Commons Gate

Building Regulations (HC 432-i)

ODPM Committee 10 Mar 2004

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Evidence given by Phil Hope MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Paul Everall, Divisional Manager - Built Environment; Fire, Health and Safety Directorate, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Q39 Mr. David Clelland: I was talking to a Cypriot business man recently who was horrified about the way we waste water in this country. While, of course, Cyprus and the UK are quite different, he did nevertheless have an important point to make about that: because we are very wasteful with what is a very precious and often scarce resource in other parts of the world. Last year, at the Better Buildings Summit, your Department announced that they would consider better regulatory vehicles to improve efficiency in new buildings by 2005 in terms of use of water. Can you tell us how much closer we are to that? How much more water is going to pour down the drain before we get the new regulations?

Phil Hope: Yes. Part G of the Building Regulations is the part that covers water conservation in terms of how buildings consume water. There are many other parts of government policy, but I will just stick to the Building Regulations part of the debate this afternoon. We are looking at Part B and the new regulations to try to, as it were, reduce the amount of water that is used, whether it is by flushing toilets and so on, to try and improve water conservation and to minimise use of water. The reason it comes under Part G is because that is do with hygiene. One of the concerns we have is that, if we reduce the amount of water we expect households to use through regulation, we have to make sure that we do not create a risk of foul water or infection, and so on, if pipes are not properly flushed through, and so on. So it is during looking at the Part G regulations that we are hoping to come up with the right answer on how we can minimise the use of water in buildings whilst maintaining the other features of water that needs to be clean at appropriate points in a house.

Q40 Mr. David Clelland: Are we going to get these regulations by 2005?

Phil Hope: Part G. 2005. I will just check.

Q41 Mr. David Clelland: That was the date your Department gave last year?

Mr Everall: We have started on the work. Again, the Building Regulations Advisory Committee meeting last month has set up a working party to take this work forward. Again, I would anticipate that it will probably take a year to develop the proposals, so the timescale is not unlikely - the previous timescale, I was referring to - to Part M of the Regulations.

Q42 Mr. David Clelland: At the same summit, the Better Buildings Summit, the Deputy Prime Minister said he was looking towards a water savings target of 25-30 per cent. Is that a general target or could there be regional variations to that? Is it realistic?

Mr Everall: It is an overall target. I guess it is going to vary between areas and some of the issues the minister referred to where you can do more, but hopefully in the building sector we can make real improvements through greater use of low-flush toilets, through looking at grey water recycling, although again, as the Minister said, there are health considerations to balancing against water conservation. We are working towards that target. It is a national target, not a regional one.

Q43 Mr. David Clelland: You mentioned the waste of water flushed away. Twenty-five per cent of the water we use is flushed away in toilets. Is it a firm proposal that the regulations will dictate that dual-flush toilets will have to be installed in all new building?

Mr Everall: It is one of the things that we have firmly on the agenda to look at. We will have to consider all the implications. Again, it would not be prescriptive, but the guidance will be sufficiently strong that it would be very difficult for someone to reach the water conservation targets without using, say, low-flush toilets, or whatever.


Q47 Mr. David Clelland: Is not the principle of charging or metering in danger of leading to the very problems that you have mentioned before where you have large poor families who may have to cut back on their use of water because of bills coming in? The very problem you yourself outlined.

Phil Hope: Which is why, when we do the consultation and we do the regulatory impact, we have to be careful that we get the balance right between measures that will reduce water consumption but do not create health difficulties or other difficulties and then charging as part of that equation too. These are not easy matters to resolve; that is why we spend a lot of time working them up and consulting and doing an impact assessment. I know sometimes the months that that can take can seem frustrating to people, but it is also very important to look at all those kinds of questions to ensure we get it right.

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

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