Minister Distances Herself From Suella Braverman's Controversial Description Of Rough Sleepers

The home secretary said sleeping on the streets was a "lifestyle choice".
Suella Braverman and Claire Coutinho
Suella Braverman and Claire Coutinho
Getty/Sky News

Claire Coutinho has distanced herself from Suella Braverman’s recent comments about homeless people who sleep in tents on the streets.

The home secretary caused a stir at the weekend when she claimed many people are using tents for shelter as a “lifestyle choice”.

She said failing to take action on these rough sleepers would lead to “an explosion of crime, drug taking, and squalor” – words which sparked a political backlash.

“Do you concur with the home secretary that living rough, in a tent, is a lifestyle choice?” Sky News host Kay Burley asked on Monday morning.

Coutinho, the energy secretary, replied: “Before I came into parliament, I did a lot of work in social justice, I actually worked with people who are homeless.

“I think the reason people get into that position are complex and very varied.

“I wouldn’t actually use the language of ‘lifestyle choice’.

“I think in her tweet and thread, she distinguished that a lot of people who end up in that position are struggling, for example, with addiction issues – and she wasn’t talking about those people.”

The home secretary’s plan could mean charities end up being fined for giving tents to rough sleepers.

Braverman wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “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.”

Back on Sky News, the energy secretary said that the government wants people to have “a warm home, a roof over their head, support and help for the challenges that they face” because sleeping on the streets “is no life for anyone”.

Questioned again by Burley on Braverman’s decision to call sleeping in tents as a “lifestyle choice”, Coutinho said: “I wouldn’t necessarily use that language. I’ve worked with people in that situation...”

She claimed her cabinet colleague was talking people in organised groups and “nuisance begging” – and reiterated that those who are homeless need “our compassion”.

Andy Burnham, the Labour mayor of Manchester, describing Braverman’s remarks as “frankly abhorrent”, while the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael, described it as “grim politics”.


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