HC Deb 19 July 1995 vol 263 cc1651-2
7. Mr. Sutcliffe

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what additional new measures he proposes to take to combat homelessness. [33377]

Mr. Curry

There will be a further rough sleepers initiative in London and we are considering how to apply the experience of the rough sleepers initiative outside London.

Mr. Sutcliffe

Is not it the case that, during the past 16 years of Tory government, homeless households have more than doubled and housing for rent has fallen to its lowest level? There are no real programmes offering homeless people what they really want—permanent homes. Why will not the Government let local authorities build affordable social housing?

Mr. Curry

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is trapped in a time warp. That comment is typical of the whole Labour party, which wants only to build council houses and does not seem to take any interest in any other aspect of housing policy. The Government have shifted the emphasis for construction to the housing associations because we think that they do the job better than local authorities. We have also shifted the emphasis towards getting an increasing number of houses for rent available to people by making sure that we have vacancies for them.

We have encouraged people to move into their own property if they can afford it so as to liberate that property, and we have a campaign to deal with the problems of empty property. We have achieved a much better balance in housing than existed before. Those policies offer to homeless people, specifically through the rough sleepers initiative and through the programmes that will be in the housing White Paper, a far better balance in housing policy across Britain as a whole.

Mr. Anthony Coombs

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the ways in which to tackle homelessness is through a thriving housing market? Given the current difficulties in that market, and especially its low margins, does he sympathise with the significant concern of the housing industry about the draft part M building regulations and about the additional cost brought about in particular by the insistence on ramp accesses for every new house? Those measures will inevitably impose costs on the housing sector and that will be completely against the interests of those who want to own their own homes and, ultimately, act against the interests of the homeless.

Mr. Curry

We are not insisting on that. That is merely one of the options.

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