HC Deb 18 May 1994 vol 243 cc796-7
4. Ms Coffey

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he intends to bring forward proposals to change the current homelessness legislation.

Sir George Young

I hope to announce the Government's conclusions before the summer recess.

Ms Coffey

Will the Minister confirm that, of the 9,500 responses to his Green Paper, an overwhelming number criticised the Government's proposal to remove the homelessness safety net? Will he listen to the advice that has been given to him by housing and care professionals and withdraw his proposals?

Sir George Young

The hon. Lady will know that the consultation document contained not one but a range of proposals and that some of those proposals—for example, putting more emphasis on prevention and making better use of the private rented sector—commanded support. The Government will of course reflect on the weight of the representations. When we announce our decisions, I hope before the summer recess, I trust that some of the more alarmist propaganda that has been flying around will be put to rest.

Mr. Burns

Will my right hon. Friend go some way towards dispelling some of the alarmist comments that have been made? Does he accept that the consultation paper keeps a safety net for the most vulnerable members of society and that it prevents queue-jumping, which causes so much misery to those who are pushed down the list because of queue-jumpers?

Sir George Young

As I said in the debate on 26 January, there is no question of vulnerable people, including families with children, not having a home or not having any suitable accommodation. I agree with what my hon. Friend said at the end of his question. It is right to have a fair approach to the allocation of rented housing and to allocate on the basis of need, not on the basis of whether, at some time in the past, people acquired the label of being statutorily homeless.

Mr. Battle

Given the number of adverse responses and the tone that the Minister has now adopted on the Government's consultation paper on access to housing, will he confirm that he believes that a better way to approach the matter is to consider the code of guidance given to local authorities about allocation, rather than to change the laws by repealing good homelessness legislation, which ensures that the homeless have a statutory right to a secure home?

Sir George Young

No, it would be wrong at this stage to rule out primary legislation. Some of the proposals in the Green Paper need primary legislation and at this stage I am not disposed to rule that out.

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