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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 May 2007, 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK
Hips forced a 'bunker mentality'
By Julian Knight
Personal finance reporter, BBC News

Yvette Cooper
Yvette Cooper has been accused of a 'bunker mentality'
The government had a "bunker mentality" on Home Information Packs (Hips) prior to Tuesday's policy climbdown, the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) says.

On Tuesday the government delayed their launch as a result of legal problems.

The CML said housing minister Yvette Cooper had not managed the plans well and must "learn from mistakes."

But the Department for Communities and Local Government rejected the claims, saying it wanted Hips introduced as soon as possible.

"We reject suggestions that our approach was wrong," a government spokesman said.

Public row

The decision to push back, and scale down, the introduction of Hips followed a legal challenge by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors seeking a judicial review.

There was a bunker mentality... The compelling reasons we gave for delay were ignored
Michael Coogan, CML

It was the culmination of a very public row between the government and housing industry groups representing estate agents, mortgage lenders, surveyors, banks and solicitors.

CML chief Michael Coogan told the BBC that the government's approach had been wrong.

"It was not managed well," he said. "There was a failure to recognise that those bodies in favour of Hips also had a vested interest.

"There was a bunker mentality... The compelling reasons we gave for delay were ignored.

"Instead the government ploughed on and chose divide and rule, seeing all the bodies that had real concerns separately."

He hoped housing ministers would "learn from their mistakes", he said.

Green groups' support

Industry groups had urged the government to delay the introduction of Hips as they argued there were not enough energy assessors in place to ensure a successful start to the new system.

But the DCLG stressed its plans for energy performance certificates remained a priority.

"We wanted home energy ratings to be introduced at the earliest opportunity, given the importance of tackling climate change and cutting carbon emissions from homes," the spokesman said.

"Our approach was strongly backed by green groups."

Evidence of title
Copies of planning, listed building or building regulations consents
A local search
Guarantees for any work on the property
An energy performance certificate.

Tuesday's decision to delay the launch of Hips by two months, he said, had largely been the result of the Rics court case.

The packs will now initially apply only to houses with four or more bedrooms, to be extended to other types of property once the resources are in place.


At Wednesday's Prime Minister's Question Time, Tory leader David Cameron called for Housing Minister Yvette Cooper to be sacked.

He said Ms Cooper had led MPs to believe that there were 1,100 registered home inspectors ready to go.

I know the walls of the bunker are pretty thick but haven't you noticed this policy has completely collapsed?
David Cameron to Tony Blair

"Yesterday, it was admitted that there were less than half of that. Never mind what the next prime minister's going to do. What on earth is she still doing in her job?"

He added: "I know the walls of the bunker are pretty thick but haven't you noticed this policy has completely collapsed?

"You said you have so much to do in your dying weeks - yet Hips are in chaos."

But the DCLG claimed Mr Cameron had misunderstood the facts.

"The figures given last week on energy assessors were absolutely correct," a spokesman said.

'"As last week's statement made clear, the 1,100 figure was the number 'accredited or their accreditation was being processed'."

And at question time, Prime Minister Tony Blair said Hips made sense from an environmental point of view - a subject supposedly close to Mr Cameron's heart.

He told Mr Cameron: "You say you support energy performance certificates. Isn't it sensible to make their introduction at the point of sale for a house so that the buyer can see what measures they can take to protect the environment?

"After all, 25% of CO2 emissions come from households. Why are you opposed to this measure if you support EPCs?"

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