Local Housing Allowance and Homelessness — [Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:16 am on 24th July 2019.

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Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Digital Economy) 10:16 am, 24th July 2019

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are hiding behind definitions of “affordable housing” that are frankly meaningless in the real world. What we need to be doing is building houses for social rent—what used to be called council houses. Let us again build council houses that communities can be proud of.

This systems failure is now killing people, as should be obvious to all of us in this House. I pay tribute to the incredible coalition of kindness in my city that is trying to turn the tide, particularly Councillor Sharon Thompson, who knows a thing or two about homelessness, Jean Templeton, who is chairing the Mayor’s task force, and the 14 or 15 different outreach groups that make sure that the homeless people in our city are not actually starving on the streets. However, what those people need is a Government who are on their side, and are prepared to make sure that the Mayor does not spend £1 million on secret consultants, but puts that money into ensuring that there are more emergency shelter places than there are rough sleepers.

We need a hard duty on all public services to act together and collaborate to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place. We need a region-wide private landlord licensing scheme. We need to expand accommodation in refuges. We need a universal offer on all public services for vulnerable people. We need to double the pace of council house building. We need to end the Vagrancy Act 1824 and re-introduce housing benefit for the under-25s. We need to end the lunacy of the “no recourse to public funds” rule, and we need an urgent review of the exempt accommodation rules.

George Dawson, the founder of the civic gospel in our city—the precursor of municipal socialism—once asked his congregation,

“Are you prepared to vindicate the enormous wealth of some men, side by side with the extreme poverty?”

I am not prepared to live in a city where we have cranes in the sky, but homeless people dying in the doorways. We need an emergency response to this moral emergency, and I hope the Minister will drive it through with today’s new Prime Minister.