Social Housing (Regulation) Bill [HL] - Committee

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 6th September 2022.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Conservative 3:30 pm, 6th September 2022

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and to support her in this amendment, along with the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, who has also added his name to it. I declare my interests as published in the register. I am also a member of Peers for the Planet. It sounds like saying that I am a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, not that I have ever had to do that. This is an extremely important amendment.

As has been noted, at Second Reading there was very strong support from around the House for the Bill’s objectives, and I am clear that that will remain the case. There is also strong support from around the Committee for the Government’s commitment to achieving net zero, and for the work of the Committee on Climate Change. What we need to do, through this legislation, is provide some heft to that commitment, because what is lacking, as the noble Baroness noted, is a road map to take us to the very noble aim of net zero. As the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, rightly said, since Second Reading, it has become even more evident how important this is—in very graphic terms, with the eye-watering price of energy and energy security centre stage following the dreadful situation in Ukraine. I think that is recognised by the incoming Prime Minister, but I say to the Minister, who has a long list of things to take up with the incoming Prime Minister and Ministers, that this is an opportunity for a very early demonstration of this Government’s commitment to tackling this very serious issue by tackling not just climate change but the energy security issue and, not least, the eye-watering cost of energy that we face currently.

At this juncture it is clear, as clear as it can be, that any action to reduce energy demand is sensible and vital. As is often said, the energy that is cheapest is the energy that we do not use. One thing we can perhaps take some comfort from, in a slightly bizarre way, is that we have got more ground to make up in this country than many other countries in relation to energy efficiency. There is a lot we can be doing; there is massive scope for energy efficiency and, indeed, for demand reduction, which this amendment is geared to. By reducing energy demand, we contribute to the fight for net zero, we contribute to helping ease the massive cost of energy and we also contribute to our energy security. These three pillars are all vital in this battle, and this amendment—a very modest amendment, really—would contribute to all three. The commitment to the low-carbon heat target of 100% of new installations of heating appliances and a minimum EPC rating of C for all social housing is, I believe, achievable and vital.

I appeal to the Government to come forward with a positive programme of engagement with social housing landlords, and advice, also very sensible and provided for in this amendment. I am sure it would have support from all corners of the Committee and would contribute in a very positive way to something that we know our country needs to do. I trust that the Government will demonstrate their commitment to net zero, to easing the cost of energy and to achieving energy security by supporting this amendment. It is a practical, pragmatic, sensible response to the energy crisis, will be seen as such, and will be seen as an early demonstration of the commitment of this Government. So I hope that is what the Minister will say when she responds to this group of amendments.