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 Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East 12:00 am, 5th April 1976

I am not sure that the views of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) are entirely valid, although there will be different views according to individual orientation. A given degree of lead content in petrol is probably essential to enable high compression engines to achieve a certain performance, but to interdict, limit or inhibit the external effects of the lead does not have any bearing on the intrinsic performance of the motor car engine. However, that is rather a different point from the one that the hon. Gentleman makes.

It would be wrong for anyone to underestimate the legitimate medical and environmental anxieties that exist—notably those expressed by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Silverman). It would be the height of impertinence for anyone to say that the hon. Gentleman, with his understandable constituency preoccupation, stemming from what is in many ways a rather bizarre junction, should not have such anxieties. He is entitled to express them, and I pay tribute to him for the restraint with which he put his case.

The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) referred to the medical evidence, especially that directed to mental disabilities that are to be found in younger age groups. Those views cannot be dismissed lightly. The strongest upshot of the anxieties and medical evidence is that the debate continues. There is no hard-and-fast conclusion one way or the other.

In the circumstances, it must be right for the Government to pursue a policy of cautious limits for the future—the policy that they adopted earlier. They have rightly chosen to adopt pragmatically cautious limits while saying that the review continues and that they will listen to any further medical evidence. Surely that policy will be generally welcomed. It would be rash for anyone to state a dogmatic opinion.

The range of limits within the Community must begin with Ireland, which I believe has no restrictions that are separate from those stemming from the Community, and end with the Federal Republic of Germany, which I believe has the tightest restrictions. I believe that the German authorities have had to relax the new restrictions because of their immediate impracticabilities.