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Home Information Packs

Volume 470: debated on Tuesday 15 January 2008

6. What recent assessment she has made of the effect of home information packs on the housing market. (178390)

HIPs are already cutting costs and delays in delivering searches, as well as providing energy information across the market. The Government also commissioned an independent report by Europe Economics on the impact of HIPs on the housing market, including the impact of the first phase. The report found no evidence of any impact on transactions or prices, and concluded that the predicted impact on listings was short term and marginal compared with the wider factors affecting the market.

Everybody knows that anyone who takes decisions can make mistakes. One of the things that the public do not like about politicians is that they never seem to admit to having made a mistake. A local estate agent told me this morning that the downturn in the housing market was at least partly caused by the introduction of HIPs, and there are many other experts in the field who will line up to criticise them. Will the Minister do her bit to restore people’s trust in politicians by admitting that she got this wrong, scrapping HIPs and stopping defending the indefensible?

May I say to the hon. Gentleman that his local estate agent is out of line with all major commentators on that? That is exactly why we commissioned Europe Economics to do an independent analysis and to seek the additional advice of Peter Williams, a former member of the Council of Mortgage Lenders and also a member of the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit, in order to do a full assessment of the overall impact on the market and of the particular impact of the first phase of introduction. It was very clear about there being no impact on transactions or prices and emphasised that the market was being affected by a much wider range of important factors, including the global credit crunch, which is of course having an impact on the market.

After the initial delays in commencing the home information pack programme, it seems to have rolled out now relatively trouble-free. National Energy Services, which is based in my constituency, has reported that it has registered 85,000 energy performance certificates since 1 August. Home condition surveys are not a mandatory part of HIPs, so what work is the Department doing to secure the views of those who have had those surveys done, perhaps with a view to rolling out the home condition surveys as a mandatory part of HIPs in future?

My hon. Friend may be aware that the area trials looked into home condition reports, conducting detailed interviews with buyers as well as sellers. We await the final report, which will be published for further discussion about the way forward.

Will the Minister provide us with specific examples of actual house purchases that have been materially influenced by the content of home information packs? Will she arrange for any such case study examples to be placed in the Library so that we can make an objective analysis of whether they are doing any good?

We have certainly been given anecdotal evidence from particular estate agents. In one case, for example, early information about land title had highlighted a problem with the sale at an early stage; without it, such information might not have emerged until much later in the process. Detailed assessments have been going on in area trials, as I mentioned, and we are also conducting ongoing monitoring. It will be important to link the energy performance certificates with the new green homes service, starting in the spring, which can target people with F and G-rated homes to provide serious financial support as well as clear advice on how to cut carbon emissions and fuel bills.

The Minister has already referred to the Europe Economics study that was conducted prior to rolling out HIPs for one and two-bedroomed homes. However, that study was carried out because the earlier area trials, to which the Minister has also referred, had never been published. Those were £4 million trials, whose results were promised to the House by the end of the year in June and July by the Minister herself and to the other place in October. Yet notwithstanding the £4 million cost, those results have never been published. Perhaps the Minister will tell us when those results will actually be published and how much—in addition to that £4 million—the research by Europe Economics, which told the Minister what she wanted to hear, cost to commission?

The two reports looked into completely different things. The Europe Economics report looked into the wider impact on the housing market and, in particular, at the roll-out to three and four-bedroomed properties. The area trials were conducted by Ipsos MORI in an independent assessment and have been looking into and following through individual cases, including those where a home condition report was involved. That is obviously not part of the three and four-bedroom roll-out, which was assessed by Europe Economics, as I said. We have not yet received a final report from Ipsos MORI. As soon as we do, we will, of course, publish it for scrutiny by the House.