HC Deb 11 February 1998 vol 306 cc365-6
Q3. Mr. Corbyn

What meetings he has held with representatives of housing groups in London; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

I have not held meetings since the election specifically with representatives of housing groups in London. We are engaged in a programme that will help much of housing in London, particularly by the release of capital receipts.

Mr. Corbyn

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are 28,000 London families living in temporary accommodation and that 30 per cent. of housing benefit expenditure in London goes on supporting expensive private rented accommodation? Particularly for inner-London boroughs, the release of capital receipts is eaten up entirely by the enormous backlog of important capital repairs. No new building or purchasing is taking place. If we are to conquer the scourge of homelessness in London, central Government must be prepared to release money to build and buy homes so that people—including children growing up in bed-and-breakfast accommodation—have a decent home or flat to live in.

The Prime Minister

Of course I share those objectives. It is true that, particularly in London, though not always elsewhere, the release of capital receipts is primarily being used to refurbish existing properties. That plays a part in allowing us to reduce homelessness in London, because the properties that are properly refurbished can then be used for homeless people. As we are able to release further sums, we will help councils in London and elsewhere to provide new homes for people.

Under the first tranche of money, I think that I am right in saying that 4,000 new homes will be built across the country. That is an improvement on the previous position.

In relation to homelessness—particularly among young people—one reason why we want to put the new deal through is to ensure that some of those young people are given help in getting housing and the chance to gain a skill or an apprenticeship that allows them to earn money and provide for themselves. The Government are introducing a range of measures to tackle those problems.

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