UK interior minister plans to restrict use of tents by homeless

FILE PHOTO: Weekly cabinet meeting at Downing Street in London

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's interior minister Suella Braverman said on Saturday she would propose new laws to limit the use of tents by homeless people, saying many of them see it as "a lifestyle choice".

In a post on X, Braverman, who is seen as a possible future leader of the governing Conservative Party, said the state would always support those who are genuinely homeless.

"But we cannot allow our streets to be taken over by rows of tents occupied by people, many of them from abroad, living on the streets as a lifestyle choice," she said.

Braverman argued that unless the government acted, British cities would "go the way of places in the U.S. like San Francisco and Los Angeles, where weak policies have led to an explosion of crime, drug taking, and squalor."

She said there were options for people who did not want to be sleeping rough, and the government was working with local government to increase support.

"What I want to stop, and what the law abiding majority wants us to stop, is those who cause nuisance and distress to other people by pitching tents in public spaces, aggressively begging, stealing, taking drugs, littering, and blighting our communities," Braverman added.

She was criticised by Angela Rayner, the opposition Labour Party's deputy leader, who said on X: "Rough sleeping is not 'a lifestyle choice'," and blamed increased homelessness on 13 years of Conservative government.

Homelessness charity Shelter was also critical of Braverman.

"Let's make it clear: living on the streets is not a ‘lifestyle choice’ - it is a sign of failed government policy," it said on X.

The government's new legislative programme will be outlined in the King's Speech on Tuesday.

In September, Braverman called for a global overhaul of the approach towards immigration, which is likely to be a key issue at Britain's general election expected next year.

That speech was criticised by human rights campaigners, opposition politicians and even some members of her own party.

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Daniel Wallis)