Climate change minister booed and interrupted after making a speech at CPA annual lunch

Climate change minister Greg Barker was today heckled at an industry lunch as frustration over the government’s flagship Green Deal policy boiled over.

Barker was the main speaker at the Construction Products Association’s annual lunch at the Dorchester Hotel in central London and was booed when talking about the involvement of SMEs in the Green Deal, which is due to launch in October.

Having name-checked large firms including St Gobain, John Lewis and B&Q in his speech, Barker took questions from the floor and began discussing how small business would be part of the Green Deal.

He was booed by a section of the audience when he then mentioned builders’ merchant chain Travis Perkins.

“Travis Perkins are a fantastic business but they are the largest builders’ merchant in the UK,” an audience member shouted out. “What about the smaller builders’ merchants?”

Barker - whose speech followed a challenging introduction by CPA chairman Bill Bolsover who questioned him on whether the Green Deal would work - responded to the heckling by saying the government wanted SMEs to get involved.

“All I would say is bring it on,” he said. “The onus is on the private sector to come forward.”

The minister was then interrupted again as another audience member challenged Barker to say how “independents” would be involved in the Green Deal.

“There are huge opportunities but I will tell you who is going to decide [which firms are involved]: consumers,” Barker said.

“We are going to make sure small businesses can compete on an even playing field…but ultimately it is up to you guys to go out there and win the business.”

In an increasingly rowdy atmosphere, Barker was also challenged on why construction firms would chose to invest in the Green Deal given its slashing of the feed-in-tariff (FIT) for solar installations.

One audience member told Barker that confidence in government energy initiatives had been “massively undermined” by the FIT saga.

In his initial speech, Barker had claimed that the Daily Mail - which led stories on the so-called ‘conservatory tax’ and the subsequent scrapping of consequential improvements under the Green Deal - “could not have had it more wrong”.

Building reported last week on claims by the Federation of Master Builders that the government’s failure to approve a competent person scheme to support the Green Deal could lock small and medium-sized builders out of the initiative’s launch phase.