Suella Braverman has been savaged after she announced plans to stop charities giving tents to rough sleepers.
The home secretary claimed that many people using tents for shelter are doing so “as a lifestyle choice”.
She said failing to take action would lead to “an explosion of crime, drug taking, and squalor”.
But her plans have sparked a furious political backlash, with Andy Burnham, the Labour mayor of Manchester, describing them as “frankly abhorrent”.
Under the policy, which could be included in next week’s King’s Speech setting out the government’s plans for the year ahead, charities could be fined for giving tents to rough sleepers.
Braverman said: “The British people are compassionate. We will 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.
“Unless we step in now to stop this, British cities will go the way of places in the US like San Francisco and Los Angeles, where weak policies have led to an explosion of crime, drug taking, and squalor.
“Nobody in Britain should be living in a tent on our streets. There are options for people who don’t want to be sleeping rough, and the Government is working with local authorities to strengthen wraparound support including treatment for those with drug and alcohol addiction.
“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.”
Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson, said: “This is grim politics from a desperate Conservative government which knows it’s day are numbered.
Reacting to her comments on X (formerly Twitter), Burnham said: “It is frankly abhorrent for the home secretary to be proposing banning tents for rough sleepers in the King’s Speech. I hope all decent people will unite in opposition to this obscene proposal.”
“A toxic mix of rising rents and failure to end no-fault evictions is hitting vulnerable people. After years of delay the Tories are failing on their promises. Now after 13 years, they’re blaming homeless people rather than themselves.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “How low can this morally bankrupt government go? We need to boot them out of office.”