HC Deb 17 December 1993 vol 234 cc1095-6W
Mr. Straw

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what requirements are imposed on housing action trusts, housing associations and urban development corporations, to hold meetings in public of the main governing body, any committees, and any sub-committees; and what rights of access the public have to agendas, minutes, and reports of such bodies, committees and sub-committees.

Mr. Gummer

No requirements are imposed on housing action trusts or urban development corporations. However, as a matter of policy and in the light of citizens charter commitments, most housing action trust board, committee and sub-committee meetings are open to the public. Agendas, reports and minutes are available to the public on request. Most urban development corporations admit the public to discussions on land use planning matters unless they are commercially confidential issues. Similarly, the proceedings of some meetings of housing action trusts may not be open to the public, for example where personnel matters, audit and commercially confidential matters are discussed.

The Housing Corporation has the statutory responsibility to fund and supervise registered housing associations. As part of its supervisory role, the corporation requires associations to provide a wide range of information on a regular basis covering the performance and management of associations. These returns are available to members of the public and may be viewed at the corporation's headquarters.

Blue-collar Services

Mr. Faber

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how he intends to modify the arrangements for retendering of blue-collar services following his decision to accelerate the programme for reviewing the structure of English counties and districts.

Mr. Baldry

My Department's announcement to the House on 29 March 1993,Official Report, column 56, that shire counties and districts being reorganised following review by the Local Government Commission would not be required to continue compulsory competitive tendering —CCT—for manual services during the reorganisation period, was widely welcomed by local authorities. The acceleration of the commission's review programme requires some modification to these arrangements.

Our objective is that authorities should, wherever possible, continue to subject services to the pressures of competition which can bring so many benefits. However, we would not wish to see new authorities tied to inappropriate arrangement made by their predecessors.

I therefore intend that, for all high-value, long-term contracts, the exemption already announced should remain unchanged. This will commence when Parliament approves changes in an area and end 18 months after the new authority comes into being.

For short-term, low-value contracts, I have concluded that CCT should continue to apply throughout the reorganisation period. Tendering for this work is a matter of routine practice, and new authorities would not be hampered by continuing with arrangements made by their predecessors for a short period. I therefore intend that the exemption will not apply where the period over which work is to be carried out is less than 12 months or the value of that work is less than £200,000 per annum.

My officials have today written to the secretaries of the Association of County Councils and Association of District Councils giving further details of these modifications and those my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing, Inner Cities and Construction and I announced on 15 December for white-collar and housing management services, Official Report, columns 733-35. I will place a copy of the letter in the Library.