First, may I crave your indulgence and that of the House, Mr. Speaker, to digress briefly from the subject of the debate and say how sorry I was that on Monday I had a very important constituency engagement which made it impossible for me to be present to hear the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary's statement on the tragic death of my predecessor, Sir Richard Sharples.
I spoke in my maiden speech of the great respect in which Sir Richard was held by all my constituents. There is now in Sutton and Cheam a feeling of great shock and grief at what has happened in Bermuda. With the full backing of the people in the constituency, I have sent a telegram to Lady Sharples expressing our deep sympathy.
All hon. Members must be fully aware of the problems and heartaches caused by the enormous rise in rents and house prices. In my constituency, which is by no means an exception, particularly in London and the South East, it is becoming impossible for anyone with an income of less than £3,000 a year to buy a home of any kind—even a one-bedroom flat. Young couples are being forced to move further and further away from the area, unless they are in the minority fortunate enough to receive tremendous support from their parents.
The problem is not peculiar to my constituency but is occurring throughout London. Private rented accommodation is becoming scarcer and scarcer and more and more expensive. It is virtually impossible for a young married couple with children to find any accommodation in my area.
The right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short) spoke of the tremendous problem of homelessness. I am only too aware that the problem is far more acute in inner London than outer London. Homelessness is increasing faster now that it has ever done. London is becoming the doss-house of the world. The right hon. Gentleman said that we do not yet have accurate figures or even approximate figures of the present numbers of homeless. Perhaps we should have them.