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Mr. Hendry: Does my hon. Friend share my disappointment at our not having the result of the ministerial review of the RSU before we conclude our discussions on the Bill? Is it not likely that the report is already sitting on Ministers' desks, given that the Minister has said that it will be published in the autumn, which does not leave all that many days or weeks? Would not it have been rather more helpful for our deliberations on the Bill if we had been able to read and take account of it in advance?
Mr. Clifton-Brown: Yes. I am going to be quite critical here. It is somewhat typical of this Government to ignore the democratic voice of Parliament and announce a policy some little while after we have had a debate here. It would have been helpful, even if she had not finally made up her mind, if the Minister had at least given us some parameters of her thinking. If she had said, "I'm fairly certain that the rough sleepers unit is going to continue", we would all have understood where the Government were coming from, and if she had said, "We're looking closely at whether it should be devolved to local authorities" or regional assemblies, or the Mayoror whateverwe would have had some sympathy with that, but to respond to a serious proposal from the Opposition without giving us any pointers as to where the consultation is leading is somewhat unhelpful.
If the Minister would like to intervene and give us some pointers, I would be only too delighted to give way. The fact that she does not want to intervene tells me that she does not want to give us any information. That is why we have to be critical.
I took on board very carefully the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Tewkesbury. It is always interesting to find out something new about one's colleagues. I was especially interested to hear that he had run a hostel. This House benefits greatly from such specialist experience and knowledge gained outside. I noted in particular his comments about young people who are homeless as a result of violent or sexual abuse in the home. That is very important. Again, as with so many aspects of the problem of rough sleeping, it is the local authority that has the resources and the contacts to deal with the problems.
I assume that today's announcement is what was trailed in the Green Paper, "The Way Forward for Housing", as long ago as December 2000. I see the Minister nodding. If that is not what was trailed in the document and more such regulations are to be introduced, perhaps she could intervene now and make that clear.
It is helpful that we have been told that people with an institutionalised background will be considered under the order, especially on the grounds of vulnerability, as will other groups named in the order. However, the Minister's inability to answer my question about how vulnerability will be determined is not helpful. That seems a key part of the order, and if the Minister cannot tell us how it will operate, that makes things difficult.
If the Government have not yet decided what will happen, may I suggest that a partnership approach should be taken? As I said in my intervention on the Minister, the prison authorities would have to be involved, because they would know about the detailed behaviour of the prisoner while he was in prison. The probation officer is also likely to be involved, because that person will have supervised the prisoner's early release. The local authority should be involved, too, because it is likely to have to give advice and provide temporary housing if the prisoner asks for it.
Ms Keeble: The hon. Member for Cotswold was a party to the previous discussions. In conjunction with the Bill, an order to extend the categories of homeless households is being introduced and is being consulted on now. That is not a new announcement; the order was discussed repeatedly while we were debating the Bill. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will bear that in mind.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: That is indeed helpful, but, as I say, we would like to know a little more detail about how the order will operate. I do not wish to be churlish: the Minister has been helpful, my hon. Friend's amendment has been worth while, and I hope that the debate will reassure him and his local authority.
I do not pretend that the wording of new clause 3 is perfect. As I understand it, its import would be to ensure that people with a local connection or background should not always be bypassed in the queue by other groups that
We have not had any of the answers that we want about the rough sleepers unit, which will be the subject of a debate on another occasion, but we have probed the Government as far and as hard as we can today, and we have had some useful debates and answers on new clauses 2 and 3. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
' After section 202 of the 1996 Act (right to request review of decision) there is inserted