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Government's Queen's Speech fails Newcastle and the country. Carers ignored while our open spaces are under threat from property developers

May 11, 2021 5:08 PM

Cllr Robin Ashby at ParliamentFollowing the announcement of the Government's plans for new laws today, Cllr Robin Ashby, who speaks on City Council for the Newcastle Liberal Democrats on regeneration and business issuesd. said : "We must rebuild as a fairer, greener and more caring country in the aftermath of Covid. So it is crushingly disappointing that the Government's plans will fail on every account - still failing small businesses and the self-employed,and still not rising properly to the climate challenge."

"Their planning reforms will rip powers away from local people and communities in favour of wealthy property developers, threatening our environment and treasured green spaces. We are very concerned indeed about the implications for west and north Newcastle, and will be keeping a close eye on the details when they are made available.

Ed Davey MP, Leader of the Liberal Democrats commented:

"The Government is still ignoring millions of people caring for loved ones at home, and other aspects of looking after our citizens in need. The one-sentence reference to this issue is totally inadequate after years of desultory talk and vague promises. Their cruel asylum plans will stop people fleeing violence and persecution, from seeking sanctuary in the UK.

"And long delayed reforms to social care have been pushed back into the long grass once again, despite the pressures we have seen on care homes and carers this last year.

"Boris Johnson has utterly failed to deliver an ambitious programme to respond to the real challenges people are facing after this terribly difficult year."

Ed Davey vowed to put carers on the parliamentary agenda. Six other key Government publications from the past year - including the Budget, the Spending Review and the Health and Care white paper - also didn't contain a single mention of unpaid carers, he stressed.

The Liberal Democrats are pushing for carers to be explicitly included in the Health and Care Bill, which was announced in the Queen's Speech today. Ed Davey is also proposing legislation that would give carers a new right to reasonable adjustments, to allow them to juggle work with caring responsibilities.

"This pandemic has shown that we are a nation of carers, but it's also shown that carers are too often an afterthought for this Conservative Government", he said.

"People looking after their loved ones are doing a remarkable and important job in the face of big challenges. They deserve our support, but have been forgotten and ignored again and again by the Tories.

"Conservative Ministers didn't listen to our calls for Carer's Allowance to go up during this pandemic, or for emergency funding for councils to give carers a break. And now Boris Johnson has left out unpaid carers from the Queen's Speech altogether.

"I will keep fighting to put carers high up the parliamentary agenda. Liberal Democrats are standing up for carers and working to build a more caring society as we emerge from this pandemic."

The Government failed to include repeal of the Dickensian law that criminalises rough sleeping in the Queen's Speech. Liberal Democrats MP Layla Moran has said the Government is "failing the homeless" and "putting their crackdown on protests and draconian voter ID law over repeal of the Vagrancy Act".

It comes after she led a major cross-party intervention last week, in a letter signed by over 60 parliamentarians including the Bishop of Manchester, MPs and Peers from five parties and crossbenchers, urging Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick to include repealing the law, saying: "A failure to ensure the scrapping of the Act in the next session would deal a blow to cross-party efforts to address the homelessness crisis".

In February, Jenrick told the Commons he thought the Act, which criminalises rough sleeping in England and Wales, should be "consigned to history", but has since failed to commit to a timetable to introduce legislation or even publishing the Government's review into the law.

Layla Moran MP's campaign to scrap the Act started when she was first elected in 2017, in response to a petition by the Oxford University Student Union and Oxford-based homelessness group On Your Doorstep.

"The Government is failing the homeless today. It's still the law for rough sleepers to be arrested and prosecuted for the crime of not being able to afford a roof over their head. It's a moral outrage that a Victorian-era law continues to punish those who desperately need help. The Government are putting their crackdown on protests and draconian voter ID law over repeal of the Vagrancy Act," she said after the speech was delivered.

"The clock is ticking for this Government. We urgently need a more compassionate and holistic approach to ending homelessness in this country. There is significant cross-party support for the Vagrancy Act to be repealed as a first step. To not include that in today's Queen's Speech is shocking and sets us back even further.

"We urge the Government to act and bring forward legislation in this session. If they fail to do that and push this back even further, it will deal a massive blow to our cross-party attempts to make this happen. Jenrick must publish his review, work with us and scrap the Act once and for all."

In the last session of Parliament, Layla introduced the Vagrancy (Repeal) Bill with cross-party support. The Bill is here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-01/0118/20118.pdf

The full text of the letter, including signatories, is below.


Dear Secretary of State,

We are writing to ask for your commitment that legislation to repeal the Vagrancy Act will be included in next week's Queen's Speech.

In the last few months, as the last session of Parliament drew to a close, you were clear when you told the House that you thought the Act, which makes it illegal to sleep rough in England and Wales, should be "consigned to history".

We completely agree.

Despite saying that the findings of the review into the Act will be published shortly, neither you nor the Minister for Homelessness have been able to commit to a date, nor has your Department committed to a date when new legislation will be introduced to scrap it once and for all.

The campaign to repeal this Dickensian law, that has no place in modern society, has come so far from its grassroots origins in Oxford in 2017.

Now it is up to the Government to step up and commit to repealing the Vagrancy Act in the next parliamentary session. We urge you to ensure it is included in the Queen's Speech on 11 May.

A failure to ensure the scrapping of the Act in the next session would deal a blow to cross-party efforts to address the homelessness crisis with a more compassionate and holistic approach.

If we can't even repeal this heartless, cruel law almost 200 years since its introduction, what does that say about our country?

We implore you to repeal the Vagrancy Act in the new parliamentary session, and to include a commitment to do just that in the Queen's Speech next week.

Only then can we make further strides towards a more compassionate and caring approach to this crisis.

Yours sincerely,

Layla Moran MP

Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Oxford West and Abingdon

Dan Carden MP

Alistair Carmichael MP

Wendy Chamberlain MP

Daisy Cooper MP

Ed Davey MP

Tim Farron MP

Andrew Gwynne MP

Wera Hobhouse MP

Christine Jardine MP

Kim Johnson MP

Clive Lewis MP

Tony Lloyd MP

Caroline Lucas MP

Sarah Olney MP

Liz Saville-Roberts MP

Virendra Sharma MP

Jamie Stone MP

Claudia Webbe MP

Munira Wilson MP

Mohammad Yasin MP

Bishop of Manchester

Baroness Adams

Lord Best

Baroness Brinton

Baroness Brown

Lord Campbell

Lord Cashman

Lord Chidgey

Lord Dubs

Lord Eames

Baroness Featherstone

Lord Foster

Lord Goddard

Baroness Grender

Baroness Harris

Lord Hendy

Lord Hylton

Baroness Jolly

Lord Jones

Lord Kerr

Baroness Kramer

Baroness Lister

Lord Mackay

Lord Mackenzie

Lord McNally

Baroness Miller

Lord Morse

Lord Oates

Lord Ranger

Baroness Ritchie

Lord Roberts

Baroness Royall

Lord Russell

Lord Sawyer

Baroness Sheehan

Lord Shipley

Lord Sikka

Lord Singh

Baroness Stern

Baroness Thomas

Baroness Thornhill

Lord Tope

Baroness Watkins