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Public Bodies

Volume 229: debated on Tuesday 27 July 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many of the public bodies for which he is responsible hold meetings in public; and if he will list them.

The Department of the Environment currently sponsors 29 executive non-departmental public bodies, of which the following regularly hold meetings open to the general public:

  • Housing Action Trusts
  • Housing Corporation
  • Letchworth Garden City Corporation
  • Local Government Commission
  • National Rivers Authority
  • Urban Development Corporations
In addition, the Commons Commission, valuation tribunals and rent assessment panels hold their hearings in public. Other public bodies may hold occasional open meetings or consult the public in other ways as necessary.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if the chairpersons and board members of executive non-departmental public bodies sponsored by his Department are required to declare interests, in a form available for public inspection at his Department or at the main offices of the various bodies;(2) whether the members of

(a) urban development corporations—UDCs— (b) housing action trusts—HATs—and (c) registered housing associations are required to declare interests and to make such interests open to public inspection; what statutory provision is made for public access to information about these bodies; whether they are subject to performance indicators; whether they are required to publish an annual report or to hold meetings in public; what charter provisions apply to their activities; and whether members of registered housing associations are liable to surcharge.

All the executive NDPBs spnsored by my Department, including UDCs and HATs, have in place arrangements for chairmen and other board members to declare any conflicts of interest. It is for the bodies themselves to decide whether and in what form to make information on members' interests available to the public.Section 64 of the Housing Act 1988 requires HATs to issue statements of proposals for consultation, and schedule 8 requires them to publish annual reports. Schedule 31 to the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 requires UDCs to publish annual reports. Neither HATs nor UDCs are required to hold meetings for the general public, but most have chosen to do so.As a matter of policy, all NDPBs are required to develop and use performance indicators and to apply the principles of the citizens charter in their dealings with the public.Registered housing associations, which are not NDPBs, are subject to statutory regulation by the Housing Corporation, which is required to maintain and make available for public inspection a register of such associations. Associations are required to submit regular returns, including information about committee members and their interests. The corporation has a duty to supervise associations and monitor their performance against published criteria, including the tenants guarantee. The concept of surcharge as used in the Local Government Finance Act 1982 applies only to local authorities. I will ask the corporation to write to the hon. Member with further details.