Homelessness Bill

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Mr. Foster: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way and I promise that I do not intend to intervene again on this matter. Will the Minister tell me what difference it makes to the fettering of the discretion of the local authority in respect of the decision whether to continue to provide housing if the right to challenge that decision is made in the High Court or the county court? Surely in either case there would be a fettering of that discretion by allowing either of those routes to be entered into. I do not understand why one route is considered by the Minister to massively fetter the discretion of the local authority, whereas the other route is not. If there is no difference between the two, surely the symmetry argument comes into play.

Dr. Whitehead: As the hon. Gentleman knows—given that he underlined such a point in an earlier contribution—there is a difference. That difference is that judicial review through the High Court is a process to be used in exceptional circumstances. It is not to be used as a routine course of action if the first course of action fails, as has been suggested in some quarters might be the outcome of an appeal through the county court.

The hon. Member for Cotswold referred to the difficulties that would arise for a local authority if the word ``may'' became ``must''. I suggest that, while the two acts are not exactly parallel, the fact that a person may decide that an appeal to the county court was the routine next step would have the effect, while maintaining a theoretical discretion, of bringing us to the situation where, in effect, ``may'' had been replaced by ``must''. The reality is that, in seeking to maintain that proper space between the right of a local authority to exercise discretion and the right of the individual to seek redress, judicial review through the High Court is the right course of action and that is the approach that the Government wish to take.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

        Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Woolas.]

        Adjourned accordingly at three minutes to Seven o'clock till Thursday 12 July at half-past Nine o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Griffiths Mr. Win (Chairman)
Buck, Ms
Clark, Paul
Clifton-Brown, Mr.
Foster, Mr. Don
Francis, Dr.
Iddon, Dr.
Keeble, Ms
Kidney, Mr.
Loughton, Tim
Love, Mr.
Moran, Margaret
Selous, Mr.
Waterson, Mr.
Whitehead, Dr.
Williams, Hywel
Woolas, Mr.

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