§ 16. Mr. Arbuthnot
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many additional lettings over the next two years are expected to be made available for the homeless as a result of his Department's homelessness initiative.
§ Mr. Chris Patten
The Government estimate that around 15,000 additional lettings will be made available as a result of the extra £250 million to be allocated over the next two years to local authorities and housing associations for schemes to assist the homeless.
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
Is my right hon. Friend aware that that is extremely welcome news and that two ways of encouraging a reduction in homelessness are first, to encourage private tenancies rather than discourage them by rent controls and other restrictions and secondly, to encourage housing associations rather than rely or impose too heavily on local authorities? Will he confirm that the Government's policies are achieving precisely that?
§ Mr. Patten
My hon. Friend has certainly set out our objectives clearly. That is why, for example, we are proposing to double the Housing Corporation's programme in the next three years, which will allow it to produce many more homes. That is also why we have 992 encouraged the private-rented sector through legislation and in other ways. I am delighted that the business expansion scheme is providing an additional £350 million for private renting.
§ Mr. Soley
Does the Secretary of State recognise that almost every housing organisation recognises that this panic-striken cash hand-out is nowhere near enough to meet the disgrace of homeless teenage children begging on our streets, possibly for the first time in 80 years? Why does he not do what the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi) urged a previous spokesman on housing to do, namely allow local authorities to use capital receipts from council house sales to build, repair and renovate? Why was it that when that Minister made that recommendation, he suddenly became a junior Minister fin the Northern Ireland Office?
§ Mr. Patten
The hon. Gentleman is the first person to describe the £250 million initiative that we have launched in that way. The figure that we announced a few weeks ago exceeded some of the figures we had been pressed for by housing associations, including one which represents the Labour party. It is insulting to refer to Northern Ireland as the hon. Gentleman did. Moreover, there would not have been any receipts from the right to buy if the Opposition had had anything to do with it.