‘It’s not funny!’: Cabinet minister blasted over Tory plans to arrest homeless people for ‘smell’

The bill states that people could be arrested for “excessive” damage “to the environment” including “smells”.

Gillian Keegan

A Tory minister has been blasted over her government’s plans to criminalise homelessness, which have received opposition from both within and outside the Tory party.

More than 40 Conservative MPs are expected to rebel against parts of the Criminal Justice Bill, which would allow the police to fine “nuisance” rough sleepers. 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.

Appearing on Sky News earlier today, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan was asked by presenter Kay Burley about what she thought of the proposed legislation. Burley said: “The bill states that rough sleepers might be considered a nuisance if there’s an excessive smell. So if you smell, you might be arrested?”

A smirking Keegan was then told: “It’s not funny”. Keegan replied that she didn’t think it was funny but that the most important thing was to help people off the streets.

Asked once more if people should be arrested if they smell, the Tory MP replied: “No, people should not be arrested if they smell but of course what we’ll be doing is considering any legislation.”

The bill states that people could be arrested for “excessive” damage “to the environment” including “smells”.

When this was pointed out to Keegan by Burley, the Education Secretary said: “I don’t know. I haven’t looked at that detail of it.

“But I mean, I guess the word is ‘excessive’ and I don’t know what they mean by that.”

Polly Neate, the chief executive of the homelessness charity Shelter, has criticised the proposals. She wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “The government has already fudged its chance to prevent homelessness through the #RentersReformBill – now it wants to punish people for ending up on the streets. Cruel and nonsensical.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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