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23 May 2006 : Column 1655W—continued

There has been no such guidance. The Home Information Pack will include standard local searches derived from local authority records. The Government are considering how to implement the recommendations of the Office of Fair Trading market study into property searches, including the provision of clear guidance for local authorities on how they should recover the costs of providing property information in compiled and unrefined forms. Under the current rules, the Lord Chancellor sets the charge for an “official” search of the local land charge register and local authorities may set their own charge
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for supplementary inquiries that covers the cost of providing information. We intend to apply this principle to any new charging arrangements for dealing with the provision of search information and will provide the appropriate guidance to cover them.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate his Department has made of the average amount of the compulsory insurance of last resort indemnity levy on home information packs. [66445]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.

The only new component of a home information pack will be the home condition report. These can only be provided by approved home inspectors. Details of the minimum insurance they will need to have will be set out in the Certification Scheme Standards that the Government will publish next month.

It will be the responsibility of the estate agents to ensure that home information packs are otherwise complete. They will be required to belong to an approved redress scheme.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how long a home information pack will be valid for before its contents will have to be updated; and if he will estimate the cost of updating the pack after (a) six months and (b) 12 months. [66447]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.

Neither the Housing Act 2004 nor the regulations made under the Act will prescribe a validity period for Home Information Packs. However, we do not expect many properties to remain on the market for more than six months. The regulations to be made in June will provide that certain time-sensitive items in the pack (e.g. local searches and the Home Condition Report) are no more than three months old when marketing begins, but they will not require sellers to renew these documents thereafter. In practice, local authority searches are normally considered acceptable for six months as will Home Condition Reports. Where sellers choose to update time-sensitive documents in the pack, we expect the market to provide a means for them do so at a relatively small cost.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate the Government has made of the average level of charges by (a) the Land Registry and (b) local authorities for providing information for home information packs. [70637]

Yvette Cooper: The Home Information Pack will include the office copy of register entries where a property is registered on the Land Register. The Land Registry charge for this is £10. The average cost for local authority searches (i.e. an official search of the Local Land Charges Register and additional standard inquiries using form CON.29 Part 1) is estimated to be £160. Searches of local authority records carried out by private search companies are often cheaper and can be included in the Home Information Pack in certain circumstances.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many home inspectors are (a) certified and (b) in training. [70638]


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Yvette Cooper: 4,400 Home Inspectors are in the process of being trained, and as of 30 April 2006 200 have completed their training. The amount of training required depends on previous experience but the average surveyor can be trained in around five days plus the time taken to assemble a portfolio of work. Over the next 12 months we expect thousands of Home Inspectors to complete their training in time for the implementation date of 1 June 2007.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what targets the Government have set in relation to the training of home inspectors. [70639]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.

We estimate that the number of home inspectors required will be between 5,000 and 7,400. This estimate has been developed in consultation with the industry, and it will be kept under review.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether home inspectors can qualify via distance learning; and what the average length of the training course is. [70640]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.

The Awarding Body for the Built Environment (ABBE) offers the Diploma in Home Inspection through a number of assessment centres around the country. Although the most common route to obtain the qualification is by attending full or part-time courses at a college a number of assessment centres operate the qualification via distance learning.

The amount of training required depends on previous experience but the average surveyor can be trained in around five days plus the time taken to assemble a portfolio of work.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether (a) HM Revenue and Customs and (b) the Valuation Office Agency will have access to the Register of Home Condition Reports; and what representations her Department has received from each body on access to the Register. [70649]

Yvette Cooper: No. Neither HM Revenue and Customs nor the Valuation Office Agency will have access to the Register.

We received representations from various organisations including the Valuation Office Agency (but not HM Revenue and Customs) but concluded that access to the Register should be restricted by regulations to buyers and sellers, their advisers and mortgage lenders and those monitoring the performance and quality of the reports.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment the Government have made of the likely effects of the introduction of Home Information Packs on small estate agents. [70724]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.

An assessment of the impact of Home Information Packs will be published shortly in a regulatory impact assessment to accompany regulations to be made under
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Part 5 of the Housing Act 2004. This assessment will be updated in the light of the findings of a baseline study of the home buying and selling process to be carried out this year and information obtained during the dry-run of Home Information Packs. Like other organisations in the property market small estate agents will need to adapt to the introduction of Home Information Packs in the interest of consumers.

Mr. Rogerson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans there are to monitor the effects on the housing market of the introduction of home information packs. [71037]

Yvette Cooper: An assessment of the impact of home information packs (HIPs) will be published shortly in a regulatory impact assessment to accompany regulations to be made under part 5 of the Housing Act 2004. This assessment will be updated in the light of the findings of a baseline study of the home buying and selling process to be carried out this year and information obtained during the dry-run of home information packs. We will also discuss specific market impact issues with stakeholders as we near implementation date and, together with the industry, monitor the operation of HIPs after implementation.

Mr. Rogerson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when she expects to set the cost of the home information pack. [71038]

Yvette Cooper: The cost of home information packs will be set by the market, not Government.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to include details of whether land is contaminated within home inspection packs. [63182]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.

The home information pack will include a local search, which incorporates definitive information on whether the property is entered on the register of contaminated land that local authorities are obliged to maintain under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The pack may also include additional search reports relating to actual or potential environmental hazards, including contaminated land.

Home Inspectors

Mr. Drew: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many home inspectors (a) have been trained, (b) are in training and (c) have expressed an interest in training. [63337]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.

4,400 Home Inspectors are in the process of being trained, and as of 30 April 2006 200 have completed their training. The amount of training required depends on previous experience but the average surveyor can be trained in around five days plus the time taken to assemble a portfolio of work. Over the next 12 months we expect thousands of home inspectors to complete their training in time for the implementation date of 1 June 2007.


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There is no central record of the number of people who have expressed an interest to become a home inspector but a high level of interest continues to be shown.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans the Government have to change the training period for Home Inspectors. [66232]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.

The Department will continue to work with the key parties including the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), the Awarding Body for the Built Environment (ABBE) and the assessment centres to make sure that prospective Home Inspectors are trained as quickly as possible and at an acceptable cost.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the number of home information pack inspectors who will be required. [64665]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.

We estimate that the number of home inspectors required will be between 5,000 and 7,400. This estimate has been developed in consultation with the industry, and it will be kept under review.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many Home Information Pack inspectors have been trained to date. [62292]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.

4,400 Home Inspectors are in the process of being trained, and as of 30 April 2006 200 have completed their training. The amount of training required depends on previous experience but the average surveyor can be trained in around five days plus the time taken to assemble a portfolio of work. Over the next 12 months we expect thousands of Home Inspectors to complete their training in time for the implementation date of 1 June 2007.

Mr. Rogerson: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many home condition inspectors have been trained; and how many are in training. [64340]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.

4,400 home inspectors are in the process of being trained, and as of 30 April 2006 200 have completed their training. The amount of training required depends on previous experience but the average surveyor can be trained in around five-days plus the time taken to assemble a portfolio of work. Over the next 12 months we expect thousands of home inspectors to complete their training in time for the implementation date of 1 June 2007.

Housing (West Chelmsford)

Mr. Burns: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps he is taking to ensure timely development of infrastructure to keep pace with housing in construction in West Chelmsford constituency. [64723]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 24 April 2006]: I have been asked to reply.

Public sector investment in the eastern regions has increased substantially over the last nine years. Local
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authorities also have the ability to use S106 agreements to secure developer contributions.

My colleagues in the Department for Transport will consider any proposals for future infrastructure which may be identified by the local planning authority, for example in their Local Transport Plan, taking into account the priorities which the region has indicated.

The Government are currently considering the responses to the consultation on the Planning Gain Supplement which would help increase investment in infrastructure in the local areas experiencing housing growth.

Local Authorities (Work Force)

Stephen Hesford: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps she is taking to promote the employment of a mixed age work force among local authorities. [71638]

Meg Munn: Local authorities are independent employers. They recognise the benefits of recruiting, training, and retaining staff of all ages to help encourage a more diverse work force. The Local Government Employers (LGE) works with local authorities on issues regarding pay, pensions and the employment contract, in order to ensure best delivery of local services.

The Government are strongly committed to tackling age discrimination. New legislation, the Equality (Age) Regulations 2006, coming into force in October, will make unjustified age discrimination in recruitment, training, promotion or dismissal, unlawful for workers of all ages.

LGE has drawn up guidance information to help local authorities implement the new legislation. In addition, the Government also support mixed-age working through the Age Positive campaign led by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Ministerial Visits (Accommodation)

David Simpson: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister on how many occasions (a) civil servants and (b) special advisers in his Department have stayed overnight in (i) five star, (ii) four star and (iii) three star hotels on foreign visits in each of the last three years. [69051]

Angela E. Smith: I have been asked to reply.

The information requested is not collected centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Newcastle/Gateshead Pathfinder

Jim Cousins: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister, pursuant to the answer of 15 March 2006, Official Report, columns 2374-5W, on the Newcastle/Gateshead pathfinder, if he will place in the Library the strategic commission plans, programmes and budget allocations for each strategic commission area of the Newcastle/Gateshead housing market pathfinder. [69306]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.


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I shall place a copy of Bridging Newcastle’s pathfinder scheme update, including its proposals for each strategic commission area, in the Libraries of both Houses.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when she will provide a substantive reply to question 64723, on infrastructure in West Chelmsford, tabled by the hon. Member for West Chelmsford on 18 April. [72301]

Yvette Cooper: I have answered the hon. Member’s question today. I apologise for the delay in replying.


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