The government has climbed down on HIPs. A huge victory for Michael Gove’s energetic campaign against them.
MICHAEL GOVE MP’S STATEMENT TO THE HOUSE
"Can I thank the minister for sight of her announcement which I
received just 25 minutes before hand? Clearly this has been a day for
doing everything at the last minute. Can I ask why, after being warned
over a year ago that they were comprehensively mishandling this issue
Ministers have seen fit to retreat only now – with eight days to go
before Home Information Packs were due to be implemented? Why didn’t
ministers take the opportunity we offered last week to think again?
Was it stubborn vanity, or sheer incompetence?
The Secretary of State may argue that this humiliating climbdown was
precipitated by the Judgement issued in the High Court Today. But that
begs the question which goes to the heart of this matter. Why did
ministers press ahead with a scheme which everyone who knows anything
about the housing market was telling them was flawed at the heart?
And those warnings, unlike this climbdown, did not come at the eleventh hour. In this house, at this despatch box, a year ago we told the Government their scheme was flawed. The Government told us we were scaremongering. Eventually the Government were compelled to execute the first in what has been a truly embarrassing series of U-turns… dropping the mandatory home condition report which was the keystone of the original home information pack – just hours after they’d been defending it in this House – but still ministers were determined to press ahead. Why?
Why didn’t they take the opportunity then to work with us and others to put the stability of the housing market first? Why did ministers decide instead to ignore the growing chorus of concern, shut out expert advice and carry on regardless?
On February 21st all the key stakeholders originally invited to help the Government set up this scheme issued a warning letter to the Minister for Housing and Planning asking for an emergency meeting to address fundamental concerns with the operation of this scheme. They were not granted the meeting they asked for. Why?
In desperation the same group wrote to the Secretary of State on March 2 asking for an emergency meeting. Again they were snubbed. No meeting was granted. Why? What explains this refusal to listen to the experts who had once been charged with helping set up this policy and whose involvement would be key to implementing it? Was it because the Government couldn’t bear to be told they were in the wrong, or didn’t they realise what a mess they were presiding over? Was it deadly arrogance, or fatal ignorance?
And even after today’s announcement key questions remain unanswered.
The Government were warned there weren’t enough qualified, accredited and certified home inspectors in place. Over a year ago I warned that getting these people in place was crucial. Only last week in this place I told the minister of State we didn’t have enough people in place to ensure the smooth operation of the scheme. But the minister told us everything would be alright on the night. Why did she offer that cavalier assurance when the Secretary of State now tells us there won’t be enough people in place after all? We know relations between the ministers are bad – but did the Secretary of State only find out in the last few days how few qualified people there are in place? When did she know the real numbers? And why didn’t she inform the House last week?
How can ministers ever again ask to be taken seriously on the environment when they have comprehensively mismanaged a measure they argued throughout was vital to fighting climate change? How can we believe their green credentials are worth anything when they rejected cross-party working to get the environmental part of this package right last week and instead indulged in partisan posturing?
Can the Secretary of State also confirm that today’s judgement in the High Court confirms what we have argued all along, and what best practice in the EU shows, that you don’t need HIPs for Energy performance Certificates? Will she now agree to meet with me and my colleagues to ensure there’s actually some expertise in this process to get it right?
MR SPEAKER –
Isn’t it the case that this is a desperate last minute retreat designed to ensure that the Minister of Housing and Planning is airlifted out of the department by her friends in the Treasury in a future reshuffle so she doesn’t have to cope with the chaos she’s created.
And isn’t it tragic that confidence in the industry, the stability of the housing market and the battle against climate change have all been damaged by this Government’s arrogance and incompetence?"