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Mr. Forth: In that context, does my hon. Friend also think that a general review of the concept of recycling is now long overdue? For too long, we have had an uncritical acceptance that it is somehow good. If we look at the totality of it, however—the energy cost, the cost

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of handling several times over, to say nothing of the processing involved to make sense of it—we may have reached the stage at which recycling, or certainly some of it, is counter-productive, not only in cost terms but even in environmental terms.

Mr. Hammond: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. In a previous incarnation, I debated with Ministers in the Department of Trade and Industry the waste electrical and electronic equipment directive and the end-of-life vehicles directive. Clearly, even now, we are collecting and recycling some forms of plastic bottles, for example, when the energy cost of that recycling exceeds the benefit. Even in purely environmental terms, perhaps ignoring the sometimes bogus signals that market pricing sends, not all recycling makes sense. My right hon. Friend will know, however, that whether or not it makes sense, we will be mandated to do a great deal more of it, not as a result of anything that this Government may decide but as a result of directives determined by unelected officials in Brussels.

I part company entirely with the hon. Gentleman on the provision in clause 2 in relation to the energy efficiency of appliances, which is far too wide. It refers not to the energy efficiency of plant and equipment installed in the building—lifts, boilers and so on—but to appliances, which could include washing machines, photocopiers and refrigerators. All of those are perfectly legitimate issues of concern—it is perfectly legitimate for us to consider ways of ensuring that appliances that are sold are energy-efficient. Clearly, however, building regulations are not the means through which we should address that issue—it must be addressed at the point of sale of those appliances.

Critically, clause 2 moves into stickier territory by moving the trigger for the application of building regulations from the existing criteria of material change of use or material alteration to the building to "persons in occupation"—not even a new tenant or a new owner. The scenario envisaged is genuinely frightening. A person who owns an old, energy-inefficient home, who is perhaps low in the housing pecking order, having reached the position at which they can sell that home and move up to the next rung on the ladder, would find that the sale that they contemplate triggers a requirement for that home to comply with the current building regulations—I cannot interpret the hon. Gentleman's intentions otherwise. A huge burden of cost would be imposed on that home, and the practical effect would be that the poorest, most vulnerable households would be trapped in that substandard accommodation for ever.

Brian White: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that mortgage companies consider such issues already in surveys, and have done so for many years? The provisions that he has described already exist in building regulations, and I know the cost that that involves as I had to get a roof supported.

Mr. Hammond: There is no doubt that building societies take account of such issues and include them in the calculation of the value of properties. The idea, however, that on transmission of a tenancy or a

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freehold, or even a change of occupancy, major work must be done to bring a property up to or approaching current standards is simply unacceptable. It is a step way too far. One or two provisions such as that undermine the credibility of the Bill. As the hon. Gentleman says, building societies already sometimes consider the energy efficiency of homes in their surveys, and the EU directive will ultimately require certification of buildings' energy characteristics at the point of sale. Buyers will therefore be aware of what they are buying, but they will not be required to stick their hand in their pocket and spend perhaps tens of thousands of pounds on remedial work at a point when most people can least afford it—when they have just stretched themselves to buy a house.

During the debate it has become clear to me that there is a distinction between a wholesale requirement to bring aspects of a property up to date with current regulations when a new occupier arrives, and something very different which was raised by the hon. Member for Eccles. He said that when the owner of a building decides to make an improvement—not because he is required to do so by regulation, but of his own volition—that improvement should be made to the latest and most effective standards. In some instances that will not be possible: in a listed building or a building in a conservation area, it may not be possible to use the latest double-glazing technology. Moreover, it is one thing to say that a person replacing windows in his property should employ the latest standards in order to improve energy efficiency; it is quite another thing to say that a new tenant or buyer must ensure that the building is updated according to the standards in the most recent building regulations. Such a regime would intrude on the lives of ordinary home owners and other householders, and would involve a massive extension of the regulatory regime and a huge burden of cost.

I must confess to being baffled by the wording of clause 2(7), which relates to the extension or limiting of the effect of Crown immunity. There are some drafting issues, particularly the use of square brackets. I am not sure whether that implies that the hon. Member for Hazel Grove intends to remove the words involved. I assume, however, that the intention is simply to apply whatever regime is applied to the Crown. I am entirely in favour of regulations imposed on the citizen being imposed on the state as well. The state might then be a bit more careful about the extent of the burden that it places on citizens.

Clause 3 extends "continuing requirements"—that is, inspection regimes. The hon. Gentleman rightly corrected me earlier: nothing in the existing regulation regimes providing for continuing requirements, which I think are dealt with in schedule 1 of the Act, limits that to non-domestic properties. In fact, most requirements for ongoing inspections, if not all, apply to either commercial buildings or multiple dwellings. In tall blocks of flats lifts and fire escapes must be inspected, and the disproportionate-collapse regime must be applied continuously.

What the hon. Gentleman has said, and the drafting of clause 3, suggest that he expects the regime to be extended—for example, to ensure that those in new homes with intruder alarms fitted, by virtue of his proposals in clause 1, are also required by a continuing regulatory obligation to have them inspected and to

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maintain them in working order. While that may be desirable, Conservative Members do not feel that it could reasonably be imposed by regulation. That would impose too great a burden on the householder.

Even the overall costs and benefits of the hon. Gentleman's proposals are not clear to me. The hon. Gentleman is very concerned about the environment, but an inspector or maintenance engineer who comes to look at an intruder alarm probably will not arrive on a pushbike. At least that has been my experience when people come to maintain my intruder alarm.

Clause 3 proposes that the regime should be retrospective. It is not just about building regulations; we are talking about the creation of a wholly new, intrusive and expensive regime of Government-dictated inspection of people's private homes. I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst—he will doubtless return to his place in a few moments—would find that unacceptable. I suspect that most Conservative Members—and perhaps many Labour Members— would also view that as a step too far.

I can be more congratulatory about clause 4. It is a wholly sensible provision. I do not claim to be an expert on how it will work in practice, but the principle that statutory undertakers and school buildings must not be excluded from building regulations is surely right. The Minister and I sat through a lengthy debate on Monday, in which the issue of having mandatory sprinkler systems in schools was discussed. It was confidently assumed by all hon. Members that that matter would be most appropriately dealt with by amendments to the building regulations. I confess that I had no idea during Monday's debate that the building regulations excluded school buildings from their purview. It is surely acceptable to include such buildings.

On clause 5, I certainly welcome subsections (4) to (7), which require reports on progress under the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000—a landmark measure achieved by the efforts of a private Member, which proves how much can be done on a Friday morning. That measure largely gave rise to the Government's fuel poverty action programme and I would welcome the results of that programme being subjected to the sort of scrutiny that subsections (4) to (7) envisage.

I am not entirely sure of the point of having reports on building stock, as envisaged in the earlier subsections. If the hon. Member for Hazel Grove believes that the Bill will have a significant impact retrospectively, he has gone a step too far for the House. That is certainly my impression from the comments expressed so far in the House and from Conservative Members' views. It is that aspect of the Bill that we believe is unworkable, and it will need to be watered down significantly if the Bill is to find favour with the House. If the Bill is to pass through the House, it must be shorn of its retrospective provisions. In those circumstances, there seems little point in asking the Secretary of State to undertake the huge costs that would be involved in reporting on the condition of the stock.

I return to subsection (3), which requires the Secretary of State to report on

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he can do that relatively simply—and

To the best of my knowledge, that figure simply does not exist. The hon. Member for Hazel Grove prayed in aid the national non-domestic rating valuation system, but, as I explained in an earlier intervention, that system is based on hereditaments, not on buildings, and a hereditament may be a floor or other part of a building. As far as I am aware, no register is currently maintained of buildings other than dwellings. It would amount to a requirement to create a latter-day Domesday Book—a physical count of the building stock in the country. The suggestion that that could be done for £50,000 or £100,000 is quite extraordinary. It could perhaps be done for £100,000 per local authority, but that would represent a substantial cost burden to the Treasury.

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