Ministers face Tory revolt over plans to criminalise rough sleeping

On Monday, Kevin Hollinrake, a business minister, refused to say whether he supported the plans…reports Asian Lite News

Ministers are facing a revolt from their own MPs over plans to criminalise homelessness in upcoming legislation.

Under proposals that form part of the UK government’s flagship crime bill, police in England and Wales are to be given powers to fine or move on rough sleepers deemed to be causing a “nuisance”.

The move has infuriated many Conservative MPs, about 40 of whom have warned whips they will vote against the measures, the Times reported.

Bob Blackman, the Tory MP who is coordinating the rebellion, told the paper: “A lot of colleagues believe that the bill as it stands is completely unacceptable because it would have the effect of criminalising people who have no choice but to sleep on the streets. We are urging ministers to think again.”

On Monday, Kevin Hollinrake, a business minister, refused to say whether he supported the plans.

“I believe that those things are not within my auspices,” he told Times Radio. “I’ll be interested to see the legislation as it goes through. And what the prime minister has planned.”

The proposals form part of the criminal justice bill, which is going through the House of Commons and is due to become law before the general election.

They were announced by the former home secretary Suella Braverman and would give police and local authorities powers to act against “nuisance rough sleeping” in England and Wales. Rough sleepers could be moved on, fined up to £2,500 or imprisoned.

Senior Tory MPs on the left and right of the party, including the former leader Iain Duncan Smith and the One Nation caucus chair, Damian Green, have signed amendments to the legislation to remove the plans to criminalise rough sleeping.

Critics say the legislation is so broadly drawn that someone could be considered a nuisance for sleeping in a doorway, being deemed to have an excessive smell or looking as though they intend to sleep rough.

Hollinrake insisted the proposals were only one part of a wider government strategy to get people off the streets. “That’s just part of the things we’re looking to do in terms of making sure that people don’t sleep on the streets and that’s not right, we want to provide the resources for people, housing, improving the number of refuges people can sleep in, and the amount of social housing and affordable housing, which we’ve done,” he said.

“I think [there are] about 700,000 more affordable homes than there were in 2010, so significant progress we have made in terms of these kinds of issues. But nevertheless, there’s a lot to do and it’s important we’ve created ways to try and deal with those issues.”

Polly Neate, the chief executive of the homelessness charity Shelter, said on X the plans were “cruel and nonsensical” and sought “to punish people for ending up on the streets”.

Matt Downie, the chief executive of Crisis, another homelessness charity, said: “It is a cruel and counterproductive idea. It must not be allowed to pass. I’m hugely grateful to the MPs on all sides that have worked with us to stop it.”

The Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said: “The heartless proposals in the criminal justice bill risk bringing back the Vagrancy Act by the back door. The government should listen to their own backbenchers and take a compassionate approach to tackling homelessness, instead of stigmatising and criminalising rough sleepers.”

While she was home secretary, Braverman branded rough sleeping a “lifestyle choice” and declared that “we cannot allow our streets to be taken over by rows of tents occupied by people, many of them from abroad”. Her remarks triggered outrage from Conservative MPs and she was sacked less than two weeks later after Rishi Sunak accused her of making statements he had not approved.

The broad nature of the criminal justice bill has led MPs to use the legislation as an opportunity to attach other proposals, including banning conversion practices and decriminalising abortion in England and Wales.

ALSO READ-Tory rebels warn Sunak on poll date

[soliloquy id="31272"]
[soliloquy id="31269"]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *