HC Deb 03 February 1998 vol 305 cc828-9
3. Mr. Heppell

What measures his Department proposes to reduce the numbers sleeping rough in towns and cities outside London. [24889]

The Minister for Local Government and Housing (Ms Hilary Armstrong)

We have announced more than £20 million of funding for rough sleeper strategies in 18 areas outside central London. I can announce today a further £1.5 million of pump-priming funding over the next 12 months. That will support local rough-sleeping strategies in 16 new areas and fund additional hostel staff in five existing areas.

Mr. Heppell

I thank the Minister for that answer. I also thank her for the fact that Nottingham has already had some help with the rough sleepers initiative. I am pleased that the initiative will also be passed on to other areas of the country. I understand that the social exclusion unit is doing some work on the rough sleepers initiative. How does she plan to co-ordinate, through her Department, what happens to rough sleepers?

Ms Armstrong

I am one of the Ministers attached to the social exclusion unit, and rough sleeping is one of the first three issues that it is looking at. We are determined that we will make it much less necessary for people to sleep rough on the streets of Britain, and are determined to do what we can to tackle the causes of homelessness as well.

Mr. Sayeed

I am glad to hear what the Government are doing to reduce the number of people sleeping rough. It is a disgrace that anyone sleeps rough. An average of 3 per cent. of local housing owned by Labour local authorities is unoccupied, and in Islington it is 6 per cent. Why cannot it be used by people who are sleeping rough?

Ms Armstrong

Much attention has been paid by local authorities throughout the country to how to bring unoccupied houses back into occupation. We also have to face the enormous number of properties that the previous Government allowed to be left aside, and that is taking a lot of sorting out. We want to ensure that every single house in this country becomes a home, and that we tackle the things that currently lead to people losing their homes and having nowhere to live. We are determined to tackle that, and hope that we will get the support of Opposition Members in so doing.