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Housing (Homeless Persons) Bill

Volume 934: debated on Wednesday 29 June 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many local authorities have expressed reservations about the effect, in their area, of the implementation of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Bill; and if he has received any representations from the New Forest District Council.


asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many representations he has received from local authorities concerning the additional resources which they will need in order to implement the proposals of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Bill; and what reply he has made to those representations.

Up to 24th June, written representations had been made to the Department by 48 local authorities in England, including the New Forest District Council. Of these authorities, 40 mentioned resources. We have explained that we are satisfied that the Bill will not require any net overall increase in public expenditure. We accept that the effects in particular districts will varry but believe that any increases in individual areas will be very limited in scale.

Is the Minister aware that the view that the Bill will not increase public expenditure is considered by most local authorities and many councils to be pie in the sky? Is he aware that the Bill as drafted, except for the insertion into it of amendments moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi), is believed by many councils, including the New Forest Council, to place an intolerable burden on housing lists? Surely the criterion should be to help those who need help and not merely those who would like it.

Homelessness is the most acute form of deprivation. That is why we are supporting the Bill. I am aware of the representations from district councils. A total of 66 per cent. of housing authorities have adopted Circular 18/74 and authorities in areas where homelessness is most prevalent are carrying out their duties now.

I welcome some of the amendments that were moved by the Opposition and the constructive attitude taken by the Opposition spokesman, but does the Minister agree that there have been other amendments from other parts of the House?

We are bringing into legislative effect Circular 18/74, which has been the subject of continuing discussion with local authorities.

May we have an assurance that the Minister will consider carefully all the arguments that are made, because there are real difficulties in some local authorities, which are liable to be swamped by this legislation?

We have had a continuing dialogue with local authorities. Even if we accept the figures supplied by the Association of District Councils, the Bill will not place upon local authorities anything like the intolerable burden that has been suggested.