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 Mr Donald Anderson Mr Donald Anderson , Swansea East 12:00 am, 5th April 1976

I wholly concur with what my hon. Friend says. There is a real danger of complacency over this issue with its substantial risks to the population, particularly to young children.

I concede that the medical evidence is not conclusive, but the risks are obvious. There is evidence, particularly from the German experience, that the economic disadvantages are not as great as has been suggested by the hon. Member for Bedford. That has been accepted not only by the German Government but by the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency of America.

In this area we take a risk. We need an act of political will in a context of greater public awareness of the risks of pollution and a determination to avoid controllable pollution and risk whenever possible. That is particularly relevant in this country because of our higher traffic densities.

I accept, as is stated in the amendment, that realistically it is proper for us to gear our programme of reduction to our own domestic oil production from the North Sea and thus minimise the adverse balance of payments effects.

The amendment presses for "staged reductions" from the present legal limit. The European Parliament has suggested 0·40 grammes per litre, which is modest compared with what West Germany has already achieved with, I would argue, less adverse consequences than were put forward by the hon. Member for Bedford. Even at 0·40 grammes per litre, on the Department of the Environment's traffic predictions, we could be back to square one within six years. Unless there is a speedier fulfilment of the target, we shall be standing still, in effect, at the end of that period.

I hope that the Government will bear that point in mind, will carefully monitor the medical evidence which may become clearer over the years and will take the necessary corrective measures. In the meantime, I congratulate the Minister on a significant, but partial, victory and give him two cheers.