Letters: Our houses will be made uninhabitable when the boilers that heat them are outlawed

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Installing an air-source heat pump unit at a 1930s house in Folkestone - Andrew Aitchison / In Pictures via Getty Images
Installing an air-source heat pump unit at a 1930s house in Folkestone - Andrew Aitchison / In Pictures via Getty Images

SIR – The government move to make gas boilers illegal by 2035 will not solve the cost-of-living crisis, but make it worse for homeowners. Many older properties will becoming unviable.

I have a 100-year-old detached house. I have investigated the cost of conversion to an air-source heat pump, the only realistic alternative to gas at present. This is not as simple as just installing new equipment. It will also require enlarging all the radiators, with bigger diameter supply piping because of a lower water temperature.

Heat loss through the outside walls must be reduced if the electric running cost is to be roughly similar to gas. This will mean stripping off the plaster in every room, fitting insulation panels, then re-plastering.

The estimated total cost of the conversion is £100,000. We cannot afford this and very few families can – a proposed £5,000 reduction in the cost of installation will do little to help.

There must be a better way forward, maybe involving hydrogen boilers. Without this, there is a real possibility that all detached and semi-detached houses built more than 60 years ago will become uninhabitable. That will have a very serious effect on the housing stock available.

Andrew Robinson
Ecclesfield, South Yorkshire

SIR – Outlawing domestic gas boilers is not the only measure that Sir John Armitt, the chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, advocates. But he fails to address the key issue: that one cannot rationally support electrifying life without considering where the electricity will come from.

The National Grid is fundamentally dependent on gas-fired generation. First, gas provides some 40 per cent of output. Secondly, it is the dependable element, the backup when wind and sun fail. Thirdly, it gives the ability to increase output almost instantly as load increases or supply falls.

There is nothing in prospect which can replace gas-fired generation as a major element.

And since it takes three units of gas to deliver one unit of electricity, a corollary is that high gas prices inevitably mean high electricity prices. So the essential need, if we are to reach net-zero, is to find some replacement for those three functions of gas. What are we doing towards this?

In the meantime, if I replace my gas boiler with a heat pump, we simply burn gas in a power station instead of in my boiler – perhaps less efficiently.

Mike Keatinge
Sherborne, Dorset

SIR – I have a trusty warhorse, a cast-iron Rayburn from the year 2000. It heats the water and many radiators, and cooks and bakes to perfection.

I live in a rural area and I am not in a position to invest in an alternative at the moment. What can I do? I’m careful with how I use it, as it isn’t cheap, but, though 22 years old, it is expertly serviced and will, no doubt, outlive me.

It will certainly add to my “cost of living” if I have to replace it.

For goodness’ sake, can someone get real about all of these bonkers suggestions before it’s a done deal?

Avril Wright
Snettisham, Norfolk

Russia and nuclear war

SIR – Now that two British citizens have been sentenced to death by a sham court in Russian-controlled Ukraine, there can be no doubt we are dealing with a deranged megalomaniac.

Vladimir Putin claims to be like Peter the Great in developing a greater Russia. He is also stealing food, which the worryingly ineffective UN says will starve millions in Africa.

This man has already attacked Britain with the nuclear weapon material polonium-210 and the most deadly chemical weapon Novichok. As his conventional forces are performing so badly, it might be a small step for him to reach for the red button.

The Prime Minister must ensure first that Mr Putin is fully aware that any use of nuclear weapons will produce a similar and greater response from Nato, and secondly that Britain is full prepared for a nuclear strike. Our resilience has languished in the long grass since the end of the Cold War.

Frankly, all the other issues being batted around by rival parties in Westminster are irrelevant if we are not resilient to a nuclear strike.

Col Hamish de Bretton-Gordon (retd)
Former Commander, UK & Nato Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Forces
Magdalene College, Cambridge

SIR – I believe Germany and Chancellor Olaf Scholz are being criticised unfairly about arms for Ukraine. Nobody can be expected to pay for the weapons for both sides in a war – and pay for their own defence as well. Sorry, I forgot the Americans are paying for that.

S W Jennings
Kempston, Bedfordshire

Petrol-price escalator

SIR – A few years ago, Labour when in power had a policy called the fuel-price escalator. The idea was that petrol prices rose at a high rate to dissuade people from using their cars.

The Conservatives abandoned this policy, much to Labour’s disgust.

Current high fuel prices are a return to the Labour Party’s policy.

Simon Davison
Cardiff

Quick-change Tories

SIR – There should be no more votes of confidence in Boris Johnson.

Provision for such votes was introduced in 1998. They produce pyrrhic victories for unpopular, embattled prime ministers, who are rescued from defeat by the payroll vote. Theresa May discovered that in December 2018, six months before her resignation. Her successor has now been taught a similar lesson.

The change made in 1998 should be scrapped. Serous disaffection among MPs can only be overcome by a leadership election. The 1922 Committee should recast the rules so that an election is triggered when a substantial number of backbenchers – say 20 per cent – call for one.

If several rounds of voting are needed, they should take place rapidly. After all, the electors will already be very familiar with the merits and shortcomings of the candidates. Members of the party in the constituencies would be carefully consulted.

The whole process could be completed within three weeks. The Conservative Party used to pride itself on its ability to get rid of unsuccessful leaders quickly. It needs to regain the habit.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

SIR – It is helpful of David Frost to call for a Bill to sunset EU law, as it is a useful reminder that the Queen’s Speech included such a Bill.

Indeed, it began, embryonically, while Lord Frost was still in office and, thanks to the Prime Minister’s enthusiastic support, is now nearing completion for a July introduction.

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP (Con)
Minister for Brexit Opportunities
London SW1

SIR – The current Government was elected before the pandemic, so its manifesto may have failed to anticipate the massive impact of Covid on our economy.

Readers with rather short memories consider it fair to criticise any failure to fulfil some manifesto pledges. One way or another we are all taxpayers, so it should come as no surprise that we will have to foot the bill for repairing the vast hole in the nation’s bank account.

Iain K S Gray
London SW15

Strike against Britain

SIR – The national event for Armed Forces Day this year is being held in Scarborough on Saturday June 25. The seaside town was to have held the event in 2020, postponed to 2021, when the pandemic did its worst.

Now the RMT union has decided to call a national railway strike that day.

With no trains on June 21, 23 and 25, many people will no longer be able to attend Armed Forces Day, some of whom were doubtless intending to make a weekend or more of it.

It’s ironic that merchant seafarers who plan to attend Armed Forces Day will probably suffer considerable inconvenience owing to this maritime trade union’s selfishness.

I expect Scarborough, like many seaside towns, was hoping for a good summer, with small businesses trying to recover some of two years’ losses.

The RMT has links to the Labour Party, but doing what’s best for British people – forget it.

Lester May
London NW1

SIR – In 1968, when the Victoria Line was built, the BBC made a film about it, still available on i-Player. It emphasises that drivers are not needed on these trains. Now the “drivers” announce they are not coming to work on certain days in June. This is an opportunity, 54 years on, to run the trains in the way they were designed to be run.

Philip Roe
St Albans, Hertfordshire

SIR – Typically, the Government will bring a knife to the gunfight with the RMT. That is better, I suppose, than Sir Keir Starmer would bring.

It’s time the railways were closed for a fortnight, and if that doesn’t convince the RMT to change tack, then a month. The pain must be endured.

Bob Duncan
Reading, Berkshire

Are Scots different?

SIR – Brian Cox, the actor who supports Scottish independence, claims that the break-up of the Union is inevitable due to the fundamental difference between Scots and English.

What are these differences and from where does he draw his expertise?

I bet that many citizens of Carlisle have more in common with their near-neighbours in Dumfries and Galloway than a Shetlander does with a Glaswegian or, for that matter, a Geordie does with a Cornishman.

Simplistic crudity is one of many things wrong with all nationalism.

Guy Bargery
Edinburgh

Computers take holidays

SIR – Why do banks give computers bank holidays off? I tried to transfer some money from my account on Thursday June 2, only to find it would not happen until Monday. Why? As it is all computerised the facility should operate 24 hours a day, every day.

Jane Eyles
Mahón, Minorca

Don’t ring us...

SIR – I did a shop at Sainsbury’s in Godalming, Surrey, and once back home needed to speak to the store about a mistake on my bill.

I live some miles away, so I rang the number on my till receipt and was given three options. On none of those options could I talk to a person.

I immediately contacted Sainsbury’s main customer services number and was told that none of their stores accept telephone calls from the public. I find that attitude absolutely incredible. How do these companies expect to communicate with their customers?

Graham Richings
Guildford, Surrey

Marmalade crime

SIR – Surely it is wrong (for human beings, not for Andean bears like Paddington) to eat marmalade sandwiches (Letters, June 10).

Marmalade must be eaten only at breakfast, on toast.

Elizabeth Johnson
London SW5

Energetic Herdwick sheep escape committee

A Herdwick ram at the Borrowdale Shepherds’ Meet at Rosthwaite in the Lake District - In Pictures / Getty Images
A Herdwick ram at the Borrowdale Shepherds’ Meet at Rosthwaite in the Lake District - In Pictures / Getty Images

SIR – As the owner of Herdwick sheep, may I second Jennifer Kelly’s praise of this magnificent breed (Letters, June 6).

Many do indeed live on the Lakeland Fells and many that don’t – including mine – share that desire to live there, taking every opportunity to test both my fencing and patience!

Michael Cleary
Bulmer, North Yorkshire

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