HC Deb 20 December 1983 vol 51 cc176-7W
Mr. Wheeler

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he is yet ready to make a statement about his discussions with industry concerning the introduction of unleaded petrol.

Mr. Waldegrave

Over the last six months we have had formal discussions with the United Kingdom Petroleum Industry Association, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and other bodies about the introduction of unleaded petrol. There has also been a good deal of informal contact.

At the same time the British oil and motor industries have been involved in discussions on the implications of introducing unleaded petrol on a Europe-wide basis which the European Commission put in hand as a result of the United Kingdom initiative earlier this year. The two sets of discussions are closely linked.

The implications of introducing unleaded petrol depend to a great extent on the octane rating—or ratings—chosen for it. The oil industry has told us in some detail how it could produce, over time and given the required investment, unleaded petrol at up to 95 RON, noting that the higher the octane rating chosen, the more the energy required. The motor manufacturing industry has said that it can design and produce engines to run on unleaded petrol at any octane rating from 92 RON to 98 RON, but would prefer to see the octane rating as high as possible.

The next step will be to study a Commission report in relation to the EC as a whole, early in the new year. Once this report is to hand, our own oil and motor industries will be in a position to review the provisional information they have given us so far in its wider context and firm up. The Government can then decide on the best overall solution for the United Kingdom, and enter into subsequent EC negotiations in the light of this.

Because such negotiations are always delicate, and because the information we already have is in any case subject to revision, I do not want to go into particulars at this stage. I will report further when there is substantive progress to announce. In the meantime, I am very grateful to the two industries for the help they have already given us.