Being homeless is not a crime.

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

The title of this article should be common sense, shouldn’t it?

And yet, between 2014 and 2016 alone, over 3000 people were dragged before the court. Not for doing anything wrong, but for falling foul of a 195-year-old law.

The 1824 Vagrancy Act was drafted with soldiers coming home from the Napoleonic Wars in mind. It’s a cold, archaic relic from a bygone age. I will do everything in my power to ensure it doesn’t reach its 200th birthday.

Last night, I held an Adjournment debate and called for the abolition of this unfair legislation. The Liberal Democrats demand better than a law that is so outdated it was even opposed by William Wilberforce.

Last night @LaylaMoran gave a passionate speech in Parliament on why the cruel Vagrancy Act should be repealed. The act currently criminalises those that sleep or beg on the streets.

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) 30 January 2019

But the Government refused to budge, again. All they’d commit to was a review that was already ongoing. They’re sitting on their hands in the middle of a national tragedy.

We all know there is no one single cure-all for homelessness. But we must protect people who are ending up on the streets. Many of them are struggling with mental or physical health issues – they aren’t criminals. Where’s the logic in large fines for people who can barely afford to eat?

Moving people on, issuing fines and putting them in prison cells should be a national source of shame. That’s why I am so passionate about repealing this Dickensian Act.

I want a society that cares for those that have fallen on hard times and treats them with compassion, not a prison cell.

Parliament must join me in supporting the end of this legislation. We owe it to the hundreds of thousands of people that the system has let down.