The Government has blocked a bill sponsored by Oxford MP Layla Moran to repeal the Vagrancy Act, which makes it illegal to sleep rough.
Moran’s Vagrancy (Repeal) Bill would scrap the 1824 Vagrancy Act, which permits the arrest of homeless people sleeping on the streets.
The legislation was due for second reading, but Conservative MPs blocked Layla Moran’s Bill from advancing through the parliamentary process. The Bill could therefore not be ‘read’ a second time.
The Vagrancy Act has already been repealed in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Layla Moran MP said: “I am shocked, if not surprised, that the Government have blocked debate on this legislation that would change the law to end the criminalisation of rough sleepers.
“I’ll be keeping up the pressure on the Government and will continue to fight to change the law.
“We must end the situation where homeless people can still be arrested and dragged before the courts using a heartless, Dickensian law dating back to 1824 just because they don’t have anywhere to spend the night.”
Last month, Cherwell reported that Moran would take up this cause in part due to the efforts of students in Oxford.
Oxford SU’s ‘On Your Doorstep’ campaign petitioned the UK Government to repeal the Vagrancy Act, gaining over 10000 government signatures, triggering a government response.
Chair of Oxford SU’s ‘On Your Doorstep’, Alex Kumar, told Cherwell: “No one is surprised to see the government yet again refuse to engage on this issue. Every year that Theresa May has presided over this country, either as Home Secretary or as Prime Minister, rough sleeping has increased.
“This is symptomatic of a deep wound in British society, and – as if being forced to sleep rough were not awful enough – the government is rubbing in salt by using procedural ploys to protect the abominable pre-Victorian law that sees homeless people harassed and brought before the courts for sleeping rough or peacefully begging.”
“The campaign to repeal the 1824 Vagrancy Act goes on. The government can swat us away but we will keep coming back.
“The government can do us all the decency of at least explaining why it has the temerity to defend such a barbaric law.”
Kumar drew attention to the fact that MPs from across six parties have already signed onto Early Day Motion 903, which calls for the Act’s repeal.
The Bill was co-sponsored by Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas MP, and other Liberal Democrat MPs, including Deputy Leader Jo Swinson.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government did not respond to Cherwell’s request for comment.