§ 2. Mr. Dodds
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what progress has been made in giving help to local authorities designed to improve the pre sent conditions of gypsies and other 178 travellers; and with what other Government Departments he has discussed or proposes to discuss the matter so as to ensure the most effective form of cooperation.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)
This is essentially a local problem. I would refer the hon. Member to the circular of 8th February, which asks the local authorities concerned to take constructive action over the problems of gypsies and other travellers.
§ Mr. Dodds
In thanking the Minister for the very forthright circular, may I ask if he believes that in England and Wales—which are easily the two most backward countries in Europe over the question of gypsies—the circular will do the job? Since he asked the county councils to take a survey of those who need sites, can he say whether there is any evidence that they are doing so? If not, does he contemplate something stronger?
§ Mr. Rippon
It is difficult to make comparisons with other countries, but I think that the social and welfare services we offer compare favourably. The real need is for sites. There are welcome signs that the local authorities are aware of their responsibilities. The Rural District Councils Association has just passed a resolution saying that the provision of sites is the most appropriate way of dealing with the problem. I think that the circular will have an effect.
§ Mr. C. Hughes
Will the hon. Gentleman say how many local authorities have used their powers under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act? I understand that last week he could not give the information. Why not? It would assist in considering the problem properly.
§ Mr. Rippon
We would not get the information because the local authorities provide sites without reference to us.