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Home Information Packs

Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2008

4. If she will publish the findings of the home information pack pilot surveys conducted since November 2005. (188687)

As the House has been told, Ipsos MORI is still in the process of finalising its conclusions. A copy of the research report will be placed in the Library of the House once the project has been finalised.

Any professional organisation that conducts a pilot will assess its results before rolling out the policy in question. Has the HIP pilot been evaluated? Did that evaluation prove that HIPs have had a measurable benefit, or did the survey show that there has been no measurable improvement from the introduction of HIPs—and is that why the Government have rolled out the policy before evaluating and publishing the outcome of the survey?

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. We have learned from the trials, but we want to give the House a more comprehensive analysis of the information that has been compiled. We have seen already that HIPs can improve the market, and that they are making a difference and providing increased transparency. On average, a pack takes seven to 15 days to prepare, and the people who said that each one would cost £1,000 have been shown to be wrong: a HIP costs £350, and some estate agents are incorporating the cost in their fee. So far, 320,000 HIPs have been issued. We are on a journey, and I want to evaluate how HIPs are bedding in, but it is interesting to see what those who oppose them are doing. Only last week, the Opposition Front-Bench team put out a press release asking for more information about HIPs. They had better make their minds up.

Will my honorary friend—[Hon. Members: “Ooh!”] Does she accept that it is particularly important to include information about flooding in a HIP, especially in areas such as the one that I represent? Did the pilot provide any insight in that regard? If not, is it worth looking at areas where flooding has occurred to make sure that such information is included in future HIPs?

With my hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government, I am looking at all the issues to do with housing, planning and flooding. I shall look into the matter that my hon. Friend raises, and I shall be happy to get back to him with some more information. We recognise the risk that flooding poses, but it is a problem that we can deal with in a number of different ways. The result is that new developments can cope with flooding risks, and that means that the housing supply can continue to grow. However, he raises an important point, and I shall be interested to learn whether he believes that information about flooding should be integral to the HIPs process.

Will the Minister confirm that the questionnaire about HIPs included a question about the period for which a pack is valid? The housing market is very slow and even on a downturn at the moment, so people selling a home might need to purchase more than one HIP.

I am looking at various matters to do with insurance and first-day marketing that my predecessor—

No, not at all. My predecessor identified various problems and acted on them, but it is wise for any Minister to take stock as the deadline approaches. I shall be happy to look into the question raised by the hon. Gentleman.

When HIPs are evaluated, will my right hon. Friend look into their effect on people posing as sellers? When such people put their house on the market, young couples incur the expense of a survey, only to find that the house is withdrawn when its market price has been established. It is clear that the people involved have no intention of selling, and their actions merely mislead potential buyers.

Yes, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest just that. People are thinking carefully about whether they really want to put their house on the market or should just chance it to see what will happen. Other people are probably better to quote on the matter than Ministers. MyLondonHome, an internet property portal, believes that home information packs will have a positive effect on the house buying and selling process. We welcome that opinion from the people who work in the sector.

We have heard today that it does not in fact take four to six days for a HIP to come through, as the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Wright) told me before, but that it takes seven to 15 days. We are getting closer to the truth. Surely, having waited nearly a year for the results of the Ipsos MORI trials on HIPs, and having spent £4 million of taxpayers’ money, and still not having had the results, despite HIPs now applying to all shapes and sizes of house, is it not time that the Minister at least took some responsibility for her own decisions and her predecessor’s by apologising to the public for spending that £4 million of public money, which has gone absolutely nowhere, as the policy has already been introduced, and has simply been wasted?

Was that the question? I tried to detect a question in there. [Interruption.] Well, we will look at Hansard to see whether there was actually a question. It is interesting—[Interruption.] It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman is standing before the House suggesting that his party is against HIPs, when on Wednesday 13 February the Conservative party issued a press release calling for the inclusion of licensing information.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one group of home buyers to have been substantially advantaged by HIPs are first-time buyers, who get information provided up front at no cost to them? Will she reflect, however, that if the Government eventually see their way to including home condition reports in HIPs, first-time buyers will be even better off than they are now?

Yes, that is a good point. For those buying properties, it would offer an opportunity not to duplicate activity and in so doing duplicate expense. We will be looking through the findings from the area trials in considering the status of home condition reports, along with other policy areas, and I intend to ensure that we move towards permanent implementation for HIPs by consolidating the transitional arrangements.