Defra ministers are considering creating a new chemicals regulatory system but this would not have the same scale of expertise as the European Chemicals Agency. Even a limited imitation of this agency would require a completely new system for gathering data on chemicals, assessing this data and controlling the use of chemicals. This would including a large and complex IT project which would take considerable time to deliver, and could easily go wrong, as has happened with other, large government IT projects.
The magnitude of the challenge that Defra faces seems to have been vastly underestimated by the new Secretary of State Michael Gove. On 20 July, the chair of the Environment Audit Committee, Mary Creagh, asked
him how he would regulate chemicals in the UK in future. The secretary of state simply replied with one word: “Better”.