§ 7. Mr. Goodhew
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is satisfied that a maximum level of 0.40 grammes of lead in a litre of petrol will result in the removal of all risks to health from vehicle exhaust emissions; and, if not, what action he is taking in this matter.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
The reduction of the maximum permitted amount of lead in petrol to 0.40 grammes per litre in 1981 will ensure that total lead emission from vehicle exhausts will remain stable at the 1971 level. The Government are considering what longer-term measures are desirable.
§ Mr. Goodhew
The Question that I asked was whether the right hon. Gentleman was satisfied that such a level would remove all risks to health. Could he, please, answer that?
§ Mr. Howell
I do not think that anyone in the country can answer that. That is why we are continuing, with urgency and thoroughness, our research into these matters. The most important point to 945 bear in mind is that lead is taken into the body through food and drink as well as by breathing. Indeed, food and drink produce greater quantities of lead in the body; it is that accumulation which is important. The Government's record over the whole range of research into lead levels in food, drink and petrol is commendable, but we are certainly not complacent about it. We are continuing our research and hope to reduce the level of lead in petrol as and when we can.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, apart from the problem of vehicle exhaust emission, many of my constituents are concerned about the emission of dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere from chemical plants? Is he satisfied that the environmental health departments of local authorities and the Health and Safety Executive have sufficient power and authority to deal with that?
§ Mr. Howell
I think so, and there is a separate Question down on that matter in response to which I hope to explain to my hon. Friend how additional steps are being taken in his constituency.