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Huppert and Huhne on the Green Deal

May 22, 2011 10:47 AM

• [May 19] Julian Huppert (Cambridge, Liberal Democrat): WHEN he expects the green deal scheme to begin operation.

475)

Chris Huhne: The Energy Bill, which was introduced to the House of Lords on 8 December 2010, contains the primary legislation of the new green deal proposal. Secondary legislation will allow the Government to implement and administer the requirements of the primary legislation and we intend to lay the secondary legislation before Parliament in March 2012 so that it will be in place to underpin the delivery of the green deal for October 2012. The timetable is naturally subject to the time taken for parliamentary scrutiny.

475)

Julian Huppert (Cambridge, Liberal Democrat): I thank the Secretary of State for his comments. What opportunities will the green deal provide for smaller, innovative and high-tech companies, and how many jobs will be available in that sector as a result of the green deal?

475)

Chris Huhne: The green deal will, I think, be a real game changer. It will provide a framework that will enable billions of pounds of investment in retrofitting our homes and businesses across the country. Everywhere we have homes-that obviously means every part of the country-there will be new business opportunities. It is important to develop the supply chains in the energy saving industries, such as for solid wall insulation, and innovative products, as well as to reduce our dependence on imported energy. We are determined to ensure that small businesses can participate in the benefits that the green deal will bring.

475)

Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford, Labour): The Secretary of State will know that his Labour predecessors, of which I was one, developed a similar ambitious programme for domestic energy efficiency, but because of the complexity of financing such deals, we believed that pilot projects were necessary and set them up, involving 500 homes. What has he learned from those pilots?

475)

Chris Huhne: I pay tribute to the work done under the previous Government. The fundamental principles of the green deal are cross-party and I welcome that because it provides comfort to investors that they know there will not be a sudden change in the framework. I welcome the Opposition's input on this.

On finance, we have had many discussions and looked at the results of pilots, including the British Gas pilot. The business model that we are proposing is particularly interesting because the key thing is that if some of the bigger players can get the cost of a substantial number of green deals off their own balance sheets they will be able to securitise flows in the bond market, which will provide a regular flow of cheap finance for all the green deal providers.

Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North, Labour): What steps he plans to take to ensure consumer confidence in the green deal scheme.

476)

Chris Huhne: Consumer confidence will be vital for the green deal. In developing secondary legislation, we will support this by ensuring consumer protection and redress mechanisms are in place. For example, our licensing arrangements will require providers to work to a green deal code, which will require they use only accredited assessors and installers.

476)

Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North, Labour): I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. I recently met the National Federation of Roofing Contractors to discuss my Apprenticeships and Skills (Public Procurement Contracts) Bill and people raised concerns about potential loopholes in the green deal, ensuring the right measures are selected for installation, ensuring the quality of installations, and accountability for the work. Will the Secretary of State explain what he is doing to close the loopholes in order to ensure consumer confidence?

476)

Chris Huhne: My officials are in contact with a wide range of interests and I am happy to meet, and to ensure that my officials meet, the people the hon. Lady has mentioned. We obviously want to ensure that there are no loopholes and we have done a lot. The licensing arrangement and the green deal code, as I have mentioned, will be important. The Consumer Credit Act 1974 will extend to the green deal, and the golden rule that forms part of the green deal ensures that the expected savings will always at least match the costs. The Energy Bill includes strong requirements to disclose the presence of a future charge to bill payers and the accreditation process will also allow guarantees for the work carried out, for example. We will establish an independent advice line that will also support customers seeking redress. The hon. Lady should remember that all that is in addition to the normal protections for consumers through, for example, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999.

476)

Andrew George (St Ives, Liberal Democrat): My right hon. Friend will be aware that a number of places in the country, including Cornwall, are particularly ambitious to forge ahead with the green deal. Other than the constraints

on the capacity of assessors and fitters, will any other impediments be faced by those parts of the country that particularly want to embrace this great opportunity?

476)

Chris Huhne: I am grateful for my hon. Friend's question. We are working through literally every possible impediment, as we are in other areas of the economy in which my Department particularly wants to see a transition to a low-carbon economy, to understand best what the impediments might be and to remove them. I am absolutely confident that when it comes to the launch of the green deal in October 2012 there will be enormous opportunities for Cornwall. The only constraint is going to be making sure that there are enough people who are trained properly to accredit, assess and install the green deal. I am confident that the finance will be available and it is important that we make as much progress as we can.

477)

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree, Labour): Consumer confidence is vital to ensuring that the green deal is a success. We know that Ministers were discussing possible incentives at around the time of the Budget to encourage green deal take-up and the Chancellor alluded to that in his Budget speech, but no concrete announcements have yet been made. Will the Secretary of State give us any further details today about how home owners and tenants will be incentivised in order for the green deal to meet the Government's ambitions?

477)

Chris Huhne: Under the terms of the energy company obligation in the Energy Bill, there is capacity for the companies that are subject to the ECO to bring forward incentives. The Chancellor has, as the hon. Lady pointed out, rightly made a commitment to consider incentivisation. She will also be aware that we made announcements on the Energy Bill's Second Reading to bring forward some quite important incentives for the private rental sector, particularly for F and G-rated properties. All those measures will get the scheme off to a flying start.

477)

Robert Halfon (Harlow, Conservative): My hard-pressed constituents in Harlow will strongly welcome the green deal, but how will consumers be informed how to apply for it and how it will work?

477)

Chris Huhne: I think we will have a lot of interest from consumers precisely because of the important golden rule that this will benefit consumers-that the energy savings as a result of the green deal will outstrip the assessed costs of the installation. I think there will be a lot of buzz around the green deal. A lot of potential suppliers, such as B&Q, are very interested. As people move house and go to B&Q and look at what they might do for their kitchen or bathroom, they might also, at that point, have the opportunity to sign up for a green deal. I think it will spread very quickly through word of mouth, and that is why it is so important to get consumer confidence.

. . Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton, Labour): What steps he plans to take to ensure that householders who participate in the green deal scheme have access to an appropriate redress scheme in respect of any inadequate work carried out.

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Chris Huhne: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave Catherine McKinnell some moments ago.

479)

Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton, Labour): I thank the Secretary of State for his response. Without proper consumer protections, the green deal will become a white elephant, so can he further outline how the Government will stop the scheme becoming a cowboys' charter, with unscrupulous suppliers preying on the most vulnerable in society?

479)

Chris Huhne: Mr Speaker, I think I tested your patience with the length of my previous answer to a similar question, so I will not go through the list again, but we have put in place a substantial set of measures that will allow redress, including an advice line and all the normal protections, such as the ability to go through the small claims court and to the energy ombudsman. All of those are available to consumers. I agree with the hon. Gentleman on one key point: consumer confidence in this scheme will be absolutely crucial. We do not want

any repeat of the sorts of examples there were when the Labour Government in Australia introduced a similar scheme, which was indeed a cowboys' charter.

479)

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire, Conservative): What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Office of Fair Trading, which will regulate green deal providers, to ensure that credit is only offered responsibly?

480)

Chris Huhne: The credit will be regulated under the Consumer Credit Act, but the provisions are very clear. I do not think that my officials have had direct contact with the OFT, but it of course has an important monitoring role to ensure that those rules are observed.

480)

Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield, Labour): Why, oh why, can the Government not learn from past success, such as what happened in Huddersfield and Kirklees with Warm Zone, which was a highly successful scheme? Why can we not take the best elements of that and put them into the current legislation to get the best possible option?

480)

Chris Huhne: We are absolutely determined to ensure that, where a local authority wants to lead from the front with neighbourhood schemes of the sort the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, they are enabled, quite rightly, to go ahead. They will have access to the finance available under the green deal and I very much hope that go-ahead local authorities, whether in his constituency, in Cornwall or anywhere else in the country, will lead this exercise, because there are enormous opportunities. That is good for residents, for energy saving across the country as a whole and for local jobs.

. . Christopher Pincher (Tamworth, Conservative): By what date he expects proposed legislation to enact the green deal to enter into force.

490)

Chris Huhne: The Energy Bill, which was introduced to the House of Lords on 8 December 2010, contains the primary legislation for the new green deal proposal. Secondary legislation will allow the Government to implement and administer the requirements of the primary legislation. We intend to lay the secondary legislation before Parliament in March 2012, so it will be in place to underpin the delivery of the green deal for October 2012. That timetable is naturally subject to the time taken for parliamentary scrutiny.

If I may clarify the answer I gave to Andrew Bridgen, I am informed that some DECC officials have indeed spoken to the Office of Fair Trading about the provision of credit for the green deal, and we have an ongoing engagement.

490)

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth, Conservative): When the green deal is rolled out, will my right hon. Friend ensure that the green deal MOT on domestic properties focuses not only on insulation, but on smart metering and energy-efficient boilers, so that customers in my constituency and around the country get the most energy-efficient and bill-cutting green deal?

490)

Chris Huhne: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question, because very substantial incentives to install renewable heat solutions are available under the renewable heat incentive, alongside the green deal. The green deal itself will deal with insulation, but I confidently expect that many of the providers will offer heat solutions alongside that, which is very important.

490)

Graham Jones (Hyndburn, Labour): I am concerned about the delivery of the green deal, especially in the private rented sector. How does the Secretary of State expect compliance to happen in this sector, which seems to be quite evasive? For example, will he expect local authorities to keep a register of landlords in their area as part of the delivery mechanism?

490)

Chris Huhne: We have announced that we intend to regulate the private rented sector so that there will be a clear prohibition on letting F and G-rated homes in the future, and that will provide a clear target for the private rented sector to go ahead. All of the normal means of enforcing this will be available through local authorities, but we will bring forward further measures in secondary legislation.

• Full Debate in Parliament

Cable on the Green Investment Bank [May 27]

Huhne on the Fourth Carbon Budget [May 22]