HC Deb 19 January 1976 vol 903 cc897-8
1. Mr. Wigley

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will set up a committee of inquiry into the degree of cooperation between county and district authorities in Wales on homelessness.

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Alec Jones)

No, Sir.

Mr. Wigley

Is the Minister aware of the considerable suffering that exists in those areas where there is no co-ordination between the county social services function and the local district council housing function? Is he aware of the situation in the Arfon Borough Council area, for instance, where many homeless people are suffering as a result of this? Is he aware that, in line with Circular 34/74 of the Welsh Office, particularly paragraphs 18 and 26, a responsibility falls on the Secretary of State for Wales in this matter? Will he not reconsider his reply?

Mr. Alec Jones

We are certainly aware of the need to secure the fullest co-operation between the housing authorities and social service authorities in provision for the homeless That is why the circular went out indicating that, in our view, responsibility for homelessness should be taken over by housing authorities. Three-quarters of the local authorities in Wales have agreed that responsibility for homelessness shall be the joint responsibility of both authorities, but—and this is the important point—we have clearly indicated our intention to legislate to place the statutory duty for homelessness on housing authorities.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

What is the total figure for the number of homeless in Wales? Is it on the increase? If so, will the Minister explain why?

Mr. Alec Jones

I am not in a position to give the hon. Gentleman the exact figure for homelessness in Wales. I shall write to him giving him information that is as nearly exact as possible, but he will appreciate that the numbers change so considerably that any figure that I gave him today might be completely out of date in a fortnight's time.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Is not this yet another argument for a more simplified structure of local government, bearing in mind that the last reorganisation, carried out by the Conservative Government, has proved very costly and has taken local government further away from the people? Is it not time that this matter was reconsidered?

Mr. Alec Jones

As one of those who spent a considerable time in the House in opposing the previous Conservative Government's local government re-organisation, I have much sympathy with my hon. Friend. As for specific responsibility for homelessness, however, I believe that this can best be done through the co-operation that will be necessary between social services and housing authorities. Whoever is given the statutory responsibility, that co-operation will be absolutely essential if this problem is to be tackled.

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