HC Deb 04 December 1973 vol 865 cc1087-9
Q6. Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied with the co-ordination between the Department of the Environment and the Department of Social Services in connection with the plight of homeless people.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. and learned Gentleman to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) on 27th November. —[Vol. 865, c. 112.]

Mr. Janner

Has either Department informed the Prime Minister of the number of families and single people now facing the winter without homes? If he knows the number, will he tell the House? If he does not, will he tell the House why he does not know?

The Prime Minister

I think the hon. and learned Gentleman knows from his experience that it is very difficult to calculate the number of homeless. The Departments have worked together to provide the right guidance for local authorities to treat homelessness as part of their general housing problem. That seems to us to be the right approach.

Dame Irene Ward

May I ask my right hon. Friend, in order to help with this difficult situation, whether he thinks it a good idea to find out from local authorities what are their policies, so that we may be able to judge which local authorities are doing all they can to provide for the homeless and which local authorities are falling down on the job? I should like to know which are the good ones and which are the bad ones.

The Prime Minister

I could no doubt obtain that information for my hon. Friend. The work has already been done because the Departments concerned have worked with the local authorities in a working party and have produced recommendations for dealing with this problem As I said, one of the main recommendation is that provision for the homeless should be part of the housing authority function. At the same time the Government have been helping with financial assistance for hostels to provide homes for single homeless people, and hostel accommodation can be provided either by voluntary organisations or by local authorities.

Mr. John Silkin

Does the Prime Minister recall that under the National Assistance Act 1948 it used to be a duty laid on local authorities to provide for the homeless and that recent legislation has turned that duty into a power? In view of the tremendous increase in the number of homeless people throughout the country, is it not about time that the Prime Minister's right hon Friends looked again at the question?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the change to which the right hon. Gentleman refers from the position of local authorities under the 1948 Act to their position under the 1972 Act. It is the intention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services to make a direction to maintain the local authority's duty to provide temporary accommodation in the circumstances envisaged in the Act.