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The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said we had insufficient domestic energy assessors, but we have made progress and, as I predicted, the numbers have taken off. On 11 July, there were 1,603 fully qualified and accredited domestic energy assessors ready for 1 August, which is more than enough to deal with four-bedroom properties from1 August. We are well on the way to rollout of three-bedroom properties. We have provided certainty to the industry by setting out on 11 June in our implementation statement the
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We said that we would try to ensure additional opportunities for qualified inspectors to find work. We have done that. The social housing pilot announced on 22 May is progressing well. We have approved bids for more than 120,000 EPCs from more than 100 local authorities and registered social landlords. Successful bidders were informed earlier this week. We expect most EPCs to be undertaken over the summer. It is an excellent opportunity to test the process before it is introduced to all landlords in October 2008.
I promised my noble friend Lord Graham that we would engage constructively with stakeholders and critics of the scheme, and we have done so; we have had extensive discussions with stakeholders over the past two months, including RICS. There is no uncertainty; they know that what we are putting in place on 1 August is a measured process. I am pleased to be able to tell the House that they have expressed a willingness to work with us on the next stage of reforms in this area.
The judicial review has been stayed, of course, on terms which require the Government to undertake consultation on the maximum and minimum age of energy performance certificates. We agreed that we would consult on the maximum age when it is included in a HIP. We are planning to start informal consultations with RICS and other stakeholders ahead of launching a formal consultation over the summer. Pending the outcome of that consultation, we have amended the regulations to say that an EPC must be no more than a year old when a home is first marketed.
I know that what noble Lords really want to hear from me is a guarantee that when HIPs are introduced on 1 August they will be acceptable and as positive a benefit as possible. Let me explain what we have done. To ensure that they are implemented with as little disruption to the current system as possible, the new regulations make it possible for people to market their homes without a HIP for a limited and temporary period, which will last until 31 December. However, before an estate agent or other person marketing the property does so, they will have to provide written proof that they have commissioned a HIPthis could take the form of a letter to a pack provider company, for example, or a copy of the application form; a simple processand to show that they have either paid for it or agreed to pay for it, again with written confirmation.
There are enough HIP providers in place to provide this service. There are standalone services or they can be found in solicitors offices, estate agents, search companies and e-conveyancing. If some sellers still have difficulty in finding some of the documentswe know that leases, in particular, are quite difficult to get hold ofall they will have to do is show that they have made all reasonable efforts to obtain the missing documents. Once sellers have received their EPC, they will have to produce a HIP. Since all these documents will be needed in any transaction before a sale can be agreed and completed,
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Moving to monitoring and evaluation, we are ready to launch on 1 August. How will we know if HIPs and EPCs are achieving the benefits that we expect? I will say a word about costs. The price of an EPC is about £97, according to our initial trials. In practice, many will be cheaper. The price of the HIP in the area trial has worked out at between £300 and £400. Many are being offered more cheaply. We will be keeping a close eye on the market following the introduction of HIPs, to ensure a smooth rollout. As part of our work leading to the launch, we have had a number of discussions with stakeholders, which have helped inform our decisions on monitoring and evaluation. That means obtaining data at first hand from what is going on on the ground. We are receiving feedback from all parts of the HIP systemestate agents, trading standards officers and so onto ensure that things are running smoothly.
The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, asked me about the pilots. Evidence from the area trials is continuing to inform the ongoing work, as it has already throughout the year. We expect this to continue as we receive more information. We will publish a report on the trials in the late autumn, when we have a sufficient and significant body of evidence.
Finally, I will deal with the myths around HIPs. Inevitably, new announcements and innovations generate their own mythologies. There are still a few that we have to deal with, the first being the four-bedroomed house. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said that his seven year-old could explain why you would not market a four-bedroomed house as a three-bedroomed house. It is very simple. Why would you want to put yourself at risk of losing £120,000, which is the average price difference? The property editor of the Times does not think you would. She said the other day:
In a slowing market, with more properties for sale, being economical with the truth to save a few hundred pounds could mean that your three bedrooms plus study property is not first on buyers' viewing lists ... in some locations, space is an especially valuable commodity: Hometrack's average prices for a three-bedroom and a four-bedroom house in Wandsworth, South London, are £460,000 and £620,000 respectively.
There have also been suggestions of loopholes in the current arrangements. I assure noble Lords that there are no such loopholes. We have deliberately put in place a more flexible system from 1 August, which enables a property to be marketed without a HIP, as I explained, provided that all the required documents are in place. There have been concerns about enforcements. Our concern is that we should have a light-touch regime. We have worked this out with the local authority co-ordinators, regulatory services and the Trading Standards Institute. We all think that HIP duties should be operated with a light touch during the first stages of the scheme, while it beds down. I am
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I was asked specifically by several noble Lords about security checks. The DEA checks will mean that anyone acting as an assessor will be a fit and proper person to practice. They will be CRB-checked at a basic levelall offences of 2.5 years or more, spent and unspent, any offence within the last five years and any habitual offending will be recorded. The home inspector checks will be the same, except that the CRB checks will concern all offences, spent and unspent. I should say that the Association of Chief Police Officers has been consulted and is content. These checks are far more rigorous than, for example, for CORGI inspectors. They are more effective, as we heard, than for estate agents or even chartered surveyors. Accreditation schemes will not rely solely on criminal record checks; references will be followed up and so on. Why is there this difference? It is simply practical. Home inspectors will spend far longer in the home. They will not be accompanied, in the way that energy inspectors are when they search for the boiler. We felt it was proportionate to build in that slight difference while maintaining the absolute security of people in their own homes. I hope noble Lords will be satisfied by that.
We move on to the wider reform of home buying and selling processes. Why do we need to do that? We believe that HIPs with EPCs will make positive differences to those processes. They are the first step, as I have said. The Housing Minister has already had a number of discussions with key stakeholders to consider ways to build on HIPs to achieve the change. She is chairing a stakeholder panel on buying and selling that is now going to consider broader issues. Stakeholders have already made a number of positive suggestions that will build on and complement what we have done; for example, the introduction of e-conveyancing and the provision of additional up-front information in the process to better inform consumers.
The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, asked for clarity. The whole House asked us in May to listen, to make changes and to be secure in what we were doing. We have tried exceptionally hard to do what we were asked. We have adapted our plans to deal with issues and problems that have been raised, and we will continue to monitor their effective implementation. The time has come to move positively to welcome practical implementation. The market is geared up for delivery. We have enough inspectors in place, who are eager for employment. The industry has all the infrastructure for producing HIPs; it is ready and waiting. Consumers continue to press us for reform, and they are expecting this to happen. There is real urgency about tackling carbon emissions.
I urge the House to look forward. I know the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, will see the importance of taking this first step; we have debated the issue across the Dispatch Box so many times over the past two years. I hope she will not press this to a vote, because I seriously believe that it will send a destabilising signal to everyone outside who wants and expects this
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For all the reasons I have given, the Government remain committed to the commencement of HIP regulations on 1 August as planned and to the rollout to all properties shortly thereafter. Consumers, as well as all those who are committed to tackling change, are entitled to nothing less.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I note everything that she said about what has taken place since we discussed this issue last in May. However, the situation remains that HIPs are nothing without the energy performance certificate; the documentation required under a HIP is minimal and putting together that information does not take an enormous amount of time or effort. It is a survey that requires effort and brings comfort to the people who are buying property. As we have said all alongand nothing that the Minister has said will change thisa proper survey will have to be carried out by everyone who is buying a property. I have seen no information about the level of the home condition report on which mortgage companies will feel able to rely in order to lend money. The home condition report is now voluntary. We were perfectly happy with thatit would have been a perfectly acceptable situationbut it was never going to be what was required in the home-buying area.
We have not moved against the regulations for the introduction of energy performance certificates. They will give valuable information about how much it will cost to increase the energy efficiency of a property. However, the inclusion of EPCs in HIPs will not increase the speed with which houses are sold. In fact, as I have suggested, their inclusion will hold the process up. If they were a requirement on their own, they could be introduced much more quickly than if they were limited to the sale of houses. The fact that the EPC is being introduced in social housing shows that it has nothing to do with the HIP and nothing to do with the sale of property. We have all been saying that this ought to be done as a completely separate entity. Without the EPC, what does the HIP give you? Remarkably little. It does not produce anything much and, despite all the efforts of the Minister and the Government, it still has not improved an enormous amount on the way through the system.
There should be a complete rethink about the energy performance certificates. They should be introduced on their own. They should not be part of the HIP process, which does not look as if it will be of benefit to buyers. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, asked how much it will cost. I can assure noble Lords that the cost will be put on to the sale price. I cannot see that the seller will do anything other than make sure that he gets his money back. It is not going to be free to the buyer.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I am grateful for the opportunity that I have enjoyed to consult and discuss these matters with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, who has been as helpful as ever, with the Minister of State, David Hanson, who is known for his fairness and objectivity, and with the Youth Justice Board. All have shown the utmost courtesy, for which I express much thanks.
I await with much interest the Ministers response to the Motion. I hope that the Motion will demonstrate that, if not the power of prayer, then the power of a Prayer can save one from unintended and dreadful consequences. I hope that this will be one of those occasions when the procedures available in this House can be shown to be of use in achieving a consensus on issues as extremely important and very difficult as secure training centres.
I feel bound to say to the House that when Statutory Instrument 2007/1709, which we are now debating, appeared last month, it caused cavernous consternation among those of us who have an interest
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The sheer bareness of the text of the statutory instrument offers the spectre of turning back the clock several years in relation to the use of restraint on young offenders in custody. The frankly awful and inadequate Explanatory Note increased that concern. I regard the term Explanatory Note in this context as almost an oxymoron. In general terms, the Government owe a duty to the many people interested in this kind of subject to produce better explanations than that arid Explanatory Note.
If that note was to be taken at face value, physical violence towards teenage prisoners is to be permitted where, in the subjective opinion of what may be a fairly junior person in temporary charge of a privately operated secure training centre, to use that violence is necessary,
The effect of this, on the face of the statutory instrument at least, is to make the use of physical restraint one of the items on the menu of first choices available in any secure training centre, whenever there is a sign of trouble. That is simply unacceptable.
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