Monday 27 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what research his Department has (a) undertaken, (b) evaluated and (c) commissioned to find viable alternatives for lead solders banned under the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Regulations; and if he will make a statement. (100736)

The Department commissioned independent research on the health and environmental impact of lead and the other five substances restricted by the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Regulations in August 2006. In addition, the European Commission has brought forward a number of exemptions from the RoHS Directive for the use of lead solder in specific applications where its elimination or substitution is not technically or scientifically practicable. These exemptions have been transposed into the UK regulations.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what (a) resources and (b) enforcement procedures are in place to prevent the import of goods from outside the European Union which do not comply with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Regulations; at which ports such procedures operate; and what forecast has been made of the percentage of relevant electrical equipment which will be checked. (100737)

The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Regulations 2006 (SI 2006 No. 1463) contains full details of the enforcement powers that the National Weights and Measures Laboratory—the enforcement authority for these regulations—holds. Copies of the regulations have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

The Regulations apply to electrical and electrical equipment put on the market, so no distinction is made between the importers of such equipment into the EU and manufacturers within the EU. There is, therefore, no inspection system that will operate at UK ports or a mechanism in place to forecast the percentage of equipment that will be checked.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made by the Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements for the European Commission in developing reference materials suitable for use in testing whether components are compliant with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Regulations; and if he will make a statement. (100738)

The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (and, consequently, the UK Regulations) does not prescribe compliance procedures and testing methods to be applied. I understand from the European Commission, however, that the Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements now has seven reference materials available for metal matrices certified for lead, cadmium and hexavalent chromium; two for ceramic matrices certified for cadmium and lead; and six for polymer matrices certified for cadmium, lead, mercury, bromine and hexavalent chromium. These reference materials have not been specifically certified for the RoHS Directive but can be used for such a purpose.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what mechanisms are in place to assess manufacturers' claims that they have been unable to source essential component parts that adhere to the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Regulations; and whether any derogations are in place in respect of essential components not complying with the Regulations. (100739)

Article 5 of the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive provides a mechanism by which the European Commission can bring forward exemptions for the specific use of the restricted substances in specific applications where their elimination or substitution by alternatives is not technically or scientifically practicable or where those alternatives have a greater environmental, health and/or safety impact.

The European Commission has published 32 such agreed exemptions to date.