Suella Braverman, the home secretary, is still advocating for limitations on rough sleepers’ access to tents in England and Wales.
The plan was absent from the King’s Speech, which outlined the government’s goals for the upcoming year.
However, a person close to Mrs. Braverman claimed the notion had not been abandoned.
Regarding whether the idea will ultimately be incorporated into the Criminal Justice Bill, Downing Street stated that it would not make any assumptions.
Included in the King’s Speech, the measure proposes more authority to address “persistent, nuisance, and organized begging.”
The 1824 Vagrancy Act, which made rough sleeping and begging illegal in England and Wales, is intended to be replaced by this law.
The Criminal Justice Bill was supposed to become law on Wednesday, but talks over whether to include the tent proposal had caused its introduction in the Commons to be postponed, a senior government source told the BBC.
A few government officials are also worried that the restrictions would be challenged in court.
Mrs. Braverman wants the measure to include sanctions for people who sleep rough after receiving a police warning about their actions—for example, refusing to move their tents out of storefront windows—that constitute a nuisance.
According to a representative for Mrs. Braverman, it would be directed towards people who “choose to live in tents” and have turned down offers of assistance to end their drug addiction or live off the streets.
Additionally, charities that provide tents to individuals who are identified by the authorities as causing a nuisance would be subject to civil penalties.
After Mrs. Braverman declared over the weekend in a series of posts on X that she intended to limit the use of tents, opposition parties and homeless charity took exception.
The home secretary’s proposal has also drawn criticism from some Conservative MPs. Natalie Elphicke, for example, stated in a post on X that “never, ever, has anyone said the answer lies in the removal of tents in all my years of helping people who are homeless, in cities like London and Manchester as well as my own local area in Dover and Deal.”
The government would always assist those who are truly homeless, the home secretary said in her statement, but she also stated that “we cannot allow our streets to be taken over by rows of tents occupied by people, many of them from abroad, living on the streets as a lifestyle choice.”
If nothing is done, she said, “British cities will go the way of places in the US like San Francisco and Los Angeles, where weak policies have led to an explosion of crime, drug taking and squalor.”
In an interview with Sky News, her Conservative colleague Alex Chalk, the Justice Secretary, seemed to disassociate himself from Ms. Braverman’s remarks, stating he would “take a different approach”.
However, he emphasized that they both agreed that concerns like “mental health issues, substance abuse problems, relationship breakdown, loss of a job, and so on” must be addressed in order to eliminate the reasons that “entrenched” rough sleeping.
Press reports said that Mrs. Braverman was going to announce her planned crackdown on tents in the King’s Speech.
However, a representative for Mrs. Braverman informed the BBC that it had always been intended to bring it later on as a component of the Criminal Justice Bill.
Additional information will be provided, according to Downing Street, once the bill is released.
“We’ve said that no one should be criminalized for having nowhere to live, and we are repealing the outdated Vagrancy Act,” a spokesman for the prime minister stated.
“We want to go as far as possible to ensure that those who are vulnerable can get the support they need and obviously at the same time cracking down on anti-social, intimidating or indeed criminal behaviour.”
“The home secretary needs to listen to the public outcry and educate herself on the true causes of homelessness, rather than continuing to pick on people who are already living in some of the most difficult, dangerous, and deadly conditions,” stated Polly Neate, CEO of housing charity Shelter.
“You do not combat homelessness by enacting harsh laws that make it illegal for someone to attempt to stay warm.
“The government must start protecting people from homelessness instead of punishing them for it and unfreeze housing benefit in its forthcoming Autumn Statement.”
The official background notes on the Criminal Justice Bill, which were released earlier on Tuesday, made no mention of tents.
On Monday night, BBC Newsnight claimed that the government will not be taking any action against tents “for now”.
Nick Watt was informed that the home secretary’s tent-related proposals were “still undergoing scrutiny”.