HC Deb 28 June 1957 vol 572 cc590-4

11.30 a.m.

Mr. Nabarro

I beg to move, in page 3, line 16, to leave out from the second "the" to the end of line 17 and to insert: first day of January, nineteen hundred and fifty-nine, or such earlier day as the Minister may by order (made by statutory instrument) appoint". This is a very important Amendment indeed, which occupied the attention of the Committee upstairs for some while. A good deal of adverse criticisim was expressed in Committee, in that whereas the original intention of the Bill as printed for Second Reading was that the provisions relating to the thermal insulation of new industrial buildings should become effective from 1st January, 1958, an Amendment introduced in Committee deferred that commencing date to 1st January, 1959, by the substitution of the words "after the year 1958".

My hon. Friends the Members for Chichester (Sir L. Joynson-Hicks) and for Harrow, West (Sir A. Braithwaite) both adversely criticised this further delay, and my hon. and learned Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power explained that the legislation concerned is unique in character. The framing and drafting of the regulations, largely of a technical nature, will be exceedingly complex and difficult and will require consultation with a large number of different bodies representing manufacturing interests, trade unions, professional bodies such as the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Structural Insulation Association, the Chartered Institute of Surveyors and others, and would, therefore, be likely to occupy a considerable period of time even if this Measure reaches the Statute Book before we rise for the Summer Recess.

In those circumstances, it was thought advisable to try to reach a compromise, and the compromise is enshrined in the Amendment that I am now moving. It says, in effect, that the Bill will become effective and the thermal insulation requirements implemented for all new buildings after the year 1958 or any earlier date that the Minister may decide upon, in the light of progress which he is able to make in his consultations concerning the drafting of the orders, made by Statutory Instruments.

I think that all Members will agree with me, as there is general support for the Measure, that every effort should be made to bring these provisions into effect without any lengthy or undue delay. The position was very similar in the clean air legislation, when a great deal of consultation was needed, and there was some controversy at various stages of that important Bill as it passed through both Houses as to how early it would be possible to implement its provisions.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, on that occasion, was able to do a good deal better in implementing the provisions of the Bill than he originally indicated to this House, and I feel confident that my hon. and learned Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister of Power will be able to do a good deal better than 1st January, 1959, once we have passed the Measure and once there is thus full opportunity provided for the lengthy and complex consultation to which I have referred, to take place between the Minis- terial staffs and those interested parties and bodies in the country.

Sir Lancelot Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)

I beg to second the Amendment.

I do so in order that I may express my appreciation of the adoption of a suggestion which I made in Committee upstairs. I think that this is a happy solution of the problem, because one can see quite clearly the two sides of the conflict.

On the one hand, there are those of us who are exceedingly anxious to get the provisions of the Bill brought into operation at the earliest possible time, and, on the other, there are those of us who not only recognise the complexity of the regulations to which my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) has referred and which, being complex, have got to be simplified for the benefit of those who are going to use them, but also recognise that when imposing an obligation upon industry to do something to their buildings one also accepts the moral obligation to ensure that the means whereby they can do it are known by them to be effective and economic. It is that side of the proposals which probably will require a fair amount of detailed work to be done between the professionals involved and the Ministry.

Therefore, we came to the conclusion that it would not be fair to impose an earlier date for the operation of the Bill than 1st January, 1959, but, at the same time, we expressed in a practical way the unanimous hope of the Committee that means should be found whereby these matters would be agreed sooner so that the Minister could by order bring the Bill into operation at an earlier date than that provided. I therefore commend this compromise to the House and hope that it will be accepted.

Mr. Renton

In spite of the difficulties involved, we willingly agree with this Amendment and advise the House to accept it. We shall make every effort to bring the Bill into operation before 1st January, 1959, but I do not think that we should lose sight of the difficulties. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) has so rightly pointed out, the regulations which have got to be made defining the prescribed standards and dealing with what I would call the fire risk which we mentioned earlier this morning, will be very complicated indeed. There is no precedent in the world, I understand, for either of them.

Of course, very considerable consultations have got to take place not merely before the first draft of the regulations is made but as the drafting of the regulations proceeds; and, as hon. Members know, this is a very thorough process. There are several Departments concerned here as well as many non-Governmental organisations, whom we have the duty to consult and some of whom my hon. Friend mentioned.

Mr. C. R. Hobson

Are the regulations to be subject to the negative Resolution procedure?

Mr. Renton

My recollection is that these are subject to negative Resolution procedure and not to affirmative resolution. The fact that they are subject to the negative Resolution procedure is in itself a time-saving factor, unless, of course, hon. Gentlemen decide to pray against them. I hope that the regulations will be well enough drawn by us not to make that necessary.

That is one factor—the complexity of the regulations and the elaborate nature of the consultations which have got to take place. There is another factor and it is this. We cannot expect people to start complying with the regulations the day after they are published. A reasonable time has got to be allowed for builders, architects and local authorities to study these regulations even if they have been consulted before, because it is only the representatives at the top of each of these industries and organisations who will have taken part in the consultations.

The people on the job, and actually having to bring them into operation, will not have taken part in the consultations. They will need time to study and digest the regulations, and it is they who will need to be given reasonable warning.

Yet another factor is that work on building new factories cannot stand still while we have these discussions and while the regulations are being drafted. All the time there will be factories being planned, and it would be unreasonable to expect all those plans to be scrapped as soon as the Bill is passed or, indeed, as soon as the regulations are approved. That is another reason for having a reasonable period of time between the passing of the regulations and their being brought into operation by bringing this Measure into force.

However, the whole thing has to be done before 1st January, 1959, and if we can bring that date forward we will most certainly do so. I give the House the undertaking that we shall make every possible effort.

Mr. C. R. Hobson

The Parliamentary Secretary's speech was a very wise one. It was cautious. There are great difficulties in this matter. I would remind him of difficulties of a similar nature in making Post Office technical regulations. I conducted the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1949, through the House. It contained provision for making regulations about electrical interference from motor vehicles. It was easy to make regulations in respect of new cars, but it was difficult in the case of old vehicles. There were further complications in respect of industrial plant. Because of the difficulties, the regulations have even yet not been laid.

In the case before us there are difficulties, but as the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) pointed out a little earlier, we are at least operating and know the standards to which we can work. Therefore, it is a question of finding accommodation between the professional and industrial organisations which will of necessity be consulted.

I am on both sides this morning. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary was very wise to make a cautious speech. On the other hand, as one of the supporters of the Bill, I think it necessary to ensure that there is some "pep" in a Measure of this sort, which, after all, is important in respect of the saving of coal. As the hon. Member for Chichester (Sir L. Joynson-Hicks) said, the date proposed is a reasonable compromise.

Amendment agreed to.