HC Deb 09 February 1989 vol 146 cc1115-6
3. Rev. Martin Smyth

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about the future relationship between housing associations and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Richard Needham)

The activities of registered housing associations are funded by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive has proposed to me that it should take over this responsibility. However, the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations has made a counter proposal and I intend to have early discussions with both bodies.

Rev. Martin Smyth

I thank the Minister for that response. Does he accept that the housing associations have been doing invaluable and innovative work, and that they are worried that, if the Housing Executive is called to manage the housing associations, because of pressure on its budget, the housing associations will be squeezed, whereas so far they have been receiving fair understanding from the Department?

Mr. Needham

I agree that the housing associations do valuable work. I have listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman said and I shall listen carefully to all the points that are made to me in the present consultation process.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that openness about the Housing Executive would be a good thing? Is he aware of the Fair Employment Agency's report into employment in the Housing Executive? Why has that report been hidden and not published? There has been immense activity and discussion about that matter in the Housing Executive. Surely the general public should know what the finding is.

Mr. Needham

That is a matter for the Housing Executive, not for me. I am sure that the report will be considered and published, as such reports always have been.

Mr. McGrady

Is the Minister completely satisfied that housing associations' allocations in Northern Ireland are in accordance with the selection procedure—priority need—of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive listing? If not, what further monitoring and action will take place to counteract any impropriety?

Secondly, if the housing 1990 proposals come into being and houses from the Housing Executive stock are transferred or sold to housing associations, how will the Minister guard the rights of sitting tenants and those who, because of their accommodation needs, have priority on the Housing Executive lists at that time?

Mr. Needham

If the hon. Gentleman knows of any particular problems because the housing associations have not allocated houses as they should, I am prepared to discuss them with him and to listen to the points that he makes. Whether the Government will read across the Housing Act 1988 is again a matter for discussion and consultation. Those matters are being considered and I welcome the hon. Gentleman's views on any points across the Floor of the House, and across a desk as well.

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