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MS 12 - National Winter Preparedness Campaign


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Mr. Speaker, 

The energy crisis, fueled by President Putin's war in Ukraine and the breakdown in global supply chains, has devastated our island nation and burdened our people with endlessly rising energy costs. The reality that we are now preparing to head into the winter months, with fuel prices continuing to rise and families fearful about their inability to pay these rising prices, does not escape me. This coming winter season stands to be one of the most trying in recent memory; never since the last World War have we faced an energy crisis on this scale. As Prime Minister, I believe it is my responsibility and my duty to adopt an agenda befitting this unique challenge. The Government that led Britain through World War II was committed to accepting nothing less than victory. In turn, I refuse to accept anything less than a total victory over the challenges we face as a nation. 

It is with this goal in mind that I announce the Government's new national Winter Preparedness Campaign. For years, Governments on both sides of the aisle have done little to address one of our nation's most glaring energy challenges: the energy efficiency of our housing stock. Britain is notorious for having some of the most outdated, poorly insulated homes in Western Europe. Successive Governments have tried, with very limited success, to incentive homeowners and landlords to upgrade their insulation in order to promote efficient home heating, reduce heating bills, and reduce the impact home-heating has on the environment. Today, this glaring problem takes on a new dynamic: with energy prices skyrocketing, families are going to have to pay far more to heat their homes precisely because outdated insulation makes it so difficult to properly heat their residences. 

The scheme I am announcing today takes a bold, revolutionary, and unprecedented approach to solving this national crisis. Effective immediately, I am announcing the initiation of the Winter Preparedness Campaign. The campaign will be a nation-wide effort to install state of the art insulation in 400,000 residences across the United Kingdom, in all four of our constituent nations, at no cost to the homeowner. In order to achieve this goal, I have directed the Royal Engineers to lead a nation-wide installation operation. Alongside the Defense Secretary, I am ordering 1,000 Royal Engineers, supported by 7,500 soldiers serving in the Regular and Volunteer Army Reserve force to execute the campaign. These members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces will begin immediately deploying to homes and apartment complex across the United Kingdom to install new and vital heating insulation. Priority will be given to homes and apartment buildings with F and D rating bands based on the Energy Performance Certificate, and low-income and working class families will be given expedited priority. 

The program will be implemented differently based on the type of housing unit in question. Residences owned in whole or part by the state, like council houses, will be required to participate in the program. Private homeowners are strongly encouraged to participate, but will not be obligated to do so in recognition of their individual property rights. We urge private homeowners, particularly those in a priority group, to take this opportunity to receive a free insulation upgrade and avoid having to pay substantially higher energy bills this winter. Landlords who own apartment buildings or other housing units will also be eligible to participate, with the band rating of their buildings and the socio-economic status of their residents determining their priority. Landlords will not be obligated to participate, with this very clear caveat in mind: landlords who choose not to register for the program will be subject to future legislation requiring them to install new insulation at cost. My warning is clear: act now and register to take part in the Winter Preparedness Campaign, or my Government will require you to spend your own money installing new insulation. As a landlord, you have a responsibility to do what is in the best interests of your tenants. 

This emergency action will come at a cost: the Civil Service estimates that the Government will have to spend 2.5 billion pounds in order to successfully execute the campaign. There is, however, no doubt in my mind that this is an investment worth making. Families living in band F homes risk paying nearly £1,000 more in energy costs this winter if their insulation is not improved, according to a recent study from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. In contrast, families stand to save nearly £600 this year with improved insulation, a meaning that our program will ensure a savings of £200 million nationally upon completion. The outcome will be meaningful and immediate financial relief for working families across the United Kingdom, who will no longer be, literally, left out in the cold this winter. 

Since becoming Prime Minister I have taken a number of sweeping actions to support families in the face of this global cost of living crisis. The Government has acted to boost domestic production of oil and gas, cut regulations that are artificially driving up costs, and guarantee the continuation of the former Prime Minister's cost of living benefits package. The Winter Preparedness Campaign, however, will do more to fight back against Vladimir Putin's campaign to subject our country to a fuel crisis than any single action taken since the war in Ukraine began. It provides savings for working families right now, and improves the energy efficiency of their homes for a generation. This program is a clear and bold investment in the British people, in our energy security, and in the future of our planet. 

I commend this statement to the House. 

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Mr. Speaker,

This is it?

Every family in the country is faced with an additional £1700 onto their energy bills and this is the best the government can do?

The scheme the Prime Minister has announced today doesn't even begin to grapple with the cost of living challenge faced by millions up and down the country. The government has put forward a plan to only insulate 1.5% of UK homes, the scheme likely won't insulate those 400,000 homes in time for the winter and price hikes and everyone else is told to hold on tight as their household budgets are decimated? Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister talks of this being a scheme of unprecedented ambition; to the 24 million households across this scheme who won't feel any benefit it is an insult. 

I want to be absolutely clear Mr. Speaker that the Labour Party unreservedly supports any effective insulation scheme. It is an improvement that 400,000 households across the country will finally see the benefits of insulation. We have repeatedly called on the government to do better on this front since April and insulate 2 million homes. Their failure then has now led the government to panic and rush to produce something they hope is passable but is fundamentally flawed. But it is a change of pace from the past 12 years of failure not overseen by 'government's of all parties', but primarily a failure overseen by the Conservative Party, who had cut investment into insulation at a time we needed it most. If this government is hoping a slap dash and quick insulation scheme can compensate for this decade of failure, they need to wake up and smell the coffee.

Because we need to see something bigger and bolder than this, Mr. Speaker. The Labour Party has made clear that if the government put forward a decade long proposal to insulate all of Britain's houses the benefits would be immense. Less reliance on Russian energy - or gas and oil in general. A 10% reduction in our carbon emissions. Economic growth across the country. 450,000 jobs created. Bills slashed for every household by £600. Cases of people dying of cold and asthma reduced. If the government had shown real courage, real determination, and real ambition for our country and the nations, regions and towns within it that would be what they were announcing today. Instead, what we see is a timid and last minute hashed out plan that the government hopes looks like action. But it isn't nearly enough. 

Even more worrying, Mr. Speaker, are the holes in the plan: I fear the government has not put enough investment or manpower towards a scheme that is already limited in scope. I will always commend British troops without reservation, and their willingness to step in and help insulate these homes during a cost of living crisis shows their unwavering commitment to British public service. But it is not the job of the British army to insulate our homes, and them needing to step in shows that where the army has shown service this government has shown failure.

Labour's own projections are that for the government's scheme to work, we'd need 5,000 skilled workers. The government is only offering 1,000 from this scheme. Did the government consult the MoD to see if they had the skilled capacity to carry out the scheme? Were they consulted to see the impact putting British soldiers elsewhere would have on Britain's combat readiness?

The truth is, Mr. Speaker, that despite the valiant and best efforts of our army there is the real risk of government incompetence leading to even an insulation scheme this unambitious will not meet the targets it has set. The government have made it clear this scheme is entirely voluntary - so what plans does it have in terms of outreach? How will the government ensure that every single one of the 400,000 homes eligible for this scheme will know of the scheme and know how to sign up to it?

We need to be clear, Mr. Speaker, that the decision to employ the army isn't only impractical, but this profound lack of ambition and fear to invest in our towns will mitigate some of the most beneficial aspects of an insulation programme, with fewer jobs likely to be created, fewer workers upskilled and the impact of growth likely to be less felt across communities. An insulation programme isn't just an effective way for us to cut bills and hit net zero: it's a powerful tool for us to level up, one the government has clearly given up on completely. 

British families up and down the country needed to see an effective cost of living package to get them through this winter and the following year, Mr. Speaker.

And in the meantime the government should have rolled out a comprehensive, long term insulation scheme that insulated all of Britain's homes to leave households in a more secure position in future winters while creating jobs and wealth in the process.

Hearing the Prime Minister's words today, and hearing the fanfare he built for this measure, I had almost allowed myself to feel a false sense of hope. A sense of hope this government was finally prepared to take the cost of living crisis seriously. Hope this government would finally take the threat of climate change seriously. Hope that it could provide real support for families in a genuinely ambitious attempt to tackle both challenges.

Instead, we're only met with a sense that the government and Prime Minister have rushed to try and do something - anything - that could give them good PR while they avoid taxing oil and gas giants who have used the global energy crisis to mop up every penny they can from hard working British families. The government is offering the British people crumbs: only 1.5% of households seeing any benefit from the government’s scheme while oil and gas giants are given licence by this government to make record profits. 

If this is the Prime Minister's interpretation of ambition, Mr. Speaker, I worry for British people in the months ahead. We need a government that is so much more ambitious than this. We know it is possible: Labour has both outlined to this government a plan to insulate 2 million homes a year and a fully costed package to help families with the cost of living. But instead we are left with a government which is on the side of oil and gas giants over working families, and a Prime Minister who is out of touch, out of steam and out of ideas. 

Ruth Murphy.

Labour Member of Parliament for Liverpool Walton (1974-).

Opposition Whip (1982-).

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