New Clause 10 — Green deal installation apprenticeships

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 14th September 2011.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Leader of the Green Party 1:45 pm, 14th September 2011

I completely agree. Trust is crucial if the green deal is to be successful. We want people to be talking about it, telling their friends and neighbours how great it is; we want there to be a real buzz and momentum behind it. If there are just a couple of cases of such mis-selling, the whole process will be undermined.

I also seek to extend the same consumer protections for the repayment of a green deal loan to energy advice services or energy plans that are not specifically green deal plans. If a householder decides after the initial green deal assessment to pay for the services up front without the need for a green deal loan, they ought to be eligible for the same kinds of protection they would receive if repaying the loan in a different way. If the clause in question is left in its current form, regulations regarding protection and redress will hang not on what a consumer buys, but on how they pay for it. That is perverse. If the consumer pays up front, the protections and regulations will not cover them. Only if they take the green deal loan will they have those protections. If people are not protected until they have signed a contract, how will that help consumers during the advice and contracting stage when they may not have decided to pay for green deal services yet, let alone how to pay for them? Also, who can the consumer complain to about pressurising sales tactics if they walk away before they have signed the contract? Will consumers choose the financial option that is best for them if they have to use green deal finance to get ongoing support from the advice line and redress scheme? I hope the Minister will address those questions in summing up.

My final concern in relation to this group of amendments is about the comparability of green deal quotes. It is vital that consumers are in a position to make an informed choice about which green deal is best for them, and that could be nigh impossible if the different quotes received are hard to compare. I should like the Minister to address this by ensuring that all green deal quotes are provided in a way that makes them very easy to compare with one another, to judge and to assess.

I have detained the House for some time so I shall conclude. My final amendment in this group would give consumers the right to choose which energy bill their green deal loan repayments would be applied to. In 78% of occupied British buildings, heating and hot water are provided by natural gas, so that is the fuel most likely to be reduced after a green deal makeover. It therefore seems logical for customers’ gas bills, where possible, to carry green deal loan repayments because if the golden rule is working, their gas bills will not become more expensive after the green deal repayments have been applied. It is there that the advantage of the green deal will be most apparent to householders.

If the repayments are added to electricity bills, those electricity bills are not likely to fall so much after a green deal makeover unless a home’s space and water are heated by electricity, but far fewer homes are heated by electricity than by gas. That means that in the vast majority of cases, green deal customers will potentially have lower gas bills but higher electricity bills. That makes it harder to see whether the golden rule is working and risks undermining the central pay-as-you-save principle, as well as eroding customers’ confidence in the value of the deal. I hope the Minister will therefore consider allowing consumers to choose which bill they want their green deal payment to be applied to so that their management of the green deal is as straightforward as possible.