I am glad to hear that there has been progress on this issue. Does my hon. Friend agree that success in this matter involves co-operation with other Departments, especially the Department of Social Security, and with local authorities and voluntary organisations? Does he further agree that individuals have different reasons for homelessness? In some cases, it may be because of the breakdown in caring community facilities. Would he question the right of people publicly to sleep in the streets and publicly to beg?
I agree with my hon. Friend that there are many reasons for people being homeless. I am extremely happy to praise the good work of the voluntary organisations in this matter. We depend heavily on them and co-operate successfully with them. It is thanks to their efforts and the partnership which we have created that the figures have come down so dramatically. We wish 10 make sure that we settle and deal with this problem effectively wherever it occurs.
Perhaps the Minister will explain where homeless people are to sleep if it is not on the streets. They do not have anywhere to live. Does he recall a report by the Duke of Edinburgh's committee a few years ago, which was supported by the churches and various other experts on housing, that a loss of 2 million rented sector houses, which are not being replaced, was a primary cause of homelessness and housing queues? Why does he think that he has got it right and both God and the royal family have got it wrong?
Clearly, I was not the Minister at that time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] My memory is certainly good enough to recall that. If the hon. Gentleman is referring to the right to buy, he is referring to people who had secure tenancies and were therefore occupying houses which they would have occupied as rented tenants in any case. That means people have not taken houses that would otherwise be available; they are living in the same houses under a different form of tenure.