HC Deb 23 June 1986 vol 100 cc3-5W
Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will be taking any further steps to encourage the introduction of unleaded petrol to the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Waldegrave

The Government are committed to the earliest practicable introduction of unleaded petrol in this country. Under the terms of directive 85/210/EEC, itself the result of a United Kingdom initiative, unleaded petrol should be generally available throughout the Community by 1 October 1989; and member states should take appropriate steps to ensure its balanced distribution and to encourage its use.

The need for additional provisions arises, first, from incompatibility of unleaded petrol with many of the engines in the present car fleet, as the use of unleaded petrol in cars designed for running on leaded petrol could cause severe mechanical damage to the engine; and, secondly, from the likelihood that unleaded petrol will be more expensive than leaded petrol to produce and distribute. Last November, the Department therefore consulted a wide range of interested bodies on ways to ensure that our target is met. Having considered the responses to our consultation exercise very carefully, I am now able to announce various measures to encourage the sale and use of unleaded petrol in the United Kingdom.

An important first step has already been taken.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his Budget statement that he would create a tax differential to offset the higher production costs of unleaded petrol, and that officials would discuss with the oil companies how this can best be achieved in time for next year's Budget.

It is important to ensure the availability of suitable cars as soon as possible. The Environment Council has been considering a draft EC directive on vehicle emissions, which sets out the dates from which member states may require new cars to be capable of running on unleaded petrol. At present it is subject to reserves by Denmark and Greece, which must be lifted before it can be adopted by the Council of Ministers. As soon as it has been adopted, we will implement the earliest dates set out in the directive; 1 October 1988 for new model cars over 2 litres; 1 October 1989 for all new model cars; and 1 October 1990 for all new registrations, unless a manufacturer can certify that major re-engineering would be involved.

We intend that there should be at least a minimal network of petrol stations offering unleaded petrol in 1987, building up to wide availability of the fuel by October 1989. I hope this can be achieved voluntarily by the industry, but the Government do not rule out taking measures to require the provision of unleaded petrol for garages above a particular size.

It will be particularly important for motorists to have full information on the new fuel, its availability, and its suitability for the car he or she drives. We will consult fully with interested bodies on a publicity campaign to be put in hand as unleaded petrol comes on to the market.

Finally, there is the particular question of the future of leaded 2-star petrol. Much of today's vehicle fleet that uses 2-star, can run equally well on unleaded petrol. Two-star leaded petrol will in any case eventually be displaced from many smaller forecourts as unleaded petrol is introduced. The Government will wish to consider the most appropriate timing for this.

We will make further announcements on details of these proposals as discussions develop. The broad framework, however, should outline for industry and the motorist the way forward we intend to take.