Clause 7 - Energy requirements of buildings

Sustainable and Secure Buildings Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:30 am ar 9 Mawrth 2004.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Shadow Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I thank all those colleagues who have been able to join us again this morning. We made good progress last week and I hope that we can quickly come to a conclusion today with equal success, although judging from the smile on the Minister's face, I suspect that that may not be quite the case.

The clause clarifies that it is lawful for development plans drawn up by local planning authorities to specify the provision of energy from renewable sources in their developments. The London borough of Merton set a precedent with the policy adopted in its plan, which was based on the expectation that all non-residential developments of more than 1,000 sq m should include renewable energy production to provide 10 per cent. of energy requirements in a new building, where viable. There is now a list of a further 24 authorities undertaking a similar process. The clause is designed to prevent those 24 and others that follow them from facing the difficulties, hassle and uncertainty that Merton faced.

My point is in no way partisan. The Labour party controls the London borough of Merton, and the other 24 authorities are a good mixture by type, geographical location and political control. Perhaps the Committee will understand if I draw attention to the fact that one of the first authorities in the queue to follow Merton is the London borough of Bromley, and one of its Members of Parliament spoke on Second Reading. The clause would directly facilitate local authorities represented in the House by a wide range of Members with a considerable variety of outlooks, so I hope that nobody will accuse of riding a partisan hobby-horse.

The Minister has sent me a letter, which I have placed on the Table and which is available to other members of the Committee. I understand that he intends to speak to that letter. I seek some stronger and further assurances from the Minister. It is important that those authorities now in the process and those that may follow them should be given not only a no hassle guarantee, but some encouragement that following Merton is a good thing to do. The Minister's officials—not those concerned with building controls, but those from elsewhere in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister—made it difficult for Merton to achieve what is now being achieved. At several steps along the way, officials from the Department told the borough in plain words, ''If you dropped this, it would a lot easier for everybody.''

One, perhaps fortunate, consequence was that Merton girded its loins, did the business anyway and challenged the ODPM to put up or shut up. Due to either mature consideration or perhaps embarrassment, the Department shut up. Merton now has the relevant provisions in its draft plan, unamended by the Department. News of the likelihood of hassle and conflict with the ODPM, spread through the powerful network of local government communication, has put off many local authorities. Goodness knows, there are enough problems between central and local government already, without stirring things up. It is a significant disincentive if the word on the net is, ''Folks, it would be much better if you didn't do this''. I hope that the Minister agrees, as I think his letter sets out, that the question should not be whether authorities can squeeze such plans through, but whether they should be positively encouraged to do so. I want a no hassle guarantee.

One qualification in the Minister's letter relates to ensuring that there are no undue burdens on business. I certainly agree about that. It is like asking whether the provisions should be reasonable: of course they should be reasonable, and of course there should not be undue burdens. The Green Alliance, among others, has set out mechanisms that might be a reasonable test of whether there are undue burdens, taking into account land prices, for instance. Merton managed to satisfy that test, and it would be helpful if the Minister said that the ODPM was minded not to be unduly restrictive in its interpretation of an undue burden.

The Minister's letter sets quite a lot of store by the idea that we should wait for planning policy statement 22, which will come in the summer. On another occasion, I had some fun at the Government's expense with the civil service definition of ''spring''. On that occasion, spring ended on 31 July. If spring ends on 31 July, I want to know when summer starts and ends. Please may we not be left for month after month with uncertainty hanging about? In such circumstances, local authorities, which have other timetables to meet with regard to plan setting, will say, ''Oh—''. I will not use the non-parliamentary word that sprang to mind. An authority will say, ''Well, skip it. We'll go ahead and leave out the provision,'' and for another 10 years, that authority will lose the opportunity that is there.

I want to know what the timing is, and I want to know that the Minister will provide encouragement. I hope that he will also pick up some of the strong points made in the Green Alliance consultation, which was held in January and attended by officials from the ODPM and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It was pointed out that there is tremendous advantage to sustainability if we allow the concept to include combined heat and power. I hope that, as well as speaking to the letter, the Minister will say that his Department is now minded to ensure that the Thames Gateway project, for instance, will have a significant slice of zero-energy housing. The Government are the landlord and planning authority, and, with the ODPM, the approver of

plans, and it should be simple for such a straightforward step to be taken.

I hope that I have made it clear that if the Government give me the assurance that I want, the clause will not be necessary. In that case, it will be on the record, available to any planning officer in the country, that a Minister speaking on behalf of the ODPM said that sustainability is a right and proper thing to include in local plans; that the Government want to encourage local authorities to do so, and that they will do nothing to put barriers in the way of authorities doing that if they so choose. If the Minister can give that assurance, I will be content.

Photo of Mr Brian White Mr Brian White Llafur, North East Milton Keynes

The Minister has gone some way towards alleviating my fears by clarifying, in his letter, the legal doubt, but one of my concerns is that the requirement in the letter to stick closely to the wording in the Merton plan may be unduly restrictive. I want to ask some questions, because we are in danger of missing another opportunity and having to return in two or three years' time to ask why we did not use it. The Government would be in difficulty because they had not used the opportunity. The Minister should reflect on the danger that removing the clause will mean another missed opportunity.

The Government will, through the sustainable communities plan, be doing an awful lot of work on housing development in the next few years. The Minister will know, representing a constituency in the same sub-region as mine, about the Milton Keynes and south midlands study. Shortly there will be an examination in public. Are the inspectors and regional planning guidance authorities being advised that taking into account the energy requirements of the new buildings is a valid way forward?

It is important, particularly in light of the number of local plans that are undergoing examination at the moment, and the examination in public of regional plans, that a message should come from the ODPM, to the inquiries and the people who are doing the work, that it is not only permissible but desirable to deal with the energy requirements. It is particularly important that that message should go to inspectors, because they sometimes take time to catch up with advances in Government policy.

Including the requirement in local plans is probably the cheapest way for the Government to achieve their objectives on fuel poverty, energy efficiency and matters such as the CHP target. All those could be achieved much more easily through the mechanism of local plans than by the interventionist model and going to the Treasury for money. The Government are in danger of costing themselves money later by not taking the present opportunity. Recently, in another Department, the head of a section who was talking about CHP did not know that it was a manifesto commitment, or that it was in the energy White Paper, and even asked, ''What is CHP going to do for energy efficiency?'' When that kind of comment is made by a civil servant, it makes for an ambience that affects people further down the line.

I agree with the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Stunell) about the message that is going to local authorities. If local planners do not believe that something is a key requirement, they will not do it. It is important that the Minister not only states, in his letter, that the matter will be in PPS 22, but explains that the Government want to make progress with it.

We know that the approach works. In development corporations that have used it—and I cite Milton Keynes development corporation, which had its own energy rating system—it advanced tremendously the cause of energy efficiency in building new houses. The requirement in the local plan was very simple; there would be certain energy requirements. If that could happen in Milton Keynes 30 years ago, why can it not happen now? Local authorities should be encouraged to take that route.

The Minister's letter uses the words ''no undue burden'', but something else is important—a level playing field. What builders fear most, and a reason why things do not happen, is that those who want to do the right thing fear being undercut by the unscrupulous. The requirement that there be ''no undue burden'' is actually the Minister saying, ''We will go to the lowest level.'' That is what happens in reality. I ask the Minister to reflect on that, and to make it clear that the idea that there should be ''no undue burden'' is intended to mean not going to the lowest level, but aiming for the highest.

Photo of Alan Simpson Alan Simpson Llafur, Nottingham South

Perhaps I should begin with a declaration of interest. I am about to do precisely what the clause suggests, and I suppose that that gives me a vested interest in supporting it. The reason I mention that is that, having acquired a derelict shell in the middle of Nottingham, with a view to doing work on it over the next year, I have been surprised at the reactions of the people I count as my friends. By and large they think, albeit affectionately, that I am daft. I shall not ask hon. Members to comment, but the experience raises issues, for me, about the extent to which our exhortations as a Government to take the sustainability agenda seriously are believed by the public. If one cannot get one's friends to believe that one is serious, how does one get doubters to believe it?

The Labour Government have the right to be proud of a great deal. We are the only Government in history who have set a target to eradicate fuel poverty in its entirety by 2016, eradicating fuel poverty for those in greatest need by 2010. We will be faced with the practical issue of how to deal with those parts of the housing stock that present the greatest difficulties—the hard-to-heat housing stock. There is no question but that we are going to have to address the issue of renewable energies in that process.

I was reading a report from Neighbourhood Energy Action, Stratford-on-Avon district council and South Warwickshire housing association, which set out their initiative for solutions to rural fuel poverty. I was taken aback by a simple fact in the introduction: it points out that 28 per cent. of the rural population do not have access to mains gas, which is the cheapest fuel

for home heating. If we combine that with the presence of solid wall properties and the inability to put in cavity wall insulation, there is no question but that we are going to have to look towards renewable energy to address the energy needs of the 21st century. The question is how we do that.

Quite a long time ago, my local authority in Nottingham invested in a district heating system that took domestic waste and put the heat that it generated back into heating for 20,000 to 30,000 homes in the city along with the courts and the major commercial centre. The authority faced many difficulties but in principle it was right to do that.

When I look at the list of initiatives that have been taken in the decades since, I see that they are very few. As I understand it, only one project, in Southampton, attempts to harness geothermal energy. That is an imaginative project, and we should welcome and support it. Grants are now available for photovoltaics, and those are welcome even though the installation costs are still substantial for most households that would consider it—barely affordable, unless one is starting from a position of gutting the place.

We have to look at the mechanisms and incentives for local authorities. I was almost tempted to say to the hon. Member for Hazel Grove that in introducing and speaking in support of clause 7 he ought perhaps to have rebranded it as a counter-terrorist measure. We ought to get the chief scientific advisor to come and add his comments—or not—about the risk that ignoring climate change and the energy and carbon emissions that we generate will be the greatest threat to our society for the rest of our lives. To give local authorities the permission to set targets seems to me not to be an undue burden at all.

The danger is that we will go from saying that this is light-touch, non-intrusive regulation to not being serious. That is the greatest threat that we face in undermining so much of what the Government have done. We have taken the important steps, and in many respects we have taken seriously the easy steps in that process. However, we now know that we have hit a critical position in our warm front programme. There are only so many low-energy light bulbs that people can eat; one would want to fit only so many draught excluders; only so many properties can take cavity wall insulation; and one can only bung in so much loft insulation.

We have to look not just at the consumption of energy but at the generation of energy. That is why giving local authorities the permission to give the lead in practical terms to the arguments set out nationally by the Government in theoretical terms does not seem to be an intrusive burden. In fact it is almost a green light to get local authorities on our side. If we can do that as a Committee and a Government, we need to ask ourselves why we would want not to give that green light of encouragement.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Housing and Planning) 9:45, 9 Mawrth 2004

I am inspired to speak in this debate by the contributions of the hon. Members for Milton Keynes, North-East (Brian White) and for Nottingham, South

(Alan Simpson). The contribution of the latter was, as ever, an apposite one. I do not think that he is strange, peculiar or weird. Indeed, I regard him extraordinarily highly. The hon. Gentlemen's contributions draw our attention to three points. They are the only points that I shall make in this debate because I want to have the maximum time to move on to consider the Bill in full.

First, when we consider such issues, it is vital that we set our expectations as high as possible, because, as the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East pointed out, unless we set the bar high, we have little chance of clearing it. The danger faced by all Governments of all parties is trimming at an early stage: setting expectations at a medium or low level, and then perhaps not even achieving those low expectations. There is an issue about how much we expect. That can be dealt with without obligation; it can be dealt with in guidance. The hon. Gentleman talked about making the measures desirable. I thought that that was an appropriate way of referring to the encouragement needed or the incentive—we are certainly talking about an expectation—to set the standards high.

Secondly, there is the issue of long-termism: the strategic thinking that needs to imbue our approach to this kind of measure. Local and central Government, because of the nature of human frailty, make mistakes, but mistakes in housing are mistakes that future generations pay for dearly. It seems to me that our history over the past 30 or 40 years shows us that, when we make those mistakes, we live with a legacy that is sometimes very hard to do much about. The cost of bringing in measures that would allow for energy efficiency in existing properties is often prohibitive because of the scale, the number of properties and the nature of the materials used to construct them. The judgments that we make now will have a long-term impact. Housing errors cannot be easily corrected.

The third issue—perhaps this is where I move away from the comments that have already been expressed, or at least add to them—is that in looking at sustainability, renewable energy and the idea of building into our considerations strategic thinking about energy needs and how we are going to satisfy them, we need to look at the impact that the measures have environmentally. I am talking about the footprint that they make. There are significant differences between the approaches involved. It would be monstrous of the Government to have low expectations about, for example, solar energy and solar panels, which can be fitted to houses with a small impact on their aesthetics, and yet be dictatorial about wind energy and 330 ft wind turbines, which have a massive and often detrimental effect on their environment and the landscape. Measuring the effect of different approaches to renewable energy is important. Although I share the views of the hon. Member for Hazel Grove, and of other contributors, it is important that there is better measurement when it comes to the footprint—the environmental consequences—that will be left by the Government's measures on renewable energy and the technology associated with it.

I hope that the Minister will address those points. The Prince of Wales, who has figured once already in our considerations, made two speeches, nine years apart, which I want to refer to in summing up. I know that you will be ready to pounce on me if I stray from the subject, Mr. Hurst, so I hasten to say that I am not going to mention the prayer book; mentioning it once is quite enough. On 30 May 1984, the Prince of Wales said:

''One of the prime requirements of a good architect should be to be concerned about the way people live, about the environment they inhabit and the kind of community they want to live in.''

That is about setting our expectations high and thinking long term about our housing policies. Nine years later, he said,

''we must build houses that people actually want to live in—not repeat the mistakes of earlier decades which saw the creation of impersonal soulless estates and tower blocks which created more problems than they solved.''

Of course, the Prince of Wales was not simply talking about energy, fuel poverty or renewables, but much of what he said could be applied to the subject we are debating in the clause. There is a need for high expectation, long-term thinking and a need to consider the whole impact of the housing decisions that we make.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Llafur, Stoke-on-Trent North

I feel compelled to speak briefly in support of the comments of the hon. Member for Hazel Grove and my hon. Friends. I would like the Minister to tell us why he cannot support clause 7. To me, it is the fundamental part of the proposals.

It is clear from the membership of the Committee that we are a group of individuals very committed to dealing with climate change, and committed to environmental sustainability. We are here because we choose through our work in Parliament and in our constituencies to seek a joined-up approach throughout Government, local government and the country. To me, the bottom line is that wherever there is an opportunity to advance the argument, we take that opportunity, and we catch legislation as it comes by. This private Member's Bill has come to Committee, and we all want to make it work.

Clause 7 is fundamental to what the Government are trying to do in other Departments. We have already had draft electricity and gas amendment orders. This afternoon, there will be a debate on Department of Trade and Industry regulations that will advance the whole issue by a tiny step. It seems to me that we are losing out on a wonderful opportunity. The ODPM is looking at its housing programme and all the new housing that is going to be built. We have heard about the sustainable communities Bill, and the money that has been spent on the housing pathfinder, which has been spent in my constituency as well.

Why can we not have a bottom line? Are the Government saying that they will introduce a two-tier system so that in the affluent south-east, where people associate quality with sustainability and there is a question of what is affordable in terms of what is right for the environment, the regulations will be taken up

by local authorities who are at the cutting edge of delivering the environmental agenda? Those authorities might be prepared to make extra investment where they may have expertise among the officers drawing up the proposals. That might be all right, but it will not be all right for other local authorities in the north-west.

Are the Government going to introduce a two-tier system of housing that will make it more difficult to deal with fuel poverty issues and to meet our obligations on those issues in 2016 and 2010? I want the Minister to explain why he is not taking that opportunity when it is ready and waiting.

Finally, I would like to talk about one more issue. I remember, because of all the wonderful work that my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South has done, visiting a housing initiative with my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mrs. Clark) in Nottinghamshire in the early days of the Environmental Audit Select Committee. We were shown new housing in which the windows had the highest possible energy efficiency standards. That visit raised the question why regulations were not applied across the country so that all homes being built could have those higher energy efficiency standards, not just the few in an area where they had been promoted. One of the consequences of our not having introduced the regulations was that none of those windows were supplied by British manufacturing; they were supplied by Scandinavian contractors. It was early days for the Labour Government, and we had not provided a steer for that to happen.

It is very short-sighted of the Government not to consider the long-term implications of the matter. I know that the Minister is committed to sustainable development issues; I therefore ask him to say why clause 7 is not appropriate, and I shall listen with great interest to his response.

Photo of David Kidney David Kidney Llafur, Stafford 10:00, 9 Mawrth 2004

What my hon. Friend said struck a chord with me. In 1997–98 she visited a development in Nottingham that could not get manufactured energy-efficient materials such as windows in this country. At the end of last year, I went to BedZed, the zero-emissions development at Beddington Corner, Hackbridge, which is on the Epsom line. The development is an example of marvellous energy efficiency: it has triple-glazed windows, insulated cavities and loft spaces, district waste and heating systems, and power points in the car parks for electric cars to recharge. Everything about the development is highly desirable, and every bit of the construction equipment comes from elsewhere in the world because it could not be made in this country. Six years on, British manufacturers have still not been given a signal to give them the confidence that there would be a home market for their products if they made them. I say, come on Minister, give them that signal now!

Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

Everyone seems to have had their Weetabix this morning. The hon. Member for Hazel Grove gave a stirring

introduction to clause 7, duly followed by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. I hope that they will accept my assurances that the clause is not needed, because the Government share their aspirations.

Planning policy statements, especially in relation to policy context, set out how sustainable development should be tackled. I assure the Committee, in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South, that increased development of renewable energy resources is essential to facilitate the delivery of the Government's commitments on climate change and renewable energy.

Positive planning, which is set out in PPS 22, facilitates renewable energy development, and we believe that it can contribute to all the elements of the Government's sustainable development strategy. The statement is central in that regard. A consultation draft was published in November 2003, and following representations we agreed to add, in the final version, additional material on encouraging the inclusion in plans of policies relating to the use of renewables in buildings. I will come to PPS 1 in a moment.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Llafur, Stoke-on-Trent North

Will my hon. Friend expand on what he means by ''encouraging''?

Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

I cannot tell my hon. Friend now what the wording will be, as the document is still being drafted. However, when it is completed, I want all my hon. Friends to appreciate that it is the vehicle by which the outcomes that everyone wants will be achieved. As the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) said, we want to set high expectations and to have a long-term vision, but we do not want to set obligations that will not achieve the outcomes that we require. We are trying to strike a balance—

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Housing and Planning)

The key point is whether there will be encouragement or expectation, as there is a difference between the two. Although I said clearly that I did not expect an obligation, the Minister will understand the relevance of the word ''expectation'' in planning policy guidance.

Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

I do understand that but, regrettably, I cannot give the wording to Committee members this morning. The points that have been made on PPS 22—both here and outside the Committee—push very hard for it to have additional wording to encourage the use of renewable energy within buildings.

It is difficult, and we have to reach a balance. I understand that all Committee members want to go further, faster, but we have to ensure that any targets in proposed policies do not act as a deterrent to needed development. Hon. Members will appreciate that we have to get that balance right.

As the hon. Member for Hazel Grove has made clear, it is already possible for local planning authorities to include targets in development plans that set an expectation for the percentage of total energy in new buildings to come from renewable sources. Some local authorities are already doing that: the Merton plan, to name the example that he gave, is a case in point. The hon. Gentleman was rather harsh

in his assessment of ODPM officials, but I will not pursue that. There was a difficult issue to resolve in the matter that he mentioned. As he says, other planning authorities are proposing to follow the example of Merton.

I have cited PPS 22, which is specific. I now want to bring to Committee members' attention draft PPS 1: the core document that outlines the planning principles that affect the whole planning system, and from which subsequent planning guidance will flow. That overarching statement of core planning policies and principles was published on 1 March, and it puts sustainable development at the heart of the planning system.

The document, which is now out for consultation, states:

''Policies should reflect a preference for minimising the need to consume new resources over the lifetime of the development by making more efficient use or re-use of existing resources rather than making new demands on the environment; and for seeking to promote and encourage, rather than restrict, the development of renewable energy resources. Consideration should be given to encouraging energy efficient buildings, community heating schemes, and the use of combined heat and power in developments''.

That is a significant development on the route down which we wish to travel. It is a very recent document and I appreciate that some Committee members may not yet have seen all the details. It gives an assurance of the seriousness of our intent on energy efficiency, and on embedding renewables and CHP into the system.

We are taking new steps in the planning system. That is why we do not need the clause. I have given assurances regarding new wording in PPS 22 and the core planning principles outlined in PPS 1. Committee members have raised the issue of how people feel about that culture. There are keys phrases such as ''encouraging expectations'' and so on in legislation, but it is important that everybody is committed to the issue. Committee members are right: the Government need to give a lead, but everyone, including the local authorities, needs to play their part.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) gave a good example, but I cannot remember the exact location even though he read out the entire address. That is the kind of example that we should hold up. It demonstrates the high levels of expectation and achievement that are possible when people put their minds to it. The more that we can identify, celebrate and promote such examples of good practice, the more we can encourage planning authorities, developers and others to see whether they can incorporate similar measures into their plans, whether they are working in Milton Keynes, my own constituency of Corby, where housing is set to grow, or anywhere else.

Photo of Alan Simpson Alan Simpson Llafur, Nottingham South

I thank the Minister for giving way and for the tone of what he has been saying. I do not wish to press him on the discussions that he is still having on PPS 22, but will he take from this sitting a recognition that an important distinction must be drawn between the message that goes from the Government to local authorities, which takes the form of encouragement, and the powers that local

authorities have to make that encouragement a reality? Only if local authorities feel that they can set requirements will developers and manufacturers accept the seriousness of the message and the fact that there is a market for such buildings. The question is whether the sequence will be ''encourage and encourage'', or ''encourage and empower to set standards''.

Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. The Government certainly will consider the tenor of this debate as well as specifics about the direction in which people wish to travel. The statements in PPS 1 are significant—in fact, they are profound—in that they frame the whole of the planning system and its purpose, not only for local authorities but at a regional level as local authorities establish regional economic development strategies that include sustainable development. I shall not go through every part of Government policy, but a consistent theme is played out through all the mechanisms and tiers of central and local government.

I also wish to mention the sustainable buildings task group. Yesterday, I met Sir John Harman and Victor Benjamin, the co-chairs of the task group established by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Deputy Prime Minister. Its purpose is to seek a quick response from the public and private sectors as to what we can do to ensure that we build sustainable buildings. I have encouraged the task group to bring forward its recommendations as swiftly as possible. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley) said that we should grab opportunities as they arise. The task group presents us with a real opportunity to capture support for what we are doing not only from the public sector but from the private sector as well.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Llafur, Stoke-on-Trent North

Is there scope at this late stage for the task group to consult with CERAM Research in north Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent college of further education, which is about to set up a £5 million construction centre? It is essential that we research new construction methods that incorporate this agenda into new work and new investments.

Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend for that helpful intervention. I shall draw those examples of good practice in my hon. Friend's constituency to the attention of the task group. It is seeking consultation with house builders, local authorities and regional authorities, and is always on the lookout for examples of good practice.

I want to pick up on the point about the timetable; that is, when is the summer not summer but spring, or the other way around. The final draft of PPS 22 will be published this year. In addition to that statement with new wording, we will publish a companion guide that will give examples of good practice—we heard about three or four this morning. We must ensure that the companion guide is as comprehensive as possible so that local authorities, the private sector and everyone concerned will understand that its aims are not just theory. We do not have to travel all the way to

Scandinavia to find examples of good practice; they can be found in the UK.

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Shadow Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The Minister is being extremely helpful, but ''the summer'' has now become ''this year''. Perhaps he would elaborate a little more on that.

The unitary development plans produced by local authorities are deemed to be in force and can be used as operational documents, even at the draft stage. Can the Minister give an assurance that the material that will be published will also be operational in the relationship between his and other ODPM officials and local planning authorities, which still look over their shoulder and wonder whether they have to go through the same hassle that Merton did?

Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister 10:15, 9 Mawrth 2004

I wanted to address that point. I understand that there was what the hon. Gentleman described as a period of hassle for Merton. As I said, his opinion of ODPM officials was a little harsh, but that is water under the bridge. Whatever lessons had to be learned have been learned. We want to ensure that responsibility lies with local planning authorities—not only the 24 but the other 380. Given the encouragement in PPS1 and PPS22, we hope that all authorities will share the enthusiasm of those 24.

When I talk about this year, I mean this summer. The consultation on the planning guidance closed on 30 January, and we had 600 responses. We want to publish the results in the summer, along with the companion guide, which will give good examples. I am not sure whether I could give many more positive and encouraging messages to indicate the direction in which the Government want to travel.

Photo of Mr Brian White Mr Brian White Llafur, North East Milton Keynes

There is one way in which the Minister could do that. The ODPM is a landowner, and some of its agencies are developers in English Partnerships. It could give a strong steer to the market through its actions as a landowner and through its agencies. Will the Minister give a commitment this morning that the ODPM, in its guise as landowner, and its agencies will live up to our expectations as regards renewable energy in new buildings?

Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

I regret that I cannot wing it completely this morning and give a commitment on behalf of English Partnerships, its landowners and property owners. Clearly, however, we must tell ourselves what we tell everyone else. My hon. Friend's general point is fair, and in dealing with local authorities and private house builders, we should remember that we have our own stock. We talked earlier about Crown property being covered by the Bill. We understand the need at least to put our own house in order if not to demonstrate the way forward, and the millennium villages and communities are examples of where the Government have put their money where our mouth is and sought to encourage excellent practice.

Photo of Mr Brian White Mr Brian White Llafur, North East Milton Keynes

But my understanding is that English Partnerships has just accepted a tender from a builder who, rather than proposing a programme that takes environmental issues into consideration, will build the largest number of houses at the lowest price. That goes

against the grain of what the Minister says. Will he therefore take this morning's message back to his agencies?

Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

I will take it back. I cannot comment on the case that my hon. Friend raises, but the message has been well and truly put across this morning.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Housing and Planning)

This is an important part of the discussion. If the Government carried out a cost-benefit analysis of the effectiveness of different renewable technologies or of measures to improve ventilation facilities and the retention of heat, those affected by the additional overheads would be reassured. The worst thing that we could do would be to force people to do things that did not yield great benefits. That would not be necessary if we did a cost-benefit analysis.

Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. Of course, any new building regulations undergo a consultation period and a regulatory impact assessment to ensure that they will have the desired outcome. That also ensures that there are no unintended consequences, and that people do not, for example, stop building houses for others to live in because the regulations are over-prescriptive, lacking in flexibility or unable to deal with different market circumstances. What matters is what works, what will encourage people to move in the right direction, and what are the levers for change that will affect central and local government and the private sector as they go about their building work.

We have had a good and long discussion, and the Government well understand the Committee's enthusiasm. In addressing hon. Members' points, I have explained why the clause is not needed and set out the specific new steps that we are taking to ensure that we move in the right direction. With that, I hope that the hon. Member for Hazel Grove and others will accept that the clause cannot stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Shadow Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

We have had a very good debate, and I thank all hon. Members who have contributed to it. I hope that the Minister will reflect on the discussion and that he felt the heat on this issue. That is not really fair on him, because he is speaking on behalf of the ODPM, and his ministerial responsibilities do not cover this area. I know that what he has had to do is at second or even third hand, which is all the more credit to him.

There is a grey area between what building regulations can reach and what planning controls and policy can address. My clause was an attempt to ensure that the Government face up to the need to deal with that crossover so that we avoid the situation, which has happened, in which someone comes up with one way of solving the problem but is told that it is a matter for building regulations, not planning, or the converse in which someone comes up with a solution but is told that it is a matter for planning, not for building regulations. Some of the basic questions, such as orientation of houses, slip through the gap.

Unless sustainability is a material and proper consideration and is built into planning, we will continue to make the same mistakes and build houses with large windows facing north. As the hon.

Member for South Holland and The Deepings said eloquently, we have been making mistakes in building construction for the past six or seven decades. We keep looking back and thinking that we would have a much more sustainable building stock if we knew then what we know now, or if we had taken intelligent decisions based on what we knew but did not act on.

I hope that the Minister understands what the Committee is trying to do and what my clause is trying to achieve. From the outset, I have had much support and help from members of the Town and Country Planning Association—the professional body of planners—who were clear that my description of the Merton process was nearer to reality than the Minister's. However, let us not go down that path.

The hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings made a very helpful contribution when he said that we should aim to set high standards. Standards tend to be diluted as the process goes on: if we do not start with high standards, we will not even finish with medium ones. I hope that the Minister will accept that we need to look at the long term.

The hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings also made the very important point that we need to consider micro-generation—the small contributions that can be made at individual building sites—as well as macro-generation. In the 1960s, we used to build power stations of 1,500 MW. In the future, we will build 15 KW power stations. We need to start thinking differently, and I hope that my new clause and the Minister's good intentions will make it easier to do that.

Last week, the hon. Gentleman suggested an index of beauty and introduced the new concept of monarchy diktats, apparently citing the Prince of Wales as an authority for just about everything. I believe, however, that we should be more rational and objective. Nevertheless, I thank him for his support for what the Liberal Democrats are trying to do.

The hon. Member for Nottingham, South spoke eloquently about his plans. I must tell him that Nottingham is not on the list of 24 authorities in the queue, but perhaps he will put that right soon.

Other Members made important points, especially about sustainability being an opportunity for jobs and employment. We must switch on the concept of sustainability. So many industries and producers are knocking on my door, never mind the Government's door, saying that they have a product that they could build, manufacture or market in this country to the benefit of the UK economy if they had a sufficiently large market. I hope that the Government—a Labour Government, for goodness' sake—are seized of the importance of that.

The BedZed project was mentioned, and is another example of hassle. I happen to know a little about that project. It is based in the London borough of Sutton, which is controlled by the Liberal Democrats. It had the most awful trouble getting permission from anybody in Whitehall to make a concessionary sale of land in order for that development to go ahead. That is another example of the institutional barriers that mean that there is only one BedZed in the

country. That is because other local authorities think, ''We don't need the hassle which comes from locking horns with central Government on those issues.''

Photo of David Kidney David Kidney Llafur, Stafford

One thing that I did not mention about BedZed is the name of the architect: Bill Dunster. The Minister should note his name and have a meeting with him, because he is keen to develop the BedZed concept across the country. He is in talks with local councils and Departments about future sites, but he could do with some helping hands to get some work done. For the benefit of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley)—he has even been to Stoke-on-Trent.

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Shadow Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am sure that, on reflection, the hon. Gentleman would want to withdraw the word ''even.''

That was a helpful intervention. The same Bill Dunster has produced an estimate on the likely additional cost of having the requirement for sustainability built in—BedZed multiplied. He pointed out that with a 100-unit BedZed, which is a zero-energy construction, there would be on-costs of about 30 per cent., but if that number were increased to 5,000, the on-costs would be negligible. With a larger volume, the unit cost and other costs drop, and we move from having costs to having cost advantages, as we can consider using local—or at least UK-produced—materials.

I return to my point about Thameside, and I hope that the Minister will take that message back. He said that he was interested to hear that the draft was beefed up following consultation, and that the final version will be far stronger and far more positive. I am extremely pleased to hear that, and I am pleased that there will be a guide setting out some of the possibilities opened up by the note. I look forward to seeing both of them in the summer. I do not know if Hansard goes in for capital letters, but I should like the words ''in the summer'' to be capitalised. I should like to think that when we carefully consider the Minister's words in the cold light of Hansard, we can say that they permit local authorities to get weaving with their plans now, on the basis that the draft will allow them to go in the direction in which the whole Committee has said that it wants them to go.

I commended the clause at the beginning of today's proceedings and I have received some assurances. I know that the Minister is a man of integrity, and that his Department has all our best interests at heart, most of the time. I should like to think that the fact that this clause appeared in my Bill has been a major stimulus to the Department getting its skates on. I hope that Members' contributions to the debate have persuaded the Minister that, were he or the Deputy Prime Minister to think of backsliding, a significant number of Members would be on his back in a flash. On that basis, I shall not press the clause at this stage.

Question put and negatived.

Clause 7 disagreed to.

Clause 8Energy efficiency of housesin multiple occupation