To ask Her Majesty's Government what safeguards exist to ensure the secretariat of the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals Independent Scientific Expert Pool is independent from the rest of the Health and Safety Executive.
27 May 2021
As set out in the statement on use of independent scientific knowledge and advice (Agency statement on transparency and the use of independent scientific knowledge and advice (ISA) (hse.gov.uk)) the secretariat for the REACH Independent Scientific Expert Pool (RISEP) will be provided by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) . However, the work of this secretariat is limited to organisation, and support of RISEP experts in administration and protocol matters. Agendas and notes of Challenge Panels involving RISEP members will be made public, with accredited stakeholders also in attendance to ensure transparency.
In establishing independent scientific knowledge and advice within the UK REACH system, experts from HSE (as the Agency with UK REACH) and the Environment Agency (EA) used experience and “hands-on” knowledge of their work within the EU REACH scientific expert process (on the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) and the Committee for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC)). This enabled HSE to define the skills and experience necessary to ensure robust independent scrutiny and challenge to produce high-quality opinions, to inform decisions by the Secretary of State for Defra with the consent of Ministers for Wales and Scotland. The REACH SI mandates the Agency to include information about the qualifications or relevant experience that are suitable in order to provide knowledge and advice to the Agency within the statement produced on the use of independent scientific knowledge and advice (Agency statement on transparency and the use of independent scientific knowledge and advice (ISA) (hse.gov.uk)).
The actual composition of experts used to help the Agency produce specific opinions will be dependent on the type of dossier – for instance for an environmentally driven restriction any Challenge Panel would be made up of more independent environmental scientists than human health. All opinions will be looked at on a case-by-case basis. We have not set a minimum number of experts, but as a contingency we have ensured that we are able to co-opt members of other committees should we need to so. However, due to the large response we have had to the recruitment it is thought that this will not be required.
HSE was also able to use discussions with stakeholders and prioritisation exercises with Defra, and officials from the Scottish and Welsh governments to inform decisions around the number of experts required within the process on the basis of estimates of the numbers of restrictions and applications for authorisation expected.