By Richard Wheeler
A flagship government energy project to cut household and business energy bills will hit its target ten years late, a Labour MP has claimed.
Energy minister Greg Barker previously said he would be having "sleepless nights" if 10,000 people were not involved in the Green Deal programme by the end of 2013.
The Green Deal aims to allow people to make energy-saving improvements to their home or business without having to pay all the costs in advance.
Labour's Tom Blenkinsop said just 1,030 households were currently involved with the Green Deal, so the original target would be reached by 2023 under the current rate of progress.
People choosing to pay for Green Deal themselves
But the claims were dismissed by Barker, who said that people were choosing to pay for Green Deal measures themselves rather than sign-up for cash advances from the government.
He told the Commons that 117,000 Green Deal assessments had been completed, with five per cent of people not installing improvements afterwards.
Speaking during energy questions, Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, confronted Barker on the issue.
He said: "Last March you said you would be having sleepless nights if fewer than 10,000 people had signed-up for a Green Deal by the end of 2013.
1,030 households have signed-up to Green Deal
"Just 1,030 households have signed-up. Can you confirm at this current rate of progress it will take until 2023 for your target to be met?"
Barker replied: "You are right, we anticipated at this stage there would be more Green Deal finance plans taken out.
"But what we have seen, and been rather taken aback by, is just how popular Green Deal measures have been because there have now been over 117,000 Green Deal assessments.
"So if people choose to pay for these measures themselves, that's a good thing.
"The main thing is people are installing Green Deal measures using Green Deal installers to do so and the Green Deal market is off to a good start."