|Building (Amendment) Regulations 2002
Mr. Clifton-Brown: The proposals are controversial and far-reaching. They would amend building regulations to require self-certification for all those who replace windows, roof lights, roof windows and doors to all buildings.
I declare an interest because I am a chartered surveyor. My profession will undoubtedly have to sort out some of the problems that the regulations present. Fees will be charged for that, although sadly I doubt that many of those fees will come my way.
I start where the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) started. This morning we received a serious charge from the Federation of Master Builders about poor consultation. It is a substantial body whose comments are serious and deserve proper consideration. It states:
According to the Library brief, in Scotland
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I have several detailed points to put to the Minister. Phil Davies of Davies & Tate, a firm in Kent that has been supplying windows to the trade for 25 years and installs them, wrote to the Department to say that small companies are finding life extremely difficult since the regulations came into force. The price and supply of coated glass is proving to be a major problem. Davies & Tate sales are down 25 per cent. since 1 April. The year-on-year business of a major supplier, Griffin Windows, is down 11 per cent. since 1 April, and its sales are down 600 a week. The statutory instrument is having a major effect on the industry.
The statutory instrument tells us that the Department has carried out a regulatory impact assessment. I suspect that the regulations will cost the industry, and above all, sadly, the consumer, a great deal of money. We need to know precisely what the benefits will be. How much will the regulations cost the industry, consumers and local authorities, which will have to administer the regulations?
The scheme involves self-certification and Fensa, but in some cases, the scheme will not apply to a particular window, and building regulations will have to be applied for. The fee will have to cover those situations.
Who will police the regulations? I assume that the local authority will, so we need to know how much it will cost them. If, as I am certain, it will cost over and above the fees, will the Minister guarantee that they will be fully reimbursed, or is this another example in the long catalogue of Government requirements on local authorities that are not properly funded?
As I said, the scheme is self-certified, but an issue is associated with it that relates to insurance. I understand that all those people wanting to be registered with Fensa must also have the Fensa quality assured insurance. We have heard from the Quality Assured National Warranties and Insurance Guarantee Association, which states:
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Indeed, costs will be increased for small businesses. Installers of new windows in existing houses need to register with Fensa, which will cost £100. They will then need to pay an annual membership fee of £50, an inspection charge of £100, a vetting fee of £200 and a revetting fee, if required, of £50. Surely, the only way for businesses to absorb such costs is to pass them on to the consumer through price increases. That is exactly what will happen. Will the Government tell us what the benefit will be?
How will the regulations be policed? A body of opinion believes that if any builderone self-employed man, perhapshas to go through the regulations and charge more for the windows that he installs, cowboy builders will be encouraged. Will the Minister tell us how he will stop them? Will we have an army of window snoopers going round the country looking for windows that have been installed in houses? When they have found them, for how many years after the event will it be possible to enforce the regulations? What will be the penalties? We need answers to those questions.
I tabled questions to the Government in preparation for this Committee, long before the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) made his prayer. One of the concerns is who will supply the glass, because it seems that Pilkington's K glass is the only readily commercially available glass that meets these regulations at the moment.
In one of the answers to those questions, the Government said that they were aware of three alternative firms, but I am not aware that those firms are yet able to supply the glass commercially to meet these regulations. I have a copy of a letter that states that the price of Pilkington's K glass mysteriously increased by 8 per cent. on 1 Aprilprecisely the day on which these regulations came into forceso it seems as though Pilkington may be using its monopoly position to extort money from the consumer. The Government need to keep that carefully under review, and if they find that that monopoly position is being abused, they will need to do something about it.
Why did not the Government consider using the simpler kite mark system instead of these complicated regulations? The British Standards Institution told me that it would be absolutely confident that it could produce a kite mark that would do exactly the same job as these regulations. If 10 years ago, when the Government introduced safety glass to stop children
Column Number: 10falling through windowsa huge and tragic dangerthey were perfectly happy that that problem could be solved by using a kite mark, why on earth cannot the problem of U values and insulation be solved with a simple kite mark system?
One of our correspondents has said that the only proper way to find out whether people have complied with these regulations is to remove the window and carry out laboratory tests on the frame, the glass and how the glass has been installed in the frame. There is no proper way to find that out when the window is in position. So why on earth are not windows sold with a simple kite mark system? The British Standards Institution has assured me that that could be done perfectly satisfactorily.
Having criticised the Government for not consulting properly, I should like to deal with another issue. There are 20,000 builders, many of whom, even now, may not be aware of these horrific regulations. How will the Government advertise these regulations and ensure that builders have a chance to comply with them? May I give the Minister an idea: why do we not place in every builders merchantB&Q and the rest of thema simple notice to alert builders and consumers who might purchase windows to the existence of these regulations? That would be a simple and good first step to alerting the general public about their existence.
I return to this costs business because this whole issue revolves around costs. I asked the Government what the costs would be. One of the slightly anomalous written answers that I received from the Minister's predecessor, the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead) stated:
The answer went on to say:
I come now to listed buildings. In an answer to a different question on 22 April, the Minister's predecessor said:
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The Minister might also pay particular attention to the fear that the regulations will drive through windows and doors that are not appropriate for listed buildings. I shall give one example. The character and vernacular of many Georgian buildings is especially retained by the thinness of the glazing bars. Thicker glazing bars will be required to meet the regulations, because one cannot install double-glazed units with those thin glazing bars. The Minister needs to consider such matters of detail carefully.
We have discussed how the regulations will be enforced. Will the Minister clarify how the provisions will work when a house is sold? As I understand it, every new window, door, roof-light and so on will have to have a certificate when it is installed. Theoretically, when a house is sold, the householder will have one or more of those certificates for windows replaced after 1 April. Will the Minister confirm that that is how he expects conveyancing to take place?
Will the local authority become involved in seeing those certificates? As I know from having practised in that field, damp certificates, which are very useful in conveyancing, are often the last document available because they have been lost, and yet they are an important guarantee. We need to know how the system is going to work. It is all very well to have a Fensa installer, but what happens when he installs a window and a DIY enthusiast, or another builder, makes an alteration to it, replacing the damp-proof course, for example? Would it make a difference if the window were taken out? Several details of the regulations need to be well and truly examined.
A person could completely re-wire and re-plumb his house and re-tile the roof. He could be electrocuted, drown or fall off the highest point of the building, and there is no regulation to cover that, yet we have a regulation to install a new door or window in every building. Does the Minister think that we will need regulations to cover electricians, plumbers and re-tilers in future?
I shall quote again from the company in Kent, Davies and Tate plc. Mr. Phil Davies has been a supplier to the DIY and independent fitters and the small builders' trade for 25 years. He says:
|©Parliamentary copyright 2002||Prepared 18 June 2002|