New Clause 10 — Green deal installation apprenticeships

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 2:00 pm on 14th September 2011.

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Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change 2:00 pm, 14th September 2011

We will have to disagree on this. I understand the protections that the hon. Gentleman is trying to insert into the Bill, but I take a slightly more optimistic view of the potential both for introducing competition in the green deal process and for home improvement.

The biggest driver for take-up—and this is different from the German experience—is not concern about climate change and, surprisingly, it is not even concern about saving money on energy bills. The consumer research that our stakeholder forums have commissioned is revealing, because the majority of consumers said that the biggest factor in their taking up the green deal would be a desire to make their home nicer. That may seem counter-intuitive and surprising, given the high cost of energy, but more than half of respondents indicated that home improvement was the driving force. We need to harness that, and it is little wonder that people failed to respond to energy companies that were not in the home improvement game. They will be responsive, however to new entrants to the market such as B & Q, Marks and Spencer, John Lewis and so on, which excel in offering aspirational consumer propositions. Many people will seek to improve their house, and see no contradiction in making improvements by purchasing new wallpaper and carpets while, at the same time, undertaking energy improvements. I regard this not as an either/or conflict, but as an opportunity to ride on the back of that motivation. Rather than offering a hairshirt proposition, we should harness the inherent instincts of the British public to improve their home, and make it both nicer and warmer.

I welcome the arrival in the market of a host of new players offering additional propositions for home improvement that fall outside strict energy efficiency measures, because that will draw in more people and catch their interest, but—and it is an important but—we must ensure that the integrity of the independent assessment is upheld. We must ensure that there is no inappropriate cold calling or hard selling in the home, which is why we will thoroughly review the measures that are in place. If the evidence shows that they are not sufficient, we will introduce strong codes of practice and ensure that assessments are thoroughly independent. However, I do not share the pessimism of Barry Gardiner, or his reluctance to introduce the two measures alongside each other. As long as that is done in a thoroughly transparent and responsible way, it could be a benefit, rather than a negative.