Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has become the latest senior Conservative to distance himself from the Home Secretary’s claim that rough sleeping is sometimes a “lifestyle choice”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak refused to repeat Suella Braverman’s remarks on Monday, as did Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho.
Tory MP Natalie Elphicke also appeared to join in criticism of Mrs Braverman, who suggested that she wants to place restrictions on the use of tents on public streets.
Conservative former minister Vicky Ford told the Commons she does not agree with “every single word that every member of our front benches sometimes use”, adding: “For example, I do not believe that every person sleeping rough is there because of choice.”
It was reported over the weekend that the Cabinet minister has proposed establishing a civil offence to deter charities from giving tents to homeless people.
Organisations could be fined for doing so if it is deemed to have caused a nuisance under the plans being pitched for inclusion in the King’s Speech, which will set out the UK Government’s legislative agenda on Tuesday.
The potential law would also seek to prevent the obstruction of shop doorways by rough sleepers who are using tents, the FT said.
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, the Home Secretary said the UK should not become San Francisco or Los Angeles, and warned against rough sleeping becoming a “lifestyle choice”.
Mr Chalk, pressed on the comments, told Sky News he would take a “take a different approach”.
“There’s often a very significant context, which will be mental health issues, substance abuse problems, relationship breakdown, loss of a job and so on. And so I do think that that needs to be weighed in the balance.”
He added: “We shouldn’t do anything which entrenches people’s rough sleeping. Because if you do that, effectively you’re condemning and consigning people to poorer health outcomes and I’m afraid, in some cases, even shorter life expectancy.
“So to be kind you sometimes have to be robust and you sometimes have to be really quite firm.”
On Mrs Braverman’s language, he said: “I think she was writing on Twitter, and I actually had a chat with her about it. I don’t think she disagrees with anything that I’m saying now, namely that there is a context.”