HC Deb 27 January 1977 vol 924 cc1696-7
Q2. Mr. Peter Bottomley

asked the Prime Minister if he will now appoint a Minister with particular responsibility for poverty and homelessness.

The Prime Minister

The questions of poverty and homelessness are clearly related and I have accordingly considered the hon. Member's proposal. I reach the conclusion that the appointment of a single Minister would cut across the functions of other Ministers and would not improve matters.

Mr. Bottomley

I thank the Prime Minister for that reply. May I continue to tempt him away from the divisiveness and confrontation which he has seen earlier and ask whether he will support the move in this House to set up a Select Committee to examine housing problems and the link between social security and the tax system and the incomes policy so that, as far as possible, a bi-partisan approach can be brought forward, which would be more successful than the policy we have seen in the medium and long-term past?

The Prime Minister

I shall certainly look into that series of propositions. I know that the Chancellor is considering one of the propositions to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

There is one other development that I commend to the House, having looked into the question. I hope that the Bill that the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) will shortly be producing will receive serious consideration by the House. As I have not studied the Bill, I cannot say whether it should be totally supported. It is an attempt to deal with homelessness, and the Government would like to see the Bill proceed.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some Labour Members are getting anxious about the non-publication of the report on housing finance? Will he have a word with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to see whether it can be published rapidly?

The Prime Minister

The matter is being considered in the Cabinet at the moment. I shall certainly have a word with my right hon. Friend to see how quickly the report can be published.

Mr. Hannam

Does the Prime Minister agree that the one way not to cure homelessness is to destroy the construction industry? Is he aware that his policies are resulting in unemployment in the construction industry in the South-West in excess of 30 per cent.? What action will he take to avoid destruction of the industry and to create homes for people in that region?

The Prime Minister

The construction industry should undoubtedly be doing more than it is at present. I have been looking into the numbers of housing starts. For the year 1976 it looks as though they will be the highest since 1969 in the public sector. Private starts—I have only the figures up to the end of November—will almost certainly be higher than in 1974 and 1975. This morning I was glad to see references to the effect that private starts look as though they, too, are about to move upwards.

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