HC Deb 22 June 1971 vol 819 cc1183-4
25. Mr. O'Halloran

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the estimated number of people in London who are homeless, and sleep in parks, under railway arches, &c.; and what plans he has to provide more hostel accommodation for those people.

Mr. Dean

The last count, attempted in 1965, found 275 men and women sleeping rough in London. This number would now be a considerable underestimate. Reception facilities are being developed and the provision of hostels is under review.

Mr. O'Halloran

I am grateful for that reply, but is the hon. Gentleman aware that during the past 10 years the number of common lodging houses in London has decreased by about 25 per cent. and that the number of people sleeping out is rising every year? Is it not time that he had a social conscience and did something about the situation by providing more hostel accommodation?

Mr. Dean

I fully accept what the hon. Gentleman says. This is one of the reasons why my right hon. Friend's working party on homelessness is now dealing with single homeless persons and why we are doing our utmost to try to ensure that local authorities, the Supplementary Benefits Commission, and voluntary bodies, who carry out such good work in this respect, are encouraged to respond to the greater need which exists.

Mr. Grimond

I thank the Minister for his statement. Is he aware that this is a very serious problem indeed, and that the estimate he has given could be met within several hundred yards of this building? In addition to the ordinary homeless in London, there are a great number of people who come to London to try to find jobs and who not manage to find anywhere to live.

Mr. Dean

I accept that this is a growing problem, and this is the reason that my right hon. Friend's working party is looking at this matter at the moment.