§ Mr. Don Foster
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent assessment has been undertaken by his Department of the(a) current and (b) projected future availability of sulphur-free fuel in (i) the UK and (ii) Europe; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Jamieson
I have been asked to reply.
Under a Common Position reached at the December 2001 EU Environment Council, member states set an EU-wide maximum limit for sulphur of 10ppm (termed "sulphur-free" fuel) from 1 January 2009, this date being subject to review by the Commission with respect to diesel fuel. The Common Position would also require member states to ensure the widespread availability of these fuels from 1 January 2005 in order that it is available for the latest technology vehicles that can take best advantage of it. The European Parliament will now consider the Common Position at its Second Reading.
Almost all petrol and diesel sold in the UK is already ultra low (50ppm) sulphur. Sulphur-free petrol and diesel has now been introduced at 18 retail sites in and around Edinburgh. Current availability of sulphur free fuels in most EU member states is minimal. However, sulphur-free diesel is quite widely available in Sweden and all super unleaded petrol is sulphur-free in Germany.
In the period up to 1 January 2009, the availability of sulphur-free fuels will he influenced by the rate of investment in new refinery technology needed to produce the fuels and also the level of fiscal incentives offered by individual member states to encourage its supply. In this respect, the Chancellor, in his recent Budget statement, announced plans to introduce duty incentives favouring sulphur-free fuels in 2003, subject to European agreement. Germany has also announced similar plans. The Benelux countries are also expected to follow this UK and German lead with the result that fairly widespread availability may be expected in these countries from 2003 onwards. Under the terms of the directive, widespread availability is to be expected in all EU member states from 2005.