Sense at St Paul’s and also in Westminster – as Council drops soup run ban

02 November 2011

Today Liberty celebrated a victory for common sense and Common Values as Westminster Council dropped its plan to criminalise the giving of free food to the homeless.

The authority had been considering banning charitable soup runs around Westminster Cathedral Piazza in an apparent bid to “discourage rough sleeping”. The proposed byelaw would have made it a crime to give out a free cup of soup to homeless people in parts of Victoria.

But now the Council has announced that it has dropped the scheme following positive negotiations and compromises on all sides. If the authority was to seek to reintroduce such a byelaw in future, it would have to embark upon its entire consultation process from scratch.

The turnaround follows a series of calls from Liberty, Housing Justice, Church Action on Poverty and other organisations to find a better solution – one that would not further sideline those already at the margins of society or criminalise acts of charity. In June Liberty delivered letters to councillors – requesting a rethink – to Westminster City Hall in a giant “Cream of Conscience” soup can. And a legal opinion from lawyers at 11KBW concluded that the “over-broad” and “draconian” proposal was unlawful on a number of human rights and traditional common law grounds.

Sabina Frediani, campaigns co-ordinator for Liberty, said:

“Credit to Westminster Council for responding to public concern in such a positive way and dropping such a harsh and ill-judged proposal.

“The byelaw would have criminalised acts of charity at a time of recession and at best, merely shunted homeless people on to a different part of the capital.

“Thankfully following positive discussion and negotiation with homelessness charities, the Council has recognised that it is not its place to tell us that we cannot give our food to the needy.”

Contact: Liberty’s press office on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831128

NOTES TO EDITORS:

  1. For a copy of the letter Liberty sent to councillors, the 11KBW legal opinion on the proposed byelaw or Liberty’s response to the council’s consultation over the plans, please contact the Liberty press office.
  2. Nearly 2,000 people – including Annie Lennox, Vivienne Westwood, Ali Smith and various MPs and QCs – have signed Liberty’s petition calling on Westminster Council to scrap the plans.
  3. Please also find attached a picture of Liberty’s “Cream of Conscience” soup can that was used to deliver Liberty’s letters to Westminster Council in June. For more images please contact the Liberty press office.