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Rishi Sunak declines to rule out tents proposal as part of Criminal Justice Bill

08 Nov 2023 3 minute read
Photo Niall Carson/PA Wire

Rishi Sunak said people should not be criminalised for having nowhere to live but declined to rule out a restriction on tents for homeless people.

The Prime Minister also insisted Home Secretary Suella Braverman, whose comments on rough sleeping sometimes being a “lifestyle choice” have prompted strong criticism, is focused on the public’s priorities when asked if he felt she was undermining him.

Despite expectations that proposals from Ms Braverman to ban charities from handing out tents to the homeless might have been included in the King’s Speech on Tuesday, there was no mention of them.

Downing Street sources said they were still “undergoing scrutiny”.

On Wednesday, on a visit to a school in Lincolnshire, Mr Sunak was asked if there will be a restriction on tents involved in the Criminal Justice Bill.

He told reporters: “I don’t want anyone to have to sleep rough and I’m proud of the Government’s track record over the past few years in tackling that.”

He said police should have the power to deal with “intimidating or violent conduct”.

Vagrancy Act

He said: “We said earlier in the year that we didn’t want anyone to be criminalised for not having somewhere to live and that’s why we were going to repeal something called the Vagrancy Act, which is an outdated piece of law from the 1800s, and at the same time as part of that plan we want to make sure that intimidating or violent conduct, that the police do have the powers to tackle that.”

Mr Sunak again refused to repeat Ms Braverman’s remarks and did not directly say he agreed with them.

Asked if he felt Ms Braverman was supporting or undermining him, the PM said: “What the Home Secretary and the Government is doing is focus on people’s priorities.”

He repeated the Government’s aims of cutting crime and tackling anti-social behaviour.

Earlier, Health Secretary Steve Barclay became the latest senior Conservative to distance himself from Ms Braverman’s comments.

Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho and Justice Secretary Alex Chalk have also distanced themselves.

Tory MP Natalie Elphicke and Conservative former minister Vicky Ford have made it clear that they disagree with Ms Braverman’s claim.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, the Home Secretary said the UK should not become San Francisco or Los Angeles and warned against rough sleeping becoming a “lifestyle choice”.

Mr Barclay repeatedly declined on Wednesday to endorse the phrasing.

He told Sky News ministers were working to get rough sleeping down.

“There’s often complex issues behind this and what we’re determined to do from a health point of view is address those – is it mental health, is it addiction? What are the issues driving some of the people that are rough sleeping?”

Ms Braverman’s comments have been widely criticised, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer taking aim at the Cabinet minister during the King’s Speech debate in the Commons on Tuesday.

“We have a party so devoid of leadership it is happy to follow a Home Secretary who describes homelessness as a lifestyle choice,” he told MPs.

Homeless charities have also expressed their outrage at Ms Braverman’s comments, with the Salvation Army saying: “Nobody in Britain should be living in a tent on our streets but penalising those that do will cause vulnerable people harm and make it even harder for them to move on from rough sleeping.”

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6 months ago

What is Braverman doing and what hold does Braverman have on Sunak, remember she emailed secure documents to an MP that should not have seen those documents but to do that she emails from her government account to het gmail account. Not forgetting that the Home Sec has also tried to inflame the feelings around the march in London and set them up for attacks, Trump did the same before 6th Jan insurrection attempt. Home Sec should be on the back benches in a normal government (with the rest of the far right in her party). Back to the original… Read more »

6 months ago

Braverman & famaly are economic migrants, so by her own beliefs, she should be deported to Rwanda, nasty woman.

Richard 1
Richard 1
6 months ago

She is positioning herself to be tory leader after the wipe-out. For her the real homelessness issue is just — I think the term is “dog-whistle politics”. Relegating her to the backbenches might even benefit that agenda.

Valerie Matthews
Valerie Matthews
6 months ago

Whenever you see these kind of ‘dog whistle’ statements from Government, Take a look at what they are distracting you from! They have NO positive policies which will actually benefit Joe Public, they have got the Nation into £2.2 TRILLION of debt, have wasted BILLIONS, So plenty to distract us from!

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