HC Deb 12 November 1980 vol 992 cc463-4
9. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has now completed his review of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977.

Mr. Stanley

The review of the Act and the associated code of guidance is still in progress. We hope to announce our conclusions fairly soon.

Mr. Atkinson

Is my hon. Friend aware that the review has been going on for 20 months? Will he assure the House that he will bring forward amendments to the Act to ensure that those without a local connection will no longer be allowed to overtake those who have had their names on local housing waiting lists, often for many years?

Mr. Stanley

As my hon. Friend is aware, the homeless persons legislation is a difficult and sensitive area. At least one local authority association wished to revise its views after its original submission and I think that it was right that we took into consideration the latest views from the local authority associations. I assure my hon. Friend that the aspect that he raised is within the compass of the review.

Mr. Hattersley

Is the Minister aware that some of us believe that if any changes are needed in this necessary and compassionate Act they should be to strengthen its provisions and not to weaken them? Will he help our future discussions by telling us now, or publishing subsequently, the net effect of the Act on authorities such as, say, Bournemouth and how many houses they have been required to provide that they would not have been required to provide had the Act not existed?

Mr. Stanley

There is fairly extensive publication of statistics about the operation of the homeless persons legislation and I think that the right hon. Gentleman will find that most of the statistics that he wants are available there. If I can give him any further assistance, I shall gladly try to do so.

Mr. Shersby

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Act's obligations on a local authority such as Hillingdon, which has Heathrow airport in its boundaries, result in local people believing that foreigners are jumping the housing waiting list—whatever my hon. Friend or Labour Members may say? Will he take into account that that is bad for community relations and that the only way that the problem can be avoided is if the Act is amended to confine the obligation on local authorities to rehouse those with a local connection in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Stanley

As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson), the question of the local connection is one that we have in mind in considering the review.