Select Committee challenges ministers on net zero progress using NHC evidence

Members of the influential Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee met earlier this month to cross-examine ministers, as part of an Inquiry into ‘Local government and the path to net zero’ – and MPs were keen to use evidence supplied by the NHC to hold ministers to account.

At the session on 20th September, Housing and Homelessness Minister Eddie Hughes MP and BEIS Minister Lord Callanan were questioned by MPs on the role local Government should play in the path to net zero. This final session followed earlier oral evidence sessions where MPs heard from interested parties, including the NHC.

Liverpool West Derby MP Ian Byrne and Committee Chair Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) both used NHC evidence to challenge ministers on housing retrofit progress:

Committee Chair Clive Betts sought assurances from Minister Eddie Hughes on skills for retrofit, citing NHC evidence that there are currently 100,000 gas engineers in this country but only 600 accredited heat pump installers, asking the Minister to accept that, on retrofit skills,  “We have a long way to go, haven’t we?” 

Minister Hughes accepted that “At the moment, 36,000 heat pumps are installed annually and I imagine the number of boilers installed is hugely greater than that. We need to redress that balance. What Government are doing through things like the Future Homes Standard is demonstrating intent so that the market knows that it is safe to follow.”

Ian Byrne was keen to focus on standards in the owner-occupied sector. He said, “The Northern Housing Consortium told us that “Only 29% of owner-occupied dwellings are in EPC Bands A-C, compared with 56% of socially rented homes and 33% of private rented homes”. He asked BEIS Minister Lord Callanan “What is your plan for addressing these low levels, particularly among owner-occupiers, who have less direct oversight from local government?”

Lord Callanan accepted that owner-occupied homes are “A particularly politically challenging area”. He noted, “We did say in the ten-point plan that we would be consulting on exactly how we would go about this and we will do that later in the year.”

Commenting, NHC Chief Executive Tracy Harrison said: “We know there’s potential for 77,000 good green jobs across the North by the 2030s – we need to start create the skills to do those jobs now. The NHC promised members that we would build an evidence base on the issues that matter to them – like net zero and levelling-up – and ensure this evidence reached and connected with decision-makers. This is a great example of our work cutting through and reaching MPs, Ministers and officials. I look forward to reading the Committee’s final report and recommendations soon.”