The government has repeatedly said the act will be replaced. Housing minister Eddie Hughes said the Vagrancy Act will be scrapped “at a pace” during a Westminster Hall debate in April.
The issue has also come up at Prime Minister’s Questions on several occasions, most recently in October when Conservative backbencher Bob Blackman asked Johnson to reaffirm his commitment to scrapping the act now the government’s review has been completed.
Johnson recognised the need to “reconsider” the archaic Vagrancy Act and said “no one should be criminalised for having nowhere to live”.
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But following the snub in the Lords yesterday, Blackman said: “By enacting this long overdue repeal through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, there is no additional cost to the government in time or public money.
“There has never been a better opportunity before the house to put an end to this divisive and outdated piece of legislation once and for all, whilst also ensuring that the police have the tools they need to tackle antisocial behaviour and aggressive begging.”
The Vagrancy Act was originally introduced to make rough sleeping and begging an offence to deal with soldiers returning from the Napoleonic wars. It has since been repealed in Scotland.
But while it is still in place in England and Wales, homelessness charities warn criminalising homelessness does not fix the root causes of why someone finds themselves on the street and also drives them further away from support.
Meanwhile, the policing bill which peers were trying to amend has also faced criticism claiming will marginalise vulnerable people and force people deeper into homelessness as well as cracking down on the right to protest if it passes into law.
Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs at Crisis, said: “It is very disappointing that the UK government has missed this perfect opportunity to decriminalise homelessness and destitution.
“As the prime minister himself has said, no one should be criminalised for being homeless. The policing bill represents the best possible chance to consign this appalling law to history. Outdated and counterproductive, the Vagrancy Act only drives people further away from support.”