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Home Information Packs

Volume 513: debated on Thursday 15 July 2010

1. What assessment has been made of the effect on providers of home information packs of the suspension of the requirement for such packs to be produced. (8500)

3. What assessment he has made of the effect on the housing market of the suspension of the requirement to provide home information packs. (8502)

The suspension of HIPs has given a much needed boost to the housing market. Reports from the industry suggest that the number of new homes coming on to the market has increased by more than one third since HIPs were suspended. We have also estimated that abolishing HIPs could save consumers just short of £900 million over the next 10 years.

Estate agents in Erewash have conveyed to me their relief at the home information pack scheme being abolished. Indeed, one estate agent has just described the scheme to me as being a complete barrier to people selling their homes. Can the Secretary of State inform the House whether that sentiment is shared by other people working in the housing sector across the country?

I am delighted to inform my hon. Friend that joy and happiness among estate agents is not confined to Erewash. Throughout the land, there is a general understanding that the drag anchor that HIPs were is no longer a constraint on the housing market.

What further plans does the Secretary of State have to roll out that happiness and smooth the conveyancing process?

I am all for spreading as much joy and happiness, and indeed love, as I can, where’er I go. It was clear even from the trials that HIPs were going to be a real mess. We now need to look to the future and at what can be done to speed up transactions. I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing is looking at ways to speed up the introduction of e-conveyancing.

Why has the Secretary of State decided, alongside the abolition of HIPs, that energy performance certificates should no longer be required at the point when a house is initially viewed for purchase? Does he intend to downgrade the importance of those as well?

Gracious, no—indeed, under our green deal, energy certificates will perform a much more important role. They will be about bringing the price of energy down and ensuring that somebody with a house that has a good energy certificate does well, because we want to get houses on to the market. We will insist that the energy certificate be commissioned and in place before the sale takes place. It is about speeding things up—the hon. Gentleman is not familiar with that idea. We are in favour of house sales, not bureaucracy.

I am glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman thought deeply about the consequences of removing the home information pack arrangement, but in his careful and calculated assessment, did he work out the number of people whose jobs might be affected? Clearly a number of people across the housing market professions have been gearing up to work in that area and will now no longer have that employment. How many people?

When the hon. Gentleman was in another job, during his brief interregnum between spells in this place, he used to advise me solidly to cut away waste and speed things up, and I have followed that advice. HIPs were just part of a service that was provided. We have just heard from the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) about energy certificates, and a number of such services are available.

It has to be said that it is not as though the removal of HIPs came as a shock. It appeared clearly in the manifestos of the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats, and in the coalition document.