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New Homes: Carbon Emissions and Energy Efficiency

Volume 672: debated on Monday 24 February 2020

Welcome back, Mr Speaker, and welcome particularly to our new Chaplain.

Homes account for about a fifth of emissions. Driving these down and improving energy efficiency are crucial to fulfilling our commitments to net zero carbon by 2050. We have committed to introducing a future homes standard by 2025, and we will respond shortly to the 3,000 or so responses to our consultation—it closed on 7 February—which proposes carbon emissions at least 75% lower from 2025.

British architects such as Bill Dunster are building competitively priced, zero energy bill homes today that not only emit no carbon emissions, but are massively helpful to poorer families, so what will the Government do to push our oligopolistic and rather luddite house builders to start building the houses of tomorrow, not of yesterday?

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for his question, and I appreciate his desire to get the affordable homes of the future built today. Our recent consultation proposes a new householder affordability rating to measure a building’s efficiency and ensure it is affordable to heat. I am conscious that Mr Dunster has an opportunity at the Victoria & Albert Museum at the moment. I am very happy to visit his ZEDfactory in Watford, because I agree with my hon. Friend that we do need new, innovative small and medium-sized enterprises in the marketplace to drive variety in our housing market to improve the absorption rate.

I welcome the Minister to his position. Of course, when it comes to decarbonisation of homes, we also need to look at pre-existing homes. In Glasgow, we have thousands of tenement properties with a prohibitive 20% VAT rate for repairs and renovations, which makes it very difficult for housing associations to carry out those repairs and help decarbonisation. In the run-up to the Budget, will the Minister join me in calling on the Treasury to make sure that it cuts the VAT and allows the opportunity not just for fiscal stimulus, but to look after the pre-existing housing stock?

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman, and I congratulate him on his attempt to guide the Chancellor in his forthcoming Budget. We certainly need to make sure that proper remediation takes place in existing housing, and that is something I and my colleagues are looking at.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment to this absolutely crucial role. Does he agree that one of the best ways to prevent carbon emissions is to make sure that the ancient woodland we have in this country is protected when new homes are allocated? Would he support the Save Tiddesley Wood campaign outside Pershore, which wants to make sure that new homes are not built too close to it?

We have a manifesto commitment to more tree-lined streets. I would point my hon. Friend to the new Environment Bill, which will be coming forward. However, she is quite right: we do need to have green spaces and to maintain our ancient woodland. We all want to live in a nice and beautiful environment, and that is certainly something a Conservative party in government will hope to achieve.

The Government’s future homes standard would prevent councils from setting higher energy efficiency standards than national building regulations demand, while also watering down the impact of building regulations by allowing homes to pass the standard if their carbon emissions are reduced by general decarbonisation of the national grid, which will mean that homes can still be poorly insulated and meet the new standard. In what way does the Secretary of State think this is remotely fit for purpose as a response to the climate emergency? Will he rethink these proposals to equip our councils to go further and faster in reducing carbon emissions and to ensure that new homes will not have to be retrofitted in the future?

I think that a target of reducing emissions by 75% from 2025 is ambitious. It is very clear that the more stringent targets we are setting mean that it may not be necessary for councils to set different local standards. We have had a consultation, which closed on 7 February. More than 3,000 submissions were made to the consultation from big builders to think-tanks to local authorities, and we shall certainly be listening to that and taking it into account.