Tory rebellion threat over ‘cruel’ plan to criminalise homelessness

'Another law that criminalises homelessness will be another broken promise from the Tory government’

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak faces a revolt in the Commons over widely criticised legislation which seeks to criminalise homelessness.

Introduced by former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, the controversial plan would give police powers to fine, move on or even imprison so-called ‘nuisance’ rough sleepers in England and Wales . 

The policy is included in the Criminal Justice Bill currently passing through the House of Commons, but ministers are now facing a revolt from Tory MPs on the left and right who are challenging the proposals, The Times has reported

According to senior government sources to The Times, they have ‘paused’ the legislation while ministers negotiate with rebels, as more than 40 Tory MPs have suggested they would vote against the bill. 

According to the Bill, someone could be considered a ‘nuisance’ for sleeping in a doorway, having ‘excessive smell’ or even if they look like they are intending to sleep on the streets, and could face fines of up to £2,500. 

Chief Executive of Crisis UK, Matt Downie has called the idea “cruel and counterproductive” as the homelessness charity has slammed the legislation as dehumanising. 

“It must not be allowed to pass,” Downie wrote on X. “I’m hugely grateful to the MPs on all sides that have worked with us to stop it.”

Last February the government voted to repeal the Vagrancy Act 1824 which made it a criminal offence to sleep rough, however, 200 years on, and the Criminal Justice Bill will reintroduce the worst parts of the Act by punishing people simply for not having a home. 

Crisis has said the fact homelessness exists in 2024 is a direct result of Government policy, with poverty pushing people onto the streets. Over 10,000 people signed a petition calling on the government to drop the new laws. 

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage wrote on X: “We were promised legislation that would repeal the dreadful 1824 Vagrancy Act that criminalises homelessness. Another law that criminalises homelessness will be another broken promise from the Tory government.”

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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