Ministers face Tory revolt against plans to criminalize rough sleeping | Homelessness

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

Under proposals which form part of the UK government’s flagship crime bill, police in England and Wales are to be given the power to fine or remove homeless people deemed to be causing a ” nuisance “.

The move infuriated many Conservative MPs, around 40 of whom warned the whips that they would vote against the measures, the Times reported.

Bob Blackman, the Conservative MP co-ordinating the rebellion, told the newspaper: “Many colleagues believe the bill, as it stands, is completely unacceptable because it would have the effect of criminalizing people who have not other choice than sleeping on the street. . We urge ministers to think again.

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

“I believe these things are not within my auspices,” he told Times Radio. “I will be interested to see the legislation as it passes.” And what the Prime Minister has planned.

The proposals are part of the Criminal Justice Bill, which is currently being considered by the House of Commons and is expected to become law before the general election.

They were announced by former Home Secretary Suella Braverman and would give police and local authorities the power to take action against “rough sleeping nuisances” in England and Wales. People sleeping rough could be moved, fined up to £2,500 or jailed.

Senior Conservative MPs from both the left and right of the party, including former leader Iain Duncan Smith and One Nation caucus chairman Damian Green, have signed amendments to legislation aimed at scrapping plans to criminalize sleeping in the Street.

Critics say the legislation is so broad that a person could be considered a nuisance for sleeping in a doorway, being considered to have excessive odor or looking like they intend to sleep in the street.

Hollinrake insisted the proposals were just part of a wider government strategy to get people off the streets.

“That’s one of the things we’re looking to do to make sure people aren’t sleeping on the streets and that’s not fair. We want to provide resources for people, housing, increase the number of shelters that people can find. sleep, and the number of social housing and affordable housing, which we have done,” he said.

“I think there are about 700,000 more affordable housing units than there were in 2010, which means we’ve made significant progress on these kinds of issues. But nevertheless, there is much to be done and it is important that we have found ways to try to solve these problems. »

Polly Neate, chief executive of homeless charity Shelter, told X that the plans were “cruel and absurd” and sought to “punish people who end up on the streets”.

Matt Downie, chief executive of Crisis, another homeless charity, said: “This is a cruel and counterproductive idea. We must not let it pass. I am extremely grateful to MPs from all sides who worked with us to put an end to this.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said: “Cruel proposals in the Criminal Justice Bill risk bringing the vagrancy law back through the back door. The Government should listen to its own backbenchers and take a compassionate approach to tackling homelessness, instead of stigmatizing and criminalizing people who sleep rough.

While Home Secretary, Braverman called rough sleeping a “life choice” and said that “we cannot allow our streets to be taken over by rows of tents occupied by people, many of whom come from abroad. Her remarks sparked outrage among Tory MPs and she was sacked less than two weeks later after Rishi Sunak accused her of making statements he did not approve of.

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 decriminalizing abortion in England and Wales. Wales.

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