Derby

Minister apologises for homeless 'tinkers' email

Heather Wheeler Image copyright Conservative Party
Image caption Heather Wheeler has been an MP since 2010

A minister has apologised for using "inappropriate language" in an email discussing rough sleepers.

Homelessness Minister Heather Wheeler said rough sleepers in her constituency were "the traditional type, old tinkers, knife-cutters".

Mrs Wheeler was criticised by homeless and traveller charities for using language to "stigmatise individuals".

In response, the South Derbyshire MP offered a "heartfelt apology" over "an error of judgement".

'Rich heritage'

The email was uncovered during filming of an ITV documentary about discrepancies in the official rough sleeping figures in England.

It was sent in October 2017, three months before she became a minister, The Guardian reported.

Speaking to the newspaper, the chief executive of the Big Issue Foundation, Stephen Robertson, called 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."

In her statement, Mrs Wheeler said: "I'd like to offer a sincere and heartfelt apology for my use of inappropriate language in an email in October 2017.

"This was an error of judgement on my part, and is not at all representative of the great cultural contribution and rich heritage that the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities make to this country."

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