The government insisted yesterday it would keep a hands-off approach under its HK$3.2 billion scheme to replace old commercial vehicles, despite warnings that the subsidy may be 'eaten up' by car dealers. At a meeting of the Legislative Council's environmental affairs panel yesterday, commercial vehicle operators including those of diesel buses and trucks expressed fears that dealers would lift the prices of environmentally friendly vehicles to an extent that the subsidy might be 'eaten up'. They said many car dealers had so far been unable to quote the prices for trucks that met the European Union's Euro IV emission standard for vehicles sold in 2005 or later. Some could not say when the new models would be available in Hong Kong. Under the HK$3.2 billion scheme announced by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in October, owners of 74,000 diesel trucks that do not meet the higher standard may be eligible for a grant, equal to 12 to 18 per cent of the new vehicle's price, for replacement by Euro IV models within 18 months and three years, respectively. 'It will be a pity if such a good policy is turned into a loophole that the subsidy finally goes into the pocket of the dealers but not the operators,' said Alan Chan Chung-yee, secretary-general of China, Hong Kong and Macau Boundary-Crossing Bus Association. Roy Tang Yun-kwong, deputy director of the Environmental Protection Department, said there were already 124 models of Euro IV diesel vehicles available and more would be added to the list. 'We will not interfere in vehicle pricing. We are confident that the price will reach a reasonable level once there are sufficient models and suppliers to compete,' he said. Green critics continued to challenge the effectiveness of the proposed subsidy scheme, saying operators should be encouraged to replace old vehicles. 'The scheme is effectively pumping money to buy back public health but it doesn't mean that the money should be spent without achieving its aims,' said Hung Wing-tat, of the Conservancy Association. The Civic Party has proposed that fewer grants be offered to operators who delayed their decision to switch to cleaner models. But Mr Tang believed the modification would significantly affect the attractiveness of the scheme as it took time for operators to plan new vehicle investments.