Cavity Wall Insulation

Richard Foord Excerpts
Tuesday 26th March 2024

(1 month, 4 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

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

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord (Tiverton and Honiton) (LD)
- Hansard - -

It is a privilege to see you in the Chair, Mrs Latham. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch) for securing the debate and for telling us about the experiences of her constituents as well as the problems that they have had after having cavity wall insulation fitted to their homes. Some of the problems might have arisen from very poor ventilation as a consequence, and it is troubling to hear about that.

On the doorstep, I have come across constituents who have suffered from mould and damp. I have also talked to an employee of East Devon District Council who is responsible for the maintenance of social homes and who has said to me that some of the issues with damp and mould are linked to cavity wall insulation. Done properly, cavity wall insulation is a positive thing. It keeps people warm and saves money for the Government, taxpayers and individuals. It is one of those rare policy areas that is not just a win-win, but a win-win-win.

On the subject of heating, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition estimated that 4,950 people in this country died in the winter between 2022 and 2023 because they were living in cold conditions. Clearly, worries all of us. I know that the Government were also concerned, because they introduced the energy price guarantee. On the face of it, the energy price guarantee was a very popular policy because it reduced people’s energy bills by a very significant amount, although many of my constituents will not have felt it because their energy bills were still staggeringly high in that winter of 2022-23. The energy price guarantee was a subsidy from the Government—from the taxpayer—of £37 billion. The really sad thing is that had the Government continued to invest in home insulation measures at the rate they had been in 2012, a large proportion of the funding spent on heating people’s homes and subsidising their heating would not have been necessary.

The third win is, of course, in the reduction of emissions. Given the concerns that the Government might not reach their net zero target by 2050 and that the world might not meet the target of reducing temperature rises by 1.5°, we absolutely have to be concerned about reducing emissions, too. Heating homes, saving money and reducing emissions are all things that can be achieved with cavity wall insulation done properly.

I want to look back at the last decade or so and at how much cavity wall insulation has helped some of our constituents. One million cavity wall insulations were carried out in Great Britain through the energy company obligation scheme between 2013 and 2023, 27% of all measures carried out under the scheme. The annual number of cavity wall insulations provided through ECO has fallen over time, from a peak of over 316,000 when the Liberal Democrats were in government in 2014 to a low of little more than 11,000 last year. The number of ECO measures installed overall peaked at three quarters of a million in 2014, but fell to just 159,700 in 2022—a fall of almost 80% and a figure 59% lower than in 2021.

There is no evidence that the UK is near the saturation point for cavity wall insulation. The Government have estimated that 71% of homes with cavity walls had insulation installed at the end of 2022. Some 3.8 million homes with uninsulated cavity walls were thought to be “easy to treat”, and the remaining 1.3 million were “hard to treat”. There is still much low-hanging fruit to progress with now that we know how cavity wall insulation can be done, and done well. If we think about not just Great Britain as a whole, but England, England has a lower percentage of cavity wall insulation: just 69% of homes have it, compared with 76% in Wales and 80% in Scotland. As for my region, the west country, the south-west got just 6% of all ECO spending, compared with 18% for the north-west. Clearly, the west country is dipping out again.

Again, the Liberal Democrats in government made sure that home insulation was a real priority, given the savings on heating, money and emissions. In 2012, we made sure that 2.3 million homes benefited in a single year. If the Conservatives had carried on insulating at that level, the average household would have saved hundreds of pounds per year on their energy bills and the taxpayer would have saved money, too, during the crisis that followed the invasion of Ukraine. It is reckoned that the failure to continue insulating at that level cost taxpayers around £9 billion under the energy price guarantee, because of the lack of insulated homes.

To finish on a cheerier note, some really good work is happening, including in my local area. In my constituency, the Blackdown Hills parish network has invested in an infra-red camera—a thermal imaging camera—that it offers to residents to use so that they can identify where their homes are leaking heat. The camera has also been lent to Sidmouth Town Council and the chair of the council, Chris Lockyear, is offering to help residents to save not just heat but money.