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Ms. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) : Despite the lateness of the hour, it is a pleasure to address the House on behalf of the Opposition on a subject of such immense importance to human health and the natural environment. The draft directive represents what we believe is best in Europe. It is a recognition by politicians from across the whole continent and the political spectrum that industry must serve the needs of society and not vice versa.

To the Prime Minister, this would normally be a case of "meddling Europe". Indeed, the effects of the directive would be much more dramatic than the cigarette packet labelling about which the right hon. Lady made such a drama last week. Her change of attitude is extraordinary. Less than a month ago, she was lecturing my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) at Prime Minister's Question Time about the merits of lean-burn engines over catalytic converters. Of course, the whole stance of the Government over a period of years has been to block the introduction of US-type emission standards to Europe on the basis of questionable scientific advice and a commitment to one particular technology--the lean-burn engine.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : I know that there have been changes in responsibility and, as we said on the hon. Lady's first appearance at the Dispatch Box, we welcome her to the Transport portfolio. However, in the November

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debate it was not that we had to have lean burn, but that we had to provide the opportunity for it to be developed. It was not one or the other. The purpose was to move forward to the position of achieving fuel efficiency as well as a better atmosphere.

Ms. Ruddock : The result was just the same--there was a blocking mechanism.

None the less, it would be churlish for us not wholeheartedly to welcome this eleventh hour conversion of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Environment. We have, however, no doubt that the catalyst was not the science with which she sought to support the Government's case in the past but rather the European elections in which concern for the environment will be playing such a major part. The Government have clearly realised that public opinion has moved strongly against the accelerating degradation of the environment, which has been the hallmark of 10 years of Thatcherism. The lessons of the vehicle emission story are important ones that directly contradict the Government's approach. By the Clean Air Act 1970, the Americans pledged to reduce motor emissions by 90 per cent. by 1983. The risks from carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide emissions were beginning to be recognised, but at that time no technology existed to do the job promised by the legislature. Yet the lesson from the United States is a striking one : set the standards and the technology will follow.

By 1975 the Americans had two-way catalytic converters, efficient in reducing carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. The benefits, of course, reached beyond the control of carbon monoxide, because catalytic converters require the introduction of unleaded petrol.

Unleaded fuel was introduced in the United States in 1974. Within 10 years all American cars had acquired catalytic converters and were running on unleaded petrol. Significantly, I am told, fuel efficiency was increased by 100 per cent. over the same period. With such evidence before them, it is amazing that the Government felt for so long that they had to back a particular technology and to stand in the way of stricter European controls on a technological promise as yet unrealised.

Surely the Government's role is to regulate, to set higher standards and to put the nation's health first. We did not have to choose between catalytic converters and lean-burn engines. They are not incompatible and the scientific evidence varies. Crucially the lean-burn engine is not in production and the three-way catalytic converter is. Whatever may be the best solutions which lie ahead of us today, the Government should not stand in the way of progress.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : We will not.

Ms. Ruddock : We shall see.

I want to consider why we need to deal with the emissions. Current car emissions are restricted under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe regulations which are extremely permissive standards, allowing 400 per cent. more emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons that are allowed under the United States regulations which have been in place since 1983. On average, a car in the United Kingdom emits a quarter of a tonne of those toxic pollutants while cars in the United States emit only a quarter of that amount.

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The problem is growing. Fifty five thousand new cars arrive on Britain's roads each day. The Government's commitment to major new road building will ensure that the problem is continually exacerbated. Sadly the effects of that growth are already demonstrated by the parallel case of vehicle-caused lead pollution. Last year the level of lead in the air rose in the United Kingdom by 5 per cent. as the result of the growth of traffic volume which exceeded the uptake of lead-free fuel. [ Hon. Members :-- "So What?"] So what? It is going to continue and get worse.

Given the rapid rise in the number of cars, it is crucial that Britain adopts the most stringent standards instead of risking retaining the most permissive.

The emissions with which the directive is concerned are serious hazards to health and to the environment. Road transport is a major source of man-made carbon monoxide emissions. It has an impact on human health, on the cardiovascular and central nervous systems. In London the World Health Organisation guidelines on carbon monoxide in respect of human beings are regularly exceeded. Its impact on the environment is via the chemical processes affecting levels of tropospheric oxidants, green house gases and strataspheric ozone. The other major pollutants with which the directive is concerned are the hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides. Both types of pollutants again add to the processes which produce the secondary pollutant ozone. The hydrocarbon emissions contain a proportion of highly dangerous polyaromatics which are known to increase the rate of lung cancer. Oxides of nitrogen are implicated in a range of human diseases affecting the respiratory system. In the atmosphere, nitrogen oxides become transformed into gaseous or liquid forms of nitric acid, adding to the acidification of lakes and rivers and the formation of acid rain.

Britain is already infamous as an exporter of acid rain. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, British and Danish forests are the most defoliated in Europe. The United Kingdom acid waters review group estimates that a reversal of the acidification of lakes and streams would require a 90 per cent. reduction in emissions.

These are extremely serious environmental concerns. Thankfully we may be in sight of such reductions. If we are in sight of them, as I sincerely hope that we are, it will be a victory for those of us who have continually pressed for higher standards of environmental protection and particularly for the pressure groups including Greenpeace and the Campaign for Lead-Free Air which have so skilfully assembled the evidence--evidence which, I have no doubt, persuaded Conservative MEPs to drop the British Government line and vote to give us the revised draft directive.

If agreed, the adoption of the United States emission standards will be of enormous benefit to society in terms of the reduction of severe pollutants, by proven technology, of the three-way catalytic converters. They do not, however--and the Minister referred to this--deal specifically with the production of carbon dioxide, of which car emissions are the fastest growing source and which, of course, contribute to the dangerous phenomenon known as global warming.

Total emissions from vehicles of carbon dioxide increase directly in proportion to the growth of vehicles.

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Given that Europe, with its 110 million cars, is already the world's biggest car market, we have a major responsibility to the world to deal with that problem.

We acknowledge that, in an advanced form, the lean-burn engine would be a major solution to carbon dioxide emissions because of increased engine efficiency. However, there appears to be no reason why the problems of the other pollutants and carbon dioxide cannot be dealt with in parallel. Catalytic converters under road conditions are more, not less--I stress this because I think that the Minister is mistaken--fuel efficient than non -catalytic cars. Substantial research shows that lean-burn engines, which are said to be 20 per cent. more efficient, are comparable to catalytic converters which can be shown to be 18 per cent. more fuel efficient. We are talking about a 2 per cent difference. [ Hon. Members : --The hon. Lady cannot be serious."] I am indeed serious. I can give the scientific

Mr. Peter Bottomley : We are enjoying the teach in. Modern engines are much more fuel efficient than old ones. When a modern engine has a three-way catalytic converter attached to its exhaust system, I think that it reduces its fuel efficiency. That is the point, and we must not confuse the development of newer engines with what is put in them-- [Interruption.] I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Page) who represents catalysts

Mr. Richard Page : Not my constituency, but one near by.

Mr. Bottomley : I thought that it was my hon. Friend's constituency, but catalysts must be produced in a neighbouring constituency.

Ms. Ruddock : I shall stand by my point, and will provide the Minister with scientific evidence. Having looked at that evidence, I am absolutely convinced that it is quite clear that there are, and can be, gains in fuel efficiency with catalysts, as it is acknowledged that there are with the lean-burn engine. One reason why hon. Members have been misled into thinking that that is not so is due to the test conditions under which the scientific data were originally assembled. That data were based on city driving at an average of 12 miles per hour. In fact, the most important production of carbon dioxide occurs in motorway driving when people are driving much faster. We must make the appropriate comparison in order to find the data on which to base the argument.

Finally, I shall consider the manufacturers, the state of the industry and its preparedness to accept the new regulations. It appears that the manufacturers are not all hiding behind the Minister's caution. Some of them have already dashed to the starting line and many are way out in front. Volvo is making 90 per cent. of its range available with catalysts in the autumn. Vauxhall is already phasing in three-way catalysts on all its cars as standard equipment, starting in the autumn and to be completed within three years. In Germany, one cannot buy an Opel unless it has a three-way catalytic converter. Volkswagen also favours United States' standards. In the autumn it is making its entire range available with catalytic converters as an option and is offering to subsidise retro- fitting to all models made since 1979.

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At the moment, Volkswagen is obliged to produce 638 different variants of the Golf engine in order to meet the different standards around the world. I cannot believe, therefore, that the two standards proposed in the draft directive are that significant.

Nissan plans to make three-way catalytic converters available in the United Kingdom ahead of any planned legislation. Ford is introducing the catalyst option progressively on a range of its models over the next 12 months, and from 1990 onwards new BMW models will be available only with catalytic converters.

Mr. Richard Page : I am delighted to hear that those manufacturers are making such a huge contribution to the environment, but do any of them claim that either the catalytic systems already in production in the United States or those that are to be produced will provide more fuel efficiency? That would be a tremendous selling point, and I should be surprised if the manufacturers were not pushing it, if it is the case.

Ms. Ruddock : The evidence from the United States is that fuel efficiency has not been a problem when catalytic converters are fitted to modern cars. We are talking about engines that are being produced from now until 1993, and about the need to reduce three major noxious emissions : carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons. There is no other known way in which those pollutants can be reduced to the necessary level.

Mr. Page : I agree with that.

Ms. Ruddock : I do not think that an argument about another form of gaseous emission can be counterposed to suggest that reducing that will prevent us from dealing with the problem in hand, and catalytic converters have no detrimental effect on fuel efficiency. In the light of the list that I have provided, we feel that we should be a bit sceptical about the Government's view that industry would be greatly disadvantaged by a two- tier system. A number of companies are already meeting the requirements proposed for 1991, and no doubt the supporters of those standards-- particularly the West Germans--feel that their removal would be a retrograde step. It is clear that some companies will choose now to go for the 1993 standards and will have them in place by 1991, and nothing in the directive would prevent them from doing just that. Surely the House should welcome such a development, as every year of more stringent standards is a gain for our environment.

We require from the Government an unqualified statement that they will support the 1993 standards. The interim standards proposed may be inconvenient, but what the Minister seems to have said tonight--perhaps he will be good enough to confirm it when he winds up--is that the Government will support the 1993 standards only if they can secure agreement to the removal of the 1991 interim standards. That is completely unacceptable to the Opposition, and we will put it to the vote if the Minister does not clarify the position. We do not believe that Britain should stand in the way of reducing emissions to the 1993 standards because they do not like the interim standards.

This is a major environmental concern : nothing should stand in the way of improving our nation's environment and our nation's health.

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12.43 am

Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South) : I am not easily moved to anger --particularly at 12.43 in the morning--when the House debates an issue of great importance to the quality of life, to the quality of the air that we breathe, and to the whole motor manufacturing industry. However, I am genuinely angry about the constitutional outrage of these proceedings.

This debate marks an all-time low in the already fragile relationship between Government and Parliament over the increasingly contentious issue of how we scrutinise EEC legislation and documents. I have complained often that such debates take place too late, are too short, or concern motions that are too bland or contradictory. But I have never had to complain that there is absolutely no point in the debate taking place at all because the Government have completely cut the ground away from Parliament's feet.

When Mr. Speaker or you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, was good enough to select the amendment in my name and those of my hon. Friends, it was clear that the Chair was taking tonight's proceedings seriously, as did many of my other hon. Friends who came to the Chamber prepared with arguments in the hope that they could take part in the debate. What on earth is the point of being asked to debate a "take note" motion, which implies that the views of right hon. and hon. Members will be heard and carefully considered, when, on the very morning of the day on which the debate is to take place, the Government announce, without learning the views of right hon. and hon. Members, their strategy, tactics and policy, thus taking away from the House the right to have any say or to make any input to the process? I do not like being, instead of a parliamentarian, a parliamentary wimp, a parliamentary eunuch, a parliamentary cipher.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : Will my hon. Friend allow me to intervene?

Mr. Aitken : No, I will not. I shall tell my hon. Friend what I will do. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, invited me to move an amendment. I shall not do so. I will withdraw that amendment, because I regard the circumstances in which the debate is taking place as an insult to the House. Important though the arguments are, I do not think it is right to enter into a debate on the merits of the case deployed by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) and my hon. Friend the Minister.

We are taking part in a sham, a charade, a farce. Such action by the Government and by their business managers must stop and must never happen again. For those reasons, I shall not move the amendment but withdraw it. I shall now walk out--accompanied, I hope, by one or two of my hon. Friends-- as a mark of protest against the constitutional outrage that is taking place tonight.

12.47 am

Sir Hal Miller (Bromsgrove) : It is a narrow path to tread between the Euro-fanatics on the one hand and the slashing attack made by the Labour party on the midlands and on industry generally, ignoring completely the interests of workers, whether they be employed in the coal industry-- [Interruption.] Yes, we heard all about emissions, but the Opposition totally overlook those of coal-fired power stations and of the midlands coalfields.

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The Labour party likes to pretend that it is the friend of the workers when it suits it, and that it is in favour of the coal industry. Its opposition last night to the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill is now shown to be a masquerade, because they have no interest in protecting the workers concerned.

The only part of the European elections speech of the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) that made any sense--and the Labour party's conversion to the European cause is as breathtaking and as recent as its conversion to multilateralism--was her suggestion that a clear decision should be made to introduce American emission standards, rather than adopt a further range of standards, by a definite date. Shifting the goal posts all the time presents difficulties for the car industry. Of course it is prepared to meet the demands of its customers. If it does not, the industry will soon cease to exist. But the industry must know how the requirements will be framed and when they must be brought into effect.

The hon. Lady recited a list of foreign competitors whom she encouraged to export their vehicles to this country. The Opposition keep blathering about our balance of payments, but motor imports currently account for two thirds of the visible trade deficit--yet this evening the hon. Lady was encouraging that situation to deteriorate further at the expense of jobs and investment. Hers was a preposterous performance.

It is important, of course, that the industry knows what the standards are and when they must be introduced. There could be a great advantage if the European standards were set to match the United States federal standards. If there is not that match, manufacturers will have to continue to change specifications. With large volume throughput--alas, our volume is not what it was--it is easier to make more frequent adjustments with more frequent model changes.

We in Britain were developing lean-burn technology, and we were encouraged by earlier decisions that it would be sufficient for small cars. It was of especial interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) and myself and to manufacturers such as Peugeot and Fiat, about which we have not been hearing much this evening. Their Governments have voices on the Council and I should not be surprised if they are the ones to which my hon. Friend the Minister was referring when he was hinting at the qualified majority that might be obtainable in certain circumstances for the European standards to be set by 1993, and to do away with the interim standards in 1991. There is nothing to stop manufacturers meeting the standards earlier. No one is seeking to prevent the earlier marketing of models that meet the standards.

Far too great expectations have been raised of what the converters will achieve in the way of brightening up or rendering more sanitary our environment. The hon. Member for Deptford overlooks the fact that she attacked the roads programme. Having listened to her previous objections to British Rail's proposals, I do not know how we are supposed to be able to move round Britain in the increasing prosperity that the Government are bringing to it. She seems to be saying that we cannot have more roads and we cannot have more railway lines.

Ms. Ruddock : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Hal Miller : I shall finish my point before I give way to the hon. Lady.

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As soon as cars stop in a traffic jam, all the good that was sought to be done is instantly undone and far more pollutant comes into the air. It is more important to ensure a free flow of traffic.

Ms. Ruddock : Will the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that in the United States, between 1970 and 1983, the emission of noxious gases was reduced by 90 per cent.? That is a proven achievement, and it has been brought about by proven technology. The hon. Gentleman is contrasting the lean-burn engine with the catalytic converter. That does not make an argument in favour of any method of reducing emissions, including the way in which it can and has been done.

Sir Hal Miller : The hon. Lady is knocking British technology again and the opportunity that we have of developing a lead.

Of course there has been an improvement in the United States. There are much freer traffic flows in the United States. That is the point that I was making. Cars are kept moving in the United States, and as a result there is not the build-up of pollution that is experienced elsewhere.

As I understood the rather interrupted remarks of my hon. Friend the Minister, I thought that he was getting the matter right. We should introduce stricter standards in 1993 and do away with the interim standards, bearing in mind that they apply to smaller cars up to 1.4 litres. That is of great interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield and me, and I know that my hon. Friend will wish to take up the matter if he manages to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Manufacturers and others need to know that there will be a set of standards. They need to know also when they are to apply. With that knowledge, we can get on with the job of compliance.

left 12.54 am Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) : This is a slight improvement, in practical terms, on the last time that we debated this matter. That was at 3 o'clock in the morning, rather than just coming up to 1 o'clock. However, it is regrettable that these debates take place after the event and at a time when no one is listening to them.

It is difficult for the Government to get across the message that they are leading Europe in the drive towards improved environmental standards when in reality they are taking decisions without consulting us first and when part of the proposal is to water down a previous agreement. The Government have a problem over trying to maintain that their view has always been consistent.

As the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) said, the Americans blazed the trail and have achieved dramatic reductions in noxious emissions. It is amazing, however, that whenever this matter is debated we are told about all the wonderful benefits that the non-existent lean-burn engine will create. We are also told--as the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Sir H. Miller) has again told us--that we are running down British technology. We have in this country one of the world leaders in catalytic converters but it has to get all its business from abroad. The Government refuse to introduce proposals that would ensure that British technology is in the lead.

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I agree with the Government that the French are using stalling tactics. France is the anchor man of Europe in this area. I recall the advert that says that the Peugeot takes your breath away. I think that it does. The French Government's attitude takes it away even more. Peugeot says that catalytic converters are absurd, but it fits them to all its export models so that it can pick up all the business that is to hand.

We must grasp the nettle. We must move forward in a clear and consistent direction and accept that the catalytic converter is the way forward. We should get on with it instead of continuing to use stalling tactics.

It has been said that the catalytic converter leads to loss of efficiency. The hon. Member for Deptford said that that is not necessarily true. I hope that she is right. However, we may have to face up to a loss of efficiency and to an increase in cost, but that has to be set against the environmental improvement that will follow from its use.

The sooner a directive can be agreed and put into effect the sooner the industry will get its act together and address the efficiency and cost problems. I fear that it is wishful thinking to believe that the industry will respond to customer demand. Consumers want to see an improvement in the environment, but how many people are prepared to pay an extra £300 for a catalytic converter unless they are obliged to do so? People were not prepared to switch to unleaded petrol until there was a financial inducement to do so. Incidentally, I wonder when the Government will do what the German Government did. They allowed a significant differential on unleaded petrol until everybody had converted and then they imposed a surcharge. In Germany unleaded petrol is 10 per cent. dearer than leaded petrol now that the Government have got everybody hooked on to using it.

When we last debated the matter the Government said that they were anxious to go in this direction but not too fast because there were a number of technical difficulties and British interests to consider. That will always be the excuse and the argument. Ultimately, however, the nettle has to be grasped. The political groupings within the European Parliament have decided to put on the pressure, and the Commission has responded to it.

I accept that on occasions the Commission gets carried away by its own enthusiasm. Sometimes it makes proposals that are unnecessary or unworkable, and sometimes the time scale is unrealistic. I am not wholly convinced, however, that on this occasion that is the case. The Government will be left with egg on their face. They are suggesting that we push for an agreement that weakens what we had six months ago, on the basis that the ultimate goal is stronger, but that it will take two years longer to get there. That is not a convincing advance in greening the environment. It does not convince me and I do not believe that it will convince the British public. I wonder whether we are engaged in an exercise that will do until 15 June, with the real negotiations happening after that.

I realise that there is very little time and that other hon. Members may wish to speak. I think that we should move forward. The lean-burn engine is now an irrelevance. We should give our catalytic converter manufacturers a clear goal to aim for. We should recognise that the industry has the ability to respond but that it needs to be given a target. The Government should not give the industry all the leeway that it asks for, and nor should the European Community.

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1 am

Mr. Peter Griffiths (Portsmouth, North) : I have always felt that there is a case to be made for catalytic converters in their own right, and not just as something imposed on us that we reluctantly accept. I do not think that there is a conflict between catalytic converters and lean-burn engines. The catalytic converter is present-day technology which has been used on millions of vehicles throughout the world and of which we have wide experience. There are no lean-burn engines in the strict sense, despite an earlier comment about the Ford engines being built at Bridgend. No one wishes to decry the success of Ford in that work. The plant was built for that very purpose but the engines are not capable of themselves, or even with a one-way converter, of meeting the standards to which my hon. Friend the Minister referred.

The standards that we should be aiming at are those acceptable to the United States and to Scandinavia. We should be second to no one in our aim. Some of my hon. Friends do damage to the interest of the environment by talking about three-way converters as being an additional cost. Over the years a great many developments in motoring were regarded as an additional cost but they have become the accepted norm. In regard to comfort, we have the car heater ; in safety, we have windscreen washers ; in environmental protection we have silencers and resonators. I have no doubt that in future we will regard a development perhaps beyond the three-way converter as the norm. It may even be combined with a form of the lean-burn engine. Accepting the converter does not mean that we have to abandon all other means of improving the efficiency of engines in order to save fuel and the efficiency of their operation so as to reduce the amount of emission into the atmosphere. The sooner manufacturers can ensure that electronic ignition and fuel injection are the norm on all small vehicles, the sooner we shall see improvements in fuel efficiency which will make it more possible to accept the cost of installing three-way converters.

The motorist may well feel that he will be faced with additional cost. The cost will not be so great when this is a world standard. When converters are fitted to all motor cars as a matter of course, the cost will come down markedly. Because they contain precious metals, the cost will never be negligible, but technology will improve them and the cost will be acceptable. If we can get away from the argument, "Your kind of technology is better than mine," and look for a combination of the best existing technology, we shall be able to sell that to the motorist.

The motorist is as keen as everyone else on improvements in the cleanliness of the atmosphere. I have considerable experience of driving in Los Angeles. Reference has been made to the wide open spaces and the lack of traffic jams in the United States. Anyone who has been in a traffic jam on the San Diego freeway knows what a traffic jam is. I know a great many people in California but I do not know anyone who is not an enthusiast for the improvements that we are still busily discussing. Americans have lead- free petrol and converters and they recognise them as aspects of modern motoring. The sooner we accept that the matter is not controversial, the better.

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1.5 am

Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield) : I have listened with great interest to the speeches of hon. Members on both sides of the House. Everyone should have expressed an overwhelming desire that we should tackle the problems of pollution, especially those that affect the car exhaust system, in the most workable way. Much of the legislation that has been agreed by the European Commission and the member states on the cleaning up of the exhausts of cars of higher ccs than we are discussing would go unchallenged. Many manufacturers, including the Rover Group, already offer cars fitted with catalytic converters and desmogging exhaust systems necessary to comply with that legislation.

In November, we seemed quite clear about our attitude towards vehicles of up to 1.4 litres, but we now have to look at a more stringent set of requirements. Perhaps we thought we had the opportunity to adopt the twin track development of, first, a lean-burn engine system and a single converter and, secondly, a single converter for more conventional engines.

I am not cynical by nature, but I am aware of the imminent European elections. I noticed that the latest edition of the CLEAR newsletter, of which we have all received a copy, under the column headed, "What the papers say", contained an item which encapsulates exactly why this debate is taking place tonight. It highlights an item that appeared in The Independent on 6 April 1989 which stated : "EC bows to greens and plans tough exhaust controls. In a remarkable gesture to the Green movement, the European Commission last night pledged to propose tough US-style emission standards for cars, which could cut exhaust fumes produced by small saloon cars alone by as much as 75 per cent. before 1993."

I wonder whether there is a connection between what the Commission is seeking to do through the revision of rules that we are discussing and the fact that there is pressure on European parliamentarians in the run-up to the elections on June 15 to take a more positive initiative in solving the perceived problems of exhaust pollution. Certainly the suggestion that we are seeking to clean up exhaust emissions by 75 per cent. is not correct. Exhausts will not pump out clear air as a result of the new proposals ; they will pump out carbon dioxide, and we have another problem with the build-up of carbon dioxide around the earth which will not be helped by creating more of it in the proposed system of exhaust clean-up.

I am not suggesting that we should turn our backs on that system, but there are other ways of tackling the problem. In the early 1970s the United States had a major problem of exhaust pollution, principally in the Los Angeles basin. In those days it was common for Americans to buy 4, 5 or 6 litre V8 cars with very crude technology and very early ignition systems, which because they were never serviced--Americans keep their cars until they stop working before having them serviced--were polluting incredibly badly the environment in which they were travelling. That resulted in the legislature deciding that the exhaust should be cleaned up.

Since then, automobile technology--even allowing for the fact that catalytic converters are not fitted--has moved considerably further forward. For instance, we now have positive crank case ventilation, which means that the internal exhaust fumes which were vented into the atmosphere and which accounted for about 20 per cent. of

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exhaust fumes from cars are recirculated and burnt by the engine. That has had a significant effect on reducing emissions.

We have also moved to transistorised ignition, better fuel injection and carburation systems and better techniques of engine management generally, all of which have helped to reduce emissions. We have, therefore, benefited considerably, and in America they have also benefited from the fact that the average size of car, in terms of engine cubic capacity, has dropped as their love affair with Japanese cars has had its impact. They are no longer driving such large vehicles.

It is time for us to ask whether, by this legislation--which will have a significant impact on small vehicles--we are moving in the right direction and whether it will rebound on us. If we pursue this course, it will handicap lean-burn technology. Ford is producing about 450,000 lean-burn- type engines, and I accept what my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths) said about that achievement. New and more advanced types of engine are being prepared, and the Rover Group has a new type of lean-burn engine which is due to be announced later this year.

That is significant progress, but we are putting that in jeopardy by insisting that those engines are also coupled to three-way catalytic converters, which will increase fuel consumption. There is no way round that. The engine is driving an air pump, and as anyone who knows anything about the internal combustion engine is aware, as one drives more systems off the engine, one must use more fuel ; it takes energy to drive the generator, the electrical system, the water pump and an air pump into the exhaust system. So it is not true to say that given two cars, one with and one without a converter system, the converter system vehicle will be more economical.

In other words, we shall be consuming more fuel, which will create more exhaust emissions--more carbon dioxide--as a result. If we abandon lean- burn technology and go for the conventional engine-air ratio, burning within the engine, and a catalytic converter system, we shall get an increase of about 20 per cent. in fuel consumption and, hence a 20 per cent. increase in exhaust emissions. In other words, we shall be consuming fossil fuels in terms of petrol at a rate one fifth greater than we need consume.

There will also be a 13 to 15 per cent. increase in price, and there is no escaping that fact. Catalytic converters are expensive, and the ancillary air blowers fitted to them are equally expensive and require a small amount of maintenance. They are expensive to fit and the price will not drop dramatically.

There will, therefore, be little desire to develop the small engine, Surely, rather than concentrate on bigger engines for cars, it would be in everybody's interest to encourage the development of ever smaller and more efficient engines that breathe in less air and, by implication, pollute less. By attaching all this equipment to engines, we shall destroy an area of development which, in my view, could play a significant part in ensuring a better environment. I fear that, as a result of this legislation, we shall see the end of vehicles such as the Mini, which has performed sterling service as an exceptionally fuel efficient car, averaging between 45 and 60 miles per gallon, thereby polluting in a small way. That vehicle is not large enough

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to take this type of three-way catalytic converter. We will have to get used to bigger cars which will allow this type of system to be fitted because space in the car is required to take all the exhaust cleaning devices. They cannot be retro-fitted to existing cars. A car such as the Mini, which has been in production for 30 years, will go out of production as a result of the inability to modify it to comply with the 1993 regulations. A 1-litre car, consuming small amounts of air and polluting less, would be preferable but that is not what is suggested. We seem to want bigger engines and more pollution as a result of loading vehicles with this type of emission control. Surely it makes sense to exempt vehicles up to 1 litre from having to use this type of anti- pollution equipment to allow engine developers to develop more and more precision engines which are more efficient. We should have engines capable of polluting less. As I have said, we should concentrate on engine efficiency.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State spoke clearly at the beginning of the debate. However, the interim measures suggested will confuse industry. If we have to accept emission control, it would be better to have the 1993 United States-style emission control rather than any interim measures. That would allow the manufacturers to concentrate on one goal. To that extent, I agree with my hon. Friend. However, it would have been much better for us to continue a debate with the European Commission and our partners in Europe to devise a much more sensible way of tackling this serious problem as it affects the small passenger car. There are alternatives and we should have explored them. However, in the event of our not being able to, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is entirely right to opt for the 1993 solution alone.

1.16 am

Mr. Peter Bottomley : The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) asked how many people would voluntarily spend money to improve the environment. The answer is that some would, but not enough. We need some enforcement and a great deal of encouragement and, perhaps, example. I want to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment who is responsible for litter and anti-pollution measures. With others, she has managed to help raise the proportion of unleaded fuel that has been sold from 1 per cent. on her appointment to 15 per cent. now. It has been the second greatest cultural change since the war. If I was asked--I am sure that no one will ask--I would have to say that the greatest is the move away from drinking and driving in which I have played a small part. The important point is that the 15 per cent. of people using unleaded fuel represents only about a quarter of those who could do so. Even with plenty of information to overcome ignorance and with a 10p price differential to overcome the apathy, there is still a large number of people--some are probably Friends of the Earth, some may be in the Conservative party and some may be in one of the Opposition parties--who have not yet got round to using unleaded fuel in their cars. People should do so because that is the way forward. Whether we have cars with three-way catalysts or even one-way catalysts, we shall all use unleaded fuel in our new cars soon. We might as well start doing that now and show that we are concerned.

We have heard some lectures during the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr.

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King) gave us a lecture. I am sure that it was accurate but I am not sure how much of it would be supported by the manufacturers. We should not mislead ourselves and say that the smallest capacity cars have the best fuel efficiency. That is not always so. In fact, sometimes it is the middle range cars that have the best fuel efficiency. However, that varies between models and manufacturers. My hon. Friend was right to say--I hope that I made it clear in my speech, although some other lectures were taking place at the time--that 1993 would provide clarity for manufacturers. That is important. 1991 appears to have no friends here.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Sir H. Miller) made probably the best speech in the debate. It was forthright, forceful and right. Those who have any doubts or who are no longer in the Chamber might take the opportunity of reading that speech. In that way they will understand what is in Britain's interests as manufacturers, consumers and environmentalists, led by my right hon. Friend, the well-known fellow of the Royal Society, the Prime Minister.

We have to try to keep common sense moving in line with technology. We must provide opportunities for future technology to come forward. It is clear that fast burn and lean burn will be the technology of the future. We shall have moved back one step on fuel efficiency by moving to this apparent compulsion for three-way catalysts. However, that is acceptable and we believe that it is achievable at the environment meeting on 8 June.

I need to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths) that his record on these matters over a long time was brought out to the House well this evening and we are grateful to him for explaining some of the myths that should not worry people too much. There are advantages in welcoming progress, rather than rejecting it.

I can remember the early days of my motoring life, as a passenger when I was about eight years old, when it took about six hours to drive up to Stafford. I used to wonder why so many wimps and wets--before I realised that being a wet was a good thing rather than a bad thing--had heaters in their cars when everyone knew that a blanket was perfectly sufficient. Then came flashing indicators rather than little arms that came out at the side of the car to tell people which way one was going. As my hon. Friend pointed out, there are many things that are now accepted as part of progress and even as being necessary, when previously they were optional extras and not all that desirable.

The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) gave the speech that I might have given if I had decided to take twice as long. She explained some of the basic chemistry. There is general agreement on what we are trying to achieve, except that there seems to be a rather liberal approach among the transport spokespeople on the Labour Front Bench. Her hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) supports more new roads. She does not. It seems that we should try to find some way to reconcile that.

Ms. Ruddock : I did not, of course, say that I did not support new roads. I actually said that, through the Government's programme of much increased road building, the problem of increased carbon dioxide emissions will be continuously exacerbated.

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Mr. Bottomley : I am grateful for that intervention. When we open roads like the Acle bypass on the A47 between Norwich and Great Yarmouth, where people in the summer can get through in two minutes rather than previously getting through in 45 minutes, or when we open the Okehampton bypass, where people can get past in 10 minutes rather than 1 hour 10 minutes, we find that there are fewer exhaust fumes. It seems to those of us scooting past on the high-speed train, seeing great lines of motorists and important commercial traffic that needs to be on the roads going nose to tail unnecessarily, that we are seeing more exhaust fumes coming out-- exhaust fumes are a better way of describing them than gaseous emissions. We are trying to go for efficiency and to improve the environment.

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