RUTH Kelly has not had a comfortable time since Tony Blair brought her into his government in 2004 as Education Secretary and then made her Communities and Local Government Secretary in 2006. At Education there were questions about the influence of her strong Catholic faith and school reforms proved to be one of the most contentious policies of the third Labour administration. Then at Communities and Local Government she had to oversee the creation of a new department with responsibilities that touch many sensitive areas of public life. Yesterday in the House of Commons Ms Kelly was subjected to a barrage of heckling from the Conservatives as she announced that the introduction of the Home Information Pack is to be delayed until August and even then will be confined to houses with four or more bedrooms. These packs, which provide essential information about a property for potential purchasers, were due to be brought into use in seven days time and several MPs poured scorn on Ms Kelly's decision to delay her announcement until the last moment.

Ms Kelly has been in her job for one year and must surely have known for some time that the Packs could not be introduced as originally intended. There have been legal challenges and last minute concerns about energy performance certificates but the overall delay and last minute panic notification of it smacks of the departmental inefficiency which seems to be spreading through Whitehall as the prime minister's seat remains empty.


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