To ask the Prime Minister when he next plans to meet representatives of London's homeless.
I have no plans to do so at present, but my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment regularly meets representatives of the voluntary organisations in London who work with homeless people.
Does the Prime Minister realise that the 25 million sq ft of empty offices in London and still more under construction are an insult to the 2,000 people who sleep on the streets of the capital city every night and to the 18,000 people living in hostels? When will the Government direct the construction industry to build houses for rent for those who need them, rather than speculative office blocks to lie idle for the benefit of property speculators? This is a crucial matter and the right hon. Gentleman stands condemned by those who are forced to sleep on the streets at night.
The hon. Gentleman, standing in a glass house, should be careful where he throws his bricks. Of the top 10 authorities with empty properties, six are Labour controlled and none is Conservative controlled. If the hon. Gentleman were really concerned, he would be putting pressure on Manchester, Salford, Birmingham, Hackney, Knowsley and Newcastle upon Tyne. He might then get homeless people back into accommodation.
Order. I remind the House that this is a closed question.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that homelessness in London is the result of decades of rent control, which Conservative rule got rid of, and of incompetence by high-spending Labour councils?
I agree with my hon. Friend. There is scope for the private rented sector to grow and to provide low-cost flexible accommodation. The hostility of the Labour party over the years has cramped that growth and prevented that property becoming available for people who needed it. We have consistently sought to expand the privately rented sector, most recently with our proposed tax exemptions to help people who want to rent a room to do so. I hope that Opposition Members will support that policy.