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Ministers facing revolt over plans to criminalise rough sleeping

Ministers are encountering opposition from within the Conservative Party regarding their plans to make rough sleeping a crime.
Notably, former Conservative minister Sir Iain Duncan Smith is leading efforts to oppose new police powers that would allow for the moving and fining of rough sleepers deemed as "nuisance."

Over 40 Conservative MPs are anticipated to challenge the Criminal Justice Bill which seeks to criminalize homelessness. Amid this controversy, the Bill has reportedly been paused for negotiations, as confirmed by senior government officials to the Times newspaper.

Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake expressed caution about his stance on the Bill, emphasizing the importance of support measures to prevent rough sleeping.

A key aspect of the debate involves attempts by some Conservative MPs, including Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Damian Green, to amend the Bill to decriminalize rough sleeping.

Their efforts build on promises to repeal the Vagrancy Act of 1824 and focus on providing more supportive measures rather than punitive ones.

Critics, including Tory MP Bob Blackman, argue the Bill in its current form unfairly criminalizes those without a choice but to sleep on the streets. Amendments proposed seek to clarify police powers and urge a more sensitive approach towards rough sleepers.

The Bill, initiated by Suella Braverman who referred to rough sleeping as a "lifestyle choice", is meeting resistance not just from MPs but also from advocacy groups and the public.

The Liberal Democrats and charities, including Crisis, advocate for a more compassionate approach that addresses the root causes of homelessness, criticizing the criminalization of rough sleepers as both cruel and ineffective.

A Government spokesperson stated the objective to end rough sleeping, highlighting a strategic approach backed by significant funding. They emphasized the replacement of the Vagrancy Act with legislation aimed at helping people off the streets while maintaining public safety, such as regulating begging at cash points.

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