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Energy Efficiency (House of Commons)

Volume 501: debated on Thursday 26 November 2009

27. What steps the House of Commons Commission plans to take to improve the energy efficiency of buildings on the House of Commons part of the parliamentary estate. (301692)

In the last 18 months, the House service has reconfigured building management systems and installed new remote energy meters and kitchen ventilation and lighting controls, as well as energy-efficient lighting and movement sensors. It has also initiated an IT upgrade and a server virtualisation programme, and begun an insulation trial as part of the cast-iron roof project. An estate-wide environmental assessment is currently under way to identify future options, which include further building management system changes, voltage optimisation, draught-proofing and behaviour-change programmes. That will allow for a challenging but realistic environmental target, supported by an action plan to be set before the House in 2010.

Like hundreds of colleagues, for nine years I have had the pleasure and privilege of working in the superb surroundings of our fine and iconic building, Portcullis House. Sadly, it has the lowest possible band G energy performance rating of 203. What is the Commission doing to ensure that buildings on the parliamentary estate rise up league tables to become public sector exemplars to the commercial and industrial sectors?

The Management Board recognised in 2007-08 that there was a need for improvement in the House’s environmental performance. A new post of head of environment was filled on 31 December 2008, and the aim since then has been to lay foundations for Parliament to make an improvement, and a good-practice gap analysis has been undertaken. As I said, that will result in a comprehensive plan being brought before the House in 2010.

Notwithstanding the comprehensive list that the hon. Gentleman has just read out, it seems to many of us in the Palace of Westminster that when the weather is uncharacteristically warm outside it becomes even hotter inside. Most of us have something in our homes called a thermostatic control. Could that not happen here, and save the taxpayer a lot of money?

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that there are thermostatic controls in the Palace of Westminster and in Portcullis House, although it would be fair to acknowledge that they are not always hugely efficient.

A few weeks ago when the House of Commons Commission considered the proposal of the 10:10 campaign that the House should cut its carbon emissions by 10 per cent. in 2010, it was decided—sadly—that it was impractical. Was that decision taken by consensus among all members of the Commission from all parties, and did the Commission receive any representations from the right hon. Members for Witney (Mr. Cameron) or for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg), who proposed to the House two days later that 10:10 should be supported?

The Commission received a variety of representations but felt that it was not possible honourably to commit the House to doing something in the course of 2010 that we could not be confident of achieving. As I have already indicated, we are determined to make improvements way beyond that, but we cannot guarantee doing so during the calendar year 2010.