Cavity Wall Insulation

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Tuesday 26th March 2024

(1 month, 4 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Hansard Text

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Amanda Solloway Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Amanda Solloway)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is the greatest of pleasures to be here under your Chairmanship, Mrs Latham. I thank the hon. Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch) for raising this incredibly important debate, and all hon. Members who have partaken in it and shared some heart-moving stories. It is dreadful for consumers to be in the situation described in those stories and I have every sympathy for the people affected. All Members who have spoken have made their points incredibly well. We need to remember the impact this situation has on people’s lives, which has been portrayed very clearly.

As the hon. Members for Tiverton and Honiton (Richard Foord) and for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) have stated, insulating homes properly is one of the most impactful and cost-effective things we can do, which is why we have a number of schemes ongoing to install cavity wall insulation.

As the hon. Member for Halifax has said, the Solicitors Regulation Authority is already working with the Financial Conduct Authority and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to look into the conduct of the firm in question, but these bodies are independent of Government and it would be inappropriate for my Department or the Ministry of Justice to intervene.

The Ministry of Justice, as the Department responsible for legal services regulation, will continue to closely engage with the SRA and Legal Services Board to understand the action being taken and the timeframes for investigation. However, I am concerned to hear from the hon. Member for Halifax and the hon. Member for Blackburn (Kate Hollern) about how companies such as SSB Law may have targeted people. We will ask the SRA, as part of their ongoing investigation, to consider how SSB Law were able to do that. I also acknowledge the points raised by the hon. Members for Bradford East (Imran Hussain) and for Southampton, Test on this subject.

I do not want to see this issue passed around like a football, because this is an urgent matter for the households impacted. I therefore guarantee that I will be writing to the Ministry of Justice, asking them to encourage the SRA to accelerate the investigation for affected homeowners, as they deserve to have this matter addressed swiftly.

Imran Hussain Portrait Imran Hussain
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

While the Minister is writing to the Ministry of Justice, can she please kindly request that her colleagues there respond to the letters from MPs and organise an urgent meeting?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Member for the intervention. Of course, I will pass on those remarks.

I encourage Members to write to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero about specific cases. If there is a guarantee in place, my officials will engage with the guarantee agency to see if there is anything that we can do about that particular situation.

The range of Government-backed schemes to install cavity wall insulation are ongoing and lessons have been learned from the complaints that we are discussing today. These complaints, thankfully, are not representative of the experiences of thousands who have used our existing schemes. As I said earlier, in certain circumstances in suitable properties, cavity wall insulation is one of the most cost-effective measures for energy saving. For a relatively small outlay in costs, we know that cavity wall insulation, which costs between £1,000 and £3,000, can save homeowners up to £300 a year.

The hon. Member for Halifax is aware that the Government have made improvements to installation standards as a result of earlier findings. I will summarise the changes we have made, because any response to the problem must include preventing it from happening again. That is why the energy efficiency measures installed under all current Government schemes must be in line with industry best standards established by the British Standards Institution. All installers must be certified to the publicly available specification 2030 standards for any energy efficiency measure that they carry out, including cavity wall insulation, and must demonstrate a high level of competence. The latest revision to the standards was published at the end of September 2023, so I can assure hon. Members that this is a live issue for us and that we continue to refine and improve.

The Department published guidance in October 2019 for consumers who suspect they may have had faulty cavity wall insulation installed in their homes. We urge consumers to follow the guidance to help them avoid becoming victims of fraudulent cavity wall insulation claims.

Outside of Government-funded schemes, I urge all consumers to check the certifications claimed by their installer and what protections or warranties installers can offer before going ahead with work. TrustMark is the Government-endorsed quality mark for retrofit, so its “find an installer” web search will be a good place to start for any consumer, whether the work is Government-funded or not.

As the Minister for Affordability and Skills, I am glad we are discussing this matter today because I think there is a double injustice. People who did the right thing by wanting to install insulation to lower their energy use have suffered from insulation that has failed. That emphasises why we are now required to use the PAS certificate and TrustMark-registered businesses in Government schemes.

A legal firm that was recovering the costs has now collapsed, leaving affected households wondering how this will finally be resolved. That is why I am grateful to the hon. Member for Halifax for bringing the cases in her constituency to my attention, as have other hon. Members. I encourage Members who were unable to attend today to write to the Department about specific cases. My officials will follow up with the relevant guarantee agency to ensure that all due process has been followed.