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Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not know whether you saw the weekend papers or listened to the radio this morning. Announcements have been made in the press over the weekend, on the radio this morning and by way of a written answer to a parliamentary question, stating that Government policy on the roads programme has been changed, without a statement being made to the House. Have you received any approaches from the Government to make a statement about the points that have already been leaked to the media?

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) is right. The Minister's office told hon. Members whose constituencies were affected that a package would be available in the Vote Office at 3.30 pm, and that hon. Members concerned would have letters on the Board at 3.30 pm. That has not happened, yet the press is in possession of the facts. Have you had any requests for a statement to be made on the matter?

Madam Speaker: I have had no requests for a statement to be made on the matter, but I know that there has been rather a full written answer, which

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presumably is now available. I understand that hon. Members whose constituencies are geographically linked with the areas in question will have all the information. If that is not the case, I shall see to it as soon as I leave the Chair.

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker: I cannot take the matter any further.

Mr. Chope: I have just been outside the Vote Office, trying to get information about the matter. Even a Labour Member who is extremely concerned about the decision on the Birmingham northern relief road cannot get access to his own Government's plans.

Madam Speaker: I have just said that as soon as I leave the Chair, I will make inquiries. It is my understanding that letters are available. I have another hour's duty to do in the Chair, but perhaps someone in authority will go and find out on my behalf precisely what the position is and report to me; otherwise I shall do so myself.

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Finance Bill (Allocation of Time)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee),

Question agreed to.

Report considered accordingly.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee),

Question agreed to.

Following is the report of the Business Committee [24 July]:

(a) the order in which proceedings on consideration are taken shall be New Clauses, New Schedules, and amendments to Clauses 1 and 2, Schedule 1, Clause 3, Schedule 2, Clauses 4 to 17, Clause 49, Clauses 18 to 23, Schedule 3, Clauses 24 to 34, Schedule 4, Clause 35, Schedule 5, Clause 36, Schedule 6, Clauses 37 to 41, Schedule 7, Clauses 42 to 48, Clauses 50 to 53 and Schedule 8;
(b) the allotted days which under the Order [14th July] are given to the proceedings on consideration and Third Reading shall be allotted in the manner shown in the Table set out below and, subject to the provisions of that Order, each part of the proceedings shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion, be brought to a conclusion at the time specified in the third column of that Table.


Allotted dayProceedingsTime for conclusion of proceedings
First dayNew Clauses, New Schedules and amendments to Clauses 1 and 2, Schedule 1, Clause 3, Schedule 2, Clauses 4 to 17 and Clause 49.10.00 p.m.
Second dayRemaining proceedings on consideration9.00 p.m.
Third Reading10.00 p.m.

28 Jul 1997 : Column 25

Orders of the Day

Finance Bill

[1st Allotted Day]

[Relevant documents: The Minutes of Evidence taken before the Treasury Committee on Monday 21st July, Tuesday 22nd July and Wednesday 23rd July (HC169-i to iii).]

Not amended (in the Committee), and as amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

New clause 4

Low cancer-risk part-renewable blended diesel

' .--(1) After section 1 of the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979 (Hydrocarbon oil) there shall be inserted the following section--
"Low cancer-risk part-renewable blended diesel
1A.--(1) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 6 (Excise duty on hydrocarbon oil) and section 11 (Rebate on heavy oil) of this Act, in respect of low cancer-risk part-renewable blended diesel--
(a) the rate of duty for the purposes of section 6 shall be £0.3758 a litre; and
(b) the rebate of duty for the purposes of section 11 shall be £0.0258 a litre less than the rate at which the duty is for the time being chargeable.
(2) For the purposes of this Act 'low cancer-risk part-renewable blended diesel' means fuel of the description in Schedule 2B to this Act."
(2) After Schedule 2 to that Act there shall be inserted the following Schedule--


1. Low cancer-risk part-renewable blended diesel is fuel which consists of--
(a) a blend of heavy oil containing not less than 22 per cent. by volume of kerosene which when blended conforms to the specification in paragraph 2; and
(b) not less than 3.8 per cent. and not more than 15.0 per cent. by volume of methylester which is derived from rapeseed oil which contains not more than 0.02 per cent. by weight of free glycerine and which conforms to such other specifications as the Commissioners may direct.
2. The specification referred to in paragraph 1 is a blend of heavy oil--
(a) of which not less than 60 per cent. by volume and not more than 72 per cent. by volume distils at a temperature of 250°C;
(b) of which not less than 90 per cent. by volume distils at a temperature of 290°C;
(c) which has a density of 15°C of not less than 813 kilograms per cubic metre and not more than 819 kilograms per cubic metre;
(d) which has a minimum cetane number of 49;
(e) which contains not more than 0.0015 per cent. by weight of sulphur;
(f) which contains not more than 11.25 per cent. by volume of aromatic hydrocarbons and not more than 0.05 per cent. by volume of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (containing three or more carbon rings); and
(g) which conforms to such other specifications as the Commissioners may direct."

28 Jul 1997 : Column 26

(3) This section shall come into force on such day as the Commissioners of Customs and Excise may by order made by statutory instrument appoint.'.--[Sir Michael Spicer.]
Brought up, and read the First time.

3.39 pm

Sir Michael Spicer (West Worcestershire): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 33, in clause 11, page 7, line 26, at end insert--

'(4A) After section 6(2) of the 1979 Act, there is inserted--
"(2A) The Secretary of State may, by order made by statutory instrument, provide for duty of excise on hydrocarbon oil to be charged at a lower rate than that specified in subsection (1) above in rural areas; but no rate lower than that in force on 1st July 1997 may be specified under the terms of this subsection.
(2B) An order made under section (2A) above shall be laid before Parliament in draft and approved by resolution of each House before being made.".'.

No. 26, in page 7, line 28, leave out '2nd July' and insert '25th November'.

Sir Michael Spicer: To be completely safe, I must say that I am president of the Association of Electricity Producers, although that is a very indirect interest. In fact, I have no interest relevant to the new clause. I tabled the new clause on behalf of a constituent and it is the second time that I have raised the matter on behalf of that constituent.

The purpose of the new clause, which is quite long, is to give fuels whose fumes can create cancer the treatment that exists in tax law for fuels that produce high-sulphur emissions or those that produce heavy carbon dioxide emissions. The fume dealt with in the new clause is produced by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, known as PAH. Can the Government confirm that the PAH content of fuel emissions is cancerous in its effects? There have been many studies of those emissions and the clear indication is that they are cancerous, but it would be good to have confirmation from the Government that that is the case.

I am very much aware that no Government would agree to a new clause that was specific to any company's interest; that would be quite wrong and would involve hybridity. The new clause, however, has been couched precisely with that point in mind and would have a completely generic application if accepted by the House. The new clause deals with a process that blends refined rapeseed oil with low-sulphur diesel. That generic technique, which is now well established and can be used by anybody who wishes to do so, would, because it meets a gamut of objectives in terms of cleaner air, benefit from the new clause.

Are there other ways in which to achieve those objectives? During points of order, we heard that the Government, on the "Today" programme, said that their way in which to deal with road pollutants was not to build any more roads. Presumably, if we did not have roads, we could not have cars. That seemed to be the way in which they intended to deal with these problems. The new clause is another way, and it is well established.

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Clean air objectives have been dealt with through the tax system. The previous Finance Bill introduced the inducement to reduce high-sulphur fuels, and there is a discriminatory tax arrangement designed with that in mind. If the Government are serious in their attempts to reduce pollutants from fuels, they should give some priority to dealing with emissions that may be cancerous.

Do the Government accept that the PAH content in fuel is cancer bearing? Will they confirm the assurance given by the previous Administration, that there would be a full review of all detrimental emissions from fuels and that a full review would be made of the Government's approach to noxious emissions? I hope that we shall not end up with some emissions being dealt with through the tax system while other more dangerous emissions are ignored.

As we have used the tax system in the past to deal with the problem, there is an onus on the Government to explain carefully, if they decide not to accept the new clause, what they intend to do about dangerous emissions and what their general policy is on the taxation of noxious emissions. Do they accept that a distortion in the system that produces tax disadvantages for certain types of emission and not for others is the correct way in which to proceed?

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