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Green Deal

Volume 545: debated on Thursday 17 May 2012

The green deal is a flagship policy for the coalition. We are making good progress towards the introduction of the green deal this autumn. We are determined to have a solid framework in place for this transformational scheme, which will enable the green deal market to grow right through to the next decade and beyond.

Macc2020, an active and energetic community group in Macclesfield, has effectively used a local energy assessment fund to stimulate take-up of the green deal among home owners and to promote local small and medium-sized enterprises associated with energy efficiency. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is the right approach given that economic development potential?

Absolutely. Macclesfield is a terrific example of community activity. That is exactly the kind of approach we want to see followed across the whole country. It will help get the green deal off to a strong start. It is great that my hon. Friend’s constituency is blazing a trail, and I congratulate everyone involved—perhaps he will do so in person on my behalf—on taking advantage of the DECC LEAF scheme to such good effect.

I have had a very positive meeting on the green deal with Sutton Seniors Forum, Ofgem and the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow). One issue that arose was the importance of providing clear information to people, particularly senior citizens. What do the Government intend doing on that front?

We already have a lot of information on our website, but obviously the scheme has not been launched yet and we still have some way to go. The level of consumer information will be stepped up in the autumn to coincide with the launch, when there will be a call to action on the green deal. We are keen to ensure that pensioners and every other part of society are fully briefed on the opportunities presented by the green deal.

Like Macc2020, Energy Alton in my constituency has done a great job in blazing a trail for the green deal. What can be done now to ensure that local small businesses in East Hampshire benefit fully from the business opportunities?

My hon. Friend is right to raise the issues of small and medium-sized enterprises, which will be critical to delivering the green deal at a variety of levels in the economy. We have taken measures to reduce the barriers to SMEs, after working closely with them in preparing the green deal legislation, and we continue to engage closely with the small business sector.

My hon. Friend has been kind enough to visit Hastings on several occasions, as he is a neighbouring MP, and will be aware that many of my constituents live in housing association property. How will the green deal benefit residents in housing associations?

Absolutely. I know that my hon. Friend is a terrific advocate for Hastings, and I can assure her that social housing will be among the first to benefit from the green deal revolution. Dedicated funding within the £1.3 billion of energy company obligation subsidy will be focused on the most deprived areas of the country, so I would expect areas such as Hastings to be among the first to see the benefits. With her as its MP, I am sure it will.

Will the Minister explain what happened to the 30,000 people who applied for help through Warm Front last year? Despite an underspend, they did not get anything. Will he apologise to them for having to wait for this much heralded green deal and will it actually be delivered to the very poorest? I doubt it.

I am pleased to say that since I became Minister in the right hon. Lady’s place, the number of complaints about Warm Front has reduced substantially. She will know that there was a massive complaint bag about Warm Front while she was in office. We have not seen that since I entered office. Of course we will continue to run Warm Front though next year. It remains part of a suite of measures to tackle fuel poverty, and we remain committed to doing much more.

In the interests of transparency, will the Minister share with the House the benchmarks he has set for the uptake of the green deal scheme in the first to third years and what emissions reductions he has set as the benchmarks for the success of the scheme?

We have to get away from this target mania that existed under Labour and understand that this is not some sort of Stalinist five-year plan. We are unleashing the power of the private sector, and as a result we will be far, far more successful than any of these top-down Whitehall programmes initiated under the previous Government.

There is real concern that under green deal plans there is not enough money for fuel poverty. Will Ministers reconsider the possibility of recycling revenue from the carbon floor price and EU emissions trading scheme revenue into the ECO pot to top it up and to prevent the poorest customers from cross-subsidising rich customers?

The hon. Lady raises a serious point. I listened to what she said in the Energy Public Bill Committee, to which she made a constructive contribution, about how we should design the ECO and use it to tackle fuel poverty more effectively. More than half the £1.3 billion of ECO subsidy will be targeted at the fuel poor through various streams, which should go a long way to meeting her concerns about the need to ensure that the fabric of our housing and the improvements to it have the fuel poor at their heart.

I have listened carefully to what the Minister has said. The launch of the green deal is just five months away, yet we are still waiting for the secondary legislation to be published. Energy companies do not know whether they are going to be ready for the launch, no green deal assessors have been trained, no detail is available on the interest rate, and the Government’s wildly optimistic predictions on jobs and take-up are constantly being downgraded. The Minister said a moment ago that he did not believe in targets, yet only about 12 months ago he was saying that 14 million homes would be covered by the green deal by 2020. We now know that No. 10 is also worried about it, and is calling on the Cabinet Office to try to prevent this impending car crash. How will the Minister ensure that the interest rate is low enough to make sure that the green deal is a good deal for consumers?

I thank the hon. Lady for that speech. The fact is that the green deal is on track, and we will be publishing the secondary legislation very shortly; it will be done and dusted before the summer recess. We had an excellent meeting yesterday with the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister in which we reviewed the whole green deal programme, and I am glad to report that we are all on track.