Councillors in London are embroiled in a growing row over whether to ban the distribution of free food on public land, which could signal the end of soup runs for the capital's homeless.The idea – contained in the London Local Authorities Bill to be presented to Parliament in a fortnight – has been put forward by Westminster City Council, which claims the much-needed charitable services cause "public order issues". If the ban is approved, all those distributing free food to London's hungry will be breaking the law. The move would not include corporations wishing to promote their products by giving out free refreshments.
Luke Evans, a policy officer at Housing Justice, the charity which oversees soup runs in the capital said: "These people could be left on the streets to die. But, more than anything, it is a philosophical principle that you should be able to care for your fellow human beings. They are penalising people who are trying to help.There is a danger that people will starve... "
Shelter, the housing charity, said: "Proposing to stop acts of charity and kindness by a legally enforceable ban is against the principles of tolerance, freedom and understanding which underpin British society...Shelter is calling on London's council bosses to show compassion and moral leadership by deleting this inhumane clause from the Bill."
Westminster City Council's cabinet member for housing, the Conservative councillor Angela Harvey, claimed the distribution of free food was causing a "nuisance"
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