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Mr. Hammond: I was quoting costs in crude Danish krone per square metre. However, I also have purchasing-power parity figures that show a less, but none the less dramatic, difference. Danish costs per square metre are 69 per cent. higher than those in the UK for the same year on a purchasing-power parity basis. If the hon. Gentleman cares to look at the document—I will happily pass it across the Chamber

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later—he will see that it is a fairly rigorous piece of work that was done on a proper basis. The figures certainly raise some alarm in my mind.

Brian White: The Milton Keynes development corporation has built higher energy standards into new homes over the past 30 years. One advantage has been that maintenance costs for those homes over that period have been lower than those for traditional homes in Milton Keynes and in other parts of the country. Is the hon. Gentleman ignoring that cost as well?

Mr. Hammond: I do not doubt that what the hon. Gentleman says is true and that there will be a payback for that higher investment in lower energy costs, and, perhaps, lower maintenance costs. If we had all day, which we do not, that could lead us into a lengthy debate about whether energy pricing in the UK is properly reflective of the environmental costs of energy consumption. I suspect that that is not somewhere that many of us would want to go, first because the debate would be a very long one, and secondly, because as democratically elected Members, we would rapidly find that whatever the arguments, our constituents on the whole prefer reasonably cheap energy. Personally, I would be broadly sympathetic to shifting gradually over time to a system that places greater emphasis on taxing consumption rather than incomes, and in a way that reflects the environmental cost of that consumption.

I envisage Labour Members being able to construct the argument that under a certain energy pricing regime, the additional substantial construction costs that the measures would impose will make simple economic sense, because over time, the energy savings will be great in money terms. However, I was struck this week, as I am sure were other hon. Members, by the proposals of the Mayor of London for solar panels on the roofs of dwellings. Experts estimate that Mayor Livingstone has installed in his own home some £15,000 to £20,000-worth of solar panels and solar heating equipment, from which he expects to generate energy cost savings of £100 a year. That is an extremely noble gesture by a gentleman who cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered poor, but given the return in cost savings as against capital outlay, it is well beyond the means of the vast majority of people in this country.

Matthew Green (Ludlow) (LD): I did not intervene when the hon. Gentleman failed to understand how two-way metering, to which clause 2(4) refers, would work, but it would allow people to recover much more value from installing things such as solar panels. At the moment, solar panels generate most electricity when the house uses the least. That is why the saving is not very great. However, if they were allowed to export to the grid, which is physically but not legally possible at the moment, solar panels would become much more viable.

Mr. Hammond: I suspect the hon. Gentleman of dodgy calculation. If he looks at the wholesale electricity price curve for any typical week day, he will see that the spikes of peak demand occur precisely when domestic demand peaks in the morning and early evening—not when households would be looking to export electricity

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to the grid. The times when solar panels on domestic homes might export electricity—in the middle of the afternoon—are not periods of peak demand.

Brian White rose—

Mr. Hammond: I will give way one more time to the hon. Gentleman, and then I must make some progress.

Brian White: The hon. Gentleman says that solar energy is the renewable energy source with the longest payback time. Has he considered the whole range of energy efficiency measures that have a much shorter payback time, are far more economical, and can contribute up to about 50 per cent. of what is required for the Government's energy-saving targets over the next 20 years?

Mr. Hammond: That is the point that I am emphasising. Where there is a clear economic payback there is no need for regulation—people simply need to understand how the payback works, although they may need help with financing the capital cost until they have accrued the savings from it. Regulation is needed only where the individual or corporation that owns the building will not, out of economic self-interest, make the investment without compulsion.

Brian White: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hammond: All right, but this is the last time.

Brian White: The hon. Gentleman talks about individuals making such decisions, but they are often made by building companies, which, when they build houses, choose the mass market option instead of taking those issues on board. That is where building regulation has its biggest impact, because it creates a level playing field for all builders.

Mr. Hammond: I accept that to a certain extent. Over time, there has been a steady progression in the standards required by the building regulations. Every few years—once the appropriate consultation has taken place and the Building Research Establishment has done the necessary technical work—the building regulations are upgraded and updated so that the standard of new homes gradually improves. I have no doubt that that will continue to happen, and I have no problem with it.

The Bill also seeks to promote on-site domestic renewable energy production. Again, I am extremely sceptical about whether that makes sense in terms of the costs and benefits. So far, we have talked in terms of money. With energy pricing, I accept that the money saved may not reflect the effect on the environmental burden, but overall, in a very broad market context, the costs of doing something will reflect the consumption of resources in doing it. I am not sure that the additional building costs involved in achieving standards of the kind envisaged by the hon. Member for Hazel Grove, or the investment costs involved in developing local renewable energy generation, would be justified either financially or environmentally. Wind turbines have to

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be built, too, and they consume both resources taken from the earth and large amounts of energy in their construction. We need to see a rather more sophisticated equation than is offered by the Bill; we need a proper impact assessment that balances the costs and benefits.

I want to consider the Bill in a little more detail and deal with some of the issues that require more clarification. I recognise that should the House decide that the Bill should go forward to a Committee, there will be ample opportunity to probe those issues, to remove the parts that make it impractical and unworkable, and to salvage those that make a valuable contribution to moving the agenda forward.

Mr. Forth: Does my hon. Friend think that it is wise to spend a great deal of parliamentary Committee time trying to put right a Bill in which a huge number of flaws have already been identified, although the debate has hardly started, because many Members who are desperate to speak have not yet done so? The House should seriously consider not giving it a Second Reading so as not to waste Committee time.

Mr. Hammond: I have some sympathy with my right hon. Friend's approach, but I assure him that so long as the Government are not imposing timetables, as of course they do not on private Members' Bills, I am prepared to contribute an almost unlimited amount of my time to considering the matter in Committee. Historically, private Member's Bills are often subject to very substantial amendment in Committee, which does not usually happen in the case of Government-sponsored legislation. It is not inconceivable that a Bill such as this, which has many positive aspects, could be stripped in Committee of the elements that make it unacceptable, and provide a valuable contribution to the debate.

Mr. Forth indicated dissent.

Mr. Hammond: I detect that I have not entirely convinced my right hon. Friend, but it is ultimately for the House to decide whether we shall consider those matters in more detail.

Ian Stewart: I have been prepared to acknowledge some agreement between Conservative Members and me about the Bill, but we have now reached a point of departure. Does the hon. Gentleman realise that although he is taking a reasoned approach to the measure and hopes that it can be amended in Committee so that it can be agreed, the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), from a sedentary position, has suggested a very different approach?

Mr. Forth: Yes.

Ian Stewart: The right hon. Gentleman says that I am correct. Does the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) accept that when he said that the actions of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst did not constitute outright opposition to reasoned regulation, he was wrong?

Mr. Hammond: As far as I recall, I said nothing about my right hon. Friend's position. He is more than capable

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of advising the House of it in due course. We are considering private Member's business and there is no reason for anyone to assume that views will divide on party political lines. Indeed, that is one of the great joys of being here on a Friday morning—perhaps it is the only one. We often have a better debate on Friday mornings than on other days of the week, for that reason. My right hon. Friend now has the privilege of speaking his mind from the Back Benches without the constraint of considerations of collective responsibility; hon. Members will greatly benefit from hearing his unconstrained views. I apologise to my right hon. Friend because I appreciate that I have been speaking for a long time, as have other hon. Members. I know that my right hon. Friend is desperate to participate. I assure him that there will be time for his contribution.

I have no problem with clause 1. It may need a little tidying up, but we have a regime of building regulations, and although it is relatively bureaucratic, the industry and local authorities have learned to work with it and make it work reasonably well and effectively. The regulations are constantly updated to achieve the objectives that we are trying to advance; the agenda is evolving. It is right to consider new ideas such as making homes more secure, and introduce measures to cover them into the Building Act 1984.

I was especially taken with the example that the hon. Member for Hazel Grove gave of double-glazing units whose seal can be removed from the outside. I experienced something similar, so I understand that that is a genuine problem. It is exactly the sort of matter that a building regulation could sensibly tackle by specifying a standard. If the Bill had contained only clause 1, I suspect that it would have been passed without contention.

The hon. Member for Hazel Grove said that the Bill was permissive, and I have no doubt that before any specific regulations were made under it, Ministers would consult widely and conduct a regulatory impact assessment, as they are required to do, and that we would move forward in the evolutionary and measured way that we have always followed for building regulations, without a huge leap leading to all sorts of dislocation.

I am not entirely sure that building regulations are the best or the only vehicle to deal with demolition, but the principle behind the hon. Gentleman's inclusion of the issue in the Bill is sound. I also suggest that there needs to be a joined-up approach. The landfill tax has made a huge difference to the way in which the construction industry approaches demolition. Removing material from a building site and depositing it in landfill is now hugely expensive, and designers of buildings will go to great lengths to ensure that they can recycle as much material as possible on site. That is a tick in the box; we have achieved something already.

Other agendas conflict with this, however. For example, local authority highways departments have standards of their own about the materials allowed to be used as the base material for adoptable roadways. It often happens that where there is a perfect brownfield site with a building to be demolished—and, we hope, recycled—the material cannot be reused because of the regulations for the construction of roadways. There is, therefore, a need to look across the spectrum and to find a joined-up approach. There is also a need to recognise

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that, just as we might have to absorb some costs in accepting this more sustainable approach, we might also have to compromise in some other areas to achieve the optimum sustainable solution. Bearing in mind those caveats, I believe that clause 1 is well worthy of the House's careful consideration.

Clause 2 is a mixed bag. Subsection (4) introduces security measures into schedule 1 to the Building Act 1984. I have already said that that is okay in relation to installation if we are talking about the windows problem, but it presents a wholly different problem if we are proposing a regime of regular inspection of security systems, because of the recurring cost that that would impose on householders, some of whom might be of quite modest means. I have not refreshed my memory on this matter today, but I seem to remember that my own alarm system, which is inspected four times a year and connected through BT Redcare to a switchboard, costs about £900 a year to maintain. I suggest that such a cost would be well beyond the means of many, if not most, householders. We must be absolutely clear about proportionality here, and I shall return to this issue in due course.

Clause 2(4) also refers to

I thought that I already had such equipment in the form of my electricity meter, but I understand the point made by the hon. Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green) in his helpful intervention. Subsection (4) also refers to "recycling and composting facilities". Earlier in the debate, it was suggested that regulations about those already exist. I do not know the answer to that, but I would like to tell the House of a specific problem that I have come across, which again emphasises the need for a joined-up agenda.

We would all advocate the maximisation of home composting; it is the most efficient way of dealing with garden and vegetable refuse. If it can be promoted by the very simple and cheap provision of a composting facility at the time of construction, that would certainly be worth looking at. I have discovered, however, that local authorities that have to meet Government targets for recycling waste get credit for composting only if they collect the material—in a vehicle—and take it to be composted at a central composting site. If they give out home composters to individual householders, as my Conservative-controlled borough council in Runnymede has done—that is much the most environmentally friendly way of doing it—they get no credit in the Government's scheme of things. I have written to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about this issue, and both have acknowledged that it needs to be addressed. It is another example of how simply tackling the hard-wiring by saying, "Let's require people to provide the hardware," is not necessarily going to produce the beneficial results that we seek, unless the whole regime around it is constructed in a way designed to deliver.

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