Despite the many faults of Home Information Packs and the way they were implemented, they do (on the whole) help to speed up the conveyancing process. Usually, the legal pre-contract work is now completed well before the buyer's mortgage offer is issued - it used often not to be so.
The slowest item in the legal aspects is now the provision of up-to-date property information by the seller. This is presumably why the curent rules now require a "Property Information Questionnaire" to be included in the HIP. However, as the PIQ is no substitute (in either scope or effect) for full property information, its inclusion hinders rather than helps the process.
If the government could bear to swallow its pride for a bit, it should invite the Law Society to convene a panel of experienced conveyancers to come up with a comprehensive but well-designed property information form - as was done for the Law Society's National Conveyancing Protocol, its Formulae for exchange of contracts by telephone, its Code for completion by post, etc. The Law Society has a good track record for this sort of thing, and it is crazy for civil servants to design forms and procedures they know relatively little about.
Any standard form is, of course, going to need supplementing in some cases, but a well-designed form can be used to cover all appropriate information for the vast majority of cases - the Property Details Questionnaire produced by HIPAG - the Home Information Pack Action Group - is a very good example of a comprehensive form; it could be improved, but it is very close to ideal.
If such a property information form were completed by a seller with his or her conveyancer's help, and in a genuine attempt to provide all relevant information in an accessible way, it could be included in a HIP at the outset (or, better, added during the marketing of the property), to make the HIP genuinely comprehensive - apart from a contract (see next post)