'The homelessness minister, Heather Wheeler, has apologised after leaked emails showed her using “racist” language to describe rough sleepers before she joined the government.
In an email sent in October 2017 to a homeless charity three months before she became minister, the Conservative MP for South Derbyshire described rough sleepers in her constituency as “the traditional type, old tinkers, knife-cutters wandering through”.
The email emerged during filming of a Ross Kemp ITV documentary that will air next month investigating discrepancies in the official rough sleeping figures in England, which are used to determine vital funding to tackle homelessness and which the UK statistics regulator has warned should not be trusted.
Wheeler’s comments prompted Stephen Robertson, the chief executive of the Big Issue Foundation, to call on her to resign. He said: “The use of pejorative terminology to describe marginalised people has 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.
“This is not a matter of undue political correctness, it reflects the need we have to embrace diversity and equality in modern Britain, stamping out obsolete attitudes once and for all. In light of her comments it is only appropriate for Heather Wheeler to resign.”
Wheeler issued an apology for her “inappropriate language”, and said it “is not at all representative of the great cultural contribution and rich heritage that the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities make to this country”.'
Read more: Homelessness minister accused of racist remarks about rough sleepers
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