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Energy Efficiency

Volume 585: debated on Thursday 4 September 2014

Over 750,000 homes were improved under the green deal and ECO between January 2013 and June 2014, and we are on track to meet our target of improving the energy efficiency of 1 million homes by March 2015. A further 20,000 homes could be improved under the green deal home improvement fund, which has a pipeline of work over the coming months. In the longer term, we are providing certainty for the market through the extension of ECO until 2017 and up to £120 million of funding in each of the next two years for future schemes.

Ministers must be the only people who believe that the green deal has been a great success for either householders or small businesses—small businesses that are suffering cash-flow problems because of the Department’s delays in paying for vouchers; small businesses that lost out because they sold customers green deal assessments that could not be completed before the scheme was cancelled; small businesses being offered vouchers on the black market for up to £1,000 for solid wall insulation. When will the Government sort out the problems that they have created for small businesses?

The Government are very aware of the efforts that small businesses make and want to support them, as we continue to do in every Department. The answer to the question is that, because of the outstanding success of the green deal home improvement fund, we are making every effort to ensure that every voucher is correct. The hon. Gentleman has described a situation that would not be in accordance with the rules of the green deal home improvement fund, and it is for that reason that we must be absolutely certain that every application is correct, because we are looking after taxpayers’ money.

Last year the former Minister, the right hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker), said that he would have sleepless nights if fewer than 10,000 people had signed up to the green deal by the end of the year. The latest figures I have seen show that just over 1,800 people have signed up. I welcome the new Minister to her post, but may I inquire how well she is sleeping?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question. I am sleeping perfectly well, but I am also enjoying standing up here today. I think that he is referring to the green deal finance plan, rather than the green deal itself. Green deal measures continue to be a great success and people can fund them however they want; some do so through the green deal finance plan, and some do so through other sources.

As we have heard, it is now six weeks since the green deal home improvement fund closed overnight without notice, yet we still have not heard an account of what happened from the Government. The Minister might believe that it has been a great success, but the hundreds of people who stand to lose their jobs as a result of this incompetence would probably disagree. When will she be able to tell us just how many of the vouchers that are issued will be redeemed? What is she doing to help consumers get the measures they need? Crucially, if the Government have nothing to hide, does she agree that the Public Accounts Committee should conduct an investigation into this shocking example of Government incompetence?

The hon. Gentleman is a little ahead of himself. We are still looking at the applications. Because of the success of the scheme, we are having to do a detailed review of all the vouchers. It is a little early to talk about the Public Accounts Committee. I remain confident that the scheme is a great success, that we will look after small businesses and that it will deliver what we intended: the energy efficiencies in consumers’ houses that are so important to us all.