Is my hon. Friend aware that new houses throughout the country are being built close to underground cables and overhead wires and without a guarantee of adequate supplies? That happens because there is no statutory requirement to consult the electricity industry. However, there is a statutory requirement to consult the National Rivers Authority before planning permission is granted. Will my hon. Friend say something to my constituents who are regularly plunged into darkness when the local sub-station is overloaded? Too many houses are being built without consultation with the electricity industry with the result that local electricity boards cannot cope despite all their efforts.
It is sensible for developers to consult the electricity companies before proceeding, to ensure adequacy of supply. But I assure my hon. Friend that the suppliers can levy reasonable charges on developers to recoup the cost of the necessary transmission lines and plant to service new developments. The charges do not fall on my hon. Friend's constituents.
As it is in new buildings that thermal efficiency is most advantageously applied, why is there no statutory requirement on developers to consult not only electricity suppliers but other energy suppliers to ensure that houses have the maximum energy efficiency?
The energy efficiency requirements for new houses are covered in the building regulations, which were updated and improved in April last year. They should improve the thermal efficiency of new houses by about 20 per cent.