Suspended MP brands homelessness charity a ‘magnet for undesirables’

Foreign Office minister Mark Field, suspended for grabbing a Greenpeace activist by the neck, defends comments as reflecting local opinion.

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The Government minister suspended over grabbing a Greenpeace activist by the neck referred to a homelessness charity in his constituency as a “magnet for undesirables” in a leaked email.

Mark Field MP faces fresh criticism for calling The Passage, a local charity in Westminster, central London, that helps vulnerable and homeless people, as a “magnet for these undesirables to flood into Victoria”.

The e-mail has Field saying: “It is high time that The Passage … started to take a little more responsibility for its ‘clients’.”

Field, who lives in Westminster, is reported to have made the remark in response to an email from a neighbour who complained about the level of antisocial behaviour linked to homeless people in the area.

The resident said: “The soup kitchens which act like a magnet for not just vagrants but also drug dealers with consequences that have been sufficiently highlighted by my neighbours in words and images … Day in and day out, night in and night out we see the same faces sleeping rough, same voices shouting and swearing, same sleeping bags in the same places.”

She continued: “We have seen mothers grasping their children on their way to school while loud and inappropriate discussion takes place among homeless in the street … Many of these problems are caused by people with mental health, alcohol and drug abuse issues who should not be there. Many of them are not British.”

The email concluded: “Ultimately this is a police responsibility. The police numbers have, however, been substantially reduced.”

Field replied to the email, copying in Westminster council figures and Michael Gove, the environment secretary, reportedly saying: “I would totally endorse every word [of the email]”, before going on to criticise the local charity for their handling of the situation.

Challenged on the e-mail, Field said he was “reiterating in verbatim form the strength of local opinion” he had “received from residents and constituents with regards the marked deterioration in and around Westminster Cathedral Piazza.”

He said: “Even as a Conservative MP, I have made strong representations to the current government about this worsening trend … I shall continue to offer my support to the local authorities and charities, such as The Passage, who I recognise do such vital work in our community.”

Stephen Robertson, the chief executive of the Big Issue Foundation, said the use of “pejorative terminology to describe marginalised people” had “no place in this day and age”.

“It serves only to stigmatise individuals, questioning their fundamental legitimacy and reinforcing the impossibility of tackling societal challenges.

“The use of xenophobic discriminatory shorthand betrays deeply held prejudices that serve only to injure and harm the recipients.

“When used within powerful institutions it promotes as acceptable beliefs that can consciously and subconsciously influence policy and practice for the worse,” he said.

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