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Home Inspectors

Volume 461: debated on Tuesday 12 June 2007

We have received a number of representations from home inspectors and domestic energy assessors, and we have held meetings with them and their representatives.

What message would the Minister give to recently qualified home inspectors in Vale of York and across England and Wales who at their own expense have qualified as either energy assessors or home inspectors? They did so in the expectation of earning a living in that capacity from 1 June, but now have no likelihood of earning any money before 1 August and possibly later. What is her message to them and when will she share with the House her definition of a “bedroom” for purposes of the home information pack?

Yesterday, we set out a series of further details, which included an update on implementation and proposals for supporting a number of free energy certificates in advance of August. We are also working with housing associations to bring forward energy certificates for social housing. We have been clear that we want to bring in energy certificates and home information packs as soon as possible. I hope that the hon. Lady told her constituents that her and her party’s message is that they want to abolish work for them altogether.

When I met representatives of the Milton Keynes home improvement and domestic energy assessors association a week ago, they were very clear that they understood which party in this House had been trying to get energy performance certificates moving forward and which party had been opposing it. They are also extremely keen that the Minister should lay out with even greater clarity the triggers for rolling out the energy performance certificates from four to three-bedroomed houses and then to other housing, and clarify what work will be provided from now until 1 August for those who have no other source of employment.

My hon. Friend makes an important point. As I said, we set out further details yesterday as part of our implementation update and we will provide further regular updates on the website, particularly for energy assessors across the country who want to be able to begin work at the earliest possible opportunity. This is about bringing in changes that will help cut carbon emissions from homes. That is important and we need to get on with it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] I love you!

I too have received correspondence from constituents—Mr. Stuart Little and Mr. Murray Pakes, who trained and invested many hours in becoming domestic energy assessors and home inspectors. They are now disillusioned and completely demotivated by the Government’s broken promises to them. What should I tell them about reclaiming their costs? Can they sue the Government, or shall I tell them that they will have to lose that money if, as is likely, they do not wish to proceed?

I presume that it was not me whom the hon. Gentleman said he loved as he stood up! He should very honestly explain to his constituents his party’s policy. His party has been campaigning for the end of energy certificates and for an end to the work to be done by energy assessors. We have set out a programme to bring forward the energy certificates and HIPs at the earliest possible opportunity and we have set out steps to bring forward more energy certificates in advance of 1 August.

The private contractors seem to have failed many of those who wished to train as assessors. Will my hon. Friend consider contracting directly with colleges, such as Wigan and Leigh, in order to provide the training necessary to produce the numbers required?

I would be happy to look at my hon. Friend’s proposals. Many energy assessors are now coming through the training and passing their exams, but we know that much of the uncertainty—including around the legal case brought by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors against the energy certificate—deterred people from completing accreditation. Now more than 1,000 people have completed accreditation, but we clearly want more coming through so that we can introduce energy certificates at the earliest opportunity.

Does the Minister accept that her reply to the previous two questions about people who have spent £6,000 and more on training to be assessors was completely inadequate? I have a constituent in that situation who has written to the Minister saying that he is

“left in limbo, wondering when a full day’s work will ever come his way”.

What can the Minister do to make these people understand what they can do to reclaim their costs?

Again, I have to say that we set out further details yesterday and we will update them on the Department’s website so that people can be clear where work is already starting in order to start rolling out energy certificates, both in social housing and as part of free energy certificates supported by the Department. The hon. Gentleman must be honest with his constituents about his party’s policy. He has been campaigning to prevent the introduction of important measures that will cut carbon emissions from our homes by 1 million tonnes. Those measures are important, and hon. Members should stop contributing to greater uncertainty and making it difficult for energy assessors to start doing their jobs.

Has my hon. Friend’s Department ruled out the option of drawing on organisations that already go into people’s homes but which are not yet being allowed to train people to carry out the energy assessment element of the survey? Would their involvement not encourage people to come forward, so as to increase capacity? May I also say that the estate agents in Plymouth to whom I have spoken are very happy with the Government’s proposals and keen to roll out the provisions as soon as possible?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. An accreditation system was set up to support those who already had a lot of experience and might have needed only a little updating in order to become accredited. The system was known as the experienced practitioners’ route and was designed to ensure that additional energy assessors, often with different kinds of experience, were in place to carry out the work. I am afraid that that accreditation scheme has not yet delivered many people to be trained to be fully accredited. It is run by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.