The housing strategy outlines a range of initiatives designed to get the house building sector moving again and to provide opportunities for everyone. In particular, our NewBuy and Firstbuy initiatives are helping young people into home ownership and we are supporting that with institutional investment in the private rented sector.
Is the Minister sure that that will help 18 to 25-year-olds? There is a crisis out there of young people with nowhere to live. The issue is not just about housing benefit; I believe that all benefit should be linked to education and employment. But the fact is that there is a crisis and there does not seem to be much imagination on the Minister’s part.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to point out that the crisis is very real and we believe that it has been brewing over a long period. By the way, it is about a lot more than simply housing; if we look at the lives of people in chaos, we always find educational problems and family breakdown, and often financial crises are involved. A lot of work is going on across the Government, including the ministerial working group, which brings together eight different Departments. Our next report, which the hon. Gentleman can look forward to, will be published before the summer and will tackle that exact issue.
Under Labour, homelessness fell by 70%. Under this Government, 1 million people are out of work; house building is falling; homelessness is rising rapidly; and now there is the proposal to punish young people who leave home to find a job or get an apprenticeship by making them lose their housing benefit and therefore the roof over their head. The measure was described as “absurd” by the YMCA because it will drive up homelessness and close the facilities that support those people.
The Minister for Housing and Local Government has said that homelessness is what brought him into politics. Is it not becoming increasingly clear that his legacy will be rapidly rising homelessness and should he not concentrate not on making a bad situation worse, but on building homes, creating jobs and driving down homelessness?
From the great passion with which the hon. Gentleman speaks, one would imagine that he had a long-term interest in this issue; in fact, he is the eighth Labour shadow Housing Minister whom I have faced. During the time the Opposition have been in place, guess how many Opposition day debates there have been in the Chamber about this important subject? Zero, none—there has not been a single such Opposition day debate. That is because the hon. Gentleman has a very loose relationship with statistics himself. Homelessness is lower than it was in 28 of the last 30 years—and it is less than half the level it was in the 13 years of his Government.