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Earl Ferrers: I must try to explain the position, because I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, is labouring under a misapprehension, although not deliberately. It is true that £100 million was allocated for l995-96, and that a similar sum was--to use his expression--set aside for the following two years. When one sets something aside, one puts it in the baseline. No government will normally ever undertake to have a certain expenditure guaranteed for following years, because governments do not operate in that way. They operate from the baseline. That was increased, and that was as it should have been.

It was only when considerations had to be made in a stringent public expenditure survey that it was decided to make the cuts here. We said that those people who were, as the noble Lord said, elderly and on low incomes would be the ones to benefit from the grant. Those older people, who are not the poorest and who do not have these other grants, do not receive 100 per cent. grant; they receive 25 per cent. Before this happened, and when the grant was 100 per cent. all noble Lords who had the pleasure of being over 60 were eligible to have the grant. With a limited amount of funding, it seems wrong to give that grant to people who could themselves afford to pay.

Let us remember also that when the grant is paid, it is not one lump sum; it is given, for instance, for loft insulation, tank or pipe lagging, or draught proofing. They are separate items. If the whole work is carried out one receives £15-worth of energy efficiency advice too. All the work comes to £315 per house. I understand that it is rare that a household qualifies for all the grants available under the scheme.

I do not want the Committee to get the matter out of perspective. Those people in the poorest parts, those who are least well off, will still have the grants available to them. Those who are more than 60 years old but who are not the poorest people will still have the scheme available to them but at a 25 per cent. grant. I do not believe that we have been wholly disingenuous.

I do not know where the noble Lord found his figures about how many house will no longer have the work done. I do not understand how he can work that out. I can tell him that the scheme has been a considerable success. More than one and three-quarter million grants have been paid since it began in 1991 and research shows that households receiving grants can on average

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save about £39 a year if they maintain their heating patterns. The grant scheme has been a success and we have tried to aim it at those people who need it.

Baroness Hamwee: Perhaps I may make a comment now rather than detaining the Committee on the Question of whether Clause 136 shall stand part of the Bill. The Minister has told us what a considerable success the scheme has been. The amendments in the group have been tabled in order to maintain that success and that is the reason for my concern about the clause. It may seem inconsistent to support energy conservation and the home energy efficiency scheme while at the same time opposing the clause. However, I believe that it is the Government who are inconsistent in seeking to extend the scheme while reducing the means.

I believe that the focus of the scheme should remain on heating and insulation improvements rather than extending it to energy efficient appliances and lighting. I say that given the limited budget, about which we have heard, and the urgent needs of the client group to which my noble friend Lord Ezra referred.

Lord Williams of Elvel: The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, put their fingers on the point: there will be less money for a good scheme and it will be spread more thinly across the population. We should like it to be concentrated or for it to have more resources, if that is possible. However, the Government's approach seems to me to be wrong.

Nevertheless, having listened to what the noble Earl explained at considerable length, at this time of night it is right to bring the debate to a conclusion and to see whether we shall return to the matter at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Ezra had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 253:


Page 79, line 45, at end insert--
("(3) The Secretary of State shall ensure that the resources available to fund grants under section 15 of the Social Security Act 1990 are at least equal to £100 million annually until the end of financial year 1997-98.").

The noble Lord said: It is not my intention to move the amendment at this stage. However, I wish to make it clear that I shall return to the matter at the next stage. I also wish to give the noble Earl an assurance that he will receive a letter which will explain precisely how 200,000 homes will not be insulated as a result of the measures which the Government are now taking to reduce the commitment which they firmly made a year ago.

[Amendment No. 253 not moved.]

Clause 136 agreed to.

10.45 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 254:


After Clause 136, insert the following new clause--

Home efficiency schemes

(" .--(1) Section 3(4) of the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995 (reports by Secretary of State) is amended as follows.

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(2) After "section 2" there is inserted--
"(aa) include his assessment of the contribution that has been made, and could have been made by home energy efficiency schemes, towards the achievement of a significant improvement in the energy efficiency of residential accommodation, as defined by guidance from him under section 4(2) of this Act.".").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment adds to the requirements of the reporting under the Home Energy Conservation Act. At about this time of night last Thursday, my noble friend Lord Rodgers was referring to 30,000 disappointed architects. Perhaps this is the point at which to refer to a potential 200,000 disappointed home owners.

The amendment seeks to require that the contribution of the home energy efficiency scheme to the improvement of energy efficiency in residential accommodation is considered at the same time as the Secretary of State gives his report summarising the progress made by local authorities on implementing the measures contained in home energy conservation reports required by the Act to which I have referred.

The Act requires the Secretary of State from time to time to prepare that report. The home energy efficiency scheme can make a significant contribution towards helping to meet the target energy efficiency improvements under the Home Energy Conservation Act. The Department of the Environment estimates that some 20 per cent. of heat is lost in the average house through the roof and 15 per cent. through draughts through doors and windows. Moreover, there are very considerable reductions in CO 2 emissions to be achieved by dealing with these matters.

I believe that the home energy efficiency scheme should be considered as an integral part of the strategic approach to home energy conservation which the Home Energy Conservation Act envisages. This amendment would assist in achieving that end. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers: The noble Baroness is quite right to suggest that it is important to identify the contribution of programmes such as the home energy efficiency scheme to the achievement of significant improvements in energy efficiency. Guidance in the form of a recent Department of the Environment circular indicates that "significant" will be interpreted as 30 per cent. I would certainly expect that any report from my right honourable friend would identify the progress made by authorities in encouraging the take up of grant and the contribution that will make towards the overall target. I must confess to some confusion over the reference to "could have been made". I think that it would be undesirable for my right honourable friend's reports under the Home Energy Conservation Act to speculate on the hypothetical, or indeed appear negative by considering contributions that could have been made.

There is also concern that the amendment requires my right honourable friend to give undue prominence to the contribution of home energy efficiency schemes in his report to Parliament. However, I hope that what I have said will reassure the noble Baroness that those reports will certainly cover the important contribution which

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our home energy efficiency scheme can make to strategies to improve the energy efficiency of our residential accommodation.

Baroness Hamwee: What the Minister has said has helped me with the drafting of my amendment for the next stage of the Bill when perhaps we shall spend a little longer on these important topics to which I fear we are not really devoting as much attention as some of us would like to see, given the late hour. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 255:


After Clause 136, insert the following new clause--

Provisions for disabled people in construction of new dwellings

(" . The Secretary of State shall exercise his powers under section 1 of the Building Act 1985 to introduce an extension to Part M of the Building Regulations 1991 in order to ensure that in the construction of new dwellings reasonable provision shall be made for disabled people to gain access to and to use the entrance storey of the dwelling including sanitary conveniences.").

The noble Lord said: In 1985, the Government introduced Part M of the Building Regulations for public and commercial buildings. Those specified minimum standards of access for disabled people.

In January of last year, the Department of the Environment produced a consultation paper proposing that Part M be extended to include new residential dwellings. The proposal was for the introduction of two new requirements. The first was Regulation M5 which stated that:


    "Reasonable provision shall be made for disabled people to gain access to and to use the entrance storey of the dwelling".
Regulation M6 stated that:


    "Reasonable provision shall be made for sanitary conveniences on the entrance storey of the dwelling which allow access and use by disabled people".
The stated objective of the new requirements was to allow occupiers to be able to invite disabled people to visit them in their own homes without undue hazard or inconvenience, and to be able to cope better with reducing mobility and to stay put longer in their own homes. I understand that the Government consulted 185 organisations directly but that they received over 1,000 responses, and that the principal opposition to the extension of these regulations came from private developers in the form of the House Builders Federation and its members.

The principle of extending these regulations was supported by a large number of disability and housing organisations, including the National Federation of Housing Associations. I understand that the consultation period finished in April last year. That being the case, it is now almost a year since the consultation ended. The Government have in my view, and in the view of a number of other people, had considerable time to analyse the responses. There is concern that this matter is on permanent hold.

Extending Part M to residential dwellings would bring all new homes in line with those built by housing associations as well as being consistent with the Government's own regulations for commercial and

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public buildings. I understand that the design by housing associations is a requirement of the Housing Corporation, a Government funded body. All new non-domestic buildings and extensions must provide access and facilities for disabled people. Those are mandatory requirements.

Since 1993, performance standards for accessibility apply to all new housing built for rent by housing associations in England and Wales. The extension of Part M to housing would create more convenient and flexible housing for parents with children, pregnant women, people with temporary injury, older people, people with a chronic medical condition, and disabled people. The basic structural criteria that allow easy access and adaptation are: parking, where provided, to be suitable for use by disabled people; avoidance of steps and steep ramps in entrance paths, and in entrance doorways; sufficient door widths and circulation space to allow easy passage for disabled people; electrical switches and sockets and mains controls sited within easy reach; and a WC at entrance level. Staircases should be suitable for the future installation of a stairlift. In blocks of flats the communal areas and lifts should be large and suitable for use by disabled people.

One in four households includes at least one person with a disability according to the OPCS 1991 national census. A high proportion of people with long-term limiting illness have mobility limitations. Arthritis Care estimates that 8 million people have some form of arthritis. I understand that some 300,000 people each year suffer a heart attack. Conditions affecting the mobility of younger people include asthma in one in 10 children, Aids, and disability caused by accidental injury.

The changing age profile of the UK population means there will be 600,000 more people over 80 in 2010. In 1992 over 15 per cent. of borrowers for new dwellings were 45 years-old or over. In 1995 the Halifax Building Society, in an experimental marketing initiative in its Brighton estate agents, found a huge demand for housing with accessible features, but no houses coming onto the market which were accessible.

A cornerstone of government policy is care in the community. The strain on the public purse of adapting existing, unsuitable housing currently runs at more than £80 million per annum. An unknown and far larger sum must be spent by private individuals. Can we really afford to continue to build unsuitable housing?

Accessible housing does not mean unattractive housing. It is not about concrete ramps and handrails. Those only become necessary when typical private sector housing must be adapted. The cost of implementing Part M is very small in relation to total development costs. Developers would have a competitive advantage in relation to existing housing stock. In the long term there would be a reduction in the need for adaptations and other community care facilities.

The new Housing Bill--it is a government Bill currently going through another place--places a much greater emphasis on provision of housing by the private sector. It therefore becomes even more important that

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new housing is accessible. The Government have themselves proposed extending the building regulations to include improved access for disabled people to domestic dwellings.

While the Government delay, the changes which are urgently needed to ensure that the country's future housing stock meets future needs are not being made. I beg to move.


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