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Forget trying to talk sense into MPs

Last week I was invited to speak about Home Information Packs in the House of Commons. I accepted the invitation but I had doubts about how worthwhile the exercise would be. These doubts were well founded.

The day started badly when I emerged from the tube station to find it pouring with rain. I had no coat or umbrella. I made a dash for the House only to find a queue of tourists waiting for a tour of the building. I asked a gun-toting policeman where I should report to, pointing out that I had been invited to a meeting.

I was informed that I had to join the queue and wait my turn. Half an hour in the rain later, I just about made it to the meeting on time. I enquired why an entrance system could not be introduced with two check-in points – one for people with meetings and one for tourists. The MPs said it was beyond them to make such a monumental change. This did not bode well as far as changes to HIPs were concerned.

A grand total of eight MPs and Lords attended the meeting. HIPs will affect every home owner in the UK and cost a minimum of about 350 each – not an insignificant amount. If the meeting had been to debate headscarves I’m sure half the MPs in town would have turned out.

Anyway, on to the discussion – and my next disappointment. The MPs and Lords displayed a mixture of disinterest, ignorance and apathy. We discussed the problems arising out of delays with local searches, we discussed the training and qualification of enough inspectors and we looked at issues such as the cost of HIPs and the education of consumers.

Were the issues thoroughly addressed and resolved? Of course not. This was Parliament. I left the meeting feeling rather like the weather – damp and despondent.

Since my meeting, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Council of Mortgage Lenders have launched attacks on the government about HIPs. RICS has made a Freedom of Information Act request to spur the government into doing something. The CML is using strong words to try to provoke a reaction.

I have some advice for CML director-general Michael Coogan. Forget strong words. If you expect MPs to see sense and make changes you’ll end up waiting a long time. I suggest you put on a Batman suit, phone the News of the World and chain yourself to a balcony at Buckingham Palace. More MPs will take note of what you have to say.

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