Repeal of the Vagrancy Act

The Vagrancy Act is relic of an age when being homeless was a crime, it made it a criminal offence to beg or be homeless on the street in England and Wales. The law was passed in the summer of 1824.

One of my favourite podcast interviews in the Jen’s Green Jam series was with Lord Bird, founder of the Big Issue. He spoke then about getting rid of the Vagrancy Act and afterwards, I was left wondering if it was one of those issues that had to wait for a change of government.

Last week the Lords took a big step towards getting rid of the Vagrancy Act when it unexpectedly passed an amendment to the Police Bill. It was the last item – at the end of a long night of defeating the government over it’s attempts to clamp down on protests and opposition – and Peers clearly felt that as they were on a roll, they might as well keep going with one last vote.

The Police bill, with repealing the Vagrancy Act one of a number of amendments supported by the Lords, now goes back to the Commons for MPs to consider.