HC Deb 19 January 1977 vol 924 cc307-8
6. Mr. Rost

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress he is making in promoting energy conservation by improved standards of thermal insulation for buildings in the private and public sectors.

The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr. Reginald Freeson)

We have published informal proposals for standards in most buildings not already covered. The question of further regulations is being considered in the light of the comments we have received from the many interests concerned.

Mr. Rost

These improved regulations have been considered for months. When shall we get them? Is not the failure to introduce improved thermal insulation standards, as well as the Governmnt's failure to provide incentives for thermal insulation, causing unnecessary hardship to many thousands of low income families, particularly elderly people, who are having to pay unnecessarily high electricity heating bills? Would it not be a saving of public funds to provide grants and incentives for insulation rather than to use the social security system for paying their heating bills?

Mr. Freeson

I think that the hon. Gentleman has the basis of his supplementary question a little inaccurate.

Mr. Rost


Mr. Freeson

The informal proposals that have been the subject of consultation in recent months have not related to dwellings, which have already been the subject of building regulations as recently as 1975. They relate to most other kinds of buildings, so the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question does not arise on this Question.

Mrs. Castle

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if we were to charge an economic price for fuel, most people's fuel bills would be astronomical unless we overhauled our housing standards urgently to prevent heat loss? Will he ensure that the housing regulations do not prevent local authorities from introducing really efficient forms of insulation, including double glazing, double doors and all the other necessary appurtenances?

Mr. Freeson

The thermal standards laid down in the building regulations as from 1975 do not relate to double glazing. It is a matter for local authority decision in most instances whether to introduce these improvements as part of the general management of properties.

I should also say that the building regulations as revised in 1975 cannot possibly of themselves tackle the problems that arise for many of the kinds of families, to which my right hon. Friend has rightly referred, who live in existing properties, many of them old, pre-1919 properties. They can relate only to properties proposed for construction as from now onwards. Other measures must be taken. I do not think that it would be helpful merely to single out parcular kinds of insulation or double glazing. We must look at the condition of properties as a whole, at insulation, heating systems and draught-proofing installations of various kinds, in order to improve conditions for the people concerned.