§ Mr. Raynsford
Council house building, in common with private sector house building, has to comply with the Building Regulations which include requirements for the conservation of fuel and power. Strengthened requirements were introduced only two years ago, from July 1995, since when there has been little in the way of council house building. The strengthened requirements should ensure that the annual energy consumption for space and hot water in average new dwellings is 25 per cent. to 35 per cent. lower than before. The requirements represent the minimum compliance level for new housing in England and Wales and my Department is keeping them under review. Local authorities are of course free to apply higher standards in any of their schemes. They and other house builders are encouraged to do so through my Department's Energy Efficiency Best Practice Programme. Local authorities are required by Planning Policy Guidance Note 22 to have regard to renewable energy—including solar energy. Detailed technical guidance is freely available from the DTI and my own Department on how to make the most of this energy source.