HC Deb 16 October 1975 vol 897 cc1576-7
10. Mr. McCrindle

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he now has any plans to introduce legislation about squatting.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

The report of the Law Commission on the law in England and Wales relating to conspiracy, which will deal with offences of entering and remaining on property, is expected in January. When it is received and considered the Government intend to introduce without delay comprehensive legislation to reform this branch of the law.

Mr. McCrindle

Does the Home Secretary agree that the recent Elgin Avenue incident underlines the extreme bitterness which will arise if those who have broken the law as it now stands are given preference over those who have not, resulting in the latter having to wait longer in the housing queue? Is there not some interim measure which the right hon. Gentleman could take to encourage local authorities, on a temporary basis—I emphasise "on a temporary basis"—to assist squatters, so as not to give the impression in 1975 that it is always the law-breaker who wins?

Mr. Jenkins

I do not believe that any such impression should be given, but I am sure that on consideration the hon. Gentleman and the House will agree that an adequate response to difficult situations is not ill-considered law. This is related to the law of conspiracy, which takes in a number of issues, including industrial matters, squatting, and film censorship, on which a wide-ranging, considered report is expected early in the new-year. It would not be a sensible procedure to rush in with interim legislation—assuming that I could get it through; I am still waiting for the bail Bill—before a well-considered report becomes available within three or four months.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

Surely the Home Secretary recognises that the impression has been given that it is the policy of the chairman of the Greater London Council to encourage squatting. Surely such behaviour is wrong, and must be condemned.

Mr. Jenkins

I do not think that it is any part of my duty, in answering a Question about legislation on squatting, to make remarks about people who have to take difficult decisions. I am in favour of upholding the law, as I think I have made clear by precept and practice. I do not think it necessary to supplement this by off-the-cuff sermons on subjects on which I am inadequately informed.