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Mr. Stunell indicated dissent.

Mr. Hammond: The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, and I would be happy to listen if he wants to intervene. No doubt he will comment when he winds up later.

Clause 6 sets out a certification regime, which draws attention to the suggested hugely bureaucratic elements and costs to the householder. I am not at all convinced that there is a need for a nominated person under building regulations. Of course there is a requirement to ensure that building regulations—and, indeed, planning regulations—are complied with. A nominated person for a development or alteration to a home—in that case, it would presumably be the householder—will not improve the situation. The system for new buildings is largely self-policed because new commercial buildings are generally built for sale to an investor and new dwellings are generally built for sale to a home buyer. In both cases, legal advisers will want to ensure as part of their pre-contract due diligence that the planning and building regulations requirements have been complied with and that certificates have been issued by the appropriate bodies. The hon. Gentleman is addressing a problem that does not exist. Clause 6 would create a bureaucratic regime to issue certificates for the retrospective work that he envisages under the Bill.

Clause 7 deals with renewable energy and allows planning authorities to set quotas for

I imagine that the hon. Gentleman is referring not to the building site itself but to the finished buildings. However, he has slightly misled himself. He appeared to be thinking about on-site renewable energy generation, but the Bill addresses the percentage of energy requirements supplied by renewable sources.

I know that the hon. Gentleman takes a great interest in renewable energy. I first encountered him in 1997, shortly after we were both elected, in a debate on renewable energy—it was probably one of the first occasions on which he spoke in the House and certainly one of the first occasions on which I spoke. He knows that large-scale, predominantly offshore wind generation is the most likely way to meet the Government agenda to secure a substantial proportion of energy generation from cost-effective, renewable sources. He knows that renewable energy generation can make a large contribution to addressing the

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sustainability agenda, but it would be disingenuous to create a regime that mandated a proportion of probably expensive and perhaps inefficient on-site renewable generation, which would displace current moves towards very nearly market cost-effective offshore energy generation.

Renewable energy generation is not reliable and there must always be a back-up. It is no good having solar panels and a wind turbine in the back garden because a connection to the grid will still be necessary—there will be days when it is dark and no wind is blowing. Exactly the same gas-fired, coal-fired, nuclear-fired or oil-fired power capacity as there is today must be at the other end of the connection to the grid. The provision would build huge redundancy into the central generating system, which would impose a huge cost. We would have to maintain a 100 per cent. delivery capacity from conventional means within the generating system to deal with those occasions when the renewable system could not generate any power.

Brian White: The hon. Gentleman implies that there is one single renewable source rather than a diversity of renewable sources. The answer to his point is that 100 per cent. back-up will not be necessary because there will be a multitude of renewable sources of energy such as biofuels, wind farms and solar panels.

Mr. Hammond: In his opening speech, the hon. Member for Hazel Grove pointed out the need to reduce carbon emissions from dwellings and thus, by implication, from the sources that supply dwellings with energy. The hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Brian White) referred to biofuels, but they will not help us hugely in reducing carbon emissions. In respect of genuine renewables—non-carbon-producing renewables such as wind and solar energy—the hon. Gentleman may be happy to live in a home that relies either on the sun shining or the wind blowing, but I certainly would not be. I should want to be sure that a reasonable back-up system was available.

Mr. Stunell: May I commend to the hon. Gentleman BedZED—the Beddington zero energy development in Carshalton, the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake)? That development is fuelled entirely by wood chips produced from gardening in the adjacent borough—a renewable source with 24-hour availability.

Mr. Hammond: Of course, wood chips are a renewable source but presumably their combustion produces combustion gases—[Interruption.] Of course, the tree is a renewable source; the process does not consume non-renewable energy sources but it produces greenhouse gases.

Ian Stewart: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that his argument does not take into consideration the future development of some of those renewable sources?

Mr. Hammond: I shall be happy to debate that point with the hon. Gentleman and others once we have reached that technological horizon, but we should be

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careful not to get ahead of ourselves. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Hazel Grove was inspired to include the provision by the reported attempt of the Mayor of London to impose solar panels on all new development in London, but we must take care not to impose things that make no sense, in either financial or environmental cost-benefit terms.

Brian White rose—

Mr. Hammond: I want to make some progress, if the hon. Gentleman will allow me. Although this is a relatively small part of the Bill, I still have two more points to make about it.

Several Members have noted that the sustainable approach will bring improved visual amenities for communities. I suspect, however, that a quite few people might doubt whether a wind turbine in their neighbour's garden would constitute an improvement to their visual amenity. Some serious issues could arise.

If the provision has any place at all, it should be moved as an amendment to the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill that is currently wending its way through the other place. If the hon. Member for Hazel Grove thinks the matter worth taking further, may I suggest that he talk to his noble friends about tabling such an amendment?

The same point applies to clause 8, which imposes yet another burden on houses in multiple occupation. The provisions are way over the top and would be far better considered as an amendment to the Housing Bill, which is currently in Committee. I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman talks to the hon. Member for Ludlow, his party's Front-Bench spokesman on the Committee, he will find his hon. Friend only too willing to debate that point in the context of the Committee.

We must not forget that the clause applies to the housing sector that often serves the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society. Everybody understands the instinct to protect the most vulnerable, for example, by ensuring that the properties are properly fire-protected and as energy efficient as possible, but we cannot ignore the fact that we would be imposing a substantial cost burden on that housing. Unless the hon. Member for Hazel Grove is suggesting a Government-financed regime to bring HMOs up to standard, in insulation and other aspects, we would have to envisage a substantial increase in the rents paid by some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our communities. I cannot believe that the people who live in those houses would thank us for deliberating day after day, week after week, on how we can improve the standard of their homes at a financial cost to them that might, in some cases, put their homes beyond affordability. We need to be extremely careful about that.

Matthew Green: As a serving member of the Standing Committee that is considering the Housing Bill, the hon. Gentleman might want to be made aware that his Front-Bench colleague—the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes)—has broadly accepted the licensing arrangements in the Bill, but the hon. Gentleman now appears to suggest that they should not

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be included on cost grounds. Perhaps those on the Conservative Front Bench ought to make sure that they are talking from the same book.

Mr. Hammond: For the sake of clarity, I can assure the House that I am not a member of that Committee. I spoke to my hon. Friend at length last night in preparing for this debate today. Of course the distinction is that we are now talking about imposing a further precondition for the licensing of HMOs that would involve substantial costs. There is no doubt about the fact—this is not speculation—that bringing HMOs up to the latest standards of energy efficiency under the building regulations would involve very substantial capital investments, and no hon. Member has yet indicated how that would be funded.

I am very anxious to ensure that other hon. Members have an opportunity to contribute to this interesting debate, so I should like to summarise my thoughts at this point. As I said at the outset, this is a very thought-provoking Bill. It certainly leads one off in many different directions, thinking about some of the very big issues that confront us. I hope that, if we allow ourselves to be drawn into the wider context, we shall readily understand that this narrow agenda cannot be tackled on its own; it must be considered as part of a much wider social and environmental agenda.

We would then be bound to recognise that other provisions in the Bill would impose a huge regulatory burden, are uncosted in financial and even environmental terms, and would have serious negative unintended consequences on other important parts of the social and environmental agenda. That is not to say that some provisions do not represent a sensible approach to moving that agenda forward. If we can separate the two, we can create a workable measure, but that must involve the removal of the wholesale retrospective application of building regulations triggered by a change in occupant, as proposed by the hon. Member for Hazel Grove. That is a step far too far and totally unacceptable.

I am afraid that, in the hon. Gentleman's underlying agenda in relation to construction and in his approach to on-site renewable energy sources, he has shown little regard to the minimal savings that would be generated in comparison with the huge up-front costs. As I have said before and will no doubt say again if the Bill progresses further, it is impossible to quantify those measures in the absence of a regulatory impact assessment.

Some of the Bill's objectives would be better addressed in other legislative vehicles; others would be better dealt with through fiscal and financial incentives. However, I say again that some provisions in the Bill represent further sensible steps forward on progress already made, through steadily increasing requirements in the building regulations in order to move in the direction that the hon. Gentleman and, indeed, all hon. Members seek. In trying to achieve his objective in one bound, however, the hon. Gentleman has gone too far and significant provisions in the Bill would need to be amended or deleted in Committee to make the measure acceptable.

If the hon. Gentleman's intention is to get the issue on to the agenda and to draw the attention of the Government and the House to it, he has done the House

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a service this morning, but he should recognise that trade-offs have to be made. The challenge before us, as always, is about getting the balance right. If the House decides that the Bill should go forward into Standing Committee, it will be possible, by amendment and debate, to mould it into an acceptable measure that will be less ambitious than he proposes but that, none the less, will be able to contribute meaningfully to the sustainability agenda.

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