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Home Information Packs

Volume 468: debated on Tuesday 27 November 2007

My right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing set out in a written ministerial statement on 22 November our intention to complete the phased roll-out of home information packs by extending coverage to the rest of the market from 14 December, in line with the criteria set out on 11 June. We have now laid amending regulations, ahead of the roll-out.

Quite a few people in the housing industry have complained about the very short notice for extending HIPs to one and two-bedroom properties. Will the Minister reassure my constituents that the Government have learned the lessons from earlier this year, when the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors felt the need to commence legal proceedings because of a lack of consultation?

The roll-out for one and two-bedroom properties has been entirely consistent with the roll-out for three and four-bedroom properties earlier this year; I give the hon. Gentleman that reassurance for his constituents. All the evidence shows that the roll-out this year has been entirely consistent, and has provided reassurance and stability to the housing market.

First, may I congratulate my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench on holding their nerve on the issue when Opposition Members, their friends with vested interests, RICS and the like were losing theirs? When the Minister monitors the impact of home information packs, will he report back to the House specifically on packs in which home condition reports were included, so that we can see whether they have an even more beneficial effect, and whether they ensure an even higher completion rate of sales in cases where offers have been made, as many of us believe they will?

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. We are on the side of the consumer, and of home buyers and sellers. The Opposition are on the side of protected, narrow vested interests. Let me reassure my hon. Friend: all the evidence shows that, on average, HIPs are taking seven to 10 days to prepare. The majority of property drainage and water searches are being delivered. All the quality assurances are being provided. We will continue to monitor that, and I will report back to the House.

Will the Minister also monitor the likely effect on first-time buyers? Inevitably, vendors will pass on the cost, and in the latest phase that is likely to hit first-time buyers. Will he keep a close eye on that?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that considered question. First-time buyers of one and two-bedroom homes will be the main beneficiaries, as they will now get important information about their new homes for free. Information, including searches for which they would previously have had to pay, will now be included in the HIP, paid for by the seller. That will reduce the costs of getting on the first step of the property ladder.

Given the Minister for Housing’s embarrassing U-turn just last week on first-day marketing for HIPs, is it not time for her to come to the Dispatch Box and admit that without first-day marketing, the HIPs scheme is effectively dead and buried?

Oh dear, dear. Opposition for opposition’s sake is never attractive, and I know that the hon. Gentleman’s heart was really not in that attack. I feel sorry that he has to keep flogging that dead horse. He knows that all the evidence shows that the impact of partial roll-out has been minimal, and that there are strong, convincing arguments for rolling out as planned; that is what we are doing. Any further delay could cause greater difficulties and further uncertainties in the housing market.

Will my hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the immense patience and commitment of those of my constituents, and hundreds of others across the country, who have trained to be HIP inspectors, and who now have the opportunity of a full, rewarding career ahead of them?

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend on that. The Association of Home Information Pack Providers has been first-class in lobbying on behalf of its members, in listening to concerns, and on the subject of the obvious things that we need to do to make sure that the housing market is stable. I will continue to work with AHIPP and other providers to ensure that that remains the case.