The almost-200-year-old act criminalises rough sleeping and begging and was finally repealed as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act last year.
But it remains in force until the government brings in a replacement and now looks set to still be in use 200 years after it was first introduced to deal with soldiers on the streets following the Napoleonic Wars.
The absence of Braverman’s widely-condemned proposal was welcomed by Lee Buss-Blair, director of operations at housing association Riverside. But he warned it could make a come back when ministers replace the Vagrancy Act.
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“We were pleased to see no mention of proposals in the King’s Speech which could have effectively criminalised the use of tents by people sleeping rough,” said Buss-Blair.
“We are unsure what this now means for those proposals and whether those proposals could resurface in the Vagrancy Act and we are working with partners in the sector to get clarification on this issue.”
Matt Downie, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said the government could now choose whether to “turn the tide” on rough sleeping.
“We’re pleased that the government appears to have listened to the concerns raised by the homelessness sector and wider public, and is reconsidering the hugely damaging proposals to criminalise the use of tents by people sleeping rough,” said Downie
“As we have said time and time again, these punitive laws cause untold harm to some of the most marginalised people in society and only serve to push them further away from crucial help.”
But beyond this, the government has “no plan” for ending rough sleeping, warned the charity Centrepoint.
“The government started the week with a bad plan for replacing the Vagrancy Act and it looks like they’ll end it with no plan at all,” said Alicia Walker, head of policy, research and campaigns at Centrepoint.
“The home secretary’s intervention looked at street homelessness as a public nuisance when the truth is it is a political problem with political answers. The government recognised this when it pledged to end rough sleeping in its manifesto and the fact that they look set to break that pledge should be their only focus now.”
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New oil and gas licences will be issued
All eyes were on noted environmentalist Charles as he read out the government’s plans to issue new oil and gas licences.
In the speech, written by the government, Charles detailed a new bill which will “support the future licensing of new oil and gas fields, helping the country to transition to net zero by 2050 without adding undue burdens on households”.
It’s one in the eye for Just Stop Oil, but the government insists it won’t harm the country’s chances of reaching net zero.
That’s a controversial position. Leo Murray, co-director of climate charity Possible, said new licenses won’t help.
“Saying we’ll get to net zero by extracting oil and gas is like saying you’re going to put out a fire with a petrol pump. We know it won’t bring down bills or improve energy security – only rapid investment and roll out of renewables will do the job,” said Murray.
Campaigners also highlighted that the plans did little to help those struggling with high energy prices in the here and now.
Simon Francis, coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, said: “There was nothing in the King’s Speech which will help people stay warm this winter – no mention of an emergency energy tariff for vulnerable households nor a help to repay scheme for the record numbers currently in energy debt.
“Meanwhile, the government’s plan to award more oil and gas licences is not the answer, what we need is much more investment in insulation and homegrown renewables. In fact, the past 13 years and hundreds of North Sea licences have yielded just 16 days worth of gas coming onto the grid, not enough to keep people warm every winter.”
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Plans to protect renters ‘ring hollow’ without no-fault eviction ban
Housing got a mention, with Charles outlining the current shape of the long-awaited Renters Reform Bill.
Renters will benefit from “stronger security of tenure and better value” – meaning better standards of homes, and getting better conditions for what you pay for.
But the King also said landlords will “benefit from reforms to provide certainty that they can regain their properties when needed”.
Notably absent from this was the ban on no-fault evictions – a leading driver of homelessness – which the government confirmed would now not take place until stronger possession grounds and a new court process is in place. That effectively means the bill’s headline change has been delayed indefinitely.
Maya Singer Hobbs, senior research fellow at think tank IPPR, said: “The promise to protect renters, but without abolishing Section 21 ’no-fault’ evictions outright, rings hollow when people are at risk of eviction now.”
The conversion therapy ban has disappeared
Despite featuring in previous Queen’s Speeches, the ban on conversion therapy has disappeared from the government’s agenda.
This change has been branded a betrayal by Jayne Ozanne, founder of the anti-discrimination charity the Ozanne Foundation and a survivor of conversion therapy.
“To break your flagship promise to a community that has seen a significant rise in hate crime is a total moral failure. To do so after five years of posturing, with minimal engagement with victims of ‘conversion therapy’, shows just how callously the government treats LGBTQ+ lives,” said Ozanne.
“The government has chosen to prioritise appeasing perpetrators, condemning many to untold abuse that is now sanctioned by the state.
“The prime minister’s failure to act will be remembered for years to come, it will take generations for LGBTQ+ people to trust his party again – indeed I know many in Britain will now clearly see just how he prioritises marginalised communities in his care.”
No reform of the Mental Health Act in King’s Speech
Another notable absence was reform of the Mental Health Act, meaning this will now not happen before the next general election. Campaigners have long raised concerns that the current act is ill-equipped to help those in crisis.
“Today’s King’s Speech was the last opportunity for this government to honour its commitment to reform the Mental Health Act. The failure to introduce a Mental Health Bill is a profound betrayal to people that have been detained under the Mental Health Act and everyone who has campaigned for decades to reform it,” said Mark Winstanley, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness.
“It is difficult not to conclude that the march of progress to prioritise the nation’s mental health and challenge the stigma of mental illness has stalled. What makes this decision even harder to swallow is that reform had been mapped out and agreed in draft legislation and has cross-party support.”