HC Deb 25 June 1974 vol 875 cc1354-6
Mr. Michael Morris

I beg to move Amendment No. 51, in page 12, line 37, at end insert: '(7) A housing association whose application or registration has been refused by the Housing Corporation shall have a right of appeal—

  1. (a) in matters of procedure concerning the Corporation's use of powers through the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, and
  2. (b) in matters relating to the substance of a decision to the Housing Associations' Registration Advisory Committee'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this amendment it will be convenient to take Amendment No. 1, in Clause 14, page 13, line 2, at end insert: '(2) A Housing Association whose registration has been refused by the Housing Corporation shall have a right of appeal to the Secretary of State who may if he thinks fit seek the advice of the Advisory Committee before makng a decision on the appeal'.

Mr. Morris

This matter was raised in Committee. At that time the Committee was concerned about safeguards because of the nature of the industry, it being young and dynamic. The Minister said at the time that he would give the matter further consideration. The amendment reflects some of the comment that was made in Committee. I shall be grateful if the Minister will comment upon his further reflection.

Mr. Freeson

I have reflected further on the extensive discussions which we had in Committee on the appeals procedure. I still adhere to the view that I expressed then—namely, that the formal appeals system would be inappropriate.

I accept, as I indicated in Committee, that it is essential to reassure housing associations that registration will be carried out fairly and properly. I consider that the right answer is to strengthen the Housing Associations Registration Advisory Committee. I gave some indication of that in Committee and I confirm that I consider that to be the right answer. I believe that the advisory committee should be strengthened not by giving it automatic right to consider individual appeals but by strengthening its rôle in setting criteria for registration.

It is intended to table an amendment in another place requiring the corporation to establish criteria for registration after consulting the advisory committee. It is considered that that will usefully tighten up the link between the corporation and the committee.

Perhaps even more important, I propose to ensure that the membership of the advisory committee is such as to leave no doubt as to the strength of its control over the whole registration process. I wish to tell the House that Mr. Harold Campbell, a man with long and valuable experience in the voluntary housing movement, and a one-time vice-chairman of the Housing Corporation, has agreed to act as chairman of the advisory committee when the Bill receives the Royal Assent. That is an acceptance which I feel sure will be warmly endorsed by both sides of the House.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

I welcome what my hon. Friend has said. However, I am sure that he is aware that the drawback of having criteria for registration built into the Bill is that it can be challenged in the courts. Before the amendment is moved in another place and the matter comes back here, I would like him to consider whether it would not be preferable to have the matter referred back to the Secretary of State rather than to have a right of appeal to the courts, which could be productive of far more dispute than the arrangement envisaged in the amendment. I welcome what my hon. Friend has said and I hope that it will be possible for what he has said to be accepted, but I would like him to think about the matter again.

Mr. Freeson

I am always willing to think again about a matter of this kind that is causing concern. There are some days to go before the matter will be raised in another place. It would be less than fair and honest on my part if I did not say, having thought carefully about this issue and having read the Committee reports, that almost certainly the Govern ment will pursue the road which I have already indicated.

Mr. Michael Morris

We are grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has approached this point, particularly the membership issue. We would want to reserve the right to see the amendment in detail but with that proviso may I say how much we welcome his attitude?

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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