By Connor Steel
HOME SECRETARY Suella Braverman has proposed “controversial new legislation” that will restrict the use of tents by homeless people across England and Wales, which are likely to be included in the King’s Speech later today (07/11) as the Government prepares to release a programme of domestic / international policy in the State Opening of Parliament.
These plans were first reported by the Financial Times last weekend and is believed to be part of a range of changes to the 1824 Vagrancy Act, which makes it illegal to sleep rough or beg on the streets. According to the article it would then become a civic offence to pitch tents in public spaces and penalties would be enforced at higher rates for law-breakers.
Government estimates from 2022 found that a total of three thousand people were homeless in England, but this figure has likely risen over the last twelve months due to the “cost of living crisis” and rising bills. But the Fareham MP argued in a social media tweet that many of them see homelessness as a “lifestyle choice” and have rejected all ‘help’ on offer.
Any crackdown is believed to be focused on those who cause disruptions such as blocking pathways or shop doors by pitching their tents, whilst measures could expand into other offences to ‘avoid scenes’ in cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles in the US. This includes stealing, abuse, littering, taking drugs, and aggressive begging of passers by.
Ms Braverman wrote using X (formerly Twitter) as she reacted to the report: “Nobody in Britain should be living in a tent on the streets. There are options for those people who don’t wish to be sleeping rough. We cannot permit our streets to be taken over by rows of tents occupied by people, many of them from abroad, living on the street in a lifestyle choice.”
Charities could furthermore be fined for offering any tents if they were deemed to have caused a ‘nuisance’, a proposal that was highly criticised by Shelter. Their chief executive, Polly Neate, added that: “Living on the streets isn’t a lifestyle choice. Homelessness starts when housing policy fails & boils down to people being unable to afford to live anywhere”.
The Government have pledged ‘greater supports’ for homelessness charities and services as well as organising further networks with providers across the areas with high levels of people living on the street. But they remain under pressure from councils who want more funds when Chancellor Jeremy Hunt gives his Autumn Budget speech later in November.
Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, stated that the Government should take the responsibility for the housing crisis rather than blame homeless people whilst the Liberal Democrats said it was “grim politics” to criminalise these charities for trying to keep everybody warm in winter. The London Mayor Sadiq Khan cited this proposal as “deeply depressing”.
This policy is due to feature alongside other legislation in the King’s Speech including a ‘bill’ to phase out all leaseholds and separately to raise the legal age for buying cigarettes by one year per annum for England. Focus is also due to be on crime laws such as compelling criminals to attend their ‘sentencing’ and tough sentences for more serious offences.
Readers are encouraged to explore media links like BBC News, Sky News and ITV News for fresh developing updates on the breaking story; which will include live broadcasting of the King’s Speech from around 11am this morning (07/11).
PICTURED BY ALAMY (W6MGMX): Homeless tents line the streets near Charing Cross station in London’s West End.