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Mr. Chope: Does my right hon. Friend agree that, if one looks at subsection 4, one sees that the issue relates to when the material came to the knowledge of the person commencing the proceedings, instead of when it ought to have come to his knowledge? If a building inspector employed by local authority fails to report something, notwithstanding that, the local authority will be able to proceed as though there was no information coming from that building inspector.
Mr. Forth: I agree with my hon. Friend. That raises the issue of why this matter was not aired in Committee. However, we have to be frank that one of the problems with Committee proceedings on private Members' Bills in particular is that the Committee members tend, not unreasonably, to be supporters of the Bill and there is a scramble between the Government, if they rather like the Bill, the promoter of the Bill, if he was not given the idea by the Government in the first place, and a compliant Opposition, which is the trend at the moment. Everyone is tumbling over each other to put more and more into the Bill. This measure is a classic case of what should have been done, if at all, in Committee, where it could have been properly scrutinised, instead of bobbing up at the last minute with very little notice to make this fundamental alteration in the law. For all these reasons, unless a much better effort is made to explain and justify this measure, I will not support it.
Yvette Cooper: With the leave of the House, I shall reply to the debate. I shall begin by responding to the points made by the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) who the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) just described as "the compliant Opposition" in this case. I am keen to take a constructive approach to the deliberations of the Committee where this matter was discussed and to the decisions of the Department. I wish him luck in trying to take similarly keen and constructive approach to the comments of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst and the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) where he may have a little more difficulty.
I welcome the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Andrew Stunell) to his new appointment shadowing the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and congratulate him. I know he is interested in sustainability issues, and I look forward to having many debates with
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him on that issue. I assure him that we are looking at the questions he raised in his private Member's Bill about appointed persons and other matters as part of the current review of existing buildings and how to improve their sustainability.
It is important to recognise that in April energy efficiency standards will be raised by 40 per cent. compared to 2002. We have already introduced a series of measures to improve compliance, including on training and pressure testing, all of which we need to address as part of the report called for under new clause 6.
The measures do not change the enforcement framework. At present, if a breach of part L of the building regulations is discovered seven months after work is completed on a building, the local authority cannot take action. The provision would allow action to be taken on discovery of a breach. That is a proportionate and sensible response to the concerns raised with the Government by local authorities and Back Benchers, and debated extensively in Committee.
Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton) (Lab/Co-op): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I raise the issue of the door that blocked my way as I was coming to vote? I was unable to vote, so I will report the matter to the staff of the Serjeant at Arms. However, I wish to place on record the fact that there was a blockage.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I thank the hon. Lady for raising this issue. There have been occasions when defective door mechanisms have obstructed hon. Members. Fortunately, it was not crucial to the outcome of the vote today, but I regret the inconvenience to her and possibly to other Members. I am sure that now that the matter has been placed on the record, it will be dealt with as speedily as humanly possible.
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