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Mr. Stunell: The right hon. Gentleman is covering what has been described as retrospection, which is not a useful phrase. When I was preparing the Bill, one of my correspondents suggested that I was proposing town hall lock-watchers, who would come round every night and make sure that we were all locked up safely. It is not that sort of measure. When I explain its precise provisions in more detail, I hope that I can satisfy the right hon. Gentleman. If not, I am sure that he will let me know.

I have been in touch with the National Security Inspectorate and with the Secured By Design organisation of the Association of Chief Police Officers. To some extent, those two organisations are in competition commercially, but they are united in welcoming my Bill. They believe that it will prove an effective driver for sensible, proportionate crime reduction to be built in from the beginning and not added on as an extra.

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): Has my hon. Friend received any representations from organisations that oppose the Bill?

Mr. Stunell: I have not, but a critic might say that not all organisations are aware of the measure. However, those that know about it and those whom I have consulted appear to be clear that there is in the existing provision a gap that the Bill will successfully plug. Hardly any new buildings in the country are made for a specific client. Houses are sold to people, offices are rented or let to people and the person who occupies the building is seldom the person who built it. By and large, if the builder does not have to do something, he does not do it. I hope that my Bill will be seen as a way of plugging that gap.

There are several ways in which the Bill could make a significant difference in terms of crime reduction. The first relates to the conflict and tension that can exist between fire precautions and crime reduction. I understand that ACPO and the fire service are having high-level discussions about how to overcome some of those difficulties. This is a particular problem in high-rise buildings.

We have very high standards of fire protection in this country, and I have no wish to see them lowered. Indeed, when I was an architecture student, I attended a course of lectures in which pictures of bodies piled up behind jammed fire escape doors were intended to be—and

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were—a stern reminder to those of us designing buildings in those days that fire protection was of supreme importance. Like the fire service, I would like to see sprinkler systems used more widely, especially to cut arson damage in schools. However, we also need to prevent and deter crime. With a better regulatory framework, we can work towards having our cake and eating it, in the sense of having buildings that are safe from fire and safe from crime.

Mr. Dismore: I take a great interest in this issue, having, in my previous life as a solicitor, advised the Fire Brigades Union in relation to many disasters of this nature. The Bill refers to the security of buildings. Does the term "security" include security against fire as well as against crime? Would it not be better to have a joint regulatory system in which the regulations deal with both fire and security, to ensure that there is no lacuna of the kind that the hon. Gentleman has identified?

Mr. Stunell: The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. The difficulty at the moment is that it is not within the powers of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to make regulations relating to crime reduction, so that aspect tends to be the Cinderella—I was going to say the ugly sister—of the arrangements. I hope that, when my Bill is passed, we shall have the capacity for regulations to be made in a way that strikes a balance between those two requirements. That will deal with the current lacuna.

A further aspect of the crime reduction measures in the Bill is the installation and inspection of security systems. We all know only too well of alarms that ring and ring and ring. There are thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of defective security and alarm systems in this country. In some ways, it is not the ones that ring that cause concern, but those that do not. Quite properly, there is an obligation on building owners and users to keep their heating systems up to scratch, but there is none in regard to security systems. My Bill provides for the possibility of introducing such an obligation.

Mr. Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give the House an idea of how much an alarm company typically charges a householder for the regular inspection and maintenance of an alarm system over the course of a year? I know how much I pay, and I suspect that some people would have great difficulty meeting such costs.

Mr. Stunell: That is a very fair point. I should perhaps have emphasised earlier that I am providing an opportunity for regulations to be made. When the time comes for specific regulations to be made, they will of course be subject to a long consultative process, of which I am thoroughly in favour. I am not trying to take a short cut round any of the processes. It is extremely likely that the regulations would primarily be concerned with retail and commercial premises, rather than domestic premises. However, that would clearly be a matter for the consultation in the light of the legislation being passed by the House.

Mr. Hammond: I am confused now, because the hon. Gentleman has waxed eloquent about the emotional

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burden suffered by the victims of household burglary. Has not the thrust of his remarks so far been about improving the security of dwellings against crime?

Mr. Stunell: The hon. Gentleman is right. One of the most effective ways of protecting a house against burglary is to have locks, doors and windows that resist entry. I am not sure whether one would want to put on the public record that the efficacy of alarm systems in the domestic context is somewhat unproven, but they appear to provide more of a deterrent by their existence than by the fact that they go off. However, that is perhaps a subject for more detailed discussion later.

Sue Doughty (Guildford) (LD): I hope that our discussions on the Bill will take into account the amount of police time that is wasted by their coming out to deal with defective alarms. We have a big problem trying to deal with a very small police budget, and it causes the police great distress when they have to waste time dealing with such matters and are unable to tackle crimes that are much more deserving of their attention.

Mr. Stunell: My hon. Friend makes an important point. We could discuss this matter at length, and I would welcome further discussion when the Bill goes into Committee.

Mr. Hodge of Greater Manchester police gave me an example of failure to take advice. It related to a development in Oldham, where the developer had produced plans showing the layout of the homes and gardens, in which the rear garden fences were 600 mm high. For those who are still using old money, 600 mm is 2 ft. The developers were putting in back garden fences 2 ft high. Not surprisingly, the police drew their attention to the fact that this would not be very secure. The interesting point here is that the developer could simply say, "No, I'm sorry, we are going to stick with what we've got. We are leaving it to chance whether those homes are secure."

Mr. Hammond: An issue that I shall raise with the hon. Gentleman later relates to conflicts between different objectives. I am sure that he is aware that, in many cases, the advice that the police give on security and design conflicts directly with the views of the planners. For example, many people like to live in a cul de sac because they feel more secure. However, the latest thinking on sustainable design specifically rejects the idea of the cul de sac and encourages buildings to be fronted on to through roads. That is a good example of such a direct conflict. Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that problem?

Mr. Stunell: I do. I would simply draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that I am amending the building regulations, which do not relate to the spatial layout of dwellings. That is a matter for planning law in general. I am not trying to escape from his question, but my Bill has a more limited perspective: it deals with buildings, what makes buildings and what is joined on to buildings. My example about fences illustrates the grey area that exists between what is decided by planning and what may or may not be covered by building regulations. I shall seek to persuade

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the Standing Committee that we need to look carefully to determine whether the proposals can cover fences and boundary walls.

I hope that I have convinced the House that there is a problem of crime, so far as buildings are concerned, and that left to its own devices, the building industry has not only lacked urgency in dealing with the problem but, in some cases, deliberately rejected simple, sensible steps to improve the situation. I also hope that I have convinced the House that my Bill can make a significant difference by making buildings more secure and those who live in them much safer.

The sustainability part of my Bill is, of course, a huge and complex subject, and I must begin by alerting the House to the fact that this is not the big "answer to everything" Bill; it is a modest step towards making buildings in this country cheaper to run, healthier to live in, and less damaging to the planet. It may disappoint some people by its modesty, but if so, I hope that they will urge the Government in due course to bring forward a much more substantial sustainability Bill that can catch many of the wider issues that are not covered in my proposals. In that regard, I draw the House's attention to Library research paper 04/10, which has much useful background information on the context of my Bill and on the concept of sustainability.

The facts, however, are easily stated. First, we have one of the most inefficient building stocks of any western democracy. Secondly, we emit more carbon dioxide from our homes each year than from our cars, yet the House spends much more time struggling with transport policy than with housing policy. Thirdly, we are profligate with our use of energy in buildings. We could readily save some 13 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year by applying straightforward simple technologies and techniques to our current building stock, without even considering changing the fuels that we use to produce that energy. Fourthly, we kill 20,000 or more people each winter because of poorly insulated, poorly heated and poorly built homes. Fifthly, plenty of existing and readily available technology and materials can improve performance and dramatically reduce running costs.

Certainly, tearing everything down and starting again is not an option. For one thing, the buildings that we have at the moment have what is called embodied carbon in them—energy was used to build them, and rebuilding them would take even more energy. There is an analogy with the car, in that it is claimed that more energy is used building a car than will ever be burned by driving it. Currently, we are renewing only about 1 per cent. of our building stock each year, so the process of renewal and turnover is slow. We must therefore not only have rules that deal with new buildings, but do what is sensible and proportionate with existing buildings when they change.

If we accept climate change as a reality, and if we are to honour our Kyoto obligations, tackling the gross inefficiency and wastefulness of our building stock is essential. It is not only essential but easy—certainly it is easy compared with making people get out of their cars and get into a bus. It is also cheap, because in most cases it will reduce, not increase, the bills of people who use the equipment. It is also healthy. Were we to examine

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the costs imposed on the national health service, individuals and the economy by bronchitis, asthma and heart disease as a result of people living in poorly insulated and improperly heated buildings, we would find substantial savings to be made.

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