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Rough sleepers criminalised: Moral outrage that a Victorian-era law continues

April 14, 2021 7:01 PM
By Layla Moran in Liberal Democrat Press Office

Layla MoranLiberal Democrat MP Layla Moran has urged the Government in the Commons today to include the repeal of the Vagrancy Act, which criminalises rough sleeping, in next month's Queen's Speech.

Speaking in a debate in Westminster Hall on repealing and replacing the Act, Layla Moran said that "the Secretary of State couldn't commit to a timetable in a letter to me last week" and asked the Minister to "guarantee that repealing the Vagrancy Act will be in the Queen's Speech next month".

The Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing made no such commitment at the end of the debate.

Moran started the campaign to scrap the Vagrancy Act when she was first elected in 2017, and introduced a cross-party Bill for the second time last year that would repeal it in days if the Government gave its support.

Calling the law, still used in England and Wales by police forces against rough sleepers, "a disgrace", Layla said "we seem to be stuck at the final hurdle" and that "we shouldn't wait one more day".

Speaking after the debate, Layla Moran MP said:

"Today it is still the law for rough sleepers to be arrested and prosecuted for the crime of not being able to afford a roof over their head. It is a moral outrage that a Victorian-era law continues to punish those who desperately need help.

"The clock is ticking for this Government. We urgently need a more compassionate approach to ending homelessness in this country. It's a disgrace that in 2021 we're still having this debate. Colleagues from across the Commons have sponsored my bill which would end the demonising punishment given to homeless people. We have cross-party support and charities such as Crisis demanding action - yet in return we face a heartless Government dragging its heels.

"So why the delay? Why haven't we seen the Government's review into the Vagrancy Act yet? If Robert Jenrick agrees homeless people should no longer be criminalised, then he should announce the long overdue repealing of the cruel, Dickensian Vagrancy Act in next month's Queen's Speech."