Labour rushes to extend HIPs

As HIPs providers put pressure on the Government to roll out HIPs to three-bedroom houses, we wonder if they should carry tobacco advertising on their cars, and suggest saving on fuel bills by burning the paperwork.

Within days of the first roll-out of Home Information Packs, the Government has rushed to extend the HIPs requirement to properties of 3 bedrooms or more. You would have thought that having cocked up the implementation of their scheme and got egg on their collective face anyway, they might have waited to see how phase one went before extending the burden to 3 bedroom houses.

The HIPs requirement was due to take effect on 1 June for all residential properties. That deadline was pushed back to 1 August, but only for properties with four or more bedrooms. The problem was the usual New Labour one – no grasp of the practical implications of their decisions or even (in this case) the practical requirement to train some people as home inspectors and energy assessors.

From 10 September, no property of three or more bedrooms can be put on the market unless a Home Information Pack – a HIP – and an Energy Performance Certificate – an EPC – have been commissioned.

Baroness Andrews, the Communities Minister (or Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government as she is properly called – sorry, dozed off while typing that) said:

“Hips and EPCs can help families to save hundreds of pounds off their fuel bills and cut a million tonnes of carbon a year. They also have the potential to reduce the millions of pounds wasted by consumers when buying and selling a home.”

It is hard to tell if these people actually understand half the things they read out, let alone believe them. The only way you will make a saving off your fuel bill will be to set fire to a pile of the otherwise useless HIPs paperwork. The EPC is not intended to offer any positive advice as to how you might save energy, still less any practical help. It just tells you, in percentage terms, how far you fall short of some imaginary ideal.

It is hard to see any saving of money “wasted by consumers when buying and selling a home”. What has happened is that the occasional loss when one party of the other backs out before contract has been replaced by the certain loss of several hundred pounds on some useless red tape and bureaucracy. Not that there is anything in these regulations to stop a party backing out. The seller can recycle his HIP into the next sale and the buyer is not paying for it anyway.

But then Baroness Andrews is one of those who has been in politics all her life, and never had to worry her head about practical things. You can tell all you want about her grasp of real life from the fact that she was a Policy Adviser to Neil Kinnock. Just like Patricia Hewitt, then.

So why is the Government rushing to extend HIPs to 3-bedroom properties when fate (aided by incompetence) has given them the chance to see how the first phase went? Probably because the providers of HIPs and EPCs have threatened to sue if their golden goose is not put into full production as soon as possible. Most New Labour legislation has as its side effect (and often its secondary motive) the creation of non-jobs to perform the non-essential functions which result from the legislation. Usually this involves the recruitment of yet more civil servants. This time, the unnecessary new jobs are in the private sector, and HIPs providers are cross that Government delays have delayed the moment when they get their noses into the trough.

So private interests are driving public policy – how very New Labour. Perhaps the HIPs inspectors should be allowed to advertise tobacco on their cars as they drive all those unecological miles between properties.

See my post HIPs – the very model of Labour legislation for an analysis of how HIPs fit into the New Labour way of doing things.

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About Chris Dale

I have been an English solicitor since 1980. I run the e-Disclosure Information Project which collects and comments on information about electronic disclosure / eDiscovery and related subjects in the UK, the US, AsiaPac and elsewhere
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