Petrol (Lead Content)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th April 1976.

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Photo of Hon. Tim Sainsbury Hon. Tim Sainsbury , Hove 12:00 am, 5th April 1976

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Silverman) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) have demonstrated the difficulties of statistics and the conflict of evidence. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedford referred to the edition of the Petroleum Times of 19th March. I was struck by this statement in that edition: German oil companies have also voiced an opinion that the new national low-lead requirement has forced them to invest a great deal of money—estimated at around US $170 million—in equipment to produce low-lead fuel. That is a pew piece of evidence since our previous debate, as also is the report produced by the Associated Octel Company Limited, the conclusion of which is: It has been demonstrated that the Government's requirement for lead emissions from motor vehicles not to increase above the 1972 level can be achieved with the present lead in gasoline levels by selective fitting of lead filters to cars. I hope that the Minister of State—hopefully a little less hurried this time than he was last time—will be able to reply to the point I made last time about studies of the fitting of exhaust gas filters as a method of overcoming this genuinely worrying problem. In our previous discussion the Minister said: Let me state briefly what that would achieve. First, we should set targets to be achieved—targets that can be amended or changed according to standards adopted in the light of further evidence. Secondly, by this means we would ensure that action is taken as necessary to deal with particular sources of lead pollution—[Official Report, 4th March 1976; Vol. 906, c. 1676.] I think that the Minister made that statement more in connection with the suggested monitoring.

Will the Minister confirm that the standards to which he suggested we should move for lead in petrol are standards which the Government would keep under review and monitor, in the light of evidence in this country and overseas as to the risks, economic effects and other possibilities of dealing with the problem of the contribution of lead in petrol to lead in the atmosphere, without running into the sphere of economic disadvantages mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford?