HC Deb 24 May 1995 vol 260 cc900-1
19. Mr. Welsh

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his latest estimate of the level of homelessness in (a) Scotland and (b) Tayside; and if he will make a statement. [24243]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

In 1992–93, the latest year for which complete figures for Tayside are available, 29,000 households in Scotland and 1,643 households in Tayside were found to be homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Mr. Welsh

Does the Minister accept that current levels of homelessness are unacceptable in any civilised society? Will he admit that housing associations alone cannot cope, and will he explain why he is starving local authorities of the resources required to solve that problem?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I am not. This year, some £900 million will be invested in housing. It is one of the top priorities for all district authorities in Scotland, which have strategic responsibility. We have given a considerable amount of grant to voluntary organisations, concentrating on prevention rather than cure, and have allocated £29 million for special schemes to assist with homelessness. In addition, we recently issued a consultation paper on a subject in which the hon. Gentleman is interested—anti-social tenants. He is welcome to make observations during the consultation period.

Dr. Reid

Is it not true that, under the present Government, both public and private sector housing starts have been crucified? When will the Minister stop the policy of taking away with one hand what he allows with the other to local authorities for public expenditure on housing? Is it not an indictment of the Government's economic policy and their crucifying of the building industry and of their lack of moral imperatives in the way in which they treat the homeless? If he had attended to both economic policy and moral imperatives, would not the Minister and his party stand a chance—just a chance—of avoiding the humiliation that confronts them at the Perth and Kinross by-election?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman forgets that the most recent Labour Government cut capital expenditure on housing to the bone. As I mentioned, about £900 million will be provided this year in housing investment. We anticipate that, some time during the year, the 300,000th house will be built since 1979, which is a considerable achievement, much of it by the private sector but some by the public sector.

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