Co-Operation Between Local Housing Authorities and Housing Action Trusts

Part of Clause 50 – in the House of Commons at 4:30 pm on 14th June 1988.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Education), Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 4:30 pm, 14th June 1988

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I did not know about that. The hon. Gentleman's constituency is not the kind of place that one imagines as the epitome of the housing crisis in Britain. It is a rural constituency, just north of the border. The statistics show that no area in Britain is exempt from the housing crisis.

Despite having been encouraged by several hon. Members to do so, the Minister did not refer in her speech to the press article which picks up the point that was made by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) —that young single people and young married couples are becoming increasingly concerned and frustrated, not surprisingly, about the fact that they cannot obtain local authority housing because the homeless take all that is available. Several young couples come to my advice centre every week and say that they are waiting for housing, but that they are not getting it. They include married couples, certainly those who are planning to be married and those who are engaged. They have no prospect, probably long after they are married, of obtaining accommodation.

The Government now propose, after the proceedings in Standing Committee, that in the next Session of Parliament the legislation relating to homelessness will no longer oblige local authorities to house those who have nowhere else to go. It is reported that the legislation for housing homeless persons that my noble Friend Lord Ross of Newport piloted through the House just over 10 years ago is to be repealed. Homelessness is to be replaced by ruthlessness. A permanent obligation on local authorities is to be replaced by a temporary obligation to take people in for a short period, immediately after they have been thrown out on to the street.

The amendment requires, very simply, that the same percentage of property should remain available for the homeless as was available before the transfer of property. It is not an unreasonable request. If 30, 50 or 60 per cent. of property is being used for housing homeless families in Broxbourne, Bath and central London, it is not unreasonable to ask that that obligation should be retained. Otherwise, that property might be used to accommodate people who can much more easily manage and afford to find their own homes. It is a modest amendment. If the Government reject it, that will be a token of their unwillingness to make even very modest concessions in favour of those who at the moment have nothing and who are asking for but the smallest crumbs.