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Mr. Hammond: The hon. Gentleman should not hide his light under a bushel. In fact, clause 8 would do something much more far-reaching, as it would bind a future Parliament in legislation. It would provide that any measure passed after 1 January 2004 "shall" contain something that this Bill specifies. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman and his party would be loath to establish such a precedent.

Mr. Stunell: The provision is designed for an entirely different reason. The Housing Bill, which is going through the House in parallel to my Bill, will make a difference to my Bill, depending on which one reaches the statute book first. The clause is thus a before or after provision. Furthermore, I remind the hon. Gentleman that no Parliament can bind its successor and it would be perfectly proper for a subsequent Act of Parliament to strike out the provision and start again, so I do not accept his point.

I apologise to the House for taking so much time for my speech, but before I conclude I have to confess that before the debate, I asked the Government what they thought of the Bill so far. After all, they are bigger than me. They replied that some bits were good and some were bad, and that they would want to chew it over in Committee. They said that the Bill goes too far, too fast. No doubt we shall hear about that from the Minister.

I believe that the Bill is sound and comprehensive, although I do not claim that it is perfect in every detail, as I hope I have made clear in my responses to hon. Members today. I hope that we can reach a sensible consensus in Committee without the need to spill too much blood. If the Minister has doubts and difficulties, I shall try, with the leave of the House, to respond helpfully when I wind up the debate.

The Bill is practical, powerful and profitable. It sets out practical measures to use existing materials and technology to cut waste and to improve efficiency. It is

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powerful because it goes with the grain of what is already happening; it is not hair-shirt stuff, it is about helping people to have better and cheaper buildings that have less impact on the planet. It is also powerful because it will bring the Government back to the House to tell us how they are getting on—a missing ingredient in so much of the legislation that the House passes.

The WWF, a key sponsor of the Bill, is running a one-planet campaign, to point out that we have only one planet to live on, but in the United Kingdom we live as if we had three planets. The Bill will help to give us a small footprint, so that we take up less of the planet—it will give us a more delicate shoe size.

The Bill provides a launching platform for action against crime and a renewed attack on fuel poverty, and for real moves towards a greener planet and meeting our Kyoto targets. I urge the House to support the Bill today, to carry it through Committee and to turn it into law.

10.49 am

Ian Stewart (Eccles) (Lab): The Bill has positive and negative aspects, as has been highlighted in the debate already, but its weaker elements can be considered in Committee and a compromise can be reached. However, may I first address the comments of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth)? I think that he invariably speaks for an aspect of human nature. He invariably says that our citizens do not want to be regulated too much and that cost is an extremely important element in people's lives. Those things are correct, but they are, after all, only some aspects of human nature.

What happens in real life is that if we all agree that sustainability, ecologically sound and secure housing and buildings, and the environment that we live in are important—I am sure that we do—we have to recognise that, initially, there may be a cost if we are to attain the benefits of those concepts. Of course the benefits will be a more sustainable planet and local environment, secure housing and communities and, to be frank, a better visual environment, which is extremely important. So life is about a trade-off. The right hon. Gentleman certainly highlights some aspects, but I have other considerations and believe that, between us, we reflect in total the considerations of citizens in general.

I return to some of the aspects of the Bill, which I welcome and hope to see the House develop and bring to a conclusion. Clause 1 would introduce additional

in particular,

Of course, it adds demolition matters about which building regulations can be made. Those issues are important to my constituents in Eccles and, indeed, those in our city of Salford.

Anyone who has heard the Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety, my hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Ms Blears), my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis) or me make a contribution about our city in the House in recent years knows that the situation in relation to

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housing is not satisfactory. That is why I take issue with the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst in some of his contributions. The assumption that because something has a cost and takes energy, time and commitment does not mean that it should not be done. To argue for the status quo is to fail to recognise that some of our constituents live in circumstances that we would not choose to live in ourselves. Therefore, it is reasonable for the House to look at the current situation to see whether it can be improved.

Another issue—I may as well take it head-on—where my hon. Friends and I have a difference with the official Opposition involves regulation in general. Again, it could be argued that we come to almost the same conclusion, but for different reasons. My view of the official Opposition's approach to regulation is that they are actually anti-regulation.

Mr. Forth: Yup.

Ian Stewart: That is confirmed by the right hon. Gentleman.

I personally advocate minimal regulation. The Labour party and I want to see minimal but appropriate regulation. When we look at existing regulations, it is fair for the Opposition to argue that we should be much more severe in our review of regulations. I accept that, but regulations can be positive. That stands absolutely openly in the case of health and safety regulations, and I do not hear any hon. Member say other than that.

Mr. Forth: I am always obliged to rise to a challenge like that, particularly after the hon. Gentleman's kind remarks about me, for which I am very grateful. Just to say that anything labelled health and safety must therefore be uncritically accepted will not wash. One of the big problems now is that our European partners are imposing more and more restrictive and uncompetitive regulations on us under the label of health and safety, so I do not accept his proposition—if this is what he is saying—that something cannot be disputed simply because it says health and safety.

Ian Stewart: The right hon. Gentleman, as usual, is good value for money, but he has not, of course, represented my comments in full—or as my Prime Minister would say, "in totality". The right hon. Gentleman will remember that I said that there is appropriate and inappropriate regulation, while I was commenting on the spirit of health and safety regulation only a few moments ago. There are areas that need looking at not only to reduce regulation, but to improve and strengthen appropriate regulation. The health and safety issue was raised only as an example of an area where we can all agree on the need for regulation. When we approach issues such as sustainable and safe housing and building and the built environment, we should stand back and ask the rhetorical question: would I like to live in these circumstances myself? Like the right hon. Gentleman, I sometimes stand back and say, "Would I want me and my family be involved in this?"

Clause 2 would amend the list of matters contained in paragraph 7 of schedule 1 to the Building Act 1984 that may be dealt with by the building regulations to include

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reference to the reuse of building materials, measures affecting the emission of vapours from buildings and the security of buildings. Those of us who live in communities where housing is old, or perhaps not so much old as badly designed—something referred to by the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Stunell)—know that it is proper for us to say that there should be certain minimum standards. My view is that we have some serious mistakes in buildings, particularly homes, to own up to since 1945. Why should people who are forced to live in defective accommodation—whether private or public—not have the right to be able to ensure maximum security, for example?

My colleagues in the Opposition will ask, "Ah, who pays?" but in this life we have to pay for what we want. When hon. Members choose to buy a car, for example, they know what a newer, safer, perhaps more efficient car costs. Assuming that we have the means, we choose the better, safer car. However, some of our constituents do not have those means, and hon. Members sometimes have to take that into consideration and take steps that we hope will help those people to have more secure and safe homes.

Mr. Forth: Again, would the hon. Gentleman like to consider a possible alternative way to look at that—priorities? I am always very interested in the individual circumstances of the kind of people about whom he is now talking. They do not necessarily buy a better car if they have more money; they might instead want to make their home more secure. They might want to cut down on their intake of cigarettes and alcohol. They might want to go to the betting shop less often. They have a wide range of possibilities, and I am not ready to accept uncritically the proposition that anyone who lives in a home that is insecure must be forced by regulation to improve its security, or must be subsidised to do so by the taxpayer, until I know a lot more about that person's own choices and priorities. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that as a reasonable proposition?

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