Layla Moran, Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, has slammed the Government as 'duplicitous' for including a clause in the new Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which would allow for the reintroduction of the recently repealed Vagrancy Act.
The clause allows for the Secretary of State for DLUHC to re-criminalise rough sleeping, despite the House of Commons voting to repeal the Vagrancy Act earlier this year. The Government claims that this is 'placeholder text' which will be amended at the Committee Stage of the Bill, but has not given assurances that rough sleepers will be protected from the return of this legislation.
The repeal of the Vagrancy Act was the culmination of a campaign which began in 2018 for Layla, after it was brought to her attention by a group of students in Oxford. It garnered cross-party support and the support of cross-party groups such as Crisis. The passing of an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act confirmed the repeal of the act, subject to a consultation on how to replace the powers contained within it.
Liberal Democrat MP 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.
"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.
"I am writing to the minister to seek a meeting to urgently clarify the meaning of his clause and urge them to bring forward the full text so it can receive proper scrutiny."
Milton Keynes Liberal Democrat Councillor Jenni Ferrans who is the Chair of the Housing And Communities Scrutiny Committee on the Council commented:
"Thousands of residents could find themselves sleeping rough this year because they can't find somewhere they can afford to live. The Conservative Government has not raised benefits in line with costs. Now the Conservatives want to criminalise them by bringing back the vagrancy act by the back door It's a disgrace."