HC Deb 18 April 1973 vol 855 cc486-8
25. Mr. Ashton

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will introduce legislation to prevent the eviction of caravan owners from holiday sites because they refuse to buy new caravans from the site owners.

Mr. Eyre

I do not think such legislation is the appropriate way to deal with the alleged abuse.

Mr. Ashton

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that planning permission for caravan sites is now almost at saturation point and that this situation puts owners in a monopoly position? Is he further aware that many caravan site owners are also caravan manufacturers, and that three years after somebody has bought a caravan on the site the owners threaten to evict ordinary people, including pensioners who have invested their savings, if they will not buy a new caravan.

Mr. Eyre

The question of the adequacy of sites is a matter for local planning authorities. On the other point raised by the hon. Gentleman, I remind him that if Parliament approves the Fair Trading Bill this kind of practice could be drawn to the attention of the Director of Fair Trading.

Mr. Hardy

Does the Minister concede that it is reasonable that many people should feel anxious about this matter and are entitled to receive some reassurance, since the sort of practice outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) has been widespread, for example, on many parts of the East Coast? Has the hon. Gentleman received any correspondence from people who are anxious about this matter?

Mr. Eyre

Administratively, my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State in another place is primarily responsible for this matter, but I have carefully noted the hon. Gentleman's assertion about the number of cases which have come to his notice.

Mr. Fernyhough

Is the Minister aware that some months ago I drew his Department's attention to the extortionate rents that were being demanded from those who had placed their caravans or chalets on these sites? His Department replied that it considered this not to be a fitting subject for legislation. Since these increased rents were imposed in the very week that preceded the standstill, and since they are still continuing, it is not time that legislation was brought forward to protect these people?

Mr. Eyre

The matter of increased charges on holiday caravan sites is one for the Department of Trade and Industry, and is another question.

Mr. Denis Howell

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that caravans situated on permanent sites represent the one area of home ownership that is without any protection or security? Is he further aware that there is growing evidence of action by site owners to deprive people of security and to impose intolerable conditions upon occupiers, on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton)? Does he know that certain owners refuse to allow co-operative societies on to the sites to serve goods? Will the Minister undertake to set up an inquiry into the situation, since the Opposition will be glad to co-operate to see what can be done to protect the interests of occupants on permanent caravan sites?

Mr. Eyre

I have carefully noted what the hon. Gentleman said. The original Question relates to holiday caravan sites. The difficulty in that respect is due to the transient nature of occupation of holiday caravans. With regard to permanent sites, there is some protection for the occupier under the Caravan Sites Act, 1968, since a court order is necessary before eviction can take place.