HC Deb 14 January 1986 vol 89 cc1027-48 10.31 pm
The Minister for Environment, Countryside and Local Government (Mr. William Waldegrave)

I beg to move, That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 7283/85 on motor vehicle emissions; and supports the conclusions reached at the meetings of the Council of Environment Ministers on 28th June and 28th November 1985. Just over a year ago—on 4 December 1984—this House debated document 7805/84, published by the European Commission in June of that year. That document contained two draft directives, one on the lead content of petrol, and one on vehicle emissions.

In the second half of 1984, progress on the two directives was made at very different speeds. By the time of the debate in December, we were already close to a substantial agreement on petrol-lead; and as a directive that resulted from a United Kingdom initiative, I am pleased that it was adopted as directive 85/210/EEC by the Council of Ministers last March.

By contrast, it was clear that the draft emissions directive had a long way to go; and, not surprisingly therefore, our debate at the end of 1984 concentrated on petrol-lead. I explained during that debate that we expected to have a further opportunity to debate vehicle emissions once the Commission had brought forward new proposals.

At the beginning of June last year, the Commission brought forward new proposals in the form of a revision of its original draft directive. That revision was contained in document 7283/85, which the House is now considering.

As the House will know, agreement on the framework of a new directive was reached by most environment Ministers later last June, and on various outstanding matters in November. Denmark and Greece maintain general reserves which must be lifted before the directive can be adopted by the Council of Ministers.

Before I describe the main elements of the draft directive as it now stands, in the light of the substantial agreements at the Council it is important for me to put vehicle emissions in some historic perspective. The first legislation on vehicle emissions was directed at carbon monoxide, because of the such possible effects on human health as kerbside concentrations built up under certain conditions. That concern has now much diminished as carbon monoxide levels have fallen in the last 10 to 15 years.

Concern is now focused more on levels of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons, which contribute to the formation of secondary atmospheric pollution, such as acid rain and ozone. These pollutants can give rise to environmental damage to buildings and vegetation and to the acidification of freshwaters.

It is estimated that in this country petrol engine vehicles are responsible for about 30 per cent. of national emissions of nitrogen oxides from man-made sources, and about 40 per cent. of the environmentally reactive hydrocarbons.

In approaching the recent negotiations, the Government aimed for a step-by-step approach designed to tighten standards as improving technology allowed us to do so in a cost-effective manner.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

My hon. Friend said that the Greeks and the Danes put a reserve on the directive. Since those debates took place, the Spanish and Portuguese have entered the Community. Do they have a reserve, do they have to agree to the directive, or have they already agreed to it? Will it apply to them at the same rate as it applies to other Community countries?

Mr. Waldegrave

Those countries were not legal participants in the decision-taking; they were not part of the process that led to it. They would have to agree to the directive in due course. I shall check this and write to my hon. Friend to confirm it—I think that they have said that they will conform to the directive according to the time scales laid down in it.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

Will the Minister confirm that the Danes put a reserve on the directive because they are concerned that it is not environmentally satisfactory? The Greeks did so for a different reason—they have a fundamental concern about the weakness of the directive.

Mr. Waldegrave

As in some other matters, the Danes are pulled two ways, with their overlapping membership of the Scandinavian bloc and of the European Community. They want to go down the same route as the Scandinavians, towards the full American standards. For reasons that I shall describe more fully, we think that that is unnecessary and would be a mistake in industrial and energy conservation terms. They have yet to persuade themselves to join in. I think that it would be fair to say that the leading country in tightening up the standards is Germany, which has accepted the directive.

An important development in the step-by-step, balanced approach was the new fuel-efficient lean burn technology, which various manufacturers, including those in the United Kingdom, had been developing. That technology produces marked reductions in emissions of NO, and CO, and because those reductions result from the intrinsic design of the engine, they will continue throughout the life of the car.

Some member states—and the Scandinavians, as the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said—preferred the technology developed in the United States over the 1970s to meet the, in fact, rather different, environmental problems faced, in particular, in urban California. That is the three-way catalytic converter technology, which can achieve, through a combination of engine combustion control and catalyst technology, substantial reductions in emissions of all three primary pollutants—NOx, HC and CO—in test conditions. It was a technology that might make some sense in America, certainly at that time, where cars are larger and fuel is cheaper than in Europe, particularly at a time when there appeared to be no feasible alternative. I pay tribute to Johnson Matthey Chemicals, a British company that has won a substantial share of the world market in those products.

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning Johnson Matthey Chemicals, which is in my constituency. It is a market leader in the production and technology of those catalyst converters, as my hon. Friend will be aware. Is he further aware that it has submitted a document on the subject to the Select Committee on European Legislation?

If my hon. Friend has not seen it, he should take the opportunity to do so, because it is a contribution to the debate. It believes that if the directive is not adopted, cars sold in the United Kingdom will cause more pollution than cars sold in Germany or other European countries.

Mr. Waldegrave

I shall refer to the timescale and the arguments about implementation. Like all such directives, this directive is permissive. It says what countries are allowed to insist on it. It is crucial for what this country and others will do. I shall mention that at the end of my speech. Although we believe, particularly for medium and small cars, that the lean burn route is right, I do not want to belittle the achievement of that company in winning a major share of world markets where the other route has been taken. It is even more difficult for the company as it does not have a home market in the product.

We have always questioned whether three-way catalysts are the best available technology for Europe in the mid-1980s. There are various reasons for that. The first is that our cars tend to be smaller and more economical than in America, so that additional manufacturing and running costs are a more significant part of the total cost for the consumer. The second is that fuel is more expensive.

The third is that bench test results on a new car do not necessarily give a fair reflection of emissions over the total life of a car. Indeed, experience in the United States suggests that the emissions performance of cars with three way catalysts can in practice deteriorate considerably over their life. Fourthly, we now have, in the new lean burn engine, an alternative technology which can, over the life of a car, reduce NOx, probably as well as a three way catalyst, even though it may not do quite so well on the test bench.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle (Lincoln)

I think that everybody accepts that the lean burn engine is a tremendous advance, in that it reduces bad emissions from cars, but does my hon. Friend accept that it does not get rid of hydrocarbons which contribute greatly to ozone in the atmosphere and lead to acid rain? Does he therefore believe that it will be necessary to add to an oxidation catalyst to the lean burn engine in order to deal with hydrocarbons?

Mr. Waldegrave

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The lean burn engine will reduce NOx, but if further big gains are to be made in relation to hydrocarbons the oxidation catalyst, with the lean burn, is one of the options that we shall have to consider. The oxidation catalyst is much cheaper than the full three-way catalyst.

I turn now to the agreement that was reached in the council last June, which was further amplified in November. This concerns gaseous emissions from all petrol engined vehicles and diesel engined vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes. As I have said, the agreement is not yet complete, because it is still subject to the two general reserves to which reference has already been made.

Like all the directives governing standards, this directive, if adopted, will be a permissive directive enabling member states to apply standards to various categories of vehicles from specified dates in the future, but leaving them free to apply less strict standards if they so choose.

We expect the directive to contain the following specific provisions. For cars above two litres, member states will be allowed to require emission levels of equivalent severity to those applied in the United States of America by the "federal 1983" standard. The earliest date of any such requirement in Europe will be 1 October 1988 for new type approvals and 1 October 1989 for newly-registered vehicles. Manufacturers will have three options for certifying compliance with these standards. The first is to present results from tests conducted to satisfy United States vehicle test authorities—the straight American test. The second is to meet a replication of the United States test in a European test house. The third is to meet European standards, on the European test cycle, which are estimated to be equivalent to the United States limits on the, different, United States test cycle. The European limit values for this third option would be 25g per test for CO; 6.5g per test for the combined masses of HC and NOx; and 3.5g per test for NOx separately. It seems that at least three member states—Germany, Luxembourg and Denmark—will take advantage of these provisions immediately or in the near future. The cars likely to be sold in those markets will be models based on ones that have been developed for export to the United States of America which are already fitted with the three-way catalyst system. The cost of this system is estimated to be about £500 to £800. There would also be fuel economy penalties of about £250 per annum.

For medium sized cars—1.4 to 2 litres—we expect that a technologically more satisfactory route should be possible in most cases. The standards for these medium sized cars should be achieved by lean burn techniques combined with oxidation catalysts, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Carlisle) said, or by comparable cost-effective techniques. In some cases, however, it may be necessary to use the three way catalyst system. This would mean that costs would be similar to those for large cars. Otherwise we expect the additional costs to be of the order of £125 per car, compared with £500 for the three way catalyst system. The fuel economy savings of the lean burn technology will be largely preserved, as opposed to the penalty under the three way catalyst system.

Mr. Iain Mills (Meriden)

Has my hon. Friend made any allowance for the effect that this would have on the Austin Rover group compared with European manufacturers in the 1.4 to 2 litre category?

Mr. Waldegrave

As my hon. Friend can imagine, we have had very close consultations, through the Department of Trade and Industry, with Austin Rover, whose interest in the medium category has been in the forefront of our minds. Our view is that we have to decide how far we can push Austin Rover perhaps more quickly than it would like to go at a time when it is reestablishing itself in markets and when it is on its way back to success without ginning the risk of fragmenting the European market into several bits. That would have greatly damaged the European Community and the sales of cars throughout the Community, and in the long run that would have affected Austin Rover. I will not disguise the fact from my hon. Friend that I can think that, if Austin Rover had been writing the directive, it would not have been so tight. I believe that the group's future development plans and considerable and growing new technological capacities will be able to meet that need and we have preserved a united European market in which it can compete.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

Is it not the case that, since the directive was drawn up, there has been the problem of many European states imposing sanctions against the Republic of South Africa? Does not the catalytic converter depend on the use of rodium which can be obtained only from the Republic of South Africa? Is the Minister willing to consult his Community partners to find out how on earth governments are to introduce these converters depending on rodium when, under the law, they are not allowed to obtain rodium from South Africa?

Mr. Waldegrave

Platinum and rodium are indeed two of the important metals involved in the catalytic converter, but I believe that there are alternatives. We have always maintained that we will not impose three-way catalytic converter technology. That is not a problem for us in the immediate future, but my hon. Friend has made a fair point, although it is not perhaps of immediate relevance to the debate. It is true that the supply of these rare minerals that come from the southern part of Africa rely on the stability of that region and that applies to other goods.

Mr. Taylor

In view of that, will the Minister assure the House that he will consult his Community partners to ascertain whether, within their laws, they are still able to implement the directive?

Mr. Waldegrave

With respect to my hon. Friend, if a Community member chose to implement a directive which was not compulsory but permissive, and found that it could not obtain the materials to implement that directive, that would be a problem for the Community member and not for me. There are some other sources of rodium, but my hon. Friend's point is interesting and important and it might help my hon. Friend if I looked into the sources of rodium and wrote to him about that.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

There are other sources of rodium—in Zaire, Brazil and Peru.

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) is likely to be well informed on these matters, and I am grateful for his information.

I was discussing medium-sized cars. There is some penalty in the capital cost of the car with the lean burn route. Engine development is slightly more expensive. It will, however, retain fuel economy.

The limits for medium cars would be 30 g/test for CO; and 8 g/test for HC+NO combined. There will be no separate limit for NOx. The earliest application dates for this standard would be 1 October 1991 for new type approvals and 1 October 1993 for all new registrations. Generally, a single path of engine development should serve both for countries which decide fully to apply the standards and for those which do not.

Mr. Marlow

My hon. Friend mentioned the possible position of Austin Rover and said that this is permissive legislation. In other words, countries can apply it as and when they feel that it is appropriate to do so. If it were to help Austin Rover for the Government to be slightly more permissive than other Community Governments, would my hon. Friend consider that course?

Mr. Waldegrave

There are two or more items to balance in coming to that decision. There is the interest of the United Kingdom's environment and the motor industry as a whole. It is noticeable, for example, that Ford has recently made a large investment in this country in lean burn engine technology, aimed at the large market in the European Community as well as the British market. When we come to decide when we should implement these proposals, we will have to balance these matters. Of course, as in the past, the interests of the British motor industry will be close to our hearts when we come to make that decision.

For small cars of up to 1.4 litres, the agreement would provide for the Commission's stage I limits to be applied to new type approvals from October 1990 and for new registrations from October 1991. These limits are 45 g/test for CO, 15 g/test for HC plus NOx and 6 g/test for NOx. That standard would be tightened two years later—the tighter standard to be worked out over the next two years for an amendment to the directive to be made in 1987. No particular technology or other conditions are specified as regards this tighter standard.

Although not part of the Commission's proposals, the June agreement also confirmed that member states that so wished could offer fiscal incentives for purchasers of cars that achieve lower emissions than those prescribed in the present directive. However, in doing so, the Council laid down a set of conditions for the incentives which limit their value.

At its meeting on 28 November, the last meeting, the Council considered a number of important outstanding questions. First, there was the question of dates from which member states might require new cars to be capable of running on unleaded petrol. That is a necessary counterpart to the directive to which I referred earlier about the supply of unleaded petrol. The Government wanted as early a date as possible for this facility, but some other member states and the Commission preferred a more relaxed timetable. Because of its composition, that would have meant 1993 for most of the United Kingdom car fleet. In the end, the dates were settled as 1 October 1988 for new models above 2000 cc; 1 October 1989 for-the type approval of new models below 2 litres; and 1 October 1990 for the registration of all new cars, unless the manufacturer can certify that major re-engineering would be involved. That was a good outcome for the United Kingdom.

Mr. Dalyell

The hon. Gentleman mentioned fiscal incentives. What do the Government have in mind? Will they be significant or token incentives?

Mr. Waldegrave

The fiscal incentives to which I referred, which were delineated and limited in the June agreement, were the incentives offered primarily by the Germans against the capital costs of low-polluting cars.

As regards the introduction of lead-free petrol, which is perhaps what the hon. Gentleman has in mind, we recently issued a discussion paper that included the option of different tax treatments for different types of petrol. We are assessing the various comments made on that document, but I cannot yet give the hon. Gentleman our decision. The American experience was that incentives had to be large to be worthwhile, because of fluctuations in the price of petrol.

Mr. Iain Mills

Has my hon. Friend made an estimate of the effect on Austin Rover of a fiscal incentive to use lead-free petrol in the A-series engine, compared with other models, particularly imported models which do not have the same problems in the combustion of the engine?

Mr. Waldegrave

I understand that the principal problem with lead-free petrol is not so much combustion as whether valve seats are hardened, because lead is the lubricant of the valves as well as an octane booster. Before reaching a decision on whether to use fiscal incentives—we have traditionally been wary of that; we have not had fiscal incentives for the use of diesel—all these matters will have to be considered.

As I said, the agreement on dates was a good outcome for the United Kingdom. We wanted a single, early date and we got a spread, but that is three or four years earlier than France, the Commission and others asked for.

A second question resolved in November was the treatment of cars equipped with direct-injection diesel engines. That is a new, fuel-efficient technology being developed principally, I say with some pride, in Britain by two British companies, Austin Rover and Perkins, which are well in advance of their continental competitors.

Although the June agreement recognised the special characteristics of large diesels by allowing them to meet the limit values for medium-sized cars, the question of the new direct-injection diesels had been left unresolved. It was agreed in November that such engines would not have to meet the new limits until October 1994 for new type approvals and October 1996 for new registrations. This represents a generally satisfactory outcome with regard to the direct injection diesel being developed by Austin Rover and Perkins.

The Council meeting in November also agreed correction factors to ensure that a car with an automatic or continuously variable transmission system should not be penalised in comparison with the equivalent manual transmission version with the same pollution control equipment. It also agreed application dates for new standards for utility vehicles of 1 October 1989 for new type approvals and 1 October 1990 for new registrations. These standards will be less stringent than those for passenger vehicles. The definition of off-road vehicles, which comes within this category, was agreed to include all Land-Rover models, obviously a point of particular importance to us. Finally, the Council settled various outstanding technical criteria for assessing the European equivalent of the United States test for large and medium cars.

That is the basic content of the directive as it now stands. If it is adopted, it will be, as I have said, a permissive directive. That brings me to the question of implementation. I have already explained how emission controls in this country have gradually developed as technology advances have pushed forward the definition of what is cost-effective. These have now brought us to the lean burn engine which, as I have said, promises both emission reductions and fuel savings. The Government wish to encourage this development, and therefore have no intention to impose standards in this country that would require manufacturers to use expensive three-way catalyst technology instead. We shall, of course, keep the situation under review.

It is worth remembering the progress that has been made. As recently as 1970, which is not all that long ago, the first European Community directive review allowed 134 grammes per cycle of carbon monoxide. We are now down to 30. In 1978 controls in Britain produced for medium cars something of the order of 12 grammes per test for NO. This directive would halve that, divide that by two again. Therefore, progress has been steady. That has to be related to what can be reasonably cost effectively done by technology. That is why we keep the situation under review and proceed in what we hope is a fairly steady way forward.

Our understanding of the environmental effects of atmospheric pollution, and the contribution of vehicle emissions, is increasing all the time. We will have the opportunity to see just how manufacturers succeed in developing more cost-effective technology. I have no doubt that it will be possible in due course to introduce substantially improved standards in the United Kingdom for vehicle emissions without incurring the severe economic penalties and market distortions involved in the policies being followed by some other countries.

In the meantime, work is continuing on other fronts. The Commission is shortly to bring forward proposals for a standard for particulate emissions, particularly from heavy lorries, as far as possible consistent with cost effectiveness, and I hope that we can make progress on this in the Community in the corning months. The Commission is also expected shortly to bring forward proposals for gaseous emission controls on vehicles over 3.5 tonnes. By the end of 1987 we should have proposals for a revised European test cycle; and for the second stage limits for small cars.

The draft directive we are considering tonight will not, therefore, be the last word on vehicle emissions control. There will be further important measures in the next few years. In the meantime the directive, if adopted, will mark an important advance in Community legislation in this field. It would maintain the integrity of the internal market while acknowledging that, because the environmental effects of vehicle emissions vary from country to country, there may be some differences in requirements between member states. I commend the document to the House.

11.54 pm
Dr. David Clark (South Shields)

We are discussing an issue which is highly technical and complicated, but important for the public health of the country, for the environment and for our motor car industry. On a number of key issues, the Minister was not as forthcoming as he usually is when he tries to explain rather complicated issues to the House. I felt he kept us on a string. He kept saying, "I will say a word about implementation and I will come to that at the end." When he came back to it, all he said was that the Government were not going to go along the route of the three-way catalytic converter. We knew that when we started: that was about the only thing we did know. A lot of questioning must be done this evening, because we want some assurances and some clarification from the Government.

As the Minister has said, these directives do not directly relate to lead. The elimination of lead in petrol is a prerequisite for the directives. Unless we get lead-free petrol, we cannot pursue the other courses.

I ask the Minister to be more forthcoming. He said that he had consulted widely. The environmental and other groups have appreciated the consultation on the implementation of the lead-free petrol regime. The hon. Gentleman has said that he is not yet ready. When will he be ready? In what form does he intend to respond to the questionnaires that he sent out?

It is worth re-emphasising that these proposals for emission standards are part of three inter-related directives. The first is that lead-free petrol should be available in 1989, and we all approve of that. Secondly, all new models at that time must be able to run on lead-free petrol. However, it is one thing to say that cars will be required to be able to run on lead-free petrol, but will they be required to run on lead-free petrol? Unless there is sufficient demand, the oil industry will be reluctant to install capital equipment to maintain the supply of lead-free petrol. That is a crucial point. Thirdly, there are emission controls.

It is worth while shouting loudly and clearly that, whereas the first directive—the introduction of lead-free petrol by 1989—is mandatory, the other two are permissive. If this or any other EEC Government wish to do nothing about emission controls, they have the licence to do so under these directives. The directives merely lay down the maximum standards that any country can apply.

A number of fundamental questions arise. The first one is a $64,000 question which the Minister must answer tonight. Will the Government adopt these permissive directives? If they will not, we are wasting our time discussing them. How will the Government adopt them? The two questions are connected. If the methods of implementing the directives are not correct, it is irrelevant even to talk about implementation.

As I am not in any way suspicious, I naturally assume that the Government entered into the negotiations with our EEC partners in good will and honest intent. The Minister has pleaded his case for lower standards with great sincerity. Such was the line of argument that he successfully deployed at the negotiating table that he persuaded most of our allies—excluding in particular the Danes—to follow. Our neighbours agreed to reduce the standards. We should remember that these were maximum standards. Our neighbours, which face much more environmental tree damage than we do—especially Germany—agreed to make the sacrifice because they believed that they would get Britain's cooperation and compliance. I believe that many of them are beginning to mutter the words "Perfidious Albion", because it is clear that the British Government have no intention of implementing these directives. In essence, the Minister blatantly conned his ministerial colleagues when he persuaded them to accept lower standards.

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman uses strong words about negotiating in bad faith. I believe that no one in the negotiating chamber is under the slightest doubt that this is a permissive directive. That is a misunderstanding thought up by some outside commentators who do not understand that the directives now, as under the Labour Government, have been permissive. They have always been carried out in the same way. I wholly reject the hon. Gentleman's serious accusation.

Dr. Clark

I am not questioning the rights or wrongs of European legislation, as to whether it should be mandatory or permissive. There are two types of regulations and directives, and I accept the tradition, the convention and the law. The point that I am making is that these directives are permissive. If they are permissive, therefore, we on the Opposition Benches are required to ask if the Government are going to adopt them. That is the whole point that I am making.

One might wonder why the other countries should think in this way. As the Minister has explained, the antecedents of these directives can be traced as far back as 1972, in our own case, but, in particular, the detailed negotiations on the set which we have before us tonight go back, basically, for the past 12 months. They were discussed in great detail last March. If we look at the Government stance on the method of trying to tackle the problem, we see variants.

On 23 March, in a letter to The Guardian, the Minister wrote: we would like to see the lean burn technology combined with a simple oxidation catalyst. That seemed a very sensible approach because here we had the benefit of a new technology, with a lot of British input. Ford UK were very much to the fore in this, introducing a new generation of engines which were much more economical in fuel and much more efficient in the way in which they used it. As the Minister knows, Ford is now slowly going into the third generation of lean burn engine with considerable success. So we all applauded the Minister when he made that statement.

However, of course, things change. I suspect that the Department of Transport had some influence on the Department of the Environment and, of course, the Department of Transport has not got the best environmental record in this Government. We then find that in a statement in the other place the Government Minister, Lord Brabazon, said: the Government do not intend to impose standards on vehicles sold or used in this country which would require manufacturers to use catalyst technology."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 22 April 1985; Vol. 462, c. 972.] So here we have the Minister in the Lords saying, "We are just going down the lean burn route and we are not going to have any catalysts involved." That is a step back because there are great dangers in following that particular route.

Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)

I note the point that the hon. Gentleman has just made, but does he not appreciate that companies which manufacture cars in this country—Austin Rover principally—in fact sell their cars to mainland Europe—Germany, France, Italy and elsewhere—and whatever the standard is in that country their product, manufactured here, has to meet the highest standards in the European market?

Dr. Clark

That is the very point that the Europeans are now making. We have lower standards in their countries, at a sacrifice to their environment and their public health, in the hope that we can make minor adaptations—one can easily add the oxidation catalyst, and it would cost only about £100, to any standard lean burn engine, and it would meet the lower standards which we persuaded our colleagues to accept. The point that the hon. Gentleman makes is very akin to the point made by our neighbours in the EEC.

If I might just develop this thesis of the Government going backwards a stage further, in a letter dated 12 July to Dr. Russell Jones of the Clear the Minister does one of his graceful shuffles again. We have at present no intention to set a standard which would require the use of oxidation catalysts. That was the Government's position in July. It was a case of will-she won't-she. We have the right to know what the Government will do. Are they in favour of the lean-burn engine plus the oxidation catalyst? If so, we shall support them. If they opt for the lean-burn engine without the oxidation catalyst, we must take issue with them.

As the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Carlisle) has already pointed out to the Minister, there are great dangers involved in having the lean-burn engine without the oxidation catalyst. Unless the Minister changes the Government's approach as he has described it, he will cause greater damage to our environment and public health than if we did not change course. The lean-burn engine reduces oxides in nitrogen, and carbon monoxide, but the Atomic Energy Authority at Harwell has shown that a constant ratio of hydrocarbons with reduced nitrous oxide and reduced carbon monoxide increases the level of ozone, which has largely been causing the damage to vegetation in Europe. Hydrocarbons contain elements which are counter inducive, and many people in public health are greatly worried about the Government's apparent choice.

Mr. Iain Mills

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the effect on jobs at Austin Rover of the policy that he suggests? Is he suggesting that the oxidation catalyst is the answer? Is he prepared to sacrifice jobs at the altar of the environment?

Dr. Clark

It is clear that the hon. Gentleman has not understood what his Minister has proposed. Austin Rover will have to retool and introduce lean-burn engines. When it introduced lead-free petrol the cost of an oxidation catalyst was minimal.

Mr. Mills


Dr. Clark

Thereabouts, and on mass production the cost would be even less. Let us not quibble about that. The Minister has already acknowledged that those catalysts can be and are made efficiently in the United Kingdom by Johnson Matthey Chemicals, which is a progressive company. One of its disadvantages is that it has no home market. If it had, it could be more effective in the export market. There will be changes and they must be negotiated. Discussions must be held with Ford and Austin Rover. Those companies must change their engines because of the requirement to have lead-free petrol, and at the same time they must introduce a form of lean-burn engine. Indeed, they are working towards it now. The job implications of that are not on the scale that the hon. Gentleman suggests.

The Government have been and are acting irresponsibly. They should consider our neighbours, and if they are not prepared to do that, they should consider our people. Unless they are prepared to make the directives operative, we shall damage our environment, the British motor car industry, and the health of the British people. We expect answers from the Minister later this evening.

11.14 pm
Mr. Peter Griffiths (Portsmouth, North)

I welcome this debate. I say that to start with because there is little else favourable to say about my hon. Friend the Minister's speech or the Government's approach to the problem.

The Government demonstrated an evident lack of enthusiasm in their approach to atmospheric pollution caused by motor vehicles. Whether pollution has been caused by lead in petrol, hydrocarbons or nitrogen compounds, they have always had to delay and find a more cost-effective solution and to reject immediately available solutions. The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) was asked whether jobs should be sacrificed to environmental considerations. I would be prepared to accept such job losses in inefficient industries if the result was clean air.

I was one of the few hon. Members who criticised last night's proposals concerning seat belts. I objected to motorists being nannied into doing something that was said to be for their own good. I said that I strongly believe that anyone who has the privilege of motoring should recognise that he is having an effect on the environment. I see every reason why the Government should grasp the nettle of environmental protection. If that means that some firms are unable to meet such considerations, they. not the environmental needs of the people, are to blame.

Mr. Iain Mills

The real conflict is not between the environment and the motor car but arises from the fact that these directives would disadvantage our manufacturers. Others have engines that are more well developed along the proposed lines. The oxidisation catalyst will disadvantage our manufacturers. Jobs will be lost, not because of any conflict between cars and the environment but because Europeans have better developed engines.

Mr. Griffiths

My hon. Friend shows that we agree about the circumstances and disagree about the solution. I lived in Los Angeles some years ago, before attempts were made to reduce environmental pollution there. I have been back occasionally and seen the amazing results of their efforts. Regulations in California are far more rigid than in the rest of the United States and than those that we can hope to enjoy. The average motor car lasts rather more than 11 years, so it will be many years before we enjoy fresh air.

We did not fail to develop the catalytic converter, but we failed to use it. That is a tragedy. The technology was available at the beginning of the 1970s. It could and should have been used to prevent the untold damage to the environment that has taken place since.

I think it is unfair of the Minister to say that there is a problem in this country when one of his arguments is that the cost of petrol in this country is greater than it is in the United States. In fact, it is not to do with the cost of petrol but with the amount of taxation levied on petrol. Given that the motorist is so heavily taxed, it would surely be possible for us to look for the kind of fiscal incentives to which my hon. Friend referred. There will not be a movement towards the use of modern technology, be it catalytic converters or lean burn engines, unless there is some clear and obvious advantage to the motorist purchasing a new vehicle. We should be considering ways in which to persuade people to use lead-free petrol and to exchange their current types of vehicles for vehicles that have more efficient engines or are fitted with protective devices. These are essentials for the future. The Government should be addressing these problems urgently with a view to ascertaining the solutions.

I have indicated that I am not very happy with what is happening. I believe that we have an opportunity now to bring together the interests of the motorist, the motor manufacturers and the public at large. We have to make use of the technology of today without delay.

If I may return to the California example, to which I have referred, it was suggested that very few foreign manufacturers would be able to sell motor cars in California if the Californian regulations were introduced. Although certain models have been withdrawn, one notes that a large number of vehicles across the range of motor manufacturers have joined the American models on the streets.

Whatever regulations we have in this country will be applied not only to British motor manufacturers but to anybody who wishes to sell in this country. In this country there should be the highest levels of requirement in the protection of the enrivonment and of the air that we all breathe. If that implies costs for the motorist—and I yield to nobody in my support for motoring and the motorist—I would be prepared to pay. I believe we owe that to the people who are not motorists. They have a perfect right to say to those of us who are motorists that we have no right to poison the environment.

It is the job of Government to give an active, positive and a direct lead. We have not had that tonight or, indeed, for many years. It is about time this country set a lead in Europe by demanding higher standards rather than dragging its feet and hoping that other countries will set the pace while we grudgingly accept something less than that which we know is achievable and which could be achieved in a short period of time if we had the will and the determination.

11.23 pm
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

The hon. Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths) has hit the nail on the head. Despite the Minister's long technological introduction, we shall be seen as being incapable of doing anything about our own backyard and as the dirty men and women of Europe. The truth is that the Minister knows that, on the matter of emissions from vehicles, his right hon. and hon. Friends from the Department of Transport have won the day and the green image of the Government is absent on this issue. The environmental consequence of what has been said tonight is that we have spent years negotiating something that we have no intention of implementing. We are going to do nothing about it—that is what the Minister said.

This is a permissive directive which we have made as harmless as possible by the process of negotiation, and we shall not implement it, anyway. It is bad news if British industry and British motor manufacturers believe that they are helping themselves by defending polluting vehicles and claiming that they are satisfactory. If we had been sufficiently far-sighted 10 years ago—

Mr. Iain Mills

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hughes

I shall give way in a moment. It is clear that in this debate the hon. Gentleman speaks for Austin-Rover. He has made his point. He speaks for the motor industry, his constituency, jobs in his constituency and votes. I understand his position.

Mr. Mills

What does the hon. Gentleman speak for?

Mr. Hughes

I speak for the environment on this issue. I speak also for those in inner cities who are polluted day after day by vehicle emissions. If we had had the foresight 10 years ago—

Mr. David Lightbown (Staffordshire, South-East)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hughes

I shall not give way for a moment. If we had had the foresight 10 years ago to anticipate the technology that we would need to ensure pollution-free motoring, we could have made greater advances towards it. I am not the only one to say that℄

Mr. Mills


Mr. Hughes

For example, the Select Committee in another place, which considered these issues in February 1985, said much the same thing, as the Minister well knows. It said in paragraphs 72, 73, 74, 75, 76 and 77 that it was not satisfactory to wait for lean burn technology to make the necessary progress. We must introduce deadlines and we must abide by them. If we do not, the motor industry will drag its feet. It will say that what we want cannot be achieved.

Mr. Mills

Will the hon. Gentleman give way for a short intervention?

Mr. Hughes

I shall give way in a moment, but I remind the hon. Gentleman that he has intervened on several occasions already. The Minister took 25 minutes to describe the directive and only one minute to say that it would not be implemented. There should be an opportunity for those who are concerned about the environment to say that we have been presented with a somthing-and-nothing document. The Government have made a something-and-nothing decision and it would be deceptive if the Minister were to pretend that progress had been made.

The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) was correct when he said in answer to a question about the export of motor cars that we shall not have any motor cars to export if the Germans for example, apply the directive and we do not. Our motor manufacturers will not have anything to export that complies with the directive if it is implemented abroad. Alternatively, they will have to manufacture vehicles for the mainland market—

Mr. Lightbown

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hughes

I ask the hon. Gentleman to listen for a moment. They will have to make vehicles for abroad that are unlike those that pollute our own streets. In other words, better vehicles will be exported than those that are sold on the home market.

I have told the the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills) that I would allow him to intervene, and I shall let him do so once during my speech. I have a few more critical comments to make before I conclude my remarks.

Mr. Mills

At Gaydon in the west midlands, Austin Rover has spent millions of pounds over the past few years on computer facilities to try to analyse and understand exhaust emissions and to enable its cars to cope well with exhaust emission regulations. It has spent millions of pounds trying to understand how to make its cars more clean in terms in emission, more acceptable and better for the environment. That money has not been spent on customers or promotion.

Mr. Hughes

I do not doubt that for a moment. However, if the hon. Gentleman thinks that it is not worth charging the consumer another £50, £60 or £100 to have a pollution-free environment, he is wrong. If we continue to pollute the environment, the countryside into which people now drive for enjoyment will not be there to be seen. That is in addition to the damage that we are doing abroad. I have much in mind the acid rain that we are adding to by failing to control vehicle emissions.

Mr. Lightbown


Mr. Hughes

No, I shall not give way. The pollution that we are creating will result in a legacy of environmental destruction, and those who ride in cars want to enjoy the environment as much as anyone else. The polluter should pay. If I, as a motorist, the hon. Member for Meriden or any other Member who is a motorist, pollute the environment when the necessary technology is available in the form of converters and the development of lean-burn engines we should pay for the damage that ensues. We should pay all that we need to ensure that that damage does not ensue. If that increases the prices of vehicles by another £50, it is pretty good value. I do not mind paying that increase and I hope that Conservative Members do not either. I do not think that the majority of people in Britain would object to paying that increased price. Indeed, I recollect that opinion poll evidence tells us that the public are prepared to pay more for their vehicles if the increased price meant reduced pollution.

Mr. Waldegrave

Is it the policy of the hon. Gentleman's party to insist on full United States standards with three-way catalysts for all cars?

Mr. Hughes

We would implement the directive and make sure that it was effective here. As for small vehicles, the Government have given no undertaking. We would make sure that stage two was implemented and the timetable agreed in two years. As yet there is no evidence to show that the Government are likely to abide by that. We also believe that it is appropriate to combine a lean burn engine development with a converter for medium-sized engines. That is the way to proceed. We should not wait for the lean burn engine technology to develop to deal wth the problem alone.

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman has been helpful. After all the sound and fury, what he is saying is that he also would have negotiated against the Germans for the standards that I brought back. I am most grateful to him.

Mr. Hughes

The Minister misrepresents the position. That is not what I said. We are used to misrepresentation from the Government Front Bench. [Interruption.] Conservative Members should not laugh; they should treat the matter more seriously. We would have negotiated a directive that we would have been prepared to implement rather than argue about. We would have made sure that we complied with a timetable that meant that by the end of the decade there was no pollution that could not be controlled either by converters or by lean burn engines.

Mr. Lightbown


Mr. Hughes

I will not give to the hon. Gentleman. He has made sedentary interventions.

We know the position. The Department of Transport has forecast an enormous increase in vehicles by the end of the century; I think the forecast is 25 to 50 per cent., of which the majority will be small vehicles. It is important that implementation of emission controls for small vehicles is carried through urgently so that it is not just medium-sized vehicles that are the beneficiaries of any action that the Government assist them to take. I challenge the Minister to tell us also in his reply whether the Government intend to implement the directive for vehicles over 2 litres. Will he say clearly whether he is in favour of using converters, if necessary, in medium-sized vehicles so that a combination of the two technologies may mitigate pollution?

The Minister came to the House with one good point and one lousy point. I compliment him on negotiating a satisfactory timetable for the provision of lead-free petrol in Britain. I do not want to detract from that announcement. The timetable is good. No one could be substantially critical, although we might argue that it could have been done a couple of years earlier. My party believes it could have been done by 1987 but the negotiated agreement is acceptable.

Surely, however, the Minister cannot take pride in pretending that the agreement on vehicle emissions is satisfactory. I ask him to go back to his colleagues in the Department and try again to win the argument for the environment and not for the polluters. When he spends so long negotiating with our colleagues in Europe he should do so with the intention of implementing the results of the negotiations.

11.34 pm
Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)

The motor industry as represented in this country by elements which can still be described as British is capable of meeting the European requirements on exhaust emissions. The question we have to ask ourselves is whether those requirements as met by known technology will fulfil what we seek—a cleaner environment. If an enormous amount of time and money is spent on research to develop lean burn engines, the fitting of catalysts of any kind is like putting a belt on one's trouasers when one is wearing braces.

Experience shows that catalysts are not efficient. In America, tests were recently carried out in Los Angeles on cars fitted with catalytic converters, which showed that in well over half the cars that were examined, they did not operate. The problem with such exhaust controls is that, when they do not work, the car pollutes far more than it would have done had such a system not been installed in the first place. Whether these are three-way systems or single systems, their life expectancy is no more than three to four years. Quite apart from that, there is the cost of the raw materials and the fact that the sole supplier of it is South Africa. The alliance would not trade a bean with South Africa, but it is conceding a business worth billions of pounds a year to that country by demanding the fitting of these converters. They are also open to tampering and polluting by the user.

More to the point is to look at the way that the catalyst operates. It works properly only at a temperature of about 600 to 800 deg C. The European test cycle was designed to test the catalysts at a temperature of between 350 and 400 deg C. Therefore, they are not working properly. Even worse, when traffic is being used in a city environment, the catalyst hardly works at all because the engine temperature does not get to the temperature required to trigger the catalytic operation. The end result is that the atmosphere is poisoned even worse than it would have been if the darn thing had not: been fitted in the first place.

Lean burn must be the only realistic answer for Europe's travel. If, during the course of the negotiations, we had been able to achieve a level of hydrocarbons plus nitrous oxide levels of 9.5g instead of the 8g at which we eventually arrived, it would be possible for Europe to have concentrated its efforts on pure, lean burn engine technology, and, because of the improvements in fuel efficiency—about 30 per cent. over the cars of just a few years ago—the amount of energy that we would be consuming would go a great deal further. That must concern every environmentalist because energy is a finite resource.

There is no point in developing expensive lean burn if one still has to use a catalyst. That is a deterrent to manufacturers because, to pass European requirements, they have only to stuff the car's exhaust system with filters—never mind how the engine performs. That is the cheap, easy way out, and a fuel inefficient way to do it.

I have one complimentary remark for my hon. Friend the Minister. Thanks to his negotiating staff and that of his colleagues, he has been able to get an extended life for the direct-injection diesel before it has to reach certain emission standards. I am sure that the British manufacturers, and certainly Austin-Rover and Perkins, are grateful for that. However, one thing which that engine does not enjoy which the rival German product does is a fiscal incentive. This is a disadvantage for our engine, and one hopes that this matter can be looked at.

We all want to see a more clean and tidy environment, but not at any cost—not at the cost of dredging up yesteryear's ideas on how to clean up exhaust emissions, which have been proved to be useless, or partly useless in America, where the technology has been found to be badly wanting. We should use the latest engineering technology, the latest advances by scientists and engineers in engine management systems, the design of engines and the way that they are constructed to tackle the real problem of pollution. At the same time, we must tackle the efficiency of the engine in terms of reduction in fuel consumption, which is another concern to which Europe must address itself in its fight to protect the planet's resources. If at some stage we have to compromise, let us compromise on workable technological answers and not on developments that have proved to be wanting.

Eventually, in order for us to have a universal European category or series of requirements, what my hon. Friend the Minister has told us will probably stand. I am sure that the British manufacturers will be able to meet the requirement. But they will meet it at a cost to the individual. It has been estimated that the measure will cost Britain £1 billion a year, and in Europe as a whole the cost will be huge. That cost will be passed on to the motorist. It is all very well to say that we should be prepared to pay a price to clean up the environment. If the system works, all well and good, but people will object to paying £1 billion a year for a system over which hangs many question marks.

Hon. Members with cars in the underground car park may care to reflect that they may shortly have to spend perhaps £500 to replace the exhaust systems on their vehicles. We are speaking tonight of a cost that should not be lightly dismissed.

10.41 pm
Mr. Iain Mills (Meriden)

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said that I might have been a spokesman for the Austin-Rover group. My only interest in that group is that it supplies jobs for my constituents, as it does to the constituents of some of my hon. Friends. Having worked in the car components industry for about 20 years, I can claim to have quite an interest in the subject.

I congratulate the Minister on taking a bold stance, one that has taken his Department and this party a long way to achieving what many people thought the Conservative party would never achieve in terms of the greens, the ecology groups, and all concerned with looking after the environment. The Minister has gone a long way towards recognising that the people of Europe, and particularly of Britain, want the environment to protected from, among other things, lead in the air and in water.

This important matter should not be dismissed lightly. Nor should the technicalities of how we achieve it be dismissed without much consideration, especially as there is a balance between jobs and the environment. Our car industry has social responsibilities. It recognises that in providing jobs and building motor cars, it must accommodate into those vehicles the technical facilities that will allow the cars to operate without polluting the atmosphere.

For that reason, the motives of the industry are not to be denied. Simply from the point of view of marketing, the industry is keen to make its cars less environmentally polluting. It wants to make our cars better than those of the Germans, the French and the Italians so that they will appeal to people who want cars that do not pollute the atmosphere.

How is that to be achieved? Those with some engineering knowledge appreciate that this is a complex matter. While I approve of what the Minister has achieved, I have some reservations and questions. In particular I have reservations about the category of 1.4 to 2 litre cars. It has been agreed that smaller cars can function on lean burn.

As an engineer—I used to make my living on the drawing board, so I understand the way in which pans, computers and technology can design engines, tyres and other components—I assure the Minister that it is strongly felt in the industry that vehicles of 1.4 to 2 litres could have achieved the right levels by lean burn. But the levels that have been agreed for certain contents of some substances will not allow lean burn to be the solution for engines in the 1.4 to 2 litre category.

In that category, we shall face at least single point fuel injection, electronic ignition and secondary air. Some models may need no catalyst, but, in the extreme, a three-way catalyst may be needed. I agree that, in terms of those who make the catalysts, some jobs may be created, but a serious problem will exist for higher-volume new cars.

I refer to the Minister's brief, sent to the all-party motor industry group. Some of us saw my hon. Friend. The incremental costs for 1.4 to 2 litre cars are associated with the oxidation catalyst and additional controls, and could be in the range of £100 to £150. We have discussed that tonight. If a three-way catalyst is required for that category of cars, the costs could be as much as £800 to £1,000. If that could have been done by lean burn technology, it should have been. Jobs and the environment would have been protected. That would have been a far better solution for British and European car manufacturers. I should be grateful for the Minister's response to that. There will be an effect on the Austin-Rover group and on Ford, which I do not speak for, as I do not represent Dagenham. I represent the midlands, and many of my constituents work for Austin-Rover, so I had to make that point.

I should be grateful for my hon. Friend's comments on whether the Chancellor can be persuaded, in view of the 1.4 to 2 litre categories, which are assuming such great importance in the debate, to allow the tax benefits and tax costs that accrue from the benefit of having a company car to be brought in line. That would be of great benefit to our domestic car manufacturers. Many would benefit if the tax bracket was lifted to 1.4 and 2 litre cars, in line with the 1.3 litre category. I notice that at least one significant newspaper today has mentioned speculation about this. If my hon. Friend cannot give an answer tonight, I ask him to bear that in mind.

A period is needed for adjustment. However much we might want to see the environmental benefits from the moves that we are making, no less a period than three years will be needed for engineering and the huge and long processes from drawing board to reality. There is speculation that a fiscal advantage of a 16p reduction might be considered for lead-free fuel. The Minister should bear it in mind that some domestic manufacturers may find that a disadvantage. If such a fiscal incentive is offered for the use of lead-free fuel, there should be a time scale allowing domestic manufacturers to accommodate it.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his stances, not just on the motor car, but on other environmental matters. I urge him forward to greater progress in protecting the environment in a practical way.

11.48 pm
Mr. Waldegrave

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills) for his final and opening remarks. They made a fitting end to the debate because they explained the unusual and increasing vigour, to put it politely, that we see from the various Opposition parties when the subject of the environment comes up. Perhaps they feel that they have to begin attacking the Government when, perhaps, we are doing better than they would like.

The worst speech of the evening—I say this with respect to him because he often makes very good speeches and baits me on the Floor of the Chamber—was that of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). His attack would have been logical if he had said that he and his party stand for the tighter controls for which some of the Scandinavian countries, the Californians and the Germans are pressing. But he did not say that. He said that we should have the lean burn engine and the oxidation catalyst. That has now been negotiated. However, we in this country now have to balance the industrial and environmental advantages that were advocated so vigorously by my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths) and decide when we shall implement the directive. The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) pressed me to get on with it and to write to him by next Tuesday and tell him when we shall implement it. I cannot yet do so, but that is the next decision for us to make.

These directives are aimed at delineating what can be done without breaking up the European market. There was a real risk that the European motor car market would be broken up, and that would have been very costly for the consumer. My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North would rightly have been very cross with us, because he has vigorously pursued the case for the consumer. However, he has paid scant attention to the realities of the industrial structure. Viscount Davignon, the former Industry Commissioner, made a formidable remark before he retired. Of the German proposals to provide fiscal incentives for those cars that cause little pollution, he said that it was the first time that a European country had introduced proposals that would directly subsidise Japanese industry. We must take into account such considerations.

My hon. Friends represent hundreds of thousands—indeed, millions—of people who are employed in the steel industry and in the component industries, and their interests must be balanced with those of the environmentalists. My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North said that untold damage had been caused to the environment of the United Kingdom because the three-way catalyst was not introduced in the early 1970s. That damage is certainly untold because it has not been told to me. I do not believe that the damage to the environment of this country that has been caused by failing to introduce the three-way catalyst in the early 1970s can be measured.

The hon. Member for South Shields quite fairly put the point that several European countries are facing severe air pollution problems. They have the continental atmospheric conditions that produce inversions. Therefore, this is an urgent problem for them. That is why we are trying to establish a market that allows them to do enough without ridiculous costs being imposed upon the rest of us for environmental conditions that we do not share. Those who read Hansard may judge from the conflicting advice that has most helpfully been given to me in this debate that the kind of compromise that we have reached may be on the right lines.

The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) was excellent and full of good sense. He asked me specifically about the fiscal incentives for direct injection diesels. Without breaking the confidentiality rule concerning Council meetings, I am able to tell my hon. Friend what happened. I went in arid batted for this, but it was a difficult case to argue that the privilege of fiscal incentives designed to produce lower-polluting engines should be extended to engines for which we have successfully negotiated derogation from pollution control. It was a bit of a try on, really, and I thought that it was better not to press those negotiations to the limit. It was more important to get derogation for direct injection diesels. In due course the technology will undoubtedly be developed for lower-polluting engines as well as for other admirable aspects. We must allow it to be developed a little further. We should have been pressing the point too far also to ask that at this stage in the development of that interesting technology engines for which we have negotiated derogation should be granted fiscal incentives.

It was a little unfair of my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North to say that this country has always dragged its feet. Britain pushed forward the discussions on lead in Europe. The speeches of my hon. Friend before 1983 might well have been fairly made. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) listened to such speeches and took the lead. He saw the matter through and the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey was generous enough to acknowledge that. We came back with a much better date than many feared we would get for the introduction of cars that can run on lead-free petrol. Even the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey gave me some credit for that.

We are not debating implementation. That is the next matter for discussion. The hon. Member for South Shields was right to point that out. We are debating the fact that we have now described the regulations for a coherent European market that preserves the lean burn route. As a Government, we are not ruling out the oxidation catalyst and I would not criticise the oxidation catalyst in the same way as I would criticise the three-way catalyst. The oxidation catalyst has simpler and more robust technology, which can work perfectly well with the lean burn engine. As my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North correctly said, there are costs involved, but we must accept that the great advantage of having maintained the lean burn route is that there are also consumer and energy gains. In the long term I suspect that during the development of the lean burn engine, we may see developments even beyond what can be achieved with the three-way catalyst. That is running a little ahead of present science, but that technology is pregnant with hope for the future and is certainly not limited.

The compromise was agreed by the Community—not just by Britain but by France, Italy and the other car manufacturing countries that were most anxious not to be landed with expensive technologies on small and medium-sized cars that could not be justified. The Community compromise is one that defines sensible pollution controls for that market.

Dr. David Clark

The Minister has come and gone like a yo-yo on lean burn and oxidation catalysts. It would be helpful if he would explain why, in March, he was agreeing to the oxidation catalyst but by July he said that the Government had no intention of setting a standard that would require the use of the oxidation catalyst. The Minister has changed his position on that issue.

I am encouraged by what I thought he said earlier. Is the Minister now prepared to look at the possibility, if necessary, of lean burn plus the oxidation catalyst? The Opposition believe that that would be an important step. We should judge these directives in that context and would like to know when they are to be implemented. I appreciate that the Minister cannot say when they will be implemented, but can he give the House and assurance that the Government intend to implement the directives.

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Member for South Shields should judge the directive from two sides. The directive is designed to achieve two purposes. It should maintain the coherence of the common market in cars that is one of the great triumphs of the European community. That aim has been achieved. The other object is, at the same time, to achieve gains for the environment in individual countries.

The Government's position on implementation has not changed. My noble Friend Lord Brabazon spoke in another place about the three-way catalysts. In the conclusion to the debate, it appeared that he was ruling out all catalysts, but he afterwards made it clear that he did not mean that.

The rules are laid out for the market and each country now has to consider what it will do. One or two countries have made their decisions, but we are not yet in a position to make a decision. We have not ruled out oxidation catalysts or implementing the directive, but we have always said that we will not have the three-way catalyst. We do not think that the environmental pressures in this country are of such crisis proportions that that would make sense. That is a decision that we still have to make. I cannot give the hon. Member for South Shields the date by which that decision will be made. Nothing is ruled out except the three-way catalyst and I hope that that position is clear to all hon. Members.

On that basis, I hope that the House will approve this hard-fought directive. Even my hon. Friends who would have liked it to be harder fought have been generous enough to recognise that more has been done for some of the interests of their constituents than they had expected at some times.

We always have to balance the need to push industry a little with the need not to load too many costs on it. I believe that the directive just about strikes a happy medium.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 7283/85 on motor vehicle emissions; and supports the conclusions reached at the meetings of the Council of Environment Ministers on 28th June and 28th November 1985.