Homelessness

Oral Answers to Questions — Deputy Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 1st November 2006.

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Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Conservative, The Wrekin 11:30 am, 1st November 2006

What steps he has taken to improve co-ordination of the Government's homelessness strategy.

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The House will recall our inheritance in 1997, against which we should measure our improvements. Under the Conservative Government, homelessness doubled, housing finance halved, 500,000 homes were repossessed, there were record levels of rough sleeping and 1.2 million homes were in negative equity. Our improvements must be measured against that. The Government's record, which was implemented by the homelessness directorate that was set up in 1999, is: reducing rough sleeping by 73 per cent.; bringing to an end the long-term use of bed and breakfast accommodation for families with children; reducing new homeless cases to the lowest number for more than 20 years, and doubling housing investment. In March 2005, I set out our strategy for building on those achievements in "Sustainable Communities: Settled Homes; Changing Lives".

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Conservative, The Wrekin

Does the Deputy Prime know that Salvation Army research shows that there will be 100,000 rough sleepers on the streets of Britain tonight, too many of whom formerly served in Her Majesty's armed forces and too many spent time in care? Will he consider spending more time on the streets of rural England and this country generally rather than touring the streets of far east Asia? Perhaps there would then be fewer homeless people on the streets of this country.

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

That is the sort of silly question I expect from the hon. Gentleman. The House can make its judgment but let me pray in aid our record, including the fact that

"the homelessness directorate's target setting, supported by financial support and advice to local authorities, has helped to bring about significant alleviation of the worst consequences of homelessness"— not my views, but those of the Tory Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, who is hardly a friend of the Government's.

j

In Telford and Wrekin, we had at one point, the council giving more money to a Company it is going to set up than it was to homelessness.

The Councils private enterprise received £1.3 million and the homeless were given approx £300,000.

A big difference and wrongly prioritised.

Yet this is given the thumbs up by the government.

Submitted by john franklyn Read 2 more annotations

Photo of Ronnie Campbell Ronnie Campbell Labour, Blyth Valley

Does not my right hon. Friend accept that we should build council houses for homeless people who cannot afford even affordable housing?

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Shadow Minister (Transport)

Does the Deputy Prime Minister accept that this morning's statistics on mortgage lending show that the affordability of housing for ordinary families is at its all-time most difficult?

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I do not accept that. I acknowledge that there are difficulties, and that is one of the reasons I provided that the building industry could establish the £60,000 house, giving people a chance to get a foot on the buying ladder. The previous Administration halved the amount of housing investment, and record numbers of people were homeless and sleeping on the streets during their time in office. We have changed that in a remarkable way and we shall continue to build on that.

M

What planet is this person living on? When is it right that a person earning 30,000 a year cannot afford to buy a house in the town they live in? Housing is far too expensive, simple as that. For me to afford to buy a 3 bedroom house I would have to earn over 50,000 a year. That is simply unacceptable.

Submitted by Mark Bestford Continue reading (and 2 more annotations)

Photo of Andrew Love Andrew Love Labour, Edmonton

The most important part of the homelessness strategy is an increase in the supply of affordable rented accommodation. What reassurance can my right hon. Friend give the House today that the welcome increases of recent years will be sustained in future?

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

As we spelled out in the papers that we produced for the House, we intend to continue with those programmes. When my hon. Friend examines the expenditure in the comprehensive spending review and public expenditure statements, he will realise that we intend to provide the resources to achieve those objectives.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Secretary of State (Justice), Shadow Secretary of State

The Government's policy on finding homes for key workers is clearly failing, and 90,000 public sector homes are still lying empty. What are the Government going to do to help these vital workers to find somewhere to live? Given that we have this huge problem, why is Lord Falconer—who has a mere five homes already—receiving a grace and favour flat? Is it not time for the Government to help the key workers to find homes, rather than helping themselves to homes?

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

More homes are being provided for key workers than under the previous Conservative Administration. I have already read out the record of that Administration—for which the hon. Gentleman has a responsibility—under whom the amount of housing investment was halved, more people were living in houses with negative equity, and many people were made homeless. We are quite proud of our record on housing, and we are improving on it.