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Home Energy Efficiency

Volume 407: debated on Wednesday 18 June 2003

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What plans he has to issue guidance to local planning authorities concerning minimum energy efficiency standards in (a) new and (b) existing housing. [119751]

Although we have no plans to issue specific guidance to planning authorities on energy efficiency standards for housing, the Government have recently brought in a number of measures to help improve energy efficiency in homes.

For example, the new building regulations, which came into effect just over a year ago, are expected to improve energy performance in new homes by some 25 per cent. The draft housing Bill, published in March this year, aims to replace the present fitness standard with a new housing health and safety rating system, which will allow local authorities to tackle cold hazard in existing homes, especially in the private rented sector. Also, our so-called "decent home" programme, begun in the year 2000 and to be completed in 2010, will bring all social housing and much private rented accommodation up to a reasonable degree of warmth through more efficient heating and better insulation.

I am grateful for that reply, but is my hon. Friend aware that as many as 100 local authorities have reported pathetic and paltry increases in domestic energy efficiency of as little as 1 per cent. in their areas since 1996? Is he prepared to wield the big stick and issue directions to them to up their performances?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. She is a doughty and knowledgeable campaigner on green issues. However, this time she has not got it quite right. The truth is that energy conservation authorities report improvements in domestic energy efficiency on an annual basis. Only one local authority reported a total overall improvement of 1 per cent. or less since 1996. Let me reassure my hon. Friend that we expect local authorities to continue improving their performance on domestic energy efficiency. To that end, the energy White Paper contains the commitment to review existing guidance to energy conservation authorities on complying with the requirements of the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his appointment as a Minister. Will he admit that the Government have not done enough to improve energy efficiency in houses? In particular, they have failed to take advantage of design conditions that would improve energy efficiency by maximising the use of natural daylight and heating. Will he introduce plans to encourage local authorities to improve their planning process to ensure that energy efficiency is paid the highest regard in new housing?

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman., but I am grateful for his kind remarks. As I said, there are no plans to issue further guidance relating solely to energy efficiency in housing. However, many of our initiatives cover such matters more generally. For example, we are currently examining, together with other Departments, how to bring the use of renewables and the improvement of energy efficiency and its development more within the scope of the planning system. We are proceeding in the context of the review of planning policy guidance note 22 and the Government's wider planning reforms in a way that will not impose undue burdens on developers.