Skip to main content

Social Exclusion

Volume 475: debated on Wednesday 7 May 2008

In response to the Cabinet Office report, “Think Family”, the Government recently received 90 bids from local authorities across the country to be part of the £16 million family pathfinder programme. The proposals set out how to take forward social exclusion policy in local areas better to meet the needs of the most vulnerable families. Fifteen successful areas have now been chosen.

I am surprised that the Minister has not received representations from the many thousands of people who are unfortunately trapped on council house waiting lists, and who are therefore excluded from decent housing. In fact, the Labour Government’s achievement in developing council housing post-1945 was perhaps our greatest contribution to public health. The House will welcome the millions and billions that are to be spent on housing, but a great proportion of that money should go directly to local authorities, where it will be well spent helping to reduce the historic waiting lists.

Of course, my hon. Friend has been an ardent campaigner on the issue for many years, and I pay tribute to his campaigning, even if I do not agree with every part of it. He is absolutely right about the need to increase the amount of social housing that is built; that is what we are doing, through local authorities, housing associations and other means, but no doubt his campaign will continue.

Will the Minister ensure that social exclusion policy includes prisoners with literacy problems and those who suffer from dyslexia so that more can be done while they are in prison to help to raise their literacy skills so that they have a better opportunity when they return to society and do not reoffend?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important subject, and I wholeheartedly concur with everything that he said. As part of our public service agreement targets, we have a target to help ex-offenders find a home and a job when they leave prison. He makes an important point, and we will look at it as part of that work.

My hon. Friend asks a pertinent question. I had the pleasure of visiting his constituency recently. I saw the amazing work that is going on in Rhyl, and I pay tribute to all the work that he and members of his local community have done. I look forward to Rhyl and many other seaside towns continuing to regenerate in the years ahead.

Will the right hon. Gentleman, who has ministerial responsibility for social exclusion, take his share of responsibility for the abolition of the 10p rate, given that it has plunged 300,000 more people into poverty and hits those on the poverty line hardest? The Prime Minister has promised to listen, but many Members on both sides of the House think that the trouble is that he has listened too much to the right hon. Gentleman and his gang.

Of course, we all take responsibility for the Government’s tax policy. We take responsibility for the fact that we have taken 600,000 children out of poverty since 1997; we take responsibility for the fact that we have 3 million more jobs in this country; and we take responsibility for the fact that we will continue to show that we are the best party on poverty.