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 William Benyon Mr William Benyon , Buckingham 12:00 am, 5th April 1976

I wish to speak briefly in support of what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Northwich (Mr. Goodlad). I do not wish to enter into the medical arguments. To a certain extent, as the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) said, one pays one's expert and takes one's choice. I entirely accept that it is highly desirable that the levels of lead in the atmosphere should be reduced, whatever be their source, and plainly the emissions from motor vehicles are a source. All I find extraordinary at this juncture in our economic life, when our balance of payments difficulties are so great, is that the Government have not looked harder at other methods of controlling these emissions—methods that have proved to be very satisfactory.

Even in the 1973 document, it was noted that Lead traps, for example, are sufficiently perfected to guarantee at least a 70 per cent, reduction in emissions of lead particles throughout their working life and it went on to say that A more detailed study has yet to be made by the industry". As my hon. Friend said, the research laboratories of the Associated Octel Company, in my constituency, have made remarkable progress with this piece of equipment, and a report that is in the hands of the Department clearly shows that a marked reduction can be obtained by the use of these traps. I am sure that, over the period required under the proposals, the use of such traps could do more than produce the low levels which are required.

It seems to me, therefore, that there is a strong argument for looking again at this matter in an effort to reduce the lead content of emissions, because the balance of payments cost in that direction would be a mere fraction of the £70 million—no mean figure, indeed—which the Minister's Department estimates as the extra burden on our balance of payments between now and 1980. It behoves the House, therefore, to pay particular attention to this development, which is achieving remarkable success in trials. Moreover, it would be a simple method to bring in gradually. One could start with the heavier vehicles, which produce the greater emissions, and work down the scale to the more popular makes of motor car.

Even at this late hour I ask the Minister to agree to look further into the use of lead traps to see whether they can be used in the future, in conjunction with other measures, to achieve what we all desire, namely, a reduction in the lead content of vehicle emissions.