§ Mr. Chris Smith
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what arrangements are made in Northern Ireland for allowing individuals to have access to information held about them by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive which may affect their entitlement to housing; what guidance he has issued on this matter; whether he proposes to take any steps to encourage them to allow greater access to information held on automated and non-automated records; and whether he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Chris Patten
Article 39 of the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1983 provides that at the request of any person who has applied to it for housing accommodation the Northern Ireland Housing Executive shall make available to him, at all reasonable times and without charge, details of the particulars that he has given to the executive about himself and his family and which the executive has recorded as being relevant to his application for accommodation.
Guidance on this provision, and the other tenants' rights contained in the 1983 Order, was included in the booklet "The Tenants' Charter" issued in November by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland; the booklet received a wide circulation. In addition, I understand from the chairman of the Housing Executive that appropriate references will be included in a revised edition of the executive's booklet on its allocation scheme and a leaflet on tenants' rights which is to be issued to all its tenants next month.
The Data Protection Bill will, of course, create a general entitlement to access by individuals to automated personal records held on them when it comes into operation.