News: Bristling bluebloods 'baying' for broken HIPs

Mon, 21 May 07

The House of Lordsis primed to revolt against HIPs tomorrow, with Tory and Lib Dem peers leading the charge...

Lady Scott, the Lib Dem spokesperson for local government in the Lords, said the Lib Dems would vote for the Tory motion calling for Hips to be scrapped, reports The Guardian.

Ministers will still be able to bypass the defeat and proceed with the introduction of the packs, including energy performance certificates, on June 1. From that date, any householder who attempts to sell a property without a Hip, including the "green MoT", will be subject to a £200 fine.

But supporters of the proposal, particularly those keen to see energy performance certificates imposed 20 years after they were first mooted, are concerned that the reforms will be damaged in the public's eyes if they are seen to have been rejected by the second chamber.

Despite the failure of the Tory motion in the Commons this week, green groups such as Friends of the Earth, WWF and the Campaign to Protect Rural England have been emailing peers and are poised to provide 11th hour briefings to persuade the waverers.

Keep EPCs but ‘ditch the HIPs’

Both Tories and Lib Dems say they support the principle of energy performance certificates, which are in any event an EU requirement. However, the Tories oppose their inclusion within the broader Hip package, which they see as damaging to the housing market. The Lib Dems have doubts about whether the energy inspections, as currently envisaged, will reveal enough to make the process worthwhile.

Lady Scott said: "No one is arguing with the objective of people understanding better the energy use of their homes. The issue is whether the EPCs are the right way of achieving that. I have spoken to surveyors who say they are being expected to do six of these a day. If people have paid a lot of money and what you get is a statement of the obvious, it will bring the green agenda into disrepute."

Lady Hanham, Tory spokesperson for local government, said Hips "risk destabilising an already volatile housing market." She added: "The government needs to think again. The industry says no and the majority of members of the Lords will say no on Tuesday."

Ministers have fought a rearguard action in the face of accusations from the Tories and rightwing newspapers that the inspectors amount to government snoopers. There have also been claims that too few inspectors have been trained. But ministers say they expect 2,500 inspectors to be available by the end of the month.

Reforms plagued by ‘misinformation’

There are doubts about whether there will be sufficient resources to police the new regime. Yesterday Ron Gainsford, chief executive of the Trading Standards Institute, said members wanted a penalty higher than the proposed £200 fine.

Paul Broadhead, deputy director general of the Association of Home Information Pack Providers, said the reforms had been plagued by "misinformation" and called on the government to convince the public of the benefits.

John Alker, WWF's senior public affairs officer, said Tories and Lib Dems who opposed the Hips package must ensure they do not damage the concept of green inspections. "The worst thing to do would be to throw the green baby out with the Hip bathwater," he added.

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