David Burrowes is MP for Enfield Southgate and an Executive Member of the 1922 Committee.
Not everyone knows it, but the Conservative Party has a proud history of fighting for homeless people. Today, I am calling on my colleagues to join me in making sure tackling homelessness stays a priority for our party and for the Government, and later during it will be joining with other MPs and with CEOs in a sleep out at The Kia Oval to raise money for DePaul UK. I will face a relatively comfortable night in a safe and hospitable environment, but please support efforts to ensure no young person faces a frightening and perilous night on the streets. Do visit my fundraising page and help tackle the problem of homelessness for 80,000 young people each year n the UK.
In 1967, Iain Macleod, then Conservative Shadow Chancellor, and MP for my own seat of Enfield, spoke at a candlelit vigil in Hyde Park to raise awareness of homelessness. He said:
“This is an appeal to help those who no longer have any dignity and self-respect; the down and outs. We know that they are dirty and derelict. We do not expect you to admire them because of this. What we do expect is that you will acknowledge that they are fellow human beings, and that they have nothing left to look forward to…. We call upon the talents, ideas and enthusiasm of people from all different prejudices and beliefs in a constructive attempt to tackle this growing urban problem.”
Macleod went on to found the homelessness charity Crisis and fought for the first legislation to protect homeless families.
In 1990, Michael Spicer, then Housing Minister, brought in the Rough Sleepers’ Initiative, a coordinated programme to get people off the streets and into housing, in response to the growing number of people sleeping on the street of London. In The Spicer Diaries, he writes about his pride when the Cabinet voted to spend £96 million on this programme. This work was carried on by Sir George Young, his successor, and by 1993 the numbers of people sleeping rough in London had more than halved.
Boris Johnson made rough sleeping a priority as Mayor of London, and by 2010 had successfully reduced the number of people sleeping on the streets long term from 205 to 45. At around the same time, Grant Shapps, then the Shadow Housing Minister, launched the Conservative Homelessness Foundation, which came up with ideas that he later implemented in government, including reforming the way we count rough sleeping, and introducing Streetlink, a service which lets members of the public request help for someone they see sleeping rough.
But we can and should do more. The numbers of people sleeping on our streets is creeping up once again.
The Prime Minister has committed to leading a ‘One Nation’ government. He said this year:
“Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever your background, whatever stage of life you are at, I believe this government can help you fulfil your aspirations. And let me be clear, when I say whoever you are, I mean it.”
We will only truly be a One Nation government if we focus on helping those who are in the greatest need. The Conservative Manifesto promised to find new, innovative ways to deliver services for homeless people and we must follow through on that.
I hope to see more details announced in the spending review about how we will fund this. Last year’s Autumn Statement made a commitment to expand the good practice from the Troubled Families Programme into individuals with complex needs. I hope that we will choose to join up homelessness services with addiction, mental health and eventually employment support so that we can really help people with the most complex needs to reach their potential and lead fulfilling lives.
Most of all, I hope that we remember our history and make it our mission in the Conservative Party to do everything we can to end homelessness.
David Burrowes MP
Member of Parliament for Enfield Southgate