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13 December 2006

Multi-billion pound EU chemicals challenge is just beginning for small firms

Reference number: PR 2006 107

FSB News Release


Issue date:  Wednesday 13 December 2006

Multi-billion pound EU chemicals challenge is just beginning for small firms

Following today’s news that the European Parliament has approved the REACH Regulation the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) called on the UK Government to step up to the challenge and help small firms.  This Regulation will affect small businesses that manufacture or import chemicals in the EU as well as those using chemical preparations in their industrial or commercial activities.

The European Commission has estimated that REACH will cost between £1.5 billion and £3.5 billion (2.8 billion and 5.2 billion Euros) over eleven years.  Other assessments put the cost as high as £8.6 billion (12.8 billion Euros).  REACH costs hit small firms especially hard because they are least able to absorb costs or pass them on to their customers, unlike larger businesses.

The FSB specifically called for two key action points from civil servants: sensitive implementation of REACH and comprehensive advice for small businesses.

John Holbrow, FSB National Environment Chairman, said:

“REACH is now on the books and the political machinations are over.  However, the challenge for small businesses is just beginning.

“This is an incredibly complex piece of legislation.  It will require sensitive and smart implementation to ensure that it does not cripple small businesses.

“This legislation will affect tens of thousands of small businesses.  Civil servants must bear in mind the thousands of jobs across the business spectrum that depend on REACH being implemented well.

“Effective, easy to access and well-publicised guidance from the Government will also be essential to help small firms meet their obligations.  It would be tremendously unfair to bring in these complex rules and then leave small businesses to their own devices.  With the right advice small firms can do their bit without being left exposed to prosecution due to their understandable lack of resources and specialised knowledge.”