Today, in the King’s Speech, the government has unveiled its legislative agenda for the next parliamentary year which includes:
- Legislation to strengthen rights for tenants through the Renters (Reform) Bill.
- Laws to reform the purchase of leaseholds through the Leasehold and Freehold Bill.
Prior to the King’s Speech, reports in the Financial Times suggested that the government was planning to introduce legislation which would criminalise the use of tents in urban areas by people rough sleeping, and place a civil penalty on charities providing tents to people sleeping on the streets. Following robust challenge from the homelessness sector these proposals were not mentioned in the King’s Speech today.
Matt Downie, Crisis Chief Executive, said:
“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. 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.
“Only last year, the government committed in law to repeal the Vagrancy Act. It's vital it does so, instead of trying to bring back this cruel legislation by the back door.
“Energy must now be spent on introducing the solutions we know will end homelessness. These include unfreezing housing benefit at the Autumn Statement and funding programmes like Housing First which would mean no-one would be forced to sleep rough in the first place.
“The government has presided over rising homelessness. It now has a choice to make on whether it implements the policies that will start to turn the tide.”
Also commenting on the King’s Speech was Roger Mortlock, Chief Executive at CPRE, the countryside charity.
On the Energy Bill, he said:
“The climate emergency is the biggest threat facing our countryside. We need far greater action to promote rooftop solar across the country.
“With the right initiatives, we can rapidly meet much our solar energy needs on the roofs of warehouses, car parks and new build homes, allowing us to spare land for nature and farming.
“In order to protect our countryside for future generations, we must move away from fossil fuels. Making it easier for future governments to extract oil and gas will have no material effect on bills or energy security.”
On Energy Infrastructure, he added:
“It’s critically important to retain meaningful community involvement in the building of new electricity infrastructure.
“We remain concerned that the rolling out of new electricity infrastructure such as battery storage and pylons could put our finest landscapes at risk. We urge the government to rethink these proposals and put communities and landscape considerations at the heart of planning new infrastructure.
“For many years we've called for grid investment which is necessary to support a renewable revolution, but it's crucial that these upgrades do not harm our precious landscapes. Locally responsive grid infrastructure is vital in getting more rooftop renewables, which is a common-sense yet overlooked step towards achieving net zero.”