Social Housing (Regulation) Bill [HL] - Committee

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 6th September 2022.

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Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Labour 3:45 pm, 6th September 2022

My Lords, I want to briefly record my support for the intent of all these amendments for both social and environmental reasons. The tenants of social landlords need to be prioritised by improving their energy efficiency, and hence cutting their bills. Because it is a significant proportion of our housing stock, to meet the net-zero pathway it is necessary for the social housing sector to make a step change in the improvement of its premises.

To achieve that, there are responsibilities on government, not least in pursuing the strategy that the speech and amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, address, but there are wider responsibilities on government to create the overall policy and the legislative and regulatory framework to ensure that it is delivered. There are also responsibilities on social landlords, and that should be made explicit to them, but the Bill is primarily about the regulator. The regulator’s central duty ought to include energy-efficiency objectives. I regard that as an important missing dimension of the Bill. I would argue this in relation to almost any other legislation, in any field, that changes or introduces new regulation. We need a net-zero objective in our social and economic regulators’ responsibilities and terms of reference.

I have a couple of questions for the Minister. When pursued on energy-efficiency matters on the Energy Bill and in other contexts, her noble friend and colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, often says that part of the Government’s solution is to fund the programme of improving social housing. I find it difficult to say that that is sufficient. Does the Minister know what proportion of the totality of social housing premises, or whatever subset of that she has information on—large estates, in particular—has been addressed since the Government’s intention that social housing’s energy efficiency be improved, both by insulation and by the source of its energy, became clear? If she does not have that information today, perhaps her department and BEIS could provide me with an answer.

The second question is on planning, which clearly is within her department’s responsibility. Many social housing estates, mainly in the local authority but also in some housing association areas, are faced with major schemes of regeneration. Too often, in my view, local authorities and developers, when faced with demands or requests for regeneration, opt for demolition and rebuild. In almost all cases, demolition in each of its stages and the rebuild have a larger carbon content than most schemes of refurbishment. When will the planning process address this and ensure that it is a central issue for those planning authorities faced with propositions from social landlords?