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 Denis Howell Mr Denis Howell , Birmingham Small Heath 12:00 am, 5th April 1976

The hon. Member anticipates me. I was about to tell the House that I intend to keep all these matters under constant review. We intend to continue monitoring the programme of further research, and the availability and efficiency of filters will be another subject that we shall keep under constant review. As our aim is maintaining the 1971 levels, if we find it necessary to return to the House, or if, as a result of medical research, we are led to the view that the hazards are even greater than we now believe them to be, I shall not hesitate, and I hope that my successors will not hesitate, to recommend to the House that we proceed even faster than this programme.

I was asked by the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) to say something about lead in water. The present World Health Organisation limit is 0·1 milligrammes per litre, but we now have new proposals from the EEC and the WHO to halve that limit. We have therefore carried out a national survey of the lead content of water as a result of which we have found a small proportion of houses exceeding that figure. The higher proportion exceeds the proposed limits. We are especially concerned with buildings in Scotland, in which there are very old lead pipes. We have advised householders who are believed to be affected not to drink the water that first comes from the tap, especially in the morning, but to run off the tap.

We are continuing the pilot study on the key issue, the report of which will be published soon, and we shall commission a new survey to widen the scope of the original pilot study to provide a firm basis upon which policy decisions can be made. As soon as we have the results of the more detailed, in-depth study we shall publish it for the benefit of the House and the country.

I hope, therefore, that by the replies that I have been able to give tonight on all the matters raised I have convinced the House that the only responsible action we can take is to adopt the programme that the Government put before the House, strengthened by the amendment moved by my hon. Friend. To do anything else in the circumstances of the increasing amount of lead in the atmosphere would be irresponsible. I commend the motion to the House.