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Mr. Stunell: I have a view on whether that would be desirable, but whether it is feasible is another question entirely. It should be borne in mind, however, that buildings contain fixed equipment, services and appliances of all kinds, which should be covered by regulations. The current building regulations cover them to a limited extent, but I think that my examples should be at the forefront of the Minister's thinking when he is devising more detailed provisions.
Subsection (4) refers to "recycling and composting facilities". I am toldI dare say the Minister will say it againthat current building regulations may well cover that, and if so we will probably discuss it in Committee. My point is that buildings constructed for the future must be fit for purpose, which will mean incorporating recycling and composting facilities where appropriate.
I was asked earlier about the sale, letting and re-letting of buildings. Subsection (5) covers that point, and makes it possible to introduce regulations to deal with the circumstances of a change in tenancy or ownershipa sale or resale.
Energy use in the industrial sector has declined by 50 per cent. in the last 30 years, mainly because the industry has gone. Public sector energy use has declined by 9.5 per cent. over the same period and the commercial use of energy has increased by 68 per cent. It is in the commercial sector that opportunites arise, when tenancies change, to update buildings that may be 20, 30 or 40 years old to ensure that they have up-to-date heating and cooling equipment, that they are reasonably airtight and properly insulated.
Mr. Forth: We are grateful to the hon. Gentleman for taking us through the Bill with such care, which will help hon. Members to respond to it. On this particular point, however, does he have any estimate of the impact on the rent levels of commercial buildings when one tenant vacates and, as will happen under the regulations, the landlord has to make extensive modifications? Presumably, rent levels for subsequent tenants will go up considerably. Have any of the Bill's supporters made estimates of how much people will have to pay for all this joy?
Mr. Stunell: The right hon. Gentleman should bear in mind that the running costs of the buildings will be
Mr. Dismore: I am sorry to press the pointit is slightly different from that made by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth)but the hon. Gentleman has switched to the issue of commercial buildings, which I mentioned earlier. However, the Bill refers just to "buildings": it does not distinguish between domestic and commercial buildings. As I understand it, under the Bill as it stands, whenever there is a new shorthold tenancyor, indeed, if a local authority puts someone in temporary accommodationthe regulations would immediately bite. That could amount to a whole series of demands on the owner of the buildings. Does the hon. Gentleman anticipate amending the Bill in Committee to make the necessary distinction, or perhaps to provide some relief for people who let buildings in those circumstances?
Mr. Stunell: I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join me in Committee so that we can explore that point. My personal view is that the regulations should go for the targets that will produce the greatest dividend, so it is all about the proportionality and appropriateness of the regulations. As I have already pointed out, my Bill is enabling, not prescriptive on those matters. If some hon. Members believe that we should be enabling only for a particular sector of the building stock, I would like to hear the arguments.
Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge) (Con): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for taking us through the various provisions. Before he moves on to subsection (6), I want to take him back to subsection (3), which states, "after 'gases,' insert 'vapours,'". Would the hon. Gentleman explain to someone who is not the brainiest of people what is the difference between "vapours" and "gases"?
Mr. Forth: It is what we are getting now!
Mr. Stunell: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that sedentary intervention. It is about widening the definition to ensure that there is no loophole with regard to steam or other substances that might be emitted by plant or equipment.
Subsection (6) is designed, I hope, to deal with the circumstances when a council decides to reroof its estate of 1960s houses
Mr. Hammond: I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again but, unless I have missed it, he has not said anything about clause 3. Is he going to deal with it?
Mr. Stunell: I am sorry for my slow pace, but I will get there eventually. I could skip along a bit if it would help the hon. Gentleman.
Subsection (6)of clause 2will deal with the circumstances when a council decides to re-roof its estate of 1960s houses, but does so only according to the standards when they were built, without taking the opportunity to update to an appropriate new standard.
I hope that subsection (7) will find favour throughout the House because it catches Crown buildings and prevents them from being built or adapted to a lower standard.
That takes us to clause 3. It primarily confers the capacity to introduce regulations that require the regular testing of equipment or building elements where, over time, there would otherwise be a risk of a serious drop in the performance of that element. It might be heating or ventilating equipment or other items where an efficiency failure would have a serious effect on the sustainabilityand, indeed, the comfortof the building. I hope that that deals with the point that the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) wanted to raise.
Mr. Hammond: I am sorry, but it does not quite do so. If I understand them correctly, current building regulations provide for continuing obligations, but in practice those obligations bite almost entirely on the owners and operators of commercial buildings. The hon. Gentleman seems to be broadening the scope of continuing obligations into the domestic fieldinto residential dwellings. Again, I have considerable concerns about the recurring cost burden that might affect people on quite low incomes who occupy the dwellings. Will the hon. Gentleman deal with that point?
Mr. Stunell: I will try, though I am not word perfect on schedule 1 of the Building Act 1984. I am almost certainI will be corrected later if I am wrongthat the continuing requirements apply to buildings regardless of their use, so the hon. Gentleman is not strictly right. The current obligations may already be applied to the domestic sector. I am not extending them to the domestic sector, but extending the breadth of what can be incorporated into the requirements for check-ups at certain intervals. I hope that that provides some reassurance. The Bill is broadening the scope of what is required to be kept up to date by regulation, rather than extending regulation into the domestic sector.
Clause 4 brings schools and public utilities into the scope of the regulations it may surprise many hon. Members to know that they are currently excluded. Clearly, changes in arrangements for school management and developments in the Department for Education and Skills make it more appropriate to bring schools into the normal control system. The privatisation and deregulation of public utilities reinforces the same pointthat it is appropriate to bring them under the scope of the overall framework.
Clause 5 places a requirement on the Secretary of State to report on how he is getting on. We often pass legislation that places duties on the Government or confers additional powers, but we seldom tell them to report back on how it is going and what they plan to do in some objective or realistic way, shorn of spin. The clause requires them to do just that. I hope that it will not only find favour in this Bill but perhaps provide a model for future legislation in other areas. Subsections
Sue Doughty: I welcome the plan to report on the recycling and reuse of materials used in construction or to carry out works. Last year, a Home Office building unfortunately used plywood from the Indonesian rain forests that was not from a sustainable source for fencing and shuttering. Will my hon. Friend consider whether we should also take into account the certified sustainability of materials?