HC Deb 28 July 1983 vol 46 cc557-8W
Mr. Pawsey

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when the Government will announce their response to the Royal Commission on environmental pollution's ninth report "Lead in the Environment"; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

The Government's response will be published in printed form in a few weeks' time; but I have today placed a final draft in the Library of the House.

The Royal Commission on environmental pollution's ninth report on lead provides an authoritative, up-to-date and objective review of the situation in this country; a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge; and—most important—a sound and rational basis for decision-making.

The report acknowledges the importance of the steps already taken by the Government to reduce exposure to lead from food, water, petrol, old paint and industrial emissions. But because the use and distribution of lead are widespread and because there appears to be no assured safety threshold, the report recommends a line of maximum prudence in reducing exposure to lead still further. The Government fully endorse this general objective.

The Government have already announced their decision that lead should be eliminated from petrol as soon as possible. The aim is to achieve the Royal Commission's target date of 1990 for the introduction of unleaded petrol throughout the European Community and, if possible, improve upon it. Negotiations with other members of the EC are already under way.

The Government regard action on other sources of lead as equally important; and our response details what action is planned or already in hand on each. Among the new initiatives announced today are: —the setting of early target dates for the completion of lead surveys of water supply zones and the main programme of remedial treatment; —further investigation of the grant arrangements for the replacement of lead plumbing; —a major publicity campaign on the hazards of old leaded paint; —support for research into the significance of lead in dust for children; —establishment of a steering committee, with representatives from local government to co-ordinate and evaluate a programme to monitor changes in environmental lead.

There can be no complacency about lead pollution, however low average United Kingdom body-lead levels are, and however uncertain the possible effects might be. The Government's response to the Royal Commission's ninth report illustrates our determination to safeguard the public and the environment to the best of our ability.