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Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, the report to which the noble Baroness refers is an extremely good report: well written, well balanced, comprehensive and constructive. It informs the Government that, as she said, our wish that every new home should have an energy rating displayed is simply not working. It explains why and points out the way forward in a constructive manner. Among other things, it suggests improving the design of the SAP notice and a new impetus by the home building industry to ensure that that part of the building regulations is strictly enforced.
The Government will shortly publish for consultation a draft housing Bill that will include provisions to introduce sellers' packs in England and Wales, in line with our manifesto commitment. The Bill will contain provision for a home condition report, which will include a report on energy efficiency. Obviously, that will take time. In the meantime, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is conducting urgent talks with the building trade to try to get what is already law acted on immediately. As the noble Baroness said, it is unsatisfactory that, two years later, that important government objective is not being implemented.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, having listened to the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, does the Minister agree that the system is not clearly understood even in relation to new property? But he has said that in the sellers' packs, everyone selling a second-hand home will have to provide details of the standard assessment procedure for energy. If I were to offer my home for sale when the sellers' packs are introduced, exactly how would I go about having it assessed? Who will do the assessments? How will the public know about that? If they do not understand the procedure for new build, how will they even begin to understand it for second-hand homes?
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, there is no disguising that there are huge problems. One of the most interesting parts of the report explained why the provision has not been implemented. The report states that there are logistical problems in getting SAP notices in the correct site at the right time in the first place, let alone in ensuring that the notices are kept safe on a busy site or sales office. When the draft housing Bill is published for consultation, the points raised by the noble Baroness will form part of the consultation process. We must find a satisfactory conclusion.
Lord Geddes: My Lords, perhaps to the Minister's surprise, I welcome all of his replies in response to this Question. I am sure that he is aware of the current system in Denmark, whereby all homes, be they
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for mentioning the example of Denmark, of which we are fully aware. As part of the consultations that we are now commencing with the building trade to help to solve the problem before the new Bill is published, we are considering the Danish example. As the noble Lord said, if we can implement that provision here, we shall have no problem with the matter.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, should not the lawyers representing prospective purchasers raise an inquiry about that matter at the very beginning of the transaction? In that way, every potential purchaser would know what was the liability.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I agree that what my noble friend describes is the central point of the sellers' pack, which will be part of the Bill to be published as early as the end of this month.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, while remembering that the sellers' pack did not receive an enormous amount of support last time, whose responsibility is it to provide the notices and ensure that they are on display? What liabilities and redress are there for people buying property for which that information is not made available? What redress do they have against whoever is meant to have displayed the notice if they do not receive the correct information?
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I am aware that the notion of the sellers' pack has already been before this House and did not receive universal acclaim. Because of the general election, that provision was lost but will now be reintroduced. It is impossible for me to say what will be in the draft Bill, because I have not read it, but we shall certainly want to consider the issues raised by the noble Baroness when we discuss it in the House.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, the Minister referred to the recently issued European directive on energy efficiency in buildings. Have the Government worked out a programme for its implementation in this country? Is it their objective for an energy efficiency certificate to be issued for all buildings?
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, the Government have accepted the EU directive. It came into force on 4th January 2003 and allows three years, until January 2006, to effect transpositionwith a
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, most noble Lords and other people buy and sell houses using estate agents and wonder what they get for their 2, 3, 4 or higher per cent fee. What discussions have the Government had about getting estate agencies involved, in addition to the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis?
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, as far as I know, we have had no discussion with estate agents. We consider that the problem must be solved and settled with the building trade, which, as has been said, is obliged under law to provide certificates for new houses but is not doing so.
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, the ophthalmology services at the Western Eye Hospital in Paddington are part of St Mary's NHS Trust. Plans for the future of those services are currently being re-examined to determine the best option for how they should be provided in future to patients in north-west London. One option is to keep services at the Western Eye Hospital; other options include moving the service to a more modern environment. A decision will be made following publication of a report at the end of March.
Earl Howe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Was she as concerned as I was to read in Monday's press that that prestigious hospital may have to close because its new premises, being built under the private finance initiative, will not be big enough to accommodate it? Will she do everything possible to ensure that that does not happen because, if it does, it will result in the loss of an international centre of excellence and in the fragmentation of ophthalmology services across London?
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I agree entirely that it is an excellent centre. It is used by 70,000 people a year and has a very high reputation. I can reassure the noble Lord that closure of the hospital is not an option. The intention is that the services will be reviewed in the light of the problems caused.
I shall explain my understanding of how the problems arose. When the outline business case for the Paddington basin, which is an exciting project bringing together Harefield Hospital, Brompton Hospital, St Mary's Hospital and so on, was given the go-ahead in October 2000, it was written to comply with building notes available at the time. They already took account of the need for single accommodation.
But the current review with the strategic health authority is looking at a different range of options. The object will be to keep teaching and research intact, and to continue to provide the excellent services offered at present.
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, does the Minister agree with me that the story as she recounts it, particularly the failure to take on board at a draft stage new requirements of space for patients, indicates a breathtaking level of ineffective, poor decision-taking? That is particularly the case because it puts in danger an extremely important facility. We have all been slightly reassured by her answers on the continuing work of the Western Eye Hospital itself.
But that leaves open another question: how will the financial problem be solved? As I understand it, the construction of the new hospital, in which there is not room for the Western Eye Hospital, depends upon the sale of the site on which the Western Eye Hospital is constructed. Can she reassure us that, despite that, the Government will be able to maintain the extremely important facility?
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