Thank you for contacting me about the Vagrancy Act 1824. I have long supported its repeal.
The Vagrancy Act is an unnecessary Georgian-era law that, in my view, criminalises some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in society. Treating rough sleepers as criminals does not solve the underlying causes of homelessness, it makes it harder for them to access support to move away from the streets.
The Government has acknowledged that no-one should be criminalised simply for sleeping rough and has committed to repealing the Vagrancy Act. However, Ministers recently opposed amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that would have done just that. They say they will replace the Act with “more modern, fit for purpose legislation when parliamentary time allows”.
I disagree. I believe the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is a perfect opportunity to deal with the Vagrancy Act 1824. I am pleased the Government was defeated in the Lords and the Bill has been amended to include provisions for the repeal of that Act. I will follow developments closely as the Bill returns to the House of Commons for consideration of Lords amendments.
More generally, I am concerned the number of people sleeping rough has increased by 52% since 2010. I believe this is a direct result of twelve years of failure on housing and I am worried many more people risk being pushed onto the streets because of the Government’s decision to freeze local housing allowance, end the eviction ban, increase tax contributions, and cut Universal Credit – all while families face a growing cost of living crisis.
I support meaningful action to end rough sleeping and ensure everyone has a place to call home. This must include an emphasis on the housing-first approach to offer permanent, affordable housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and giving communities the power to build the right houses, in the right places, at prices that local people can afford.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this important issue. I urge Ministers to scrap the Vagrancy Act and prioritise measures to prevent rough sleeping.