Under Everyone In, the Government took 37,000 people off the streets. At the time, the rough sleeping accounts were of the order of 8,500. That demonstrates the problem of data on people who are sleeping rough and on people who have been assisted. We also know that 300,000 people across the country are sofa surfing at any one time; they are tomorrow’s rough sleepers.
At the same time, debts for private rents are increasing. The Government are slowly but surely allowing the courts to decide that evictions can take place, which will mean that more people will become homeless and will potentially be on the streets. Action is required. My solution is to build between 90,000 and 100,000 new social homes every year that people can actually afford to live in, as opposed to overpriced accommodation that they cannot. That is one of the things that has to take place.
The challenge before the Government—the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities have agreed; everyone seems to agree—is to abolish the Vagrancy Act 1824. There is an opportunity to do precisely that in the House of Lords. The Government need to accept the amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill—if I have got that in the right order—proposed by my good friend Lord Best, which would remove that Act from the statute book. I hope that we will see action on that.
I will turn to the important all-party parliamentary groups that I am involved in. I had the opportunity to visit Azerbaijan during the short November recess. I met the President and my MP counterparts in Baku. I also visited the newly liberated lands, and joined the celebrations of the Azerbaijani people on their recovering Karabakh from Armenia. I look forward to the redevelopment of that region enabling everyone, across the piece, to live in peace and harmony. It is British company Chapman Taylor that is involved in the restoration of Susha, one of the biggest centres, which was destroyed by the Armenians during their occupation. I had the pleasure this week of joining the ambassador of Azerbaijan when he presented his credentials, virtually, to Her Majesty the Queen.
There is a whole host of other matters that I would like to raise in this debate, but I know that time is pressing and that many other Members wish to participate. I end by wishing you, Madam Deputy Speaker, all the speakers, all the staff and all the people who keep us safe a very happy Christmas, and, above all else, a happy, peaceful, prosperous and healthy new year.