HL Deb 08 December 1982 vol 437 cc179-81

3 p.m.

The Earl of Selkirk

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what advice they can give to a householder when his house requires rewiring which would enable the householder to be sure that the work is carried out correctly.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, when a householder wishes to have his house rewired it is important for him to ensure that the work is carried out to the requirements of the Institution of Electrical Engineers' wiring regulations. He would therefore be well advised to approach a contractor who is enrolled with the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting: or, if his chosen contractor is not a member of that body, to specify that IEE standards are applied. Area electricity boards have copies of the roll of NICEIC contractors available for inquirers.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. Is he aware that it is widely said that 10 million or possibly 12 million houses require rewiring? The additional equipment using electricity now commonly used must constitute a fire hazard. Is the noble Lord satisfied that enough people are being trained to deal with this problem in the course of the next 10 years?

Lord Skelmersdale

Yes, my Lords, there is no doubt in my mind that a considerable number of houses do need rewiring, some of them not having been rewired since the 1920s, and as such would have wiring of vulcanised india rubber which goes brittle with age and can, when disturbed, become extremely dangerous. So I certainly agree with my noble friend.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, will the Minister agree that a great many people are unaware of the existence of these councils, and that they are also unaware that they can approach them if anything goes wrong? Both councils provide a guarantee scheme and will repair such work at no cost to the householder. That being so, does the Minister agree that much more publicity should be given to this, so that householders who are about to have their houses rewired will at least know that they should approach one of these associations to make sure that the contractor is on their list? Does the Minister further agree that this is especially important, since not only can bad rewiring be costly, but it can be highly dangerous?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I accept the last point made by the noble Baroness. However, she has not quite put the complete picture. There are many reliable firms in the contracting field who belong to neither of the organisations I mentioned. Should one of those be preferred the consumer would be wise to specify, as I said in my original Answer, that the work is done according to the regulations. Area electricity boards have lists of contractors from whom work is accepted as being likely to be satisfactory, whether or not they are enrolled members of the council. I cannot think of any instance where a house is likely to be rewired, or has been rewired, where the involvement of the local electricty board would not, of necessity, be both wise and applicable.

Lord Somers

My Lords, can the Minister give even a rough estimate of how many fires during the past year have been caused by faulty wiring?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I believe this is in the order of 100, but I would have to look into that matter. The point is, that it is not necessarily faulty wiring that is the cause of fires. It can also be the faulty connection of appliances to the existing wiring.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether, if one has one's house rewired, what is the average expected life of that rewiring?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am afraid I shall have to write to my noble friend. I do not have the least idea.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, is it not equally important that the householder should know whether his house requires rewiring? In my opinion there are far too many who are scared into rewiring where only repairs are required. In my home in Scotland we are still using wiring which was put in in 1913.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I made the point earlier that the old vulcanised india rubber wiring is absolutely safe provided it is not disturbed. I recommend the noble Lord not to disturb his wiring. Having remade that point, the noble Lord is, course, quite correct, and the sensible thing to do is to consult the area electricity board.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, electricity boards themselves undertake this work. Will the Minister impress upon them that if they include advertisements for their own rewiring services with their bills, four times a year, to every householder—post free to themselves—they will be competing unfairly with electricians in the private sector who would have to spend a fortune on direct mail advertising on the same scale?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I have some experience of direct mail advertising and, while it is a very good method of bringing services to the attention of the public, in this case a consumer of a nationalised industry, it is not necessarily very effective.

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