HC Deb 27 April 1994 vol 242 cc204-5W
Sir Malcolm Thornton

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what were the findings of his Department's expert panel on air quality standards on the proportion of benzene in the air that is emitted from petrol engine exhausts; what action he will take to reduce this source of pollution; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Atkins

In the first report of my Department's expert panel on air quality standards, a copy of which is in the Library, it was estimated that petrol engine exhausts contributed about 78 per cent. of the total 1991 national emissions of benzene, the bulk of which were derived from non-catalyst equipped vehicles. Since December 1992, regulations have been in place which effectively require all new petrol-engined passenger cars to be fitted with catalytic convertors which reduce emissions of benzene by around 80 per cent.

Further regulations are already in place which will also extend the catalyst requirement to new petrol-driven car-derived vans from 1 October 1994. A new European Parliament and Council Directive, 94/12/EC, OJ L100/42 of 19 April 1994 has been adopted which will require further reduction in emissions from new cars from 1 January 1997, necessitating additional improvements in catalyst efficiency which will also further reduce benzene emissions. An estimated 2.5 million cars are already fitted with these devices and, as the decade advances, there will be a natural progression towards an almost total catalyst equipped fleet by the year 2003.