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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 January 2008, 05:48 GMT
Ministers 'lost nerve' over Hips
A Home Information Pack
Hips became compulsory in England and Wales in December
The government has been criticised for causing delays in introducing compulsory Home Information Packs.

A committee of MPs said "poor preparation" meant the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) lost its nerve and failed to deliver.

Hips were supposed to be introduced in full from 1 June, but were implemented in stages for various sized properties.

The government said it deliberately phased the roll-out of Hips "to ensure smooth implementation".

Hips, now compulsory for all homes being sold in England and Wales, are intended to speed and improve the sale of homes and give buyers an energy rating for the property.

They were initially meant to include a report on the condition of the property - but the government decided to make that element voluntary.

Introduction delayed

The slimmed down packs, containing title deeds, local searches and an energy performance certificate, were then meant to be introduced from 1 June - but the week before, that was delayed until August - and then only for properties with at least four bedrooms.

In September they became compulsory for properties with three bedrooms, and in December for those with one or two bedrooms.

There were not enough inspectors because CLG first watered down and then repeatedly delayed the introduction of Hips
MPs' report

MPs on the Communities and Local Government select committee were not convinced by the reasons given for the problems in introducing Hips.

They said both ministers and officials were not "forthcoming in oral evidence".

Permanent Secretary Peter Housden had blamed an initial lack of qualified home inspectors and "conditions in the housing and mortgage market generally".

But the MPs' report said there was a lack of inspectors because people were reluctant to pay out for training "for jobs the government would not guarantee would exist".

Earning potential

And when home condition reports were dropped as a compulsory part of the Hips, the "earning potential of those jobs dropped dramatically", the MPs said.

"There were not enough inspectors because CLG first watered down and then repeatedly delayed the introduction of Hips," they said.

We made a deliberate decision to phase the roll-out in order to ensure smooth implementation
Iain Wright
Housing Minister

And they said Housing Minister Yvette Cooper was "repeatedly unclear" about precisely what market conditions had caused the delay.

They also blamed a failure to win over "stakeholders", like the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), who sought a judicial review of the decision to introduce Hips at all - delaying them further.

They concluded the decisions to delay Hips "were taken on political, rather than economic grounds, owing more to a failure of nerve in the face of vocal opposition from the press and others, than to general conditions prevailing in the housing market itself."

'Chaos and confusion'

Shadow housing minister Grant Shapps criticised the "shambolic and secretive way" in which Hips were introduced saying: "At a time when the housing market needs certainty and stability, Labour provided chaos and confusion."

But housing minister Iain Wright said: "It was not possible to introduce Hips in June because of the RICS legal action against the energy performance certificate and, due to the resulting uncertainty, the number of assessors available.

"And we made a deliberate decision to phase the roll-out in order to ensure smooth implementation."

He said they had wanted to get an independent assessment of the impact of the first phase of Hips before continuing, giving "changes taking place in the housing market over the autumn".

Hips extended to all properties
14 Dec 07 |  Business
Hips having an 'adverse effect'
08 Nov 07 |  Business
Hips starting for three-bed homes
10 Sep 07 |  Business
Watchdog raps ministers over Hips
09 Aug 07 |  UK Politics

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