New Clause 20 - Building regulations: microgeneration

Part of Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:45 pm ar 9 Chwefror 2006.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Llafur, Southampton, Test 3:45, 9 Chwefror 2006

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The provisions that may arise from the new clause would in many ways reflect the aims and ambitions that the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle mentioned in speaking to his new clause 16. I understood his reasons for seeking to press his new clause to a vote, but I was a little sorry that, to try to ensure that the Bill reached the statute book, I considered it necessary not to vote for it. I think that everybody will wholeheartedly agree with much of what he said, however, and with the content of the new clause. I hope that all members of the Committee will be able to agree that new clause 20 would pave the way for much of what the hon. Gentleman sought to make a reality.

The new clause is the result of discussion of how such a clause could become law, following the tabling of a similar clause in the private Member’s Bill that I moved for Second Reading on 11 November last year—the Management of Energy in Buildings Bill. The ambition of that Bill, which is also central to the Bill before us, is that future building regulations should define the level of energy that houses should produce in relation to the amount of energy that they consume in any one year. An ideal building regulation would measure the amount of energy that a house used in a year, like the mileage on a vehicle. Under building regulations, the builder of such a house would be required to choose from a palette of different forms of microgeneration the forms that could be installed in a way that produced energy to a set proportion of the total amount generated. Therefore, the house would not simply be a relatively efficient low consumer of energy, but would be a positive producer of energy, as a result of the daily living that went on in it. Members of the Committee will not need much mathematics to realise that, if such a measure were installed in the new houses built each year, the gain in terms of the widespread introduction of microgeneration with a guaranteed market for microgeneration devices and the saving of CO2 would be enormous and would make a substantial contribution towards our target of   moving towards a low carbon and renewable energy economy where possible. Therefore, the new clause would have substantial potential, should it be adopted.

The new clause would pave the way towards that potential by introducing into the Building Act 1984 an additional range of items that building regulations may include. I am sure that when the new clause was first published, hon. Members anxiously scanned their copies of the 1984 Act. If they tried to do that by recourse to the internet, they will have realised that the publication of Bills on the internet goes back to 1988, which meant that I was ably assisted in obtaining the relevant schedule. That schedule sets out a large number of things that we are now familiar with from the various building regulations from A to L—or whatever they are; I should have worked out the number of letters. Nevertheless, there are regulations on the passage of sound, open spaces around buildings, ventilation, standards of heating—all the things that are included in the 1984 Act—and at the end is appended the statement that building regulations may be introduced on the production of heat or the generation of electricity by microgeneration as defined for the purposes of the paragraph in question by building regulations. Therefore, the Act looks to such a building regulation being enabled.

The code for sustainable buildings is widely known as the precursor to building regulations. It encourages those building new homes to go beyond the present building regulations and employ, as a matter of course, standards of building construction and finishing that are reasonably uniform and that mean a level playing field for development, but that go beyond the minimum that might be required by current regulations. In that sense, a code for sustainable development heralds what the direction of travel for building regulations is likely to be. However, the heralding is towards the top end of the code; the code is not where one might ideally like it to be.

My hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning said on Second Reading of my Management of Energy in Buildings Bill last November that

“there are additional ways we can promote micro-generation, such as through the code for sustainable buildings”.—[Official Report, 11 November 2005; Vol. 439, c. 660.]

That was a welcome and important statement on my Bill, which I hope can be reinforced by what is said on this new clause. Ideally, the code for sustainable buildings would be refined in terms of the requirements that it places on builders.