HC Deb 17 June 1997 vol 296 cc135-6W
Mr. Burstow

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will investigate whether the policy adopted by building societies converting to banks has contravened the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. [3603]

Mr. Alan Howarth

Whether the DDA has been contravened by building societies converting to banks is an issue which can be decided only by the courts.

The Building Societies (Distributions) Act 1997 deals with any society which first announces its intention to convert after 22 January 1997. Its provisions require converting societies to act to protect the interests of beneficiaries of accounts held on behalf of others, including disabled people. The National Disability Council has opened a dialogue with societies who announced their conversion plans before that date to explore the options for a solution that would have the effect that disabled people would not be worse off than other members.

On 10 March 1997, the Alliance and Leicester announced that, after flotation, its board would be asked to consider making an appropriate charitable donation to disabled persons, or a charity or charities on their behalf, subject of course to the approval of the company's shareholders". I hope that other converting societies will be similarly constructive.