HC Deb 22 July 1996 vol 282 cc36-7

Lords amendment: No. 18, in page 12, line 5, at end insert— ("( ) Before making an order which would have the effect that an area ceased to be designated under subsection (1)(b), the Secretary of State shall consult—

  1. (a) the local housing authority or authorities in whose district the area or any part of it is situated or, if the order is general in its effect, local housing authorities in general, and
  2. (b) such bodies appearing to him to be representative of registered social landlords as he considers appropriate.")

Mr. Curry

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Some concern was expressed about the possible removal of the exemption from the purchase grant in rural areas for housing association tenants. The fear was that the Secretary of State might act arbitrarily. We have therefore tabled this amendment so that the Secretary of State must consult before there is any removal from the list of settlements that are designated not to have the right to buy. I commend it to the House.

Mr. Raynsford

The Opposition welcome the amendment for the reasons that the Minister has made clear. It ensures that the Secretary of State will have to consult the relevant local housing authority or authorities before reaching a decision. It also requires the Secretary of State to consult bodies that appear to him to be representative of registered social landlords.

I would welcome some guidance from the Minister on what will be the Housing Corporation's broad approach to deciding which organisations are representative of registered social landlords. I assume that the Secretary of State will be seeking guidance from the Housing Corporation on the matter.

Will every social landlord operating in this area be consulted, or will only a relatively small number be consulted? If the latter, what will be the criteria for deciding which ones are appropriate? In some areas, many social landlords operate, and it might prove completely impractical to consult all of them. On the other hand, if the Secretary of State were arbitrary in his choice of consultees, an entirely fair point of view might not be registered by social landlords in the area. It would be helpful to have an indication as to how this discretion is likely to be exercised.

Mrs. Diana Maddock (Christchurch)

I and my colleagues welcome the amendment also, although I am sorry that it does not go as far as the amendments that I tabled in Committee. But the amendment recognises the importance of the view of local authorities in dealing with the provision of social housing. I look forward to the Minister saying who else he will consult, because, as the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford) said, it could be a number of people in some areas, and we need guidance on that. In general, however, I welcome the amendment.

Mr. Curry

This is a question of common sense. I envisage that the Housing Corporation will wish to consult what will become the National Housing Federation, and it will consult the landlords operating in a particular area. Settlements of 3,000 do not have hundreds of housing associations, nor do rural areas, and a handful will specialise in this field. I do not envisage practical difficulties, and it is our intention to consult fully.

Lords amendment agreed to.

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