Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Lead Content in Petrol.


asked the Minister for the Environment the initiatives he has in mind to improve further the question of environmental policy specifically with regard to the lead content in petrol and in particular, in relation to the following vehicles: (a) ministerial cars (b) vehicles used by all Government Departments funded by the State (c) vehicles belonging to semi-State bodies, for example, CIE and Dublin Bus; and if he will make a statement on the possible time scale involved.

I intend to exploit fully the concession in excise duty announced in the 1989 budget which allowed unleaded petrol to retail at 5 pence less per gallon than the higher grades of leaded petrol. All sectors of the motor industry have an important role to play in this regard and, with the assistance of the steering committee on unleaded petrol, I will seek to ensure that the contribution of each sector is co-ordinated and carried out in a comprehensive and integrated way.

Specifically, I will continue to press for an expansion in the network of outlets for unleaded with a concentration on the filling of identified gaps, including larger centres of population, national routes and areas frequented by tourists. I have sought the co-operation of the motor trade in ensuring that a clear and permanent indication as to suitability to use unleaded is provided on every car which can use unleaded without adjustment and in publicising this fact in their promotional campaigns.

A revised and updated information leaflet was recently published and distributed to motor tax offices, libraries and other places frequented by the motoring public. Further updated versions will be published to take account of the expansion in the network. A radio information/awareness campaign has just ended and the need for further promotional campaigns is being reviewed.

Directive 88/76/EEC of 3 December 1987 provides,inter alia, for requiring new engines to be capable of running on unleaded petrol from specified dates. I am considering at present ways and means of transposing the Directive into Irish law and I intend to consult the relevant trade interests as soon as possible on the mechanics and the timing. While the use of unleaded petrol in State vehicles is the responsibility of the Departments or semi-State bodies concerned, my Department wrote to all Government Departments last July seeking their support and the support of bodies under their aegis for the campaign to promote the wider use and availability of unleaded petrol. It was suggested that the following action might be taken: identification of the existing vehicles which can use unleaded petrol with a view to changing over, where possible, to unleaded; ensuring that vehicles to be purchased can use unleaded; and briefing of relevant staff on the benefits of using unleaded.

My Department will continue to monitor progress made with these suggestions during the coming months. I intend to pursue with the Garda authorities the use of unleaded petrol in cars provided for Ministers of the Government and I hope to be in a position to make announcements in this regard in the near future.

In the case of organisations such as Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and the Office of Public Works, the vast majority of vehicles use diesel fuel, to which no lead has been added.

We must now proceed to deal with other questions. Question No. 5, please.

On a point of order, I would ask your indulgence considering that six minutes of this Question Time was spent on dealing with the first question from Deputy Ruairí Quinn.

I am sorry Deputy Shatter, that is quite irrelevant. The Chair is obliged to conform to Standing Orders of this House. If the time available for Priority Questions is not sufficient this House has a remedy. Question No. 5 please.

I would ask with respect that the Minister be given an opportunity to respond to Question No. 4.

Deputy Shatter, I cannot accede to your request.

It is a matter of some considerable importance in view of——

I insist on my instruction being carried out. Question No. 5 please.

Could I ask that I receive a reply to that question?

The Chair has no control over such matters.

Perhaps I can be helpful. If the Deputy would care to meet me at the top of the steps afterwards I can give him the benefit of the answer.

That is a very dangerous invitation.

I suppose it is but if I say it in the full knowledge of everybody in the House I do not run the risk of being talked about as talking to Deputy Shatter behind closed doors.

I want to find out when the new constituency boundaries commission will be appointed.

Please Minister, the next question.

Oh dear, oh dear.

Please treat the House with more seriousness.