HC Deb 07 December 1994 vol 251 cc297-8
4. Mr. Welsh

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what further measures he is taking to tackle the issue of homelessness in Scotland; and if he will make a statement.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Local housing authorities are well resourced to tackle homelessness. It is one of the four key priorities that we have set them for the use of their housing capital allocations, which total £552 million in the current year. In addition, the supplementary capital allocations, which I announced on 13 October, included £2.6 million for about 15 new homelessness projects.

Mr. Welsh

As more than a quarter of Scottish households are affected by dampness, condensation or mould and a record 43,000 households were registered as homeless last year, why are the Government cutting the housing finance budget by 20 per cent. in real terms over the next three years? The Conservative party says that it cares for the family. Is this not a betrayal of families in the most dire need?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

No, more than £2.8 billion will be made available for housing over the next three years—at least £900 million a year. Scottish Homes has a target to provide 2,500 housing units for the homeless in 1994–95 and some 8,000 new and improved houses, which will assist with the problem of dampness. The capital allocations of housing authorities total £552 million. Homelessness and dampness are two of the four key national priorities that local authorities are taking very seriously.

Mr. Galloway

Last Friday evening, with about 200 others, I slept outside on the ground in St. Aloysius college in my constituency to raise funds for the Simon Community to help the homeless in Glasgow. I have been ill ever since. Has the Minister any idea how long a night sleeping outside on the ground really is, how cold it is, how damp it is and how miserable it is? What message does he have, from the vastness of his many-roomed mansions, for the thousands of Scottish families who do not have a home this Christmas?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

It is top priority for all authorities in Scotland that nobody should be without a roof. Of course, there is a very great distinction between rooflessness and homelessness. The hon. Gentleman asked if I had slept out. I have done so with the Cameronians in the Army, and when it is pouring with rain it is a thoroughly disagreeable experience. Homeless persons officers—such as those at the Hamish Allen centre in the hon. Gentleman's district council—provide an extremely useful, valuable service in assisting applicants with problems in finding accommodation.

Mr. McAllion

Will the Scottish housing Minister explain why, when he faces a worsening housing crisis, with record levels of homelessness, he has remained silent and inactive while the Scottish housing budget has been slashed and plundered to pay for future tax cuts to save the Tories' electoral skins? Is he not ashamed that the most common sight on the streets of Scotland this Christmas will not be red-suited Santas, but young people, desperate, with no roof over their Heads, selling the Big Issue? Does he not understand that a party that describes as fair a settlement that leaves tens of thousands of Scots homeless deserves to be rated a contemptible 12 per cent. in this morning's opinion poll in Scotland? The Conservative party is not fit to govern, and it is seen by Scots as not fit to govern.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Local authorities have strategic responsibility for dealing with homelessness. As well as their mainstream allocation, we have provided £29 million in special allocations for more than 200 special homelessness projects in Scotland, which have been of assistance. As for funding, I have mentioned that £2.8 billion will be available over the next three years. Of course, we expect local authorities to give top priority to dealing with that pressing issue in their plans and in their workings every day.