HL Deb 02 March 1976 vol 368 cc896-9
Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government, in view of the number of fuel debts and cases of hypothermia among council tenants, whether they can say how many council houses do not have loft space insulation of three or four inches, as recommended in the leaflet Energy Saving in the Home, and what steps they propose to take to improve any shortfall.

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, exact figures are not available, but council houses will have at least the amount of loft space insulation needed to conform to the building byelaws or regulations in force at the time they were built. A recent circular has pointed out to local authorities the benefits of improving the thermal insulation of existing dwellings, although in the current financial climate the funds available for this are limited. But the insulation of roof spaces as part of a comprehensive scheme of improvement qualifies for Exchequer subsidy, and so do improvements to the roof insulation of dwellings for the elderly or disabled.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, while thanking the noble Baroness for that reply, am I to understand from it that no council houses have roof insulation to the standard recommended by the Department of Energy, that very few, in fact, have the 50 millimetres recommended, as this will be only in buildings built to the latest building standards, and that most council houses have less loft insulation than the 50 millimetres that is currently recommended?

Baroness BIRK

No, my Lords. The noble Baroness cannot imply all that from what I said. I said that we have not got the figures. As the noble Baroness is aware, what happens varies from one local authority to another. It is perfectly true that the new regulations did not come into effect until January 1975, so it is impossible to have figures on the matter. It is possible that some local authorities have gone above the two inches, but we have no figures as to that because they are not required to produce them.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, in view of the Government's tremendous "Save It" campaign, which presumably means that Her Majesty's Government are anxious to save energy, would not it be helpful to keep such figures so that we knew which houses met what are regarded as desirable standards of insulation, and would not it be better to encourage better insulation of houses rather than to subsidise tenants by way of heating allowances?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, the question of subsidising tenants by heating allowances arises because in many cases, and particularly in respect of this Question, insulating a roof will not help an old person who is living in and heating aground floor room. The result would not be immediate or particularly effective.

The other question is that of expense in house-building. As I said in reply to the previous Question of the noble Baroness, we need to know more about insulation before it is incorporated mandatorily in building regulations. Nevertheless, advice on insulation is absolutely right and proper and, to their benefit, many people have taken advice and insulated their homes.


My Lords, could the Minister answer that part of my noble friend's Question which asks the Government: …in view of the number of fuel debts and cases of hypothermia among council tenants… and say how many there were among council tenants?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I am afraid that information is not available. The Question of the noble Baroness is tied up with hypothermia, but as this does not always result directly from heating and the Question we are now answering, it would be quite impossible to say. It covers a great many other causes as well.


My Lords, in view of the greater and greater pursuit of insulation, I wonder whether the noble Baroness would direct the attention of her right honourable friend to the insulatory effect of newspapers? As the noble Baroness will appreciate, this is a subject which has been neglected. There is no better use for an old newspaper than for insulation, as anybody who has slept in the open will know.

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, certainly I use all the many newspapers I have to insulate myself, but this did not prevent me from getting the 'flu.


My Lords, does this apply only to old newspapers?


My Lords, will the noble Baroness say whether the newspapers are to insulate one from reality?


My Lords, could my noble friend say where all the money is to be found if the steps mentioned in the Question that has been asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, are to be met? One has in mind what will happen to the houses that were built immediately following the Second World War. In every area throughout the country there are thousands of houses that were built in the post-war period. Certain alterations have taken place in these houses to try to improve their condition for the benefit of the tenants. If this has to take place, could my noble friend state where she thinks the money will be found to meet the requirements asked for by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, in her Question?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, further to what my noble friend implied in the first part of his question, may I suggest that he should direct his question to the noble Baroness opposite.

Several Noble Lords: No!


My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether she can give us some indication of the cost of insulating a loft as related to the payments which are made for subsidising fuel?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I am afraid that is an entirely different Question and the noble Lord must put it down if he wants an answer to it.