PM does not rule out restrictions on giving tents to the homeless after Braverman's comments

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Giles Academy in Old Leake, Lincolnshire. Credit: PA

Rishi Sunak has not ruled out imposing restrictions on giving tents to rough sleepers, after Home Secretary Suella Braverman received huge backlash for saying homelessness is a “lifestyle choice”.

The prime minister said people should not be criminalised for having nowhere to live but declined to reject the tent proposal, when asked if it would be included in the Criminal Justice Bill.

He also insisted the home secretary is focused on the public’s priorities and repeated the government’s aims of cutting crime and tackling anti-social behaviour, when asked if he felt she was undermining him.

Despite expectations that proposals from Ms Braverman to ban charities from handing out tents to the homeless might have been included in the King’s Speech on Tuesday, there was no mention of them.

Downing Street sources said they were still “undergoing scrutiny”.

On Wednesday, on a visit to a school in Lincolnshire, Mr Sunak told reporters: “I don’t want anyone to have to sleep rough and I’m proud of the government’s track record over the past few years in tackling that.”

He said police should have the power to deal with “intimidating or violent conduct”.

Mr Sunak added: “We said earlier in the year that we didn’t want anyone to be criminalised for not having somewhere to live and that’s why we were going to repeal something called the Vagrancy Act, which is an outdated piece of law from the 1800s, and at the same time as part of that plan we want to make sure that intimidating or violent conduct, that the police do have the powers to tackle that.”

Mr Sunak again refused to repeat Ms Braverman’s remarks and did not directly say he agreed with them.

Earlier this morning, Health Secretary Steve Barclay repeatedly declined to endorse her phrasing and said ministers were working to get rough sleeping down.

“There’s often complex issues behind this and what we’re determined to do from a health point of view is address those – is it mental health, is it addiction? What are the issues driving some of the people that are rough sleeping?” he told Sky News.

He is the latest senior Conservative to distance himself from Ms Braverman’s comments following Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho and Justice Secretary Alex Chalk.

Tory MP Natalie Elphicke and Conservative former minister Vicky Ford have made it clear they disagree with Ms Braverman’s claim.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, the Home Secretary said the UK should not become San Francisco or Los Angeles and warned against rough sleeping becoming a “lifestyle choice”.

Ms Braverman’s comments have been widely criticised, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer taking aim at the Cabinet minister during the King’s Speech debate in the Commons on Tuesday.

“We have a party so devoid of leadership it is happy to follow a Home Secretary who describes homelessness as a lifestyle choice,” he told MPs.

Homeless charities expressed their outrage at Ms Braverman’s comments, with the Salvation Army saying: “Nobody in Britain should be living in a tent on our streets but penalising those that do will cause vulnerable people harm and make it even harder for them to move on from rough sleeping.”

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