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Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)

Morgan, Rhodri

Morley, Elliott

Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)

Mowlam, Marjorie

Mullin, Chris

Murphy, Paul

Nellist, Dave

Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon

O'Brien, William

O'Neill, Martin

Orme, Rt Hon Stanley

Parry, Robert

Pike, Peter L.

Powell, Ray (Ogmore)

Prescott, John

Primarolo, Dawn

Radice, Giles

Randall, Stuart

Redmond, Martin

Richardson, Jo

Robertson, George

Rogers, Allan

Rooker, Jeff

Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)

Rowlands, Ted

Ruddock, Joan

Sedgemore, Brian

Sheerman, Barry

Shore, Rt Hon Peter

Skinner, Dennis

Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)

Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)

Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)

Spearing, Nigel

Stott, Roger

Strang, Gavin

Vaz, Keith

Wareing, Robert N.

Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)

Williams, Rt Hon Alan

Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)

Winnick, David

Wise, Mrs Audrey

Worthington, Tony

Wray, Jimmy

Young, David (Bolton SE)

Tellers for the Noes :

Mr. Frank Haynes and

Mr. Allen McKay.

Question accordingly agreed to .

Bill read the Third time, and passed .

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Vehicle Emissions

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker) : Mr Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) and his hon. Friends.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I appeal to you and to my hon. Friend the Minister to call off this debate. It is an insult to Parliament, as you know, to have a discussion on what line the Government should take when they announced this morning what line they had decided to take. I appreciate the constraints of time, but--

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman raised this matter earlier, and I advised him that it might be a suitable point to raise in the course of the debate. Doubtless the Minister is aware that the hon. Gentleman raised this point of order. I am powerless to change what is set down on the Order Paper.

12.12 am

The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Peter Bottomley) : I beg to move,

That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 6529/89 on vehicle emissions ; and supports the Government in its efforts to secure an agreement on emissions from small cars, taking into account environmental effects, fuel economy and the needs of industry.

Hon. Members : Withdraw.

Mr. Bottomley : Withdraw what?

The Government believe that the right way forward is to support the Commission's most recent revised proposal for tighter standards for small cars in 1993. Much has happened since last November and it will be helpful to the House if I recount the developments.

This subject was considered by the House in November. Shortly afterwards, the Council of Ministers agreed a common position on the terms explained to the House during that debate. Under the co-operation procedure, the November agreement was re-submitted to the European Parliament for Second Reading. The European Parliament has a history of favouring higher standards and it soon became clear that there was a genuine possibility of an absolute majority of Members of the European Parliament supporting the rejection of the common position. That would have compelled the Council to act by unanimity to adopt a directive based on the common position. In the past, the Commission has robustly defended the Council's position, with the result that Council agreements have been adopted as Community directives. The climate of opinion in the Commission on vehicle emissions has changed significantly since the beginning of this year, perhaps because of concern that the Parliament would vote for the outright rejection of the common position. The Commission attempted to pre-empt a rejecting vote by announcing before the plenary session of the European Parliament took place that it would substantially revise its proposal to be more in line with thinking in the Parliament. This move succeeded in deflecting the vote from a rejection to an amendment of the common position. It preserved the possibility of agreement in Council by qualified majority. The outcome of all this is the revised proposal before the House today. Its central elements are : an advance from

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1993 to 1991 of the original stage II standards of 30 g/test for CO and 8 g/test HC NOx effectively supplanting stage 1 ; the introduction of a stage, with tighter limits of 19 g/test CO and 5 g/test HC NOx, in 1993 ; the strengthening of the Commission's commitment to bring forward further proposals on the high-speed cycle ; and the transformation of the proposed directive from an optional to a mandatory basis.

These are radical proposed changes. They pave the way for state of the art standards in Europe not only for small cars, which we are debating this evening, but for all sizes of car. There will be costs to the motorist and penalties on fuel economy.

The standards previously supported would have meant the need to fit simple catalysts to virtually all small cars while still allowing the development of fuel efficient technologies such as lean burn to continue.

Tighter standards mean lower emissions of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen--also known as NOx--but the use of three-way catalysts can lead to increases in carbon dioxide emissions, because fuel economy is increased.

Mr. Richard Page (Hertfordshire, South-West) : My hon. Friend has said that this is a proposal, but my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) has said that the decision has already been made. Can my hon. Friend square that circle so that I can decide whether to stay for the debate or to go?

Mr. Bottomley : The Council of Ministers will meet on 8 June. The Government have announced that they intend to support the 1993 proposals--

Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South) : Without waiting for this debate.

Mr. Bottomley : --and to reject the 1991 interim stage-- [Interruption.] If my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment announces what the Government's intention is and if my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, South-West (Mrs. Bottomley) announces in a written answer this afternoon what the Government's intention is-- [Interruption.] --and if I could finish my sentence and if my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) would contain himself for a moment, so that I can try to spell out the position clearly and make it possible for the Government and others to hear the views of other hon. Members--

Mr. Aitken : The Government have already decided.

Mr. Bottomley : What has been announced is the Government's intention ; the decision will come from the Council of Ministers. To those who say that there is no point in staying for the debate, I say that that would be a loss to the debate.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : I assure the Minister that on this matter I shall be strictly procedural. Do I understand from him that the news release of earlier today tells us that the Secretary of State announced--prior to the debate, perhaps by a few hours--what the Government's attitude will be at the Council of Ministers and that, while the House may accept the measure, it is a fact that the Secretary of State has announced his intention prior to the debate? In my recollection, that is a complete novelty because, although the Government's views are

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often expressed in a motion, they do not usually announce their intention until after the debate. Will the Minister confirm what I have said?

Mr. Bottomley : I would not dream of confirming what the hon. Gentleman has said. What the Government have said is what they intend to do and to support. As the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) said last week when the Government made information available to Members as soon as possible, even before making announcements, it seems perfectly reasonable and to make sense to make the information available during the day better to inform those who are interested in the debate.

Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East) : That is what the Minister's speech is supposed to be about.

Mr. Bottomley : If the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) will go back to his new year's resolution of three years ago and listen with his ears rather than his mouth, I will continue.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West) : If my hon. Friend and the Government are persuaded by the arguments that are put forward tonight, will my hon. Friend explain the effect that will have?

Mr. Bottomley : The only arguments that are being put forward at the moment are mine. When I have listened to the other arguments--I do not have extra-sensory perception--

Mr. Budgen : What effect will it have?

Mr. Prescott : The Minister should listen to the question and then try to answer it.

Mr. Budgen : What effect will it have?

Mr. Bottomley rose --

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : Order. There are too many speeches going on.

Mr. Bottomley : I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South.

Mr. Aitken : By his rather frivolous manner, my hon. Friend is making it clear that he has not understood the seriousness of the point he is making and the seriousness of the insult which, through my hon. Friend's lips, the Government are perpetrating. We are here to debate a serious issue, and we have amendments, views and ideas on it. Yet, before the debate, the Government announced their policy without listening to hon. Members' views. What is the purpose of the debate, and, specifically, will my hon. Friend answer my question? If he is convinced by any of the arguments that are put forward in the debate tonight, will he have any power to change the Government's policy from that which was so prematurely and insultingly announced without consulting the House earlier today?

Mr. Budgen : Will the Minister answer that question?

Mr. Bottomley : I inform my hon. Friends, and especially my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen), that my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South is asking me to predict the content of speeches that are likely to be made in support of the amendment. Part of that is the idea that it will be a costly and nonsensical problem for

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manufacturers. As speeches in support of the amendment have not yet been made, it is not clear whether it relates to the 1991 interim stage or the 1993 stage. The manufacturers' clear view is that they do not want the interim 1991 stage and are content with the 1993 stage.

It is impossible to answer the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West as I do not know what point he will make. To answer my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South, if this debate demonstrates that the House wants the 1991 stage--the interim stage-- against the interests of the manufacturers and against the natural manufacturing and development cycle of engines, which is what we are discussing, the Government would obviously want to consider such a view. It is highly unlikely that any hon. Member will support the interim 1991 stage. [Interruption.] Obviously I am not suggesting that, because I am the only hon. Member who has made a speech so far.

Ms. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) : The Minister seems to be saying that the Government will support the 1993 standard and not the 1991 standard. If the Government cannot have their way in the Council and cannot have the 1991 standard removed, will they still support the 1993 standard?

Mr. Bottomley : My information is that there is no qualified majority to support the 1991 interim standard in the Council of Ministers. Obviously, that is looking forward to 8 June. My expectation is that there will be no qualified majority and that one is unlikely to develop. There is the possibility--perhaps the probability--of getting a qualified majority for the 1993 standard. Those hon. Members who were present during Environment questions will have heard the Government's position on the package which would make sense and make 1993 acceptable. There is a balance in deciding what is right for manufacturers. The 1993 standard, without the 1991 standard, is right for them. It is a matter of what is right for the environment, and I shall refer to that in just a moment.

Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield) : I have been listening to what my hon. Friend the Minister has been saying. He will recall that we debated this subject on Wednesday 2 November last year. The Government's view clearly was that we would not and could not accept the 5 g ruling because of a variety of reasons, which the Minister most lucidly put. One need not recount exactly what those reasons are ; they can be mentioned later. What has happened in the meantime that has caused the Government to revise their view and now opt for the 5 g limit?

Mr. Bottomley : I assume that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) was present when I made the first part of my speech. I do not wish to repeat it. Many other hon. Members heard it, and probably also understood it. I will happily share my view with my hon. Friend later in the debate if he wishes. One outcome can establish a stable agreement that is understandable by motorists and will offer a sensible path for the motor industry. That is the key change since November of last year. I explained some of the participants in the movement of opinion.

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The Government have decided to work as hard as possible to see that the limits are introduced to Europe in an orderly manner. We accept the Commission's proposals for the final stage in 1993.

We shall resist the idea of the intermediate 1991 stage. It is industrial nonsense to set limits that will be superseded after only two years. It may be that the Commission has kept the intermediate stage in its proposal to retain a vestigial link with the common position.

Many other member states share this view. It is likely that the Commission will delete the intermediate limits before the June Environment Council. That would be a substantial step towards the adoption of a directive. It would set a marker for the definitive standards which the Commission is to propose later this year relating to the new, combined urban and high speed test cycle. At the same time, new proposals are expected for type approval durability testing, evaporative emission standards and a second stage particulate standard for diesel engined cars. The Government are giving technical assistance in the development of those proposals.

Some ground is lost by putting lean burn on the back burner. Improving fuel efficiency does matter. It would be a step backwards to have a three-way catalyst rather than one just one way with the lean-burn technology. We want to see what can be done to reap the advantages of lean burn or fast burn. We want to see what scope there is for reducing vehicle weights and aerodynamic drag and taking other efficiency measures. Great strides have been made in the past, in spite of increasingly severe emission and safety standards. That momentum must be maintained.

Good progress is being made towards a stable framework that will allow substantial advances in controlling motor vehicle pollution. It will allow industry to seek optimum technical solutions for the new standards, minimising costs to the motorists. The Government will work to see that the atmosphere is improved.

12.26 am

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