Clause 145 — Home Condition Reports

Part of Orders of the Day — Housing Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:50 pm on 8th November 2004.

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Photo of Keith Hill Keith Hill Minister of State (Housing and Planning), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister 7:50 pm, 8th November 2004

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I feel that I need to say a few more words in amplification of the proposals for the scheme first, but I will happily give way to him in due course.

Provision is already made for such a register in clause 145(5)(d). The purpose of the amendments is to ensure that that register is kept in a proper way. Amendments (a) and (b) to Lords amendment No. 140 strengthen the provisions for approved certification schemes for home inspectors producing home condition reports. The scheme is required to make provision for the registration of all home condition reports. That will greatly enhance the ability of consumers and others to use the home condition report and to trust it, for the reasons that I shall explain.

Certification schemes would be approved by the Secretary of State. They are likely to be run on a not-for-profit basis by private companies owned by stakeholders. We had initially intended the control of access to information on the register to be left to the terms of approval. However, that might not be legally effective, and might not be sufficient to ensure that appropriate and adequate safeguards are placed on the creation and use of the register.

Amendment (c) inserts after clause 145 a new clause that will ensure that the Secretary of State can make regulations allowing any private keeper of the register to restrict access to it to certain limited and prescribed circumstances and purposes. It requires that the onward use of information obtained from the register should respect privacy considerations, and that as far as possible, any conditions imposed by the seller on the use of information in a home information pack, in accordance with clause 139, be respected. It also makes the unauthorised disclosure of information a criminal offence in order to deal with someone who, for example, sells details to a double glazing salesman, or the selling of information on the home of a public figure to a newspaper. Finally, the amendment allows the Secretary of State to maintain the register if the private operator proves unsatisfactory.