HL Deb 13 May 2002 vol 635 cc84-97

7.50 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale

rose to move, That this House calls on Her Majesty's Government to revoke the regulations laid before the House on 5th March (S.I. 2002/440).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, before I speak to the Motion standing in my name and explain my angst at the regulations, I understand that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, who was to respond to the debate, is unfortunately unable to do so because of a death in the family. We have a very able replacement in the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, who, since he was appointed to government, has become something of a multi-role combat Peer in that he seems to shift from subject to subject with great ease and great effect.

I am sure that the House would wish to express its condolences to the noble and learned Lord on the death of his father. I would certainly like to move and join in those condolences.

As to my angst, I wish to call attention to a curious lapse in DEFRA's consultation process with regard to Part L of the building regulations concerning certain operations which can be self-certified in areas of the building trade by organisations specifically set up for that purpose. The statutory instrument in question is that recorded on the Order Paper, 2002/440, the Building (Amendment) Regulations 2002.

As the House will readily observe, the regulations give effect to four self-certification schemes in the building trade. They are: solid fuel combustion appliances and associated equipment; oil-fired combustion appliances and associated equipment; foul and surface water drainage; and, last but not least, replacement windows. Self-certification means that the operation in question does not have to be inspected and passed by the building inspector of the local authority and is by its nature deregulatory, and therefore to be highly commended.

Highly commended, that is, if there has been wide consultation within the industry and the relevant sector of the industry has set up a suitable scheme to operate the deregulation in question. Before the Government decided to set up a self-certification scheme for the first three operations I have mentioned, they did indeed do just that—not once, but twice—in 1997 and again in 1999. As a result, HETAS, OFTEC and the 10P approved persons schemes came into effect for solid and oil-fired combustion appliances and associated equipment and for foul and surface water drainage respectively. Their appearance in the schedule to the 2002 regulations therefore came as no surprise to anyone.

However, I am reliably informed that in those consultations no mention was made of replacement windows. To many of those in the building industry, these came as a complete surprise. Not even a hint that new glazing was to be covered was given by the department in the three years that have elapsed since the previous consultation in 1999. It therefore comes as some surprise that the regulatory impact assessment states in paragraph 9:1 that: The representatives of small businesses were consulted". Anyone coming fresh, as I did, to these words would assume that they were to be interpreted as meaning that a representative selection of members of the building trade were consulted, probably through their trade organisations. That is certainly true as far as the first three items in the schedule are concerned, but, alas, the same cannot he said of replacement windows. In this connection I observe that the Building Advisory Council, as an agent of government, consulted the House Builders Federation, an organisation concerned with new houses. Why on earth should the department consult that federation about replacement windows, a matter of no concern to new building but of obvious concern to other small businesses in the building trade, such as the Federation of Small Businesses or, even more appropriately, the Federation of Master Builders? Neither was consulted on re-fenestration, even though they had been on oil and solid fuel and surface and foul drainage, as indeed they should have been.

The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, of which I am proud to be a member, decided that even though the regulations are dependent on the Building Act 1984 it would not as a committee complain about the limited exercise of powers. However, that does not prevent me, as a Member of your Lordships' House, from doing so. In my view, the situation I have described comes very close to that. Section 14(3) of the parent Act states: Before making any building regulations concerning substantive requirements"— Which of course these are— the Secretary of State shall consult the Building Regulations Advisory Committee"— I am sure that the department did— and such other bodies as appear to him to be representative of the interests concerned". I do not want to take a vast amount of time over this. I shall merely ask the Minister this question—why the tunnel vision I have described? I rest my case. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House calls on Her Majesty's Government to revoke the regulations laid before the House on 5th March (S.I. 2002/440).—(Lord Skelmersdale.)

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I am conscious of the opportunity that we have been given by the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, to discuss this important issue. I am grateful to him for taking the initiative and providing the opportunity.

I declare what was an interest. Until 10 years ago I was the parliamentary adviser to the Federation of Master Builders but I gave up the post when I became the Chief Whip. Although since then I help the federation in any way that I can I am not a paid parliamentary adviser—it is more a declaration of a non-interest. But that is why I am interested in this issue.

I pay tribute to the manner in which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, responded to my inquiries. He sent me a long letter, which I have passed to the Federation of Master Builders. I am sorry to tell him not that it did not believe a word of it—of course it did—but that it was not satisfied with his explanation.

The news that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, has suffered a bereavement in his family came as a complete shock to me. I join the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, in his expression of sympathy.

The Federation of Master Builders states: The FMB has no problem with the thrust of the changes to Part L of the building regulations. However, there are serious concerns about the implementation of those changes and particularly the introduction of the FENSA self—certification scheme". I shall deal more with the consequences of what the FMB asserts has been a lack of consultation. It states: We believe that the consultation process prior to the drafting of Statutory Instrument (SI) 440 was inadequate. Instead of limiting consultation to Building Regulations Advisory Committee and specialist associations, the consultation should have been much wider to include the representatives of the tens of thousands of construction firms that work in the general building trade". The Minister should listen to the next few words very carefully. It continues: The FMB and the FSB were not consulted". However it is perceived by the ministry and the Minister that they were involved in a consultation process, I can say on behalf of the FMB, through a letter I have received from a Mr Andrew Large, that the FMB and the FSB were not consulted.

I have read the documentation and I can understand that assumptions were made, but the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, hit the nail on the head. The crucial meeting in which they should have been involved was when the GGF made arrangements to consider eligibility for membership of FENSA. Those invited to attend the steering group included, among others, key stakeholders in the glazing industry, the District Surveyors Association, the House Builders Federation, the National Consumer Federation, the Institute of Consumer Affairs, the Trading Standards Institute, the British Board of Agrement, the British Standards Institution, the Law Society and ourselves—that is, the Government. In other words, the group did not include those whose livelihoods depend on dealing with the regulations. Although there are specialist double—glazing replacement firms, almost every member of the Federation of Master Builders replaces windows in the course of his other work. I ask the Minister to address that issue head on.

The cost of compliance is another issue. My noble and learned friend Lord Falconer was very careful to point out that small builders have an option: they can either join FENSA, which costs money, or take the local authority route, which also has consequences. One estimate is that compliance could cost £150 per installation. Many small builders employ only one other person, perhaps a son or brother, but they are very proud people. They now face another £150 being added to their costs.

We know about the black economy, and we know about the unscrupulous individuals who tout for business without worrying about charging for VAT. They are otherwise known as cowboys. Small builders, on the other hand, pay VAT. They are law—abiding people. The regulations, however, will further distort the price that they must charge compared with that charged by those who operate in the black economy. The additional costs will put them in serious difficulty. If they join FENSA, they will have to meet additional costs of perhaps hundreds of pounds. If there had been proper consultation, they could have made their arguments and perhaps persuaded the Government or those advising them that the fees should be much lower. The fact is that 20 per cent of the 20,000 small businesses represented by the Federation of Master Builders and the Federation of Small Businesses engage in the type of work covered by the regulations.

I ask the Minister to take on board too the impact of the quality mark scheme, which is unarguably designed to improve standards and to meet our Kyoto undertakings. It is also designed eventually to remove from the air more than 1 million tonnes of pollution. Although the concept behind the Government's regulations is to be applauded and supported, perhaps those advising Ministers should be more sensitive to the fact that people depend on the decisions made by Ministers. In this case, some of those people feel that they have had a very raw deal.

I hope that the Minister will not take offence if I tell him that this is simply not good enough. However, the deed is done. This debate is intended to bring the issue out into the open, but there is no question of trying to thwart the Government's intention. Nevertheless, those people, who are fighting daily for their livelihood, deserve better treatment than this.

Baroness Maddock

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, for introducing this debate. Like others, I express my condolences to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, on his bereavement. I should also declare a couple of interests. I am a vice—president of the National Home Improvement Council. I am married to the right honourable Alan Beith, Member of Parliament for Berwick—upon—Tweed, who is raising this issue in another place. I am grateful not only to the Federation of Small Businesses and to the Federation of Master Builders, but to him for briefing for this debate.

Noble Lords have clearly expressed people's concerns about this issue. It is not that we do not support the Government's intentions. Noble Lords who have spoken already support those intentions, particularly on energy efficiency. I am particularly supportive of that goal and promoted a private Member's Bill on the very issue. The Government's failure, however, has been to conduct a proper consultation. That is the heart of the issue. Although I believe that they intended to conduct a proper consultation, it is clear from the representations which all noble Lords have received that that has gone slightly wrong. It has gone wrong particularly for small builders, who are most concerned about the issue. I hope that as a result of this debate the Minister will seriously take on board what has been said by noble Lords and by those outside the House about the consultation and see what can be done to minimise the problems. Despite what the Government say, the main concern particularly for small builders is—as the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, said—the cost of the regulations.

Another issue that needs to be sorted out is the way in which consultation is conducted. Some consultation has been done by the DTI and some by the DTLR. We need to be rather more careful when consultation affects more than one department.

Many different issues and schemes affect those who are trying to operate within these regulations, one of which, as previously mentioned, is the quality mark. That is one of the reasons why people feel confused. As various schemes are already in place, they wonder why the Government are not using them.

It is unusual to receive such a large postbag on a statutory instrument. However, in our neck of the woods, in Northumberland, several small builders suddenly found themselves affected by the regulations. As the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, explained, the provisions were originally not part of the general consultation. Specifically, it is the FENSA scheme and window replacements that are causing the problems. As a transition will be difficult for builders, I hope that the Government will consider ways in which they can assist them. We have already had some answers from the Government, who believe that they have consulted the right people. However, I think it is clear that there was a breach and they did not consult the right people. I hope that they will admit that and look at ways in which they can help builders.

The regulations' effect on the type of window chosen for installation is another issue. Different regulations apply depending on whether the windows have metal, wooden or plastic frames. Originally, the same regulations were to apply to all types of window. As I understand it, however, subsequent representations particularly from metal frame manufacturers said that different regulations should apply as metal frames tended to be narrower and use more glass, with a consequently greater solar effect. Although wood and plastic conduct heat very differently from metal, I find the figures somewhat surprising. I do not expect the Minister to be able to tell me now, but I should be very interested to know the precise scientific figures. As I suspect we are promoting rather bad science, I should be very interested to see the correct figures.

Builders are looking for the Government to say, "Yes, we fell down at one point in this consultation. However, we will work now with those builders and their representatives to see what we can do to avoid the trap in future and avoid causing confusion and unnecessary expense for small builders. We will make sure that we have a scheme that works". The main point made by the master builders federation and the Federation of Small Businesses was that if the smaller builders' organisations had been consulted perhaps we would have a different scheme. Perhaps we would have a better scheme as a result of consulting the whole range of people involved in this matter.

Let us face it. One often has one's windows replaced by a small firm of builders. If we are serious about energy efficiency—that is what the matter is about—we want a system that works and that we can record to determine whether it is having an effect. There is a question mark as regards whether effective recording will take place to monitor how the measure is affecting energy efficiency. I look forward to hearing the Minister's comments. I hope that he will be positive. The representations that have been made to us have been positive in terms of asking for a better way forward.

Lord Hardy of Wath

My Lords, I shall be extremely brief. As a member of the statutory instruments committee I am well aware—the House will also be aware of this—of the indefatigability of the noble Lord and the vigilance with which he approaches the work of the committee. I hope that my noble friend has taken note of the arguments that have been advanced. The organisation concerned is at the reputable and respectable end of the building industry. The list of consultees seemed to me to be rather long but I hope that it can be extended in future as regards all relevant matters in which this invaluable organisation may be involved.

8.15 p.m.

Baroness Hanham

My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale who has brought the Motion before the House today. I am grateful to him for doing that in the nick of time as I had heard that there were concerns on the part of both the organisations which have already been mentioned; namely, the Federation of Master Builders and the Federation of Small Businesses.

It is clear from what has been said today that there is considerable concern about the quality of the consultation which has taken place on the regulations. It is not a case of there not having been consultation but of a major part of the relevant consultees having been left out. Although others may have responded for them, they are not grateful for the way that that response has been made on their behalf. They would much rather have responded themselves and, if necessary, had discussions with the Government. There are concerns as regards this matter.

I have absolutely no connection with either of the organisations I mentioned and I do not suppose that any other noble Lord has. However, I have been inspired by their wrath and considerable concern at what has happened by the introduction of the regulations.

It seems to go against all common sense that the self—certification schemes should bring about the presumably unintended result—as seen by the people who are promoting the matter—of small builders facing huge extra costs. I refer to the introduction of the new regulations before the value of the quality mark has been assessed. I refer also to a plethora of self—regulation schemes which will affect small builders far more than large ones. I refer also to a new system which, as I understand it, is unlikely to do what it is intended to do and part of which is designed to protect consumers against rogue traders.

The Kyoto protocol commitment to encourage energy conservation seems to lie behind the proposals. My noble friend Lord Skelmersdale, the Federation of Master Builders and the Federation of Small Businesses request that at the very least the Government should agree belatedly to meet the relevant representatives and consider the effect of the regulations. I understand that this is only the first of other potential self—certification schemes. It is nonsensical that they should be introduced against the rationale of at least 20 per cent of members of the business world.

I hope that the Minister will tell us that the appropriate person will be willing to meet representatives of the organisations I have mentioned to discuss the problems they envisage will be associated with the regulations as they do not consider that their case has been heard throughout the consultation process. I hope that the Minister will give us some comfort, albeit that he is standing in, ably as usual, for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, to whom I offer our condolences.

Lord Filkin

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to discuss with the House the building regulations and the development of a major and important new initiative of self—certification.

In essence there are good reasons for extending building regulations to other aspects of building works both in the interests of the public in terms of their health and the thermal efficiency of buildings, for example, and in the interests of the responsible end of the building industry. However, were that to be done simply by rolling out the traditional method of extending building regulations and sending applications to building control officers or their private sector equivalents, there could well be legitimate concerns about the increased burden of regulation imposed on builders. It is in that context that the idea of self—certification has been discussed with the building industry from 1997. The aim of it in essence is to allow the building regulations to strengthen the quality of building works to ensure, for example, that we meet Kyoto commitments and to promote competent firms without imposing excessive burden.

The largest and most recent of the self—certification schemes is the fenestration self—assessment scheme, FENSA. We made replacement windows a controlled fitting as a result of changes we made to Part L of the building regulations dealing with the conservation of fuel and power—a total package of changes which will ultimately prevent 1.4 million tonnes of carbon being discharged into the atmosphere. As the House will recognise, there are very serious issues of thermal efficiency and of fuel poverty in the sense that the better the thermo efficiency of our buildings, the less fuel will be consumed. However, it soon became clear that there were 1.2 million replacement window contracts undertaken each year. One can therefore imagine what that would generate in terms of paperwork and process if it was all put through conventional building control. It is in that context that the FENSA scheme, along with others, is considered important.

I focus on the nub of the debate; that is, the issue of the quality of consultation. Three distinct consultation processes have been going on at the same time. They all to some extent interconnect. There has been consultation on self—certification as a principle and how it should be rolled out in practice. There has been consultation on the changes to Part L of the building regulations dealing, as I indicated, with conservation, fuel and power. There has also been consultation on the FENSA scheme itself on the part of the Glass and Glazing Federation and others.

I turn first to the consultation on self—certification. As has been indicated, proposals for self—certification were first consulted on in 1997 in a document entitled, Proposals for Reducing the Administrative Burden with the Prospect at the same time of Enhancing Health and Safety. That was followed up in 1999 with a document, Taking Forward Self—Certification Under the Building Regulations. The department invited expressions of interest from organisations which considered that their members could comply with the building regulations and therefore were potential candidates for self—certification. The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, rightly said that at that time windows were not mentioned in relation to a potential self—certification scheme because they were not then part of buildings regulations.

The consultation process on self—certification continued and an invitation was open to all. Twenty—nine organisations, including the Federation of Master Builders, expressed interest. The consultation went out to more than 250 organisations, as one would expect. After receiving 29 bids and in consultation with the Buildings Regulations Advisory Committee—BRAC—which is the statutory consultation body that was set up under the Building Act 1984, it was decided to interview 10 organisations. After a lengthy process, which involved interviewing by a BRAC sub—committee, that figure was narrowed down to three others. The regulations deal with that.

I turn to consultation on Part L. The relevant Minister, Mr Raynsford, announced a review of that in February 1998. The first round of formal consultations on it took place in the summer 1998 and suggestions were invited on what measures could be introduced to maximise the contribution that buildings regulations could make to achieving Kyoto targets.

In March 2001, Mr Raynsford announced that consultations on the first round of amendments were complete and that amendments to the regulations would be made as soon as possible later in the year. He also announced that the technical proposition would be published in advance of formal amendment. That was accomplished in April 2001. I point out—I do not believe that this is contested—that changes to the buildings regulations relating to windows have been well known for at least a year. The regulations were laid before Parliament in October 2001. As I said, BRAC has been involved throughout that process, as is required under the legislation.

The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, asked: why the tunnel vision? I turn to the consultation required under the Building Act 1984. It states that before making any building regulations containing substantive requirements, the Secretary of State shall consult the Building Regulations Advisory Committee and other such bodies as appear to him to be representative of the interests concerned. That is the law, and that is what the department did. The Building Act 1984 refers to the changes to Part L. I do not believe that anyone criticises consulting on that.

Substantive requirements deal with technical matters and are distinct from procedural matters. The FENSA scheme essentially involves consultation on procedural matters. That scheme is a procedural option that firms can choose to follow if they wish. Dealing with the administration of building regulations, such as self—certification, is in most cases not covered by the Act. Invariably and properly, however, the department undertakes extensive consultation on possible policy changes or their application, as it did with regard to self—certification. It does not, however, consult on the drafting of regulations, other than with BRAC and other bodies that are directly concerned.

I turn to the nub of the concerns; that is, consultation on the FENSA scheme. When it became clear that the building regulations needed to be changed if we were to meet Kyoto targets—there was a strong consensus that that was sensible—it also became clear that, given the volume of replacement window contracts that were likely to take place, it was important to consider self—certification as the mechanism for dealing with that. As I said, that was not done in the 1999 scheme because at that time the building regulations did not cover windows.

The Glass and Glazing Federation, which had responded in 1999 saying that it was interested in taking forward self—certification if and when it became appropriate, of its own volition came forward again in, I believe, the autumn of last year and indicated its willingness to explore the development of a self—certification scheme. The department responded positively to that because it seemed potentially to be in all people's interests to do so. It therefore created a representative steering group in autumn 2001, which included stakeholders, as my noble friend Lord Graham said. With the benefit of hindsight, one might say that the House Builders Federation might well have been replaced with strong representation from small builders undertaking replacement work rather than builders undertaking new building work.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, the Glass and Glazing Federation volunteered to do that—it offered to work with the interested parties in the industry. Why did it therefore decide to include the House Builders Federation and to exclude master builders and small businesses, which cater for 20 per cent of the total business involved?

Lord Filkin

My Lords, I cannot and should not attempt to second guess what was in the heads of the Glass and Glazing Federation when it formed that working group. The vast majority of replacement windows are carried out not by members of the Federation of Master Builders or jobbing builders but by firms that specialise in replacement windows. One would be a lucky Member of this House if one has not, at some stage, been invited by telephone to have one's windows replaced.

Baroness Maddock

My Lords, I recognise that what the Minister says is absolutely true. However, is it not the case that under the new building regulations if any window—an odd window here or there—is replaced, it has to be changed? The small builder who does so becomes involved in the process. That is why they feel so aggrieved.

Lord Filkin

My Lords, I accept that. I was simply seeking to explain why the working group that was set up to explore the development of a self—certification scheme for replacement windows contained the bodies that it did; my noble friend Lord Graham said that he wished that that had been otherwise. Clearly, I cannot second guess its explanation.

There was a substantial debate in the trade press during that period about the development of a self—certification scheme for replacement windows. Moreover, there was a major advertising campaign to promote a large national event at the Aston Villa Conference Centre in December 2001. At that meeting, the Glass and Glazing Federation publicised its proposals for a self—certification scheme, more than 650 people attended. It was a complete sell—out and it is hard to believe that anyone who was active in the building industry would not have been aware of the fact that, besides the conventional building regulation route, there was the proposal to have self—certification.

My noble friend recognised that there was no issue with regard to Part L changes; I am thankful to him for that. The matter focuses on FENSA's wish to be formally consulted rather than the need to be aware of a larger consultation process. I do not know the relationships between the respective trade organisations in that regard. One has to seek to consult people and wherever possible to make them feel that they have been consulted. That avoids people feeling that they are out of the loop.

My noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, also raised the issue of costs. Self—certification will save people substantial amounts of money. If they do not believe that, they should not take part in it and should apply in the normal way for building control approval from a local authority. They have a completely free choice—that is not forced on them in the slightest. If applying for building control regulations as a result of changes to Part L involves costs, which it does, those costs are a product of the changes to the building regulations and not a result of the FENSA scheme. The FENSA scheme is substantially cheaper than the conventional route. For example, not all FMB members will have to pay for the vetting fee; they will have to pay a registration fee of £100, an annual fee of £50 and then, if they deal electronically, as one hopes they will, the cost will be £1 per certificate. If the FENSA scheme works as well as we hope it will, the pay—back for any builder who replaces one or two windows using that scheme will be considerable.

The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, and my noble friend Lord Graham also raised the issue of small builders feeling that they had not been consulted or their views taken seriously. As indicated, I do not believe that there has been any failure in the consultation process. Nevertheless, I consider it important that the Government bend over backwards to ensure that people feel that they have had an opportunity to have their say.

To some extent, one also hopes that if people believe they are not being consulted, they will shout and express their views rather than wait a long time for change. Certainly when I ran a national organisation, if we considered that we were not being consulted, we knocked on the door fairly vigorously. I believe that it is always in the interests of those who are being consulted not to be passive in the process but to shout fairly early on and express that view.

Having said that, I know that my honourable friend in another place—the relevant Minister, Dr Whitehead—will be very pleased to meet the Federation of Master Builders, both to have a little canter over the history of this matter and also, probably more productively, to talk about the future development of the self—certification scheme, how it might develop and how it might also be in the interests of the general master builder or jobbing builder as well as the specialist trader.

Until now, these schemes have been single—trade issues, but there is clearly a question as to how they will develop in the future and whether a scheme might be extended or developed. I can give no commitment that that would be the case, but it would be fruitful to have discussions in order to discover whether it might be possible. I believe that that touches on some of the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, in terms of trying to ensure that what is intended as an efficiency of regulation applies effectively to all respective interests.

The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, asked me an extremely challenging question on the comparative thermal efficiency of metal frames versus wood and plastics. Unfortunately, I cannot give the thermal coefficients of them all. The Approved Document sets out the thermal properties required for each type of window, taking into account their physical properties. We shall write to the noble Baroness setting out how the thermal values were assessed. They did not involve different regulations, but I shall write in the near future setting that out in greater detail.

In summary, therefore, we believe that the extension of the building regulations in the way that we have talked about is in the interests of the public. Certainly it is in the interests of achieving global warming targets. We also believe that self—certification schemes are very much in the interests of both the public and the responsible end of the building industry.

It is important that we see how these early trials—that is what they are—as an alternative to conventional building regulations, develop over the coming months and years. In the process of evaluating them, it will be crucial that we pay very close attention to the interests of all types of operatives, firms and organisations in the building industry, including the Federation of Master Builders. I repeat my offer that the Government will be very pleased to meet the Federation of Master Builders and to consider its past interest and ideas for the future.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken and joined me in giving the department a moderately sharp rap on the knuckles so far as concerns consultation of the self—certification schemes in general and the FENSA in particular. I am especially grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Graham of Edmonton and Lord Hardy, for totally different reasons. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, because of his expertise in the building trade, acquired by means to which I have not had access. I am also grateful for the vote of confidence from my fellow member of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, the noble Lord, Lord Hardy.

I believe that there is still a slight misunderstanding. The point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Graham, about costs related to cumulative costs. Thus far, there are four self-certification schemes. In order to practise as a general builder, it would be logical and sensible to be a member of all four. I suppose that that runs into some £400 to £500 a year at present, albeit that the individual costs for each application after that are very small.

The Minister gave a clear hint that this was the beginning of a whole range of self-certification schemes. He said that discussions could be held—I do not believe that he put it any higher than that—in relation to rolling all the certification bodies for the building trade into one. It is clear that the Federation of Master Builders, the Federation of Small Businesses and all those who have already been consulted will be extremely interested in joining in those consultations.

My original complaint concerns the FENSA scheme. The point about that scheme is that it does not cover only double glazing. Much of the debate today has been about double glazing. The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, asked about the coefficient of heat expansion—I believe that that is the technical term—of the various surrounds of double glazing units. Schedule 2A to the regulations talks about the installation, as a replacement, of a window, rooflight, roof window or door in an existing building", whether double—glazed, triple—glazed, quadruple—glazed or single—glazed.

Whether the department came up with this scheme as part of its reaction to the Kyoto agreement or whether it would have done so in any case is a moot point. But that does not matter. And when the Minister claims that only a small percentage of the replacement of windows is carried out by the general building trade as opposed to specialists, I am afraid that I find that extremely hard to believe.

In summary, I am very grateful to the Minister for saying that his colleague will be happy to have—indeed, I got the impression that he would slightly encourage—a meeting within the department. I and the noble Lord, Lord Graham, for two, will ensure that that offer is taken up, possibly led by one of us. However, that is for the future. In the meantime, I am very grateful to everyone who has spoken. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.