Government wants ‘intelligent net zero’, says business secretary

Ministers lept to the defence of the government’s retrofit strategy at the Conservative Party conference yesterday, after repeated criticism from industry figures who say current plans do not go far enough. 

Asked why the government was still allowing houses to be built that will need retrofitting in the near future, Paul Scully, minister of state in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said the government was “not trying to get to net zero tomorrow. We’re trying to get there by 2050.”

Speaking at the same ConservativeHome event on retrofit, Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said that building such substandard homes was “a nonsense”.


Source: Ben Flatman

Jacob Rees-Mogg (right) at an event this week run by CapX and the Centre for Policy Studies

He added: “We need a green revolution, [and retrofitting] 29 million homes should be treated as a major infrastructure project,” before adding: “Retrofit would reduce emissions, improve lives and create much-needed jobs.”

Sandi Rhys Jones, vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Building, agreed that the lack of progress was “breathtaking”, urging the government to help create a stable market and upskill the workforce.

“We need consistency. If this is going to work, this needs consistency,” she said, pointing to the Irish “one-stop shop” model, where citizens can get advice on retrofit and get a list of accredited suppliers.

Industry figures have long expressed frustration at the government’s perceived lack of urgency in facing the retrofit challenge, with many expressing disappointment at the relatively small measures included in the chancellor’s mini-budget last month.

>> Industry ‘disappointed’ by Kwarteng’s lack of action on retrofit

Business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg defended the government’s record on retrofit at a CapX/Centre for Policy Studies event, pointing to the £1bn recently announced by chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng for retrofit.

Rees-Mogg said he wanted “intelligent net zero” and said social housing was a sensible place to start as housing associations were able to roll out a programme more efficiently.

He added that for people who live in listed buildings it was “almost impossible to retrofit” under current rules.

At a ConservativeHome and Energy UK’s event on net zero, Bim Afolami, the prime minister’s former parliamentary private secretary, urged members of his own party to take net zero seriously.

“These people who think this green stuff is all mumbo jumbo [need to understand] it’s not even primarily an environmental argument but about security of energy supply,” he said, adding that voters were open to messaging on retrofit because “your bill will be lower, your house will be warmer, your life is going to be better”.