“Top Tories” buy into Mail’s mischaracterisation of the Green Deal
- 16 Apr 2012, 16:30
- Ros Donald
A group of Conservative ministers led by Chancellor George
Osborne told the
Sunday Telegraph yesterday that they are lobbying against the
Green Deal. They argue it will cost householders "thousands of
pounds" - in a quote decidedly reminiscent of several inaccurate statements
about the scheme in the
Daily Mail and
Telegraph last week.
The Sunday Telegraph yesterday quoted a senior Tory source
"The green deal was Chris Huhne's baby.
He has gone now and it is the right time to kill it off. Forcing
people to pay thousands of pounds for unwanted extra home
insulation is the last thing hard-pressed families need at the
moment. It's madness."
And having brought the issue to the fore last week, the Daily
Mail headlines today on news that the UK's Department of
Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is going to "
axe" a part of the deal still under consultation - which it calls
the 'conservatory tax' in response to the "Tory backlash". End
of story, right? But are we all talking about the same thing? A
look at the coverage, and comments by the unnamed Conservatives
shows just how confused the whole episode has become.
Green measures by "force"
The Tory spokesman's suggestion that householders will be
"forced" to outlay "thousands of pounds" echoes reporting by the
Daily Mail last week. In a front page headline on Easter
Monday, the Mail claimed that home improvements like new
conservatories, or replacing a boiler, will "
trigger [a] mandatory ten percent levy" to pay for energy
saving measures, according to
proposals from DCLG.
The story from the department appears to be somewhat different.
A spokesperson from DCLG told us today:
"The Green Deal will make homes warmer
and cheaper to run, at no upfront cost to householders. Making our
homes more sustainable will cut carbon emissions, drive down energy
bills and support jobs.
"The separate proposed changes to
building regulations are subject to a consultation, which closes at
the end of this month. The vast majority of conservatories are not
subject to building regulations [ and there are no plans to change
To elaborate on this, DCLG told us last week that the existing
plans only apply to "substantial extensions" -
those that are already notifiable under building regulations,
according to the
DCLG consultation - this doesn't include
How much will it actually cost?
And how about the "thousands of pounds" part? Last week, climate
skeptic columnist Christopher claimed families could be forced to
up to £10,000" in order to ensure that "the house is fully
insulated from top to bottom" when installing a new boiler or
adding a new conservatory.
As we noted at the
time, if a household did end up having to pay up to £10,000 to
comply with the 10 per cent rule, the project in question would
have had to cost £100,000 - rather an expensive conservatory.
Perhaps the figure was cannibalised from earlier
Government statements that householders "will be able to
install measures worth up to £10,000" under the Green Deal - but
that's not quite the same thing as being forced to borrow £10,000
because you want to replace the boiler.
According to the Guardian, the Department of Energy and Climate
Change expects householders to buy around
£500-worth of energy efficiency measures through the Green
Deal. And, as Geoffrey Lean points out in Saturday's Telegraph, the
removal of upfront costs for households that choose to repay
through the Green Deal means it could
actually make us better off.
Campaign against the Green Deal?
Sunday Telegraph says the attitude of some Tory MPs to the
Green Deal as a whole "has hardened into outright opposition"
following the Mail's "revelations" about the conservatory tax. An
(unnamed) Minister told
"It cannot be right that every time your
boiler blows up, you have to face the cost of replacing it, but
also buying loft insulation. It is piling too much on.
"We need to pause with the green deal
and look at it again in the light of the recession."
So, strangely, the misreporting of a consultation by DCLG is
being used as a reason to oppose the Green Deal as a whole.
This argument also chimes with previous statements from George
Osborne, reportedly at the helm of the attack on the deal within
government, about green policies. Since last year, Osborne has been
against the government's plans to cut carbon, arguing they are
harming the UK's competitiveness and adding to energy bills. Where
have we heard the point about energy bills before? Oh yes, that's
right - just like the 'conservatory tax' story,
that started off in the Mail, too.
The even odder thing about all this is that the introduction of
energy efficiency measures is central to the government's plans to
down household energy bills over the next few years. So if the
Green Deal is killed off, bills are much more likely to go up -
which, according to Osborne and the other commentators, isn't what
the deal's detractors want.
Confused yet? Let's sum up. News of a 'conservatory tax' - which
isn't a tax, and doesn't apply to conservatories - has led some
politicians to oppose different measures, which are ultimately
intended to help householders save money, on the grounds that the
'conservatory tax' will be expensive. Those politicians
include the minister directly responsible for the proposals in
the first place, Eric Pickles. As a result, the plans have been
withdrawn, except they haven't been, because they were only ever up
for consultation in the first place.
UPDATE 17 April 2012, 10.27: David Cameron has signalled the
government will reject the proposed measures, according to the Daily Mail and the Guardian