We noted last week the decision of the Supreme Court to refuse permission to appeal in the case of R (Weaver) v London & Quadrant Housing Trust [2009] EWCA Civ 587.  The case concerned the question as to whether a registered social landlord (“RSL”) was a hybrid public authority for the purposes of section 6(3)(b) of the Human Rights Act 1998.  In a subsequent posting we expressed surprise that the Supreme Court had not granted permission in view of the importance of the point to RSLs.  We suggested that the reason for the refusal was, perhaps, the fact that in relation to the Weaver case itself the point had become academic in view of the judge’s other findings.

It appears that this analysis was correct.  The Nearly Legal blog reports further reasons which have, apparently, been given by the Supreme Court for the refusal of permission. 

These reasons were as follows:

Permission to appeal BE REFUSED. The point is clearly one for the Supreme Court but this is not a suitable case on its facts. If a suitable case can be identified consideration should be given to applying for a leap-frog appeal to the Supreme Court.

Nearly Legal goes on to suggest that this “invites a race to the High Court”.  

We have not been able to verify this report but, if correct, it would tell us that the Supreme Court recognises that this issue remains an important one and has not been definitively settled by the judgments in the Weaver case.

Inside Housing has suggested that the effect of the decisions of the lower courts is that housing associations could see their £53.1 billion debt added to the public balance sheet.  We do not agree – the fact that a housing association is a public authority for the purposes of the Human Rights Act does not mean that it is a public authority for all other purposes.  As the National Housing Federation point out in their interesting briefing issued after the decision to refuse permission to appeal, the decision simply means that the function of providing social housing is “of a public nature”.  The briefing suggests that

The danger in the Weaver ruling is not so much that associations’ actions are likely to be overridden by the courts – it is that associations will be subject to repeated  legal challenges and will be obliged to demonstrate, exhaustively and in detail, the fairness and reasonableness of their actions.