No. I am going to make some progress. I shall say more about consumers later, and there will be plenty of time for interventions then. Let me begin, however, by saying something about energy efficiency.
There is agreement on the fact that the best way in which to protect people from rising energy bills is to make their homes better insulated and more energy-efficient. The Government’s flagship programme is the green deal. It replaced the Warm Front programme, which helped more than 2 million families to insulate their homes under the last Labour Government.
Members may recall that the last Secretary of State said that the green deal would help to insulate 3.5 million homes. Clearly a great deal has happened since that statement, and it would be understandable if Members took those words with a pinch of salt. However, the Prime Minister told the House that the scheme would be “bigger and better” than any schemes that had preceded it. It would be groundbreaking, revolutionary, and the envy of countries all over the world. When it was launched earlier this year, the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, Gregory Barker told Radio 4 that he would be having sleepless nights if fewer than 10,000 people had signed up for it by the end of the year.
Eight months in, how many people have actually signed up for a green deal package? Has the number hit 8,000, or 4,000? Can the Minister look forward to a good night’s sleep before the end of the year? I am afraid not, because so far just 132 people have signed up. Therefore, almost five out of six hon. Members in this House do not have a single constituent who has signed up for the green deal. The saddest thing is that this was all so predictable. For the last three years my hon. Friend Luciana Berger and I have warned that interest rates of 8% or even 9% would put people off, that hidden charges would put people off, that penalty payments would put people off, but this Government are not good at listening.
The Secretary of State will no doubt claim that it is still early days, and I really wish that were the case. On the latest count over 58,000 people have had assessments. That shows that the public are interested in making their homes more energy-efficient, but the problem is that once they have had their assessment, 99% of people say they do not think it is a good deal and are not signing up.