I shall make a short contribution to the debate, especially in respect of the work that I do on behalf of the Greater Manchester fire and civil defence authority.
There is a link between homelessness and houses in multiple occupation. In most urban areas where local authorities cannot provide hostel or other accommodation for the homeless, many young people and families end up in bed-and-breakfast accommodation or, worse, in houses of multiple occupation. The stress and pressure placed on the housing market mean that, almost daily, horrendous fires cause serious and sometimes fatal accidents. In some cases, entire families have been incinerated. That has happened because of the housing crisis and because of short-term measures taken to place families in houses of multiple occupation. Those premises are totally unsuitable and unacceptable, and the inability of local authorities to police housing arrangements has led to major fires.
Within the past two months, a homeless family placed in such a unit in Blackpool was destroyed completely. Days later, it was followed by another fire in the midlands. The Government recognise that it is a major problem. The Department of the Environment has received a survey showing that the crisis is deepening and that it is claiming many lives.
Recently the Department of the Environment conducted a postal survey, to which 96 per cent. of local authorities responded. It asked for information about the condition and location of houses in multiple occupation. It found that 40 per cent. of properties had inadequate means of escape from a fire and that 38 per cent. of properties required additional means of escape from fire. Thirty three per cent. of properties required major repairs and 28 per cent. required additional amenities and facilities for the families placed in them. In all, 162,862 properties were found to be physically unsatisfactory.