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Lord Hylton: While the Government are examining this question, will they look at how long the obligations will endure, whether they are covered, for example, by the Statute of Limitations and, if so, whether a shorter period is appropriate?

Lord Lucas: I will come back to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, on that question.

Lord Williams of Elvel: As always, I am grateful to the noble Lord for explaining the Government's reasoning behind this. I find it difficult to accept that just because there is a precedent under Charity Commission law it can be translated into Housing Corporation law. Once one has a precedent in Charity Commission law one can translate it into Housing Corporation law and then into anything else. Any other measure proposed by the Government under which a regulatory body is entitled to look at the banking records of a client will quote this Act, just as the noble Lord has quoted the Charities Act. Hitler operated in this way. A notice may be served on almost anybody. Almost any person has been involved in one form or another in a registered social landlord. I am sure that this applies not just to members of my family but to members of the noble Lord's family and others. Without any restriction whatever, notices carrying legal

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force--involving a contempt of Parliament if they are not obeyed--can be served on anybody who has been involved in a voluntary organisation if he is not prepared to give the kind of information that the Housing Corporation, in its great wisdom--I am sure that it will have great wisdom--requires. The Housing Corporation can serve notices on people who may be completely innocent of any offence and may not have known what on earth was going on five years ago when they were members of a housing association, registered social landlord or whatever. The notice can be served on any other person who the corporation has reason to believe is or may be in possession of relevant information.

Hitler would have been proud of this clause. It gives the corporation blanket authority to serve notice on anybody who it believes is able to contribute. The only protection is that afforded to solicitors. I understand why solicitors want to be protected on the basis of privileged communications, but if they are to be protected I see no reason why bankers should not enjoy the same protection. I am not here to defend bankers. The noble Lord, Lord Boardman, is a good advocate for bankers. But I believe that the Government have to watch this very carefully. I hope that the noble Lord will take on board what I say. The whole of this matter, as regards bankers and anybody else who the corporation believes may have information that it wants, gives rise to general disquiet. I very much hope that before we come to Report stage the noble Lord will reconsider the clause and amend it accordingly. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 114 to 117 not moved.]

Clause 30 agreed to.

Clause 31 [Enforcement of notice to provide information, &c.]

[Amendment No. 118 not moved.]

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 119:


Page 19, line 16, at end insert--
("( ) Proceedings for an offence under subsection (1) or (2) may be brought only by or with the consent of the Corporation or the Director of Public Prosecutions.").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to Amendment No. 119 with Amendment No. 46. I beg to move.

[Amendments Nos. 119A and 119B, as amendments to Amendment No. 119, not moved.]

On Question, Amendment No. 119 agreed to.

Clause 31, as amended, agreed to.

5 p.m.

Clause 32 [Disclosure of information to the Corporation]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 120:


Page 19, line 40, leave out subsection (5).

The noble Lord said: I shall speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 123, 192 and 276.

Clauses 32 and 33, which deal respectively with disclosure of information to and by the corporation, contain definitions of "enactment". A definition is

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necessary in order to determine the information which may be disclosed and which may be subject to restriction on disclosure. There is currently no definition of "enactment" in the Bill: a consequence no doubt of splitting what was once one Bill into two, one of which this place has already looked at in some detail. A definition of "enactment" is required for the Bill as a whole. Amendment No. 276 inserts it into Clause 202. That definition, which is the same as that currently used for the purposes of Clauses 32 and 33, will, by virtue of Amendment No. 192 to Clause 63, apply to the whole of Part I. Amendments Nos. 120 and 123 therefore dispense with the definition in Clauses 32 and 33. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 32, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 33 [Disclosure of information by the Corporation]:

[Amendment No. 121 not moved.]

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 122:


Page 20, line 27, at end insert--
("Proceedings for such an offence may be brought only by or with the consent of the Corporation or the Director of Public Prosecutions.").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 46. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 123:


Page 20, line 30, leave out subsection (7).

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 120. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 33, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 34 [Standards of performance]:

[Amendment No. 124 not moved.]

Clause 34 agreed to.

Clause 35 [Information as to levels of performance]:

[Amendment No. 125 not moved.]

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 126:


Page 21, line 9, at end insert--
("Proceedings for such an offence may be brought only by or with the consent of the Corporation or the Director of Public Prosecutions.").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 46. I beg to move.

[Amendments Nos. 126A and 126B, as amendments to Amendment No. 126, not moved.]

On Question, Amendment No. 126 agreed to.

Clause 35, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 36 [Issue of guidance by the Corporation]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 127:


Page 21, line 42, at end insert--
("( ) the devolution to tenants of decisions concerning the management of housing accommodation.").

11 Jun 1996 : Column 1606

The noble Baroness said: The amendment proposes the addition to Clause 36(2) of another subject for guidance by the corporation. In this case, it is the devolution to tenants of the decisions about the management of housing accommodation. Although I have my reservations about guidance, and would in many cases prefer something a little firmer than allowing guidance to include certain matters, I recognise that in listing those matters the Government are giving their support to the subjects that are set out.

The amendment seeks to build on an amendment moved by my honourable friend the Member for Southwark and Bermondsey when he sought to introduce a new clause which he called the democratisation of social housing management. The amendment does not go as far as his amendment. I have attempted to take account of the Minister's comments in response to my honourable friend.

The Committee will, I am sure, share my concern that tenants who are, in this sense, customers of the housing services provided, have the greatest stake in the accommodation which they occupy. Almost invariably they are the best people to comment upon how best that accommodation should be managed. They may well be the best people to take the decisions. I seek to ensure that the corporation raises the issue of devolution of decision making to the tenants in the guidance which it produces.

Clearly tenants in different types of accommodation, possibly in different communities, will differ one from another. Fully to take account of tenants' views and make the management of their accommodation not just accountable to them but their own management as far as possible is essential to good housing and good social policy.

In response to my honourable friend, the Minister said that he shared many of the sentiments behind his proposal for democratisation, and that tenants have an important part to play in management. He said that the degree to which they would want to become involved would vary, and that it was not possible to draw up a blueprint. Of course I accept that. I would go further and say that in providing for devolution of decision making it is essential that the body that devolves the decision making should assist in the process. One cannot expect people who are not used to taking certain decisions to move from possibly not even being present to listen to taking the decision without--I hope that this does not sound too paternalistic--having some assistance in ensuring that the process works as well as possible.

Encompassed in these two lines is a great deal of work for the Housing Corporation and the tenants, but it is something which should be on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: We agree, if I heard the noble Baroness aright, with everything that she said. Clause 36 is not exclusive. We do not have to list everything in the clause. She will remember that on the last Housing Bill we had extensive discussions with the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, who wanted to amend and add

11 Jun 1996 : Column 1607

to such lists. I hope that the fact that we propose to accept the amendment will not upset the noble Lord too much.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 128 not moved.]


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