Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con)
30 Jun 2020, midnight
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require residential developers to meet minimum standards of provision for insulation, broadband connectivity and electric car charging points in new homes; and for connected purposes.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to bring this Bill before the House. My Bill will underpin in statute the requirement for all new-build houses to have full-fibre broadband connections, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and improved energy efficiency through increased standards for insulation.
It has been estimated that for England alone, 345,000 new homes a year will be needed to tackle the under-supply in the market. Through commitments including the affordable homes programme, the Government are ready to build, but we must ensure that, in the urgency to deliver, we do not compromise on the quality of these homes. As the Public Accounts Committee reported last year in the “Planning and the broken housing market” report, the standard of many new developments does not reach acceptable levels, with insufficient funding for their infrastructure. That is why these measures need to be underpinned by statute. With such a building boom planned, it is essential that we create the mandate to ensure the necessary infrastructure of our homes. Importantly, because the Government intend to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, they must address the 15% of greenhouse gas emissions that currently come from the residential sector.
In the first part of my Bill, I propose that all new homes are full-fibre broadband connected. Historically, all new developments have been connected through a full-copper, part-copper or part-fibre connection. However, full fibre is 20 times faster than existing superfast broadband services and capable of download speeds of over 1 gigabit per second. If we had any doubt about the importance of reliable ultrafast broadband connectivity to new homes in Britain, the current covid crisis has surely dispelled that. Investment to install full fibre to the home will generate real and rapid benefits, helping communities to recover from the pandemic, and that is why it is so important that we underpin by statute full fibre across all our new homes. My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Steve Brine), who is sitting next to me, says that if we did that in statute, we could then enforce it through the planning system.
I welcome the steps being taken by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to ensure that new homes are built with support for full-fibre and gigabit-speed broadband. With digital connectivity now underpinning so many different facets of our modern life, future-proofing our homes has never been more important. Full fibre will not just affect how we work but where we work. According to Openreach, as many as 400,000 additional people could choose to work remotely, opening up employment opportunities outside London and the south-east. Home working has become a new way of life in the Cotswolds, as it has in many parts of the country, with almost half of UK workers doing so, according to recent Office for National Statistics figures. We are rapidly consuming more detail, and our future economic growth and connectivity will be based on having excellent broadband infrastructure. According to research in October 2019 by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, full-fibre broadband connectivity could boost labour productivity by nearly £59 billion by 2025.
Superfast broadband is currently available in 95% of UK premises, and I welcome the Government’s multibillion funding to deliver gigabit-capable broadband nationwide by 2025. This will mean that the infrastructure is available even in the hardest-to-reach homes, of which we have a fair share in the Cotswolds. Incentives are there for the developers. Openreach provides full-fibre infrastructure for any development with 20 or more homes, and offers initiatives on shared costs with smaller developments. To prevent a digital divide between developments and to ensure that we have the aligned digital infrastructure for the future, we must mandate now for full-fibre networks to be installed in every new home.
On energy and insulation efficiency, the second part of my Bill will apply a standard for insulation in all new-build homes so that they can reach higher grades of overall efficiency. The Government’s future homes standard legislates for house building standards and levels of efficiency to be substantially improved. An energy performance certificate provides information on the energy use of a property and the typical annual costs of running that property. The ratings of an EPC are graded between A and G. Landlords are expected to achieve at least E, while the overall average in England and Wales is D.
The Government’s clean growth strategy has the aim to get as many homes as possible to EPC band C by 2035 and upgrade all fuel-poor homes to band C by 2030. However, I believe we should be much more ambitious than that, which is why this Bill will legislate for all new homes to reach that level now. It is far cheaper to build it into new homes than to retrofit afterwards. There are a number of ways that the energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness of a property can be improved, including the installation of solar panels which, with little or no maintenance, can power an entire household’s appliances and lighting. The Government also have a target by 2025 that all new homes will be banned from installing gas boilers and will instead be heated by low-carbon alternatives.
I think it is shocking to read accounts of people living in new homes who report that they are cold and draughty. Well-designed, modern insulation and draught-proofing in a home mitigate the causes of damp and mould, make the home more heat-effective and lower the overall price of energy bills. Installing insulation, in conjunction with other building work, is also significantly cheaper than retrofitting. The energy company obligation is the only public scheme currently delivering insulation measures into homes in England to reduce carbon emissions and fuel poverty. Continuous and effective insulation is an essential aspect of making homes thermally efficient, creating warmer and more comfortable buildings, and reducing annual running costs.
Thirdly, on electric charging points, the final part of my Bill will also be vital in reaching our net zero goals by requiring electric charging points to be installed in all new-build homes. The 2018 £1.5 billion “Road to Zero” strategy sets out the Government’s ambitious target that, by 2030, between 50% and 70% of all new cars will have ultra low emissions. The Government have brought forward their plan for ending the sale of all petrol and diesel vehicles to 2035. To support the growth in electric vehicles on our roads, the Government and the private sector have invested in the installation of more than 24,000 public charging points. Unfortunately, a league table released by the Department for Transport last November on electric charging availability across the UK found that there are still over 100 authorities with fewer than 10 public charging devices per 100,000 of population. The road is set for electric vehicles, but there are still significant concerns when considering the purchase of an EV. A YouGov and Aviva study from last year found that 74% of people stated worries about finding charging facilities.
We must ensure that the UK has one of the best electric vehicle infrastructure networks in the world. To achieve this, my Bill will require all residential developers to supply the electric charging points that are needed to make owning an electric vehicle as easy and practical as possible.
Today, the Prime Minister has made a headline speech on building infrastructure for Britain. The Bill will supplement that by future-proofing new homes. In supporting the Bill today, we will be improving all new build houses so that they have connection to superfast full-fibre broadband, insulation standards that improve their overall energy efficiency and electric vehicle charging points. It is far cheaper to install all those measures in the initial build than to retrofit them expensively some time down the line, which will be inevitable. They will literally transform our housing market, go a long way to reducing the shocking 15% of residential emissions, and play a massive part in helping the Government achieve their ambitious net zero carbon emissions target by 2050.
Question put and agreed to.
That Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Mr Clive Betts, Sir Paul Beresford, Bob Blackman, Lilian Greenwood, Meg Hillier, Simon Hoare, Gagan Mohindra, Neil Parish, Mark Pawsey, Mr Laurence Robertson and Jim Shannon present the Bill.
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 12 March 2021, and to be printed (Bill 149).