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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 December 2007, 08:51 GMT
Tory MP in homelessness sleep-out
Tory housing spokesman Grant Shapps
Grant Shapps (r) admitted it was a publicity stunt
The Tory housing spokesman spent Christmas Eve sleeping in a London street to highlight homelessness.

MP Grant Shapps tried to sleep in a car park but was moved on after being told it was private property.

He admitted the night was a publicity stunt but called for the government to provide more social housing.

Housing Minister Iain Wright said it would "simply remind everyone of the Tory years when thousands of people slept rough in boxes in doorways".

Homeless children

Mr Shapps, who is MP for Welwyn Hatfield in Hertfordshire, slept in a sleeping bag on a layer of cardboard.

He was accompanied by a constituent who once spent a year living on the streets after being thrown out of home at the age of 14.

Speaking on Christmas Eve, Mr Shapps said: "It's a publicity stunt but if people on Christmas Day are talking about homelessness, which is an all-year-round problem, then it's served its purpose.

People think the housing ladder begins with getting your first mortgage, but it begins with people sleeping on the streets
Grant Shapps
Conservative housing spokesman

"There are 130,000 homeless children this Christmas - it's doubled in a decade and two or three times as many people sleeping rough as the official Government figures recognise. So I think there's a housing crisis out there.

"I spent the day in a homeless hostel speaking to very long-term rough sleepers. You need to look at the transition, from sleeping rough to a hostel and eventually moving into rented accommodation.

"People think the housing ladder begins with getting your first mortgage, but it begins with people sleeping on the streets. The biggest thing required is more social housing units."

Mr Wright dismissed the "publicity stunt" by saying that Labour had met its target to cut the numbers rough sleeping by a third by 2002, as well as investing millions in help such as hostels.

He said: "Rough sleeping and families in temporary accommodation have dropped substantially as a result of Labour policies to undo the damage of the Tory years.

"If Mr Shapps wants to get serious about cutting homelessness further he should stop campaigning against the new homes we need," Mr Wright said.

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