HL Deb 08 July 1957 vol 204 cc790-9

4.1 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this is another Private Member's Bill, of a rather different character and of a wider application. It is the fruits of the energy of the honourable Member for Kidderminster in another place, whose efforts in this direction have been well known and sustained for a long time. It aims at causing fuel to be saved by seeing that any new factory buildings erected are properly insulated. Our fuel situation is well known and there is no need for me to recapitulate it. Coal is short of our requirements. Supplies are supplemented by imported coal and imported oil, and we are spending vast sums on atomic energy. All this means foreign exchange and/or an immense capital expenditure. Foreign exchange, capital and coal are in an equal degree of shortage to-day. So it is clear that any reasonable steps we can take towards fuel economy are necessary and desirable.

Insulation makes for economy because it stops the escape of heat from a building. Every year approximately 40 million square feet of new factories are erected. Some are insulated; some are not suitable for insulation, and a great many are suitable but not insulated. Corrugated sheeting is much used in factory construction, particularly for roofing, and it lends itself to the escape of heat at the joints, so that by insulation one can achieve a substantial saving. To give an example of a typical factory building going up to-day, a building 200 feet long by 100 feet wide, and 20 feet to the ridges, with a 9-inch brick wall and a cement floor, if properly insulated, would use about 80 tons of coal less every year than if it were not insulated at all; and the cost of this insulation would be something in the neighbourhood of £2,500, or, say, £30 of capital per ton of coal or coal equivalent saved. Of course, some buildings would cost more and some less.

Then there is what I might call the global calculation, which has been used in another place. If all the factory area built in a year—namely, 40 million square feet—were insulated, there would be a saving of 170,000 tons of coal a year over the same space if it were not insulated. That is, of course, a theoretical calculation, because in practice the basic assumptions do not obtain, but I must emphasise that every year a new crop of building comes along, and therefore there is a cumulative saving of an amount which, at the theoretical maximum, could be 170,000 tons a year but which, in practice, must be a great deal less.

The question must be asked: is it worth while?—because one can do anything if one is willing to spend enough money; one can grow an orange grove in Piccadilly if one is willing to spend enough millions. To save a ton of coal a year at an increased capital cost of a building of £30 seems to me to be good business, particularly as other savings accrue. For instance, the owner of a new building will be able to plan for a smaller heating installation than he would be able to do if his building were not insulated. All in all, it seems a reasonable proposition for the industrialist and definitely a good one for the nation. There are people not slow to take advantage of this. I can cite the Ministry of Power's fuel-saving loan scheme, which includes saving by insulation; and for that there have been many applications and a large number of loans granted, so that the owners of many existing buildings are clearly conscious of the saving to be made. I may add that my figures are based on data from the National Industrial Fuel Efficiency Service, and I think therefore, they are probably about the best available.

So much for the saving of fuel. There is also the question of comfort. The heating level of factory buildings is prescribed under the Factories Acts, but we all know that in exceptional weather it is sometimes difficult to maintain the proper standards, in which case work people get cold hands and feet and the work falls below standard. With insulation, it is easier to maintain an even working temperature. Your Lordships may well ask, as I did: if this is such a good proposition, why is a Bill necessary to make it compulsory? I think that the answer is that the science of fuel efficiency is a comparatively new one. For generations we have had cheap coal and, in consequence, we have been very prodigal with it, and a great many people just have not bothered to save coal. Moreover, we are short of capital, and factory owners naturally want to put up a factory of the cheapest proper construction. To-day, the position is different. Through the National Industrial Fuel Efficiency Service and individuals like the energetic Member for Kidderminster, the Government have been able to do their best to urge the saving of fuel and point out the advantages to be gained thereby.

Another question your Lordships may ask is: if this cause is so good, why does the Bill prescribe it only for new buildings? When the Bill was first envisaged, it dealt with all buildings, existing as well as new; but when discussions about practicability began to take place it was soon seen that the appalling implications of trying to apply the Bill to existing buildings would be too much and that an expensive system for exemptions and inspections would have to be created. By confining the Bill to new buildings, we are doing the work very cheaply, and we are setting an example to the old buildings, many of which will certainly follow. The Bill was introduced under the Ten Minute Rule, and the Second Reading was not opposed by the Government, as a result of modifications which were agreed and were introduced on Committee and Report. The Bill passed with Government support and the support of the Labour Party.

Now a word or two about the machinery of administration. The onus is on the local authority in passing plans to see that the buildings are properly insulated according to regulations made by the Minister of Power. These regulations will be subject to the Negative Resolution procedure and will need careful drafting, after consultation with a number of bodies in this country. That is why it seems impossible that the Bill can apply to buildings on which a start is made before January 1, 1959, though the Minister has power to speed up the date if he thinks proper. Clause 1 gives the Minister power to make regulations prescribing a standard in insulation. Clause 2 brings the procedure of passing plans into line with the Public Health Acts. I may emphasise that there is no separate submission of insulation plans; the plans will go in as one plan for the building.

Clause 3 is important, because it gives the Minister power, in his regulations, to exclude materials on the ground that they do not give sufficient fire protection—there has been at least one disastrous fire in recent times where insulation may have helped to spread the flames. Clause 4 is the sanctions clause, and it gives the local authorities power to demand the demolition or the modification of buildings which have been erected not conforming to the plans they passed. Clause 5 gives the builder the right of appeal against the decision of the local authority, not only at the plans-passing stage, but also at the stage of dispute as to whether the building conforms with those plans. Clause 6 applies the provisions to extensions of buildings. Clause 7 is most important, because it gives the Minister powers to exempt whole classes of buildings, and the local authority, with the consent of the Minister, power to exempt buildings, from the provisions of the Bill. For instance, it would be ridiculous to require a foundry to be insulated—or, indeed, many other industrial buildings where there is already a surplus of waste heat in the building. The same consideration would apply in most cases to storage premises. The power of exemption is important also from the point of view of the definition of industrial buildings in the Factories Act which is used in this Bill, because that definition includes many buildings which this Bill is not intended to cover, such as, for example, those I have just suggested.

Clause 8 brings the inspection procedure into line with the Public Health Acts and the Factories Acts. That means that the existing inspectors of factories will be used and we do not have to create a new army to police this Bill. Clause 9 provides that the regulations are subject to the Negative Resolution procedure. Clauses 10, 11 and 13 are routine, and Clause 12 applies the Bill to Scotland. I am told that the apparent complication is due merely to the fact that it is made to conform to the Scottish procedure for passing building plans. In conclusion, I should say that the proposed legislation is, I believe, unique in any country in the world. It is timely, and it is part of a campaign by the Member for Kidderminster for the better use of fuel in this country. I hope that my noble friend the Minister of Power will be able to assure the House of Government support, industrial support and local authority co-operation. I commend the Bill to your Lordships, and beg to move its Second Reading.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Hawke.)

4.16 p.m.


My Lords, on behalf of myself and of my noble friends on this side of the House, I should like to welcome this Bill, and if I criticise it, it will really be for sins of omission and not commission. The noble Lord, Lord Hawke, is to be thanked, certainly by those of us interested in the subject, for the extremely clear account, he has given of this Bill, as, indeed, he did of the previous Bill when moving the Second Reading a few minutes ago. It is a fairly complicated Bill, and I think he made both its provisions and the reasons for those criticisms which I was, and still am, inclined to make, perfectly clear. For that I feel we should be grateful.

Frankly, my criticism of the Bill could be summarised by saying that I do not think it goes far enough. I should have liked to see it extended not only to industrial buildings but to domestic buildings, and, in particular, to—I was going to say, Government buildings; that is to say, buildings put up for local authorities of one kind or another. It was only last year that I went over a magnificent new school, a superbly handsome building which is a credit to the architects. But, as in all modern building, there were, as there should be, enormous windows and vast expanses of glass. I inquired whether any attempt had been made to insulate those windows, and I was told that there had not, and that the expense was too high.

At that time I did a rough calculation (I am not a very good mathematician, and I may have got my facts wrong) on information that was given me about this particular building, and I came to the conclusion that probably the expense of insulating it properly would have been paid back in fuel economy in about six and a half years. That is a figure which I give to your Lordships with diffidence, and with the proviso that I should not like to take too much responsibility for my mathematics; but I am quite satisfied that in a comparatively short time the insulation would have paid for itself. That is quite apart from the social advantages which the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, has so rightly stressed. Therefore, I regret that this Bill extends only to industrial buildings; the economy made would be appreciably greater if it extended, as I say, both to public buildings and to domestic buildings.

I confess, too, to dissatisfaction and disappointment, and a certain inability to accept the assurances of the noble Lord, at the application of these proposed regulations to existing buildings. I should have thought that it would have been perfectly possible to have had, shall we say, an interim period, perhaps five years, after which a local authority inspector might be entitled to report on any industrial building in his area which, in his view, failed to satisfy the conditions of the Bill and the future Act; and that after a period of grace, shall we say another twelve months, the local authority should be entitled to insist upon the work being done or, as is suggested in the Bill, actually undertake the work itself. I also observed with some dismay when I read the Bill that it does not come into operation until January, 1959. On this matter, I consider the noble Lord's explanation is at least quite understandable. I think he is pessimistic, but, on the other hand, he has himself pointed out that the Minister has powers to advance that date if he considers it feasible.

There are one or two points on which I should like to ask for guidance from the noble Lord. For example, in Clause 2 the opening words are: Where there are deposited with a local authority plans… There does not seem to me to be any compulsory clause in the Bill under which prospective builders of industrial buildings must submit their plans for the insulation of the building to the local authority. I also do not like too much line 15 of Clause 2 (1) which reads: …unless they "— that is, the local authority— show that the building will not conform… In other words, the weight of showing is upon the local authority and not upon the builder who submits the plans. I should have thought that it would have been a more satisfactory way of placing the responsibility to have said that the person submitting the plans and desiring to build should show that the building was properly insulated.

I wonder whether the noble Lord can explain this point to me. It may be stupidity on my part, and, if it is, I apologise in advance. In Clause 2 (3) the relevant period is stated to be one month, provided that in certain authorities, whose meetings are not normally held more frequently than once a month, plans are deposited less than three clear days… Supposing the plans are deposited three or four days in advance of the meeting, the relevant period would, I take it, be only one month. Would the rejection of the plans then depend entirely upon an employee, an officer, of the local authority? Because if it requires the consent and support of the local authority itself, it might be that the relevant officer would have only three days en which to inspect the plans and produce a report which he would have to submit to the local authority. As I say, this is probably a technicality which I may well have misunderstood; and if it is, I apologise.

The noble Lord drew attention—quite rightly, of course—to Clause 4, which is the penal clause. I am not too happy about the limitation of twelve months which is put upon any action by the local authority in respect of an unsatisfactory building which, has been put up, apparently without their approval of the insulation plans. Quite properly, in subsection (3) it says that where the plans have been passed, and where they were either not rejected or not rejected within the relevant period, they should not be entitled to insist on either the alteration or the removal of the building. It seems to me that if a building has been put up without their consent, it would be reasonable that they might criticise it at any time and demand its improvement or its destruction, if it is beyond improvement. These are points which I hope your Lordships will not think quite without relevance and which have occurred to me in studying this Bill. Apart from them, as I say, I welcome the Bill. I think it is a step in the right direction, and I hope it will be followed by other and longer steps.

4.26 p.m.


My Lords, I am glad the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, paid tribute to the way in which my noble friend Lord Hawke introduced the Second Reading of this Bill. He was exceedingly clear, his explanations were easy to follow, and if I had not had the opportunity of studying the Bill before. I think it would have commended itself to me.

I should like to say, on behalf of the Government, that I welcome this Bill, the purpose of which is to secure fuel saving in industry. Thermal insulation of buildings is a very good way to secure worth while fuel saving. My predecessors have always been concerned to encourage thermal insulation. The noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, regretted that this Bill did not extend to domestic buildings and other buildings, such as offices, and so on. I am always open to receive suggestions for saving fuel, but so far as the noble Lord's suggestion is concerned, it is not comprised in the Long Title of the Bill, and therefore I think is out of place for discussion this afternoon. The noble Lord made a plea that the Government should also consider the application of the Bill to existing buildings. That was one point which the Government did consider, and when it was taken out of the Bill they decided that they would support it because it is wholly impracticable and uneconomical to try to compel owners of existing buildings to insulate them in this way. There are so many varieties of buildings, buildings in so many different styles, with so many different materials, that it would require a horde of officials to see that anything worth while was done in many of them. The whole idea would not be worth while.

The date of January 1, 1959, or any earlier date that may be appointed, was put in the Bill because it was realised that the Minister would have quite a task in drafting the regulations under Clauses 1, 3 and 7. They will be very complicated regulations to draft and I have no precedent to guide me in drafting them. I have to see that the standards are reasonable in relation to the factories concerned so as to avoid the need for a lot of exemptions later on. The noble Lord referred to Clause 2 and suggested that it should be for the applicant to show that he had provided the right insulation and not for the local authority to show that he had not. That is not very reasonable. Plans have to be deposited with the local authority and there are many by-laws to be met in those plans. Insulation is only one factor and it is one that the local authority will now have to look out for. It is quite reasonable that if they are going to object to the plans, it should be for the local authority to say why.

Clause 2 (3) is rather a technical matter. The point was that there should be sufficient time to allow for a report to be made on this aspect of the matter to the local authority. It was designed to ensure that. Clause 4 was the other point to which the noble Lord referred. I would say to your Lordships that this clause is based on the procedure now in operation in respect of building by-laws contained in Section 65 of the Public Health Act, 1936, which provides the sanction against persons who refuse to comply. This clause just follows the course of the Act and seems to me to be an eminently reasonable provision. I should like again to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, for his excellent exposition of this Bill and to commend it to your Lordships.


My Lords, my noble friend has replied to practically every point raised by the noble Lord opposite, leaving me nothing to say. I should just like to say, however, that he asks that this provision should be extended to the domestic and public authority field. I can tell the noble Lord that ten minutes ago I had the best of reasons to believe that the honourable gentleman the Member for Kidderminster was still alive, and I purposely said that this Bill was not the culmination of his career.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.