My Lords, I refer to my declaration of interests. I am an elected councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham. Although the government amendments which we will be looking at later on today may, in some cases, be responding to points raised by noble Lords in Committee and on Report, the fact that they are there highlights how unprepared the Bill was when it arrived in your Lordship’s House. The Government should reflect on that when bringing legislation to this House in future. Even when we do not like legislation, we at least expect it to be fit for purpose. That has not been the case here and I hope we see no legislation in that state in the next Session of Parliament.
Amendment 118, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, has the full support of these Benches and if she wishes to test the opinion of the House today we will support her. The issues raised in the amendment were debated in Committee, as we have heard.
We all agree there is a housing crisis, but any attempt by the Government to deal with it must ensure that homes are built to a high-quality standard and meet the challenges that we are all aware of rather than ignore or fail to address them. The zero-carbon homes standard is important to deliver on our climate change commitments, and the cost of building to standards that will achieve this and provide homes that will drive down energy bills and reduce carbon emissions could now be much less than the £3,500 we heard about in Committee; we have heard today that it could be as low as £1,500. The cost is initially borne by the homeowner but over the long term it will reduce fuel bills and getting it right in the first place will be much cheaper than having retrofit measures at a later date. This is good and we support it.
When the noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, responded to this debate in Committee, he told us that the measures were well intentioned but “a step too far” at this stage. I hope we are not going to hear the same from the Government Front Bench today. I suggest that failure to make progress as the amendment seeks to do is plain daft. Any additional costs of building a new home required by the amendment would be borne by the purchaser, who would recoup that outlay very quickly and make additional savings every year. This seems a win-win situation and I cannot see who the loser would be here.
It is also puzzling why the Government would want to build homes that are not as energy efficient as possible in order to meet the zero-carbon standard and help reduce carbon emissions. Surely on matters of public policy the Government should be striving for the best possible outcome. Wherever you are coming from, building to a standard that leaves the home owner or tenant in a property that, having been built to a poorer standard, is less energy efficient and they have to pay more on their fuel bills cannot be right. It is particularly wrong when you are talking about the relatively modest sums involved here. If this amendment is not accepted, people will be left paying a greater proportion of their income than they need to on fuel when moving to a new home. It will have the greatest effect on people on poor incomes. For me, that is just not right and the Government really should accept this amendment today.