HL Deb 22 May 1995 vol 564 cc899-912

9.45 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Hamwee.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [Interpretation]:

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 13, after ("measures"") insert ("means measures to encourage the increased efficiency of energy use in residential accommodation for the purposes of—

  1. (a) reducing the consumption of finite energy supplies, especially those causing pollutant emissions,
  2. (b) supporting trade and industry in energy efficiency services and products;

The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 1, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 2. First, I must apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and my noble friend the Minister for not being present at Second Reading, and I hope that they will forgive me on this occasion. Also, I should declare two interests; one as a consultant to a solar energy company and another as a director of Eurosolar UK, which is a non-party organisaion designed to promote the use of renewable energy.

I know that many people throughout the country still feel that when the words "renewable energy" are mentioned, they do not apply to this country. Their eyes tend to glaze over and they are quite happy to burn fossil fuels. But my anxiety is that fossil fuels in this world are finite and a serious problem is looming ahead of us. My main concern with the Bill is that it does not tackle the essential problem which faces us; that is, how to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that we pump into the atmosphere.

The advantage of renewables is that they do not pollute. That is why they will become of increasing interest in this country and throughout the world. I am sure that there is a ground-swell of opinion that wants to take the whole idea of renewables forward, just as it did not so long ago with unleaded petrol. On that point, perhaps I can ask my noble friend the Minister what will happen to the non-fossil fuel levy with the privatisation of the nuclear industry? No other measure has perhaps been so significant in encouraging renewables industries in this country as the non-fossil fuel levy. It is an example of Conservative policy at its best. It produces an incentive for the private sector to conduct research, to spend money, to make the investment and, when that investment produces the goods—in this case electricity free of pollutants—it receives the benefit of the levy.

Can my noble friend confirm that the levy will continue at the same level hypothecated at the moment, which is 1 percent. of the 10 per cent. non-fossil fuel levy? That will be important because it gives this country a huge opportunity to become world leaders in renewable energy. Also, has my noble friend available the energy ratio for 1993—that is, the amount of energy needed to produce a unit of GDP? That is a true indication of the energy being used by a country and gives a better indication of where a country is going.

The Bill does not fulfil the criteria that I have laid down. I do not believe that it will lead to the kind of reduction in carbon dioxide emissions anticipated by some of its proponents. Therein lies the rub, because a good many people will say, "We now have the Home Energy Conservation Act. We can sit back and not do anything more". That would be a serious setback in our fight against global climate warming. In addition, it does not cover enough of the industries which generate carbon dioxide. As the noble Baroness said at Second Reading, it covers between a quarter and a third of carbon dioxide emissions, including an allocation from the power stations for domestic use. If one takes houses by themselves, which is the remit of the Bill, the total is probably under a quarter. There are huge areas of industry and transport which should also have been covered by the Bill and which I would wish to cover. But, quite rightly, the rules of the House prevented me from widening the scope of the Bill.

What will the Bill give us? It will give local authorities lots of work to do. It will give them new duties. They will be able to produce lots of reports at great expense to council tax payers. I seriously believe that that money could be better spent elsewhere. I do not know what the cost of these reports will be or whether Richmond council believes that the cost can be justified against the better use of expenditure.

If it is argued that energy conservation leads to a reduction in carbon dioxide, that is not supported by the facts. The ENDS Report in 1993 looked into a study conducted by the Building Research Establishment on behalf of the DoE's energy efficiency office. The study evaluated the impact of work carried out under the home energy efficiency scheme. It had been anticipated that the average household would potentially save £44 a year on its winter fuel bills, equating to a reduction in CO2 emissions of 0.7 tonnes per year. But what happened in reality is that we did not get that saving because people liked the extra warmth and so consumed just as much electricity and produced just as much carbon dioxide. In fact, 77 per cent. of households in practice opted for increased warmth and the actual reduction in fuel bills was only £9—not the £44 that was envisaged—and the CO2 reduction was just 0.14 tonnes per year and not 0.7 tonnes. That is the complacency factor which I feel the Bill will set more in concrete.

We must get rid of the myth that energy conservation equals energy saving. It might increase the comfort—that, in itself, is no bad thing—but it does not attack the main problem. The Bill should encourage a change of fuel source; and that it signally fails to do. That is the importance of Amendment No. 1. It is the setting in the amendment of the measures for reducing the consumption of finite energy supplies and supporting the trade and industry concerned with energy efficient services and products that I believe is so important. If that is spelt out in the Bill, the true purpose will be identified.

Having used the words "energy efficiency measures" it is right to define those. I have done that in Amendment No. 2. I have suggested there not a complete definition— one cannot get a complete definition—but signposts that local authorities and the Secretary of State should look for. The definition is: the most effective way of utilising energy for heating, lighting, refrigeration and other energy consuming functions".

Again, we are slightly misled on this aspect. Perhaps I may take the example of our hot water systems. As a result of the European directive, we can now buy a boiler with an energy efficiency rating on it. But that is not the end of the story. We go home, put the new boiler in and we think we are doing a good job. But we have not actually looked at the water that the boiler is heating or what the result is, because I do not believe that it is well known that for every millimetre of scale on the boiler tank, on the coil in the immersion heater or in the kettle, one is reducing the energy efficiency by 10 per cent. Therefore, a mere five millimetres of scale on the boiler or in the kettle—I looked into mine at the weekend and I should not think that there was much short of five millimetres there—equates to a 50 per cent. reduction in energy efficiency. Therefore, although I thought that I was doing quite a good job, I was using much more energy, and causing the emission of much more carbon dioxide from the power station, in order to get that kettle to boil. It is exactly the same with our boilers.

It is important to stress what energy efficiency means so that those who will be responsible for the reports, as outlined in the Bill, and the Secretary of State, can home in on what really matters and not just on the gloss on the surface. I beg to move.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater)

I shall deal with Amendment No. 1 first. That amendment, moved by my noble friend Lord Caithness draws the Committee's attention to two particular aspects of energy efficiency. One is the need to reduce the demands placed on finite energy supplies, which also give rise to harmful emissions. The second is the role which trade and industry can play in providing energy efficiency services and products.

I fully agree with my noble friend that these are important matters to take into account in any energy efficiency strategy. As I hope to reassure the Committee, they are matters which are already covered by the Bill, and the Government certainly hope that they will be covered in energy conservation authorities' plans under the Bill. However, I believe that the definition in the Bill is already wide enough to allow this and that the amendments proposed by my noble friend are not therefore needed. The involvement of businesses in energy efficiency in general and in partnership with local authorities in the context of the Bill was the subject of some discussion in another place. The conclusion there, which I believe was the right one, was that the Bill as it stands gives authorities full scope for involving businesses and products in the measures they include in the reports they prepare under the Bill.

My noble friend mentioned the scope for the greater use of energy from renewable sources. The Government's new and renewable energy policy is to stimulate the development of new and renewable energy sources wherever they have prospects of being economically attractive and environmentally acceptable. It will be open to authorities to include reference to such measures in their energy conservation reports, and I will certainly see that their attention is drawn to the possibility in the guidance to be drawn up. Guidance for local authorities is available from the Department of Trade and Industry.

Turning to the reduction of emissions which are harmful to the environment, reductions in the demand for energy which we all hope and believe will result from measures identified as a result of the Bill will of course lead to improvements in this area. Clause 2(3) (b) of the Bill requires that energy conservation reports must include an assessment of the extent to which emissions of carbon dioxide would be decreased as a result of the measures set out in them. This is a sure way of ensuring that authorities focus on the benefits of carbon dioxide reductions. Reports may also include an assessment of decreases of emissions of oxides of nitrogen and sulphur dioxide.

Turning to the second part of the first amendment supporting trade and industry in energy efficiency services and products, there is again much being done. The existing definition of energy conservation measures is deliberately widely drawn and can cover both advice on energy efficiency goods and services to consumers and advice to providers of goods and services on how they can help with initiatives. Of course, local authorities cannot recommend particular products or service providers but they can draw consumers' attention to what is available so that they can make an informed choice.

The home energy efficiency scheme, which my noble friend mentioned, provides help with loft insulation and draughtproofing to elderly and low-income households and operates to national standards and through approved network installers, giving reassurance to those who might be daunted by the prospect of identifying what needs to be done and arranging for the work to be carried out.

My noble friend suggested that the comfort level then rises —so be it—but I believe that other areas also need to be considered. Education and improved information is an important element in energy efficiency in the home. Most people would consider the fuel consumption of a car when considering making a purchase. I hope that it will become as natural to look at the energy consumption of different models when buying a new refrigerator or washing machine. In terms of more efficient appliances, the UK implemented the first energy labelling directive on 1st January 1995. This requires energy information labels to be fitted to all domestic freezers and refrigerators. It enables consumers to compare the energy efficiency of different models, and manufacturers and retailers are already responding to the measure by positively marketing products which use less energy to do the same job. Directives covering other domestic appliances are to follow.

There have also been initiatives to promote energy saving lightbulbs. For two successive years, the Energy Savings Trust has run highly successful promotional schemes in collaboration with the lighting industry to cut the price of energy-saving light bulbs to consumers. Over one million lamps were sold between October and December last year, five times the normal sales levels.

In that connection, my noble friend asked whether the non-fossil fuel levy would continue. Renewable energy will continue to be supported by the fossil fuel levy on electricity bills. I cannot give my noble friend a date or say that it will continue indefinitely, but it certainly will continue.

I turn now to the second amendment which my noble friend grouped with Amendment No. 1. The amendment would add to the Bill a definition of the term "energy efficiency". I congratulate my noble friend on drawing up such a definition. However, I believe at least in the context of this Bill that the attempt is unnecessary and one which is possibly fraught with danger.

The term "energy efficiency" is used in Clause 2(2) of the Bill, which requires that an energy conservation report shall set out measures which the authority considers practicable, cost-effective and likely to result in significant improvement in the energy efficiency of residential accommodation in its area. I think that we could all explain in ordinary language what we mean by that but, as my noble friend will appreciate, it is not the same thing as having a definition enshrined in statute which might be restrictive.

In talking about "energy effiency" in ordinary language, we mean measures which will result in an equal or greater level of comfort or service being secured for the use of less energy. There are a number of ways in which this can come about. Choosing equipment which performs a task using less energy is one. A refrigerator which runs on less electricity or a low-energy lightbulb are examples. Preventing the waste of heat or light by behavioural changes is another. Setting and using controls properly, drawing curtains to minimise heat loss through windows, and turning lights or appliances off when they are not needed are all examples in this area. Then there are physical measures to prevent the waste of energy used for heating such as loft insulation, draughtproofing and cavity wall insulation. The elderly and disabled can get help with loft insulation and draughtproofing as well as energy advice under the home energy efficiency scheme which has already helped over a million households. I think that we can safely leave the term "energy efficiency" without definition.

If noble Lords are concerned that authorities will not cast the net wide enough in seeking energy conservation measures, it will be possible to indicate in guidance the whole range of initiatives which are open to them. I believe that guidance is a more flexible and—dare I say— user-friendly way of doing this than enshrining a definition in statute.

Before I sit down, my noble friend asked about the energy ratio. I am afraid that I do not have the figure in my brief, but I give an undertaking to find out how the energy ratio has changed over the years and I shall write to my noble friend with the information. In the light of what I have said, I invite my noble friend not to press his amendment, which I believe would not improve the Bill.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

From the Labour Benches I first apologise for the sad absence of my noble friend Lady Hilton who dealt with this matter at an earlier stage. Unfortunately, she has suffered a family bereavement. I am sure that the Committee will be thinking of her at this particularly sad time. However it provides me with an opportunity to say a few words about the Bill and the amendments.

I was impressed with how fluently the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, dealt with what could have been a complicated issue. He dealt with it well and openly. I was tempted to nod my head at all the arguments he produced until the Minister stood up—the noble Earl must have done this a thousand times—and said that there was no need for the amendments because the Bill is drawn wide enough to take into account whatever it was he said.

The noble Earl talked about kettles and elements. For a moment I was going to call him my "esteamed" friend. He impressed me with his knowledge of such matters. Mrs. Diana Maddock in another place, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, have done Parliament, the people and energy users a good service by getting the Bill this far. I have read the proceedings of another place where the Bill was given a right going over. It took almost five hours to get through its Committee stage in another place.

I fear the worst. If amendments were carried in this place they would have to run the gauntlet of another place. They would be capable of being used, or abused, by anyone who wanted to use it as a stick, although not necessarily to deal with this Bill, which, as my noble friend Lady Hilton said, is straightforward, simple and sensible.

The advice the Minister gave to the noble Earl is sound advice, especially as the Government took the trouble to move amendments in another place to improve the original Bill. They were accepted by Mrs. Diana Maddock and the whole House. There were no arguments and no animosity. We in this place would be doing the promoters of the Bill in both places—in effect, that means this country's consumers—a service if we said to the noble Earl that he has served us well by pointing out that there are ways in which even this Bill can be improved; but the parliamentary logistics and the opportunities for mischief that might be created are overpowering reasons why the noble Earl should accept his noble friend's advice.

Baroness Hamwee

I thank noble Lords who have spoken. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Graham, to pass to the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, the condolences of these Benches. We were aware of some possible family difficulties and we are sorry to hear of her bereavement.

As my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich commented to me while the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, was moving the amendment, he would be more interested in hearing the Government's response than comments from Richmond-upon-Thames, although he did mention Richmond-upon-Thames. I am therefore grateful to the Minister for replying at such length. That will shorten what I need to say.

I support the noble Earl's intention to reduce consumption and pollution. Of course, as he said, that was at the heart of the Bill. I support his intention to develop services and products, but it is the old issue: is there a risk of being too specific on the face of the Bill? If we mention those specific matters, should we mention other specific matters? If we do, we should have to cover the whole ground for fear of leaving out something. The word "advice" is included in the definition of energy conservation matters and was inserted in another place at the instigation of the Government. Therefore, those generalities cover the matter very thoroughly indeed.

The Minister indicated that guidance will be a flexible instrument which can stress the very wide nature of what is available and what is possible. We know already that that is likely to include advice to industry and the voluntary sector. The Minister has mentioned also reports by local authorities and what they may possibly contain.

I have some small anxieties about the drafting of the amendments. For completeness I should mention that as drawn, the amendments would mean that the measure would have to deal with what the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, has set out in paragraphs (a) and (b) and the generalities contained in the existing definition. I am not sure whether that is the intention.

I am rather concerned also as to whether the support for trade and industry in those services and products by local authorities would be intra vires the local authority. Supporting trade and industry is not the purpose of the Bill although that will be a very important by-product. I am rather concerned as to whether direct support in the way that it is suggested might be outside the scope of a local authority's powers.

As I say, that will be an important by-product. The Minister has reminded me of the very good work which many good local authorities did—it now seems quite a long way back in history—in installing energy efficient light bulbs in local authority housing. There are a number of such examples. Local authorities, working in partnership with other sectors and with industry and business, will be able to achieve a great deal.

The noble Earl said in moving the amendment that we cannot sit back. Of course we cannot. This Bill may be the end of the beginning of one major area in dealing with energy issues. It is not the whole; but it is very important. I am sure that those who have been involved so far with the Bill and who are excited by the possibilities that it presents will agree with the noble Earl that we cannot sit back.

Having heard the Minister and my small contribution, I hope that the noble Earl will feel reassured with regard to the amendments and will not seek to press them.

The Earl of Caithness

First, I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, how very sorry I am to hear about the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton. I hope that he will pass on to her my very best wishes.

The noble Lord disappointed me. I spent years on the Front Bench disagreeing with the noble Lord. I thought that when I was on the Back-Benches, at least we might agree. However, it looks as though we shall spend years disagreeing with each other. But I was not at all surprised by what he said.

I should like to press the Minister on a number of issues. Will he write to me with further details of the non-fossil fuel levy? Exactly what is in the Government's mind in that regard? How will that continue in the light of nuclear privatisation? How much money do the Government intend to spend on the very worthwhile path on which they have commenced? I should stress that that is a prime example of Conservative policy at its best because at least 3,000 people are now involved in the renewable energy field who were not so involved not many years ago, before the levy came into being. That is an area as regards which countries in Europe and around the world are turning to Britain and we are now at last seizing the gauntlet and becoming world leaders. Perhaps my noble friend will write to me on that.

I know that a great deal has been done in the field of labelling and identifying energy efficient products. Again, I stress the caveat that that does not necessarily mean that we reduce the consumption of energy. If you buy a petrol-efficient car the fact is that, more often than not, you actually drive further. With a set amount of money you were able to travel x miles, but now you can drive x miles plus, say, 15 per cent. and therefore you do so. There again, there is no saving. That is what concerns me about the Bill. The intention is good, but it actually misses the key point; namely, to reduce the amount of energy that is being consumed.

My noble friend ducked the question, if I may put it that way, of cost; as, indeed, did the noble Baroness regarding what the costs of the proposal would be for local authorities. The noble Baroness certainly did not give a justification as to why Richmond-upon-Thames Council could spend the amount of money that it intends to spend in that respect as opposed to something more cost effective.

Finally, I am grateful for the response given by my noble friend the Minister. He mentioned the word "guidance". I hope that he will consult very widely on the question of guidance. Perhaps my noble friend could give me an assurance that he will consult the renewable industry sector about the sort of guidance that the Secretary of State will give to local authorities. I believe that that would be a comfort under the present circumstances. I wonder whether my noble friend the Minister would be kind enough to respond to some of those points before I withdraw the amendment.

Viscount Ullswater

I shall, of course, be happy to write to my noble friend about renewable energy and the amount of money that the Government are spending on it. My noble friend also indicated that he would like to see guidance consulted upon before it is issued. I shall certainly bear in mind what my noble friend said and draw it to the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State when he considers the issuing of guidance. I do not believe that there is anything between us as regards guidance of which the industry would approve, but I shall certainly bring that to the attention of my right honourable friend.

The Earl of Caithness

I am most grateful to my noble friend for that response. Perhaps there will be an opportunity for me to take those points further at a later stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

10.15 p.m.

Clause 2 [Energy conservation reports]:

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 3: Page 2, line 10, at end insert ("encourage the architects, designers, builders and those granting permission for residential building schemes to build buildings incorporating energy saving features and the optimum use of renewable energy in their design; and to").

The noble Earl said: The above amendment follows on partly from Amendment No. 2, but it also raises a slightly wider issue. We seem to have forgotten much of the talent that we had in the past. Visiting particularly rural areas, one can see how very cleverly the houses were designed up to about 80 years ago. Those who built, houses seemed to have an innate understanding of how the eco-system in which we live operates. They were situated and designed to make the maximum use of solar energy, of water power, or of whatever nature could provide because they did not have the skills and technology that we have today.

However, with such skills and technology we seem to have lost the ability to enhance our buildings and make the maximum use of our surroundings. We have bulldozed plenty of land flat and we have put up houses in rows, just like in the song, Little boxes, little boxes, little boxes all the same", without thinking how they could be better designed by incorporating features which would help to keep such houses in a fit and habitable condition at the minimum cost. It is for that reason that I put down Amendment No. 3 which seeks to, encourage the architects, designers, builders and those granting permission for residential building schemes to build buildings incorporating energy saving features and the optimum use of renewable energy in their design".

Again I come back to the question of renewable energy. It seems to me totally ludicrous that even in this country we have our boilers on in the summer in order to heat water. It is quite possible with modern technology—again partly due to the incentive that the Government have produced, which I mentioned on speaking to the first amendment—for us all to switch off our boilers and have good hot water through solar energy. That would save enormously on the consumption of fossil fuels and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide.

It is areas like these which need again to be brought forward by the Secretary of State for local authorities and for those who are designing and building domestic accommodation, let alone industrial and commercial accommodation, to take note of so that the maximum benefit can be gained from renewable energy and existing resources rather than using up scarce fossil fuel resources. I beg to move.

Viscount Ullswater

Perhaps I could start by saying that we on this side of the Chamber, as my noble friend indicated, would very much like to join with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in passing our condolences to the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, on a family bereavement.

We would all, I think, agree with my noble friend Lord Caithness that it is desirable, both from the point of view of the environment and of the occupants; of newly built homes, that they should be built with due regard for energy efficiency. Although measures identified in reports made under this Bill will inevitably be principally concerned with existing housing accommodation, it is right that we should ensure that energy efficiency, including the use of renewable energy, is taken into account in the design of new buildings.

The Government have done and are doing a great deal to encourage greater attention to energy efficiency by architects, builders and others. New building regulations come into effect on 1st July 1995 requiring higher standards to be achieved for insulation and for heating and hot water controls in buildings. Also with effect from 1st July 1995, we have introduced a new building regulation which will require new dwellings to be given an energy rating calculated by using the Government's standard assessment procedure. Prospective purchasers and tenants will be able to compare the likely space and water heating costs of different dwellings, and architects, designers and builders will in consequence be encouraged by competition to identify ways to increase energy efficiency.

There is a considerable amount of guidance and advice available to those designing buildings. The best practice programme of the Energy Efficiency Office includes advice on energy efficient housing design, incorporating, where appropriate, design advice from the Department of Trade and Industry's passive solar design programme.

My noble friend indicated from his experience how the builders of yesteryear used the best possible planning methods to reduce the amount of heating required in older buildings. We believe that there is a future for passive solar design. Indeed the energy design advice scheme has set a target for annual energy savings of some £50 million by the year 2000. We believe that PSD is an aspect of good, low-energy, climatically responsive building design, construction and management, and it uses through that design free solar gains in buildings to reduce their energy requirements.

The best practice publications have been widely circulated among target audiences and are available free of charge from the building research energy conservation support unit at the Building Research Establishment. Designers can also turn to the energy design advice scheme of the Department of Trade and Industry for expert consultancy advice on energy conscious design measures for specific building projects.

While I agree that it is highly desirable for all concerned with buildings to take energy efficiency into account, the reference in the amendment to planning is one which would cause the Government some difficulty. The incorporation of energy-saving features in residential developments may or may not be a material planning consideration; whether it is will depend on the facts of the case. As the amendment would oblige energy conservation authorities to seek to persuade planning authorities to take account of factors which are not planning considerations, I have to say to my noble friend that that is not acceptable to the Government. However, the department's Planning Policy Guidance Note 12 states that the conservation of energy is one key issue to which the Government have already asked local authorities to have particular regard as an issue in development plans. So it is not overlooked in the planning process.

As far as concerns renewable energy sources, the Government's policy is to stimulate the development of new and renewable energy sources wherever they have a prospect of being economically attractive and environmentally acceptable in order to contribute to diverse, secure and sustainable energy supplies, reductions in the emission of pollutants and the encouragement of internationally competitive industries.

In domestic buildings the most obvious scope for the use of renewable energy sources concerns the use of solar energy. Active solar technology, used for systems which collect the sun's radiation and then transfer it in the form of heat to air, water or some other fluid, is obviously more complex than the PSD I have already mentioned. Nevertheless, there are currently some 46,000 active solar heating systems installed in residential properties in the UK, with up to 2,000 systems being added each year.

I hope that my noble friend will draw some comfort from what I have said about the many steps the Government have taken to ensure that energy efficiency is taken fully into account in the design of housing. These go a long way to ensuring that the aim behind his amendment is already being achieved. I have also explained that the reference in the amendment to planning is not one which would be acceptable to the Government. I therefore venture to hope that my noble friend may feel able to withdraw his amendment, but with the gratitude of the Committee for having raised these important issues.

Baroness Hamwee

I very much support the thrust of the amendment proposed by the noble Earl. In relation to the previous amendment he invited me to mention experience in that great borough of Richmond-upon-Thames. I can tell him that there, and I believe in many other planning authorities, discussions with developers on developments of any major size are used rather than a confrontational approach to planning. I am sure that the issues he raised will increasingly become major issues for discussion.

As the Minister said, there must be concern as to whether it would be possible to base a refusal of planning permission or to frame a condition attaching to a consent on an issue of energy efficiency because of uncertainty as to whether that would be a material consideration. Indeed, the Secretary of State and planning inspectors say time after time on appeals that planning should not usurp other systems.

If the noble Earl wishes to bring to the House a change to the building regulations to deal with these matters I should be very happy to support him. However, I believe that that would be the appropriate context for these matters rather than this Bill. I too would support wider discretion on the part of local planning authorities, and to the extent that there is support for that in the amendment I join with the noble Earl. However, I fear that the wording would be out of place, even though I support the thrust of the amendment. I hope that the noble Earl will not seek to press the amendment.

10.30 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness

I entirely take the point that my noble friend makes about the wording, and the problem that he would have regarding planning on which undoubtedly he is an expert. I foresaw difficulties in that regard when I put down the amendment. It was not surprising that those difficulties came home to roost.

However, I draw some comfort from what my noble friend said, as he believed that I might. Perhaps more people would draw comfort if the department made more widely known what they have done. There is no doubt that the Government have done a great deal in this field; but much has been hidden under a bushel. Many of the successes are not widely known.

I was grateful for the full answers that my noble friend gave and for the time he has taken to address the great majority of my points. I am grateful, too, for the comments of the noble Baroness. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported to the House without amendment; Report received.

House adjourned at twenty-eight minutes before eleven o'clock.