The Return Of The Vagrancy Act

The same powers contained in the 200-year-old legislation are being given to ministers under a new bill now going through Parliament, reports iNews.

Legislation from two centuries ago which makes it a crime to sleep rough is being restored to the statute book just weeks after the Government fulfilled a promise to repeal it. The Vagrancy Act of 1824 was repealed following a campaign by MPs and activists who claimed it was used to criminalise vulnerable homeless people unnecessarily.

But the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which reached Parliament on Wednesday, gives Michael Gove, the Housing Secretary, the ability to reinstate most of the powers contained in the Act. The Government says the clause in the Bill is only a “placeholder” which will be replaced before it becomes law. Ministers say police need the ability to crack down on aggressive begging.

One Conservative MP told i: “This isn’t going to make it through Parliament, there is clearly a majority against it.” Liberal Democrat Layla Moran said: “I am disgusted that this placeholder text seems to expose the true motivations of this duplicitous Government. They promised over and over again to fully scrap the Vagrancy Act.”

She added: “The revelation that they intend to bring it back in different words is a betrayal to those who campaigned long and hard for it but especially for the vulnerable people left out cold in the streets.”

Homelessness charities warned that the Government must live up to its previous promises. Kiran Ramchandani of Crisis said: “We did not campaign against the obscene Vagrancy Act for it to be scrapped in name only. So we sincerely hope the UK Government sticks to its word and ends the criminalisation of people experiencing homelessness as quickly as possible.”