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Election will be the last word in HIPs argument

In recent years, few initiatives have polarised the financial services industry to the same degree as the government’s proposed overhaul and reform of the house purchase process.

In particular, the intensity of debate surrounding Home Information Packs has caused the greatest controversy.

Unashamedly I side with the anti camp when it comes to HIPs – and to a large extent with the proposed property purchase reforms in general. Principally, this is because I believe that despite all the imperfections that exist within the present system, it is infinitely preferable to the bureaucratic entanglement in red tape that accompanies everything the government seeks to ‘improve’.

The proposed housing improvements are blatantly political and have little to do with better results.

Of course, not all Mortgage Strategy contributors feel the same, and I feel for fellow columnist and HIPs champion Alan Dring, whose frustration at political apathy in respect of these reforms was so evident in his rec-ent comments.

Perhaps it was his realisation that even the former supporters of what has been a complete farce now recognise that they’re holding a busted flush. They are seeking to fold their hands before incurring greater losses.

Of course they’re still clinging to the last vestiges of an orderly retreat by stomping up the 4m estimated to be the cost of trialling HIPs in selected areas. But this is surely little more than an egg-on-face avoidance gesture. And what a con it is anyway.

What can be proved by trialling a change to the house purchase process that if implemented would add to all sellers’ costs, through an experiment that costs the participating guinea pigs absolutely nothing?

Nick Salmon, of anti-HIPs campaign group Seller Pack Law is Not the Answer or SPLINTA, got it spot on when he likened it to offering someone a free trip to Barcelona. Of course they will say yes. Make the same offer but ask them to pay for it and you’ll get a different answer. So the so-called trial is both a nonsense and a sham.

And if that wasn’t enough, the trial is being conducted by the Association of Home Information Pack Providers. Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t this a little like inviting Jack the Ripper to comment on whether London’s East End might benefit from a spot of ultra-violence?

But, truth be told, whichever faction you align yourself with is of little consequence.

The whole HIPs issue will only be resolved at the next election.

Informed debate has so far resolved nothing, but only served to polarise opinion. The trial will prove that if you offer someone something for nothing they will probably take it.

And so it will most likely come to pass that if grumpy Gordon Brown carries Labour into a fourth term of government he’ll want the extra revenue so we’ll get HIPs whether we like it or not. But, if Dave of Green Gables gets in, we won’t.


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