Let's make 2020 the year we scrap the Vagrancy Act.

January 29, 2020 4:01 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

In 2018 a homeless man, Gyula Remes, died in Westminster Tube station. He was one of over 700 homeless people who died that year, and the second to die in Westminster station that year.

71% of people think arresting someone for sleeping rough is a waste of police time

There's a gate in the station - near the entrance to Parliament. It's designed to push homeless people just a little bit further away. How many times did MPs just walk past him and turn a blind eye?

I see homeless people every day when I arrive at Parliament. It breaks my heart. It makes me absolutely determined that 2020 is the year that we scrap the Vagrancy Act.

The Vagrancy Act makes it an offence to sleep rough or beg on the streets.

It's a cruel, Dickensian law - brought in to keep veterans of the Napoleonic Wars off the streets. It has no place in modern Britain. Many MPs can find the political will to spend half a million pounds on making a bell chime this Thursday. What's stopping them finding the will to scrap this law?

71% of people think arresting someone for sleeping rough is a waste of police time. Over half said that it shouldn't be a crime at all - of course it shouldn't!

It's a mark of national shame that even one person is homeless in 2020 - even more so that we're prosecuting them for it.

But still, the government's kicked the decision of repealing the Vagrancy Act it into the long grass and is waiting for their own review. I'll make it easy for them. Criminalising the homeless does not work. People like Gyula Remes need our help, not prosecution.

In fact, I'll make it really easy for them. I introduced a Vagrancy (Repeal) Bill into the last Parliament. It could be brought back in a heartbeat. The bill is oven-ready, or whatever odd metaphor Boris Johnson wants to give it. This can be the year we stop criminalising homelessness.

Out of sight, out of mind isn't good enough. It's a mark of national shame that even one person is homeless in 2020 - even more so that we're prosecuting them for it. The problem isn't going to go away - so let's make the first step towards solving it together. Let's scrap the Vagrancy Act.