HC Deb 06 June 1972 vol 838 cc229-31
Q1. Mr. Barnes

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the co-ordination between the Department of Health and Social Security and the Department of the Environment on policy towards single homeless people; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

Yes, Sir. These Departments consult as necessary on all problems relating to homeless single people, and work closely together to align housing and social services policies for this area of need. An example of such co-ordination is the working party on homelessness which will be reporting shortly, among other matters, on the problems of homeless single people in London.

Mr. Barnes

But is not the division of responsibility for housing and responsibility for welfare between the two Departments unsatisfactory in view of the increasingly complicated causes of homelessness among single people in London? Would it not be better if the responsibility were concentrated with the Department of Health and Social Security and if that Department made finance available to the Greater London Council in order to build to meet this need?

The Prime Minister

It would be difficult to put questions of housing under the Department of Health and Social Security, but if there are any difficulties in co-ordination between the two Departments, the working party on homelessness, which I mentioned in my original answer and which will be reporting shortly, will reveal those difficulties. I do not know of any difficulties, from practical experience, but if the hon. Gentleman has cases which he wants to bring to my attention we will consider them with the report.

Mr. Redmond

Does my right hon. Friend agree that when the Housing Finance Bill becomes law it will encourage local authorities to provide more council houses for those in need?

The Prime Minister

That is so, and the Bill also makes provision for local authorities to help hostels of the kind which are required for those people of whom the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Barnes) was thinking.

Mr. John Fraser

As someone who will be a single homeless person himself after the next General Election, will the Prime Minister authorise the Department of the Environment to confirm compulsory purchase orders and to provide the necessary money to local authorities so that they can take into municipal ownership the large blocks of rented accommodation now being disposed of by property companies, which accommodation, if not municipalised, will be lost for ever as rented accommodation for single and other people?

The Prime Minister

Local authorities already have powers of compulsory purchase. The particular difficulties which have arisen in London, in the situation which I think some hon. Gentlemen have in mind, are not of the kind of which the hon. Gentleman has spoken. The particular problem has arisen in London because a local authority has taken a particular hostel for development purposes.

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