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Homeless Persons

Volume 885: debated on Monday 27 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the present number of homeless people in Wales.

On 30th September 1974, the latest date for which figures are available, there were 1,146 persons in Wales who were in temporary accommodation. I have no reliable estimates of others who may be homeless.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that there are a number of married couples who have been on the council house waiting list for up to five years? Can he hold out any ray of hope that they will be housed within the next five years?

I can offer more than a ray of hope. Approvals for local authority house building in 1974 were the highest since 1967.

Does my hon. Friend accept that the figures he has given, encouraging though they are, reflect only a small part of the problem, since they deal only with those who have been on the council waiting list? There are others who are sharing with relatives and living in grossly overcrowded conditions.

Yes, that is the position. We have a great deal of concealed homelessness in Wales, with young couples living in their parents' front rooms, and so on. We must break this backlog of need which we inherited. The local authority building programme will, I hope, reflect that need.

Is the Minister satisfied with the liaison between local authority social service departments and the housing departments of district councils, in view of the transfer of responsibility to the housing departments in the recent circular on homelessness?

There is a general problem in the relationship between the social service departments at county council level and the local housing authorities which are increasing their responsibility for homelessness. We are conducting a wide-ranging review of the whole process and hope to issue a consultation document in the not-too-distant future.

What advice has my hon. Friend given to housing authorities to ensure that the housing list is fair, and is manifestly seen to be fair?

The allocation of local authority houses is the responsibility of the local authority. There has been a great deal of advice from central Government. I recall the Cullingworth Report, which some years ago looked into the allocation of local authority houses. This matter remains the responsibility of the local community and the local authority.

What is the total requirement for new houses in Wales and what steps is the Minister taking to meet the need indicated by that figure?

The hon. Member has a cheek to ask such a question at the Dispatch Box—suggesting that somehow the Government are letting the side down. We inherited a potential list of 50,000 people wanting local authority housing. That is the net figure and does not take account of concealed needs that we do not know about. I have urged every housing authority to prepare medium-term plans for housing over the next three-to-five years to set a programme that we shall certainly endorse.