Keir Starmer calls for 'massive' national home insulation programme to tackle rising energy bills

Sir Keir Starmer has called for a "massive" home insulation programme to tackle rising energy bills after witnessing how such efforts can work in Yorkshire.

The Labour leader said such work is a "much better answer" to the current problems facing the country than the return of fracking.

There is currently a moratorium on fracking in this country but there have been growing calls from some Tory MPs for shale gas extraction to restart and last week a regulator announced a delay on sealing up wells in Lancashire.

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The issue has been the cause of controversy in Yorkshire in recent year, where seven companies had licences for exploration prior to the 2019 ban coming into place.

Keir Starmer made the call during a visit to Dewsbury on Friday

Speaking during a visit to Dewsbury on Friday during which he heard from local people concerned about substantial rises to the energy bills, Sir Keir said: "I don't think fracking is the way forward.

"I think the way forward is to turbocharge on renewables, something that should have been done years ago and to fast-forward on nuclear, something that has stalled under this Government.

"At the same time, crucially we need a massive project to insulate people's homes.

"Only two weeks ago, I was in Kirklees at a council estate there. They have done it with a number of houses I was able to see. I went into see the residents - their homes were warm, their bills have gone way down and that is a much better answer than fracking will ever be to this energy crisis."

Sir Keir's comments are the latest in a series of growing cross-party calls for the Government to do more on home insulation ahead of the publication of their new energy strategy.

Last week, Conservative MP for Colne Valley Jason McCartney called on the Government to "turbocharge" a national green homes scheme.

He said that while he welcomed Chancellor Rishi Sunak's decision in the Spring Statement to axe VAT on energy-efficiency products, he believed the Government can go further.

Mr Sunak has announced that the five per cent VAT rate on having energy-saving materials like solar panels, heat pumps and insulation installed is being cut to zero.

Addressing Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, Mr McCartney said: "I very much welcome the Chancellor scrapping VAT on home energy saving products in his Spring Statement last week but would my Right Honourable Friend agree with me that now really is the time to turbocharge a green homes programme? Let's insulate homes, let's help people cut their energy bills and keep warm."

Mr Kwarteng replied: "Energy efficiency is at the centre of any net zero strategy. I'd be very happy to work with him to make sure we could provide progress."

Mr McCartney's remarks follow a similar call by Liberal Democrat peer and Kirklees councillor Baroness Kath Pinnock.

She has called for a national home insulation programme modelled on the one run in Kirklees in the 2000s which saw every household in the area provided with free loft and cavity wall insulation.

In December, the Government was strongly criticised over the “slam dunk fail” of its past Green Homes Grant scheme.

The Public Accounts Committee said low take up of the scheme, offering up to £10,000 in funding to help pay for energy efficiency measures, was down to an “overly complex” with homeowners expected to identify a certified installer and apply for vouchers with the installer receiving the grant funding once they had fitted the measure.

By August 2021, more than half of the applications for funding had been rejected or withdrawn.

The Government’s recent Heat and Buildings Strategy has set out a package of measures to retrofit the nation's buildings.

In addition this the Government has announced more than £3.9 billion of new funding for decarbonising heat and buildings. This will fund the next three years of investment through the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, the Home Upgrade Grant scheme, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme and the Heat Networks Transformation Programme.

A Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the pressures people are facing with the cost of living, which is why we have set out a generous £21bn package of support, and the energy price cap continues to insulate millions of customers from volatile global gas prices.

“We are also accelerating our progress in upgrading the energy efficiency of England’s homes, investing over £6.6bn billion to decarbonise homes and buildings and bringing in higher minimum performance standards to ensure all homes meet EPC Band C by 2035.”

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