I am absolutely determined to ensure that serving and former serving personnel from the armed forces are treated properly when it comes to housing on their return.
Serving men and women form a disproportionately large part of those who are homeless or rough sleepers. I therefore very much welcome the Government’s notification that they are a priority group under the Firstbuy scheme. However, many of them cannot afford to buy a house at all. Will the Minister now consider whether he can bring pressure to bear on local authorities, so that serving men and women are also designated as a priority for local authority housing?
I do not just want to remove the housing disadvantage for those who have served in the military; I want to put them at a positive advantage. That is why we have announced today that they will receive that priority in the Firstbuy scheme. I can also tell my hon. Friend that they will be a priority in the social housing allocation list. Also, if I may correct one point, the new figures for rough sleepers out today from CHAIN—the Combined Homeless and Information Network—show that just 2% of those who have served previously in the military are on the streets.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his answer. Will he join me in congratulating Tamworth borough council on the steps that it proposes to take in prioritising service people on its housing list? Professional organisations such as the Residential Landlords Association have also been encouraging their members to support service people with housing needs. Does that not demonstrate that the private sector can work with the public sector to deliver the housing element of our armed forces covenant?
I have no hesitation in congratulating Tamworth on its approach to the armed forces, or the Residential Landlords Association, which has done much to push this issue. I congratulate them, and I will go further when we draw up the social housing regulations after the Localism Bill has passed.