BIG ISSUE NATIONAL VENDOR WEEK
LEARN MORE
Politics

King's Speech shows government has 'no plan' to end rough sleeping or tackle long-term problems

The controversial plan to criminalise tents for rough sleepers has seemingly been dropped, but plans for to ban no-fault evictions and conversion therapy have also been abandoned

King's Speech

In the last King's Speech before the next general election, King Charles read out the government's plans for new laws. Image: Parliament TV

King Charles has delivered the first King’s Speech in more than 70 years, outlining the government’s legislative agenda – from renters’ reform to new oil and gas licences.

Among 21 measures laid out by the monarch, there was a notable absence. The weekend was marked by controversy over home secretary Suella Braverman’s comments that homelessness is a “lifestyle choice” for many.

But Braverman’s plan to ban homeless charities from handing out tents was absent, amid reports the measure is “still undergoing scrutiny”.

With republican protesters greeting the monarch’s gold carriage, and body language experts searching for a hint of emotion in his delivery, the speech outlines exactly what we can expect from government before the next election. Here’s what you need to know, with reaction and analysis from expert voices.

Plan to criminalise tents for rough sleepers have seemingly been dropped, with no mention in the King’s Speech

Although the Criminal Justice Bill promises to tackle “persistent, nuisance, and organised begging”, there was no mention of Braverman’s plans to stop people pitching tents in public places.

It raises the question of whether this was ever government policy in the first place as the wait goes on to replace the Vagrancy Act.

The almost-200-year-old act criminalises rough sleeping and begging and was finally repealed as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act last year.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. 

Sign the Big Issue’s petition to End Housing Insecurity Now

“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.”

Your support changes lives. Find out how you can help us help more people by signing up for a subscription

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.”

Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter

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.”

National Vendor Week 2024

A celebration of people who are working their way out of poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Why Jeremy Hunt's Spring Budget is the most important in years – and could decide Labour's future
Jeremy Hunt, spring budget
Politics

Why Jeremy Hunt's Spring Budget is the most important in years – and could decide Labour's future

Liz Truss blaming 'trans activist' for her failed stint as PM shows how detached she is from reality
Liz Truss, trickle down economics
Politics

Liz Truss blaming 'trans activist' for her failed stint as PM shows how detached she is from reality

UK officially falling into recession is a 'headache' for Rishi Sunak. Here's why
Recession

UK officially falling into recession is a 'headache' for Rishi Sunak. Here's why

'Mummy can't afford it': Families worry about coping as DWP cost of living payments come to an end
image of person looking sad/ benefits/ universal credit/ inflation
Cost of living

'Mummy can't afford it': Families worry about coping as DWP cost of living payments come to an end

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know