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Lead Pollution

Volume 981: debated on Wednesday 26 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he proposes to take to reduce the level of lead pollution in the environment.

New regulations on the maximum lead content of food will come into force on 12 April; the maximum permitted level of lead in petrol will be reduced to 0·40 grams per litre on 1 January 1981; and the water industry, with Government encouragement, is pressing ahead with a programme to deal with problems of lead in water where they occur.

The Government will be considering the need for further action in the light of the report of the working party, chaired by Professor Lawther, which will be published on Friday.

May I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that interesting reply. Has he considered removing lead from petrol altogether, in line with action taken by at least two other countries? Is he aware of the growing concern among the parents of children living near motorways about the likely effects that the lead content of petrol will have on their children, both mentally and physically?

We are naturally aware of the concern and that is why we have supported the work of the working party which was set up by the previous Government. I think that the hon. Lady will agree that it is sensible to consider the important report which will be published on Friday. We shall then all be better informed and be able to comment on the type of question that she has asked.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is a tremendous amount of concern about this matter, often coming from extemely well-informed people, especially with regard to the effects of lead pollution on children living near motorways? Will he constantly attempt to get across to the public what the Government are thinking, doing and feeling about this very important matter?

I hope that my hon. Friend will encourage as many people as possible to read the report of the working party, when it is published. It covers the aspects of lead in petrol and in the air, and other sources of lead in the environment which are also very important.

Will the Minister agree that the report of the Department of Transport working party last June, which is likely to be reinforced by the Lawther report to be published on Friday, suggests that the alternatives facing the country now are either to reduce the lead content to ·15 or to remove it altogether? Will the Government therefore consider publishing a green paper setting out the respective merits of those alternative courses so that Parliament and the country at large can have an intelligent and informed debate and reach a consensus on which of those two courses would be the most sensible?

Clearly we would be very interested to hear the responses of all interested parties to the report of Professor Lawther's working party. I take note of what the right hon. Gentleman says.