U.K. businesses and homeowners could be jailed for up to a year or fined £15,000 for non-compliance with new energy efficiency regulations proposed by the Conservative government, which have been described by critics as a “massive expansion of the state and its power over our lives.”
The Energy Bill, which returned to parliament for its third reading this week, outlines several new requirements homeowners must adhere to in relation to Net Zero, the government’s commitment to being carbon neutral by 2050.
For the first time, individuals face criminal charges for failing to comply with measures designed to reduce the country’s carbon footprint.
One such draconian regulation states that household appliances such as fridges, washing machines, and heat pumps must be fitted with smart functions that can be controlled by “any persons carrying out load control,” namely the National Grid, which oversees the majority of electricity transmission and distribution in Britain.
The vast majority of households in the country will not currently comply with the new measures outlined in the bill, meaning homeowners will be compelled to pay out significant sums to transform properties and make them “energy-efficient” or potentially face criminal charges for so-called “non-compliance.”
The bill has angered a number of backbench Conservative MPs who have threatened to rebel against the legislation, with some claiming it is the latest installment in the government’s “cult-like” obsession with Net Zero.
“We cannot impoverish our country to meet some, well, I’d like to call it in some cases almost cultish policy until we can afford it. Until it works, that’s when I think we should adopt all these policies,” said Richard Drax, the Conservative MP for South Dorset.
Others went further, with Tory MP Craig Mackinlay telling the Commons, “I have to say, I absolutely despise this Bill. This is going to be the first time that we are potentially criminalizing people in this country for not being adherent to this new code of Net Zero.”
He urged the government to tread lightly in its proposal to potentially throw fellow citizens in prison for a year “for an unknown offense of the future relating to Net Zero.”
“I’m a Conservative for freedom, not to put people in prison for not adhering to this Net Zero religion,” he said later in an interview with GB News.
Sir John Redwood, more diplomatically, expressed his concern that “by being unduly restrictive and particularly by the threat of civil and even criminal penalties on some of their conduct,” the government risks “antagonizing” the general public.
“Throughout this Bill, we are creating cost and regulation and penalties and obligations. We need to keep people with us and we risk losing them if we put undue burdens on them,” added former Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Commenting on the third reading of the bill by lawmakers on Tuesday, conservative broadcaster Nigel Farage was scathing in his criticism of the legislation.
“There are unbelievably provisions in this bill that would allow for the creation of criminal offenses if businesses and individual householders don’t tell the truth or don’t meet new energy requirements for their houses,” he told viewers.
“It seems to me to be truly extraordinary. You could be prosecuted for providing false information about your house’s energy efficiency,” he added, calling the move a “massive expansion of the state and its power over our lives.”
Energy Minister Andrew Bowie told fellow lawmakers that the bill is “world-leading” legislation that “will deliver for this country cleaner, cheaper, and more secure energy.”