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Backbench Rebellion Threatens UK Government’s Plans to Criminalise Rough Sleeping

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The Conservative Party in the UK is facing a significant challenge as backbench MPs attempt to block the government’s proposal to criminalize rough sleeping in a crucial crime bill scheduled for this year. The proposed legislation would grant authorities the power to fine or remove ‘nuisance’ rough sleepers, potentially leading to a backbench rebellion during the upcoming vote.

Sources have revealed that Conservative rebels have warned party whips of their intention to vote against the measures in the bill. Concerned about the scale of the rebellion, senior government officials have indicated that they have temporarily halted the progression of the bill as they engage in negotiations with more than 40 expected rebels.

One rebel MP stated, ‘The ball is in the government’s court. They need to listen or it will be desperate for them.’ The government is reportedly panicking over the potential defeat as they understand the risk of losing the vote if the legislation is pushed forward.

Amidst the growing dissent among Tory MPs, a business minister, Kevin Hollinrake, has refrained from explicitly stating whether he would support the plans to criminalize rough sleeping, highlighting the internal divisions within the party.

The proposed measures include granting new powers to police and local authorities to direct beggars to move along, with a focus on encouraging them to utilize accommodation services and mental health support. Additionally, the bill aims to create a new offense targeting criminal gangs that organize begging networks.

Homelessness charities, including Shelter and Homeless Link, have strongly criticized the proposed legislation, warning that it could lead to further criminalization of homeless individuals instead of addressing the root causes of homelessness.

The Liberal Democrats, under the leadership of Layla Moran, have called on the government to reconsider its stance on criminalizing rough sleeping, advocating for a more compassionate and holistic approach to tackling homelessness.

A government spokesperson emphasized that the primary goal is to end rough sleeping and prevent individuals from becoming homeless, highlighting the commitment to repeal the outdated Vagrancy Act and provide support to rough sleepers through civil engagement and offers of assistance.

Rachel Adams

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