HC Deb 20 January 2003 vol 398 cc11-2
6. Colin Burgon (Elmet)

What measures he will take to simplify the procedure for the removal of travellers from unauthorised sites.[91427]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Michael Wills)

We are introducing new powers of eviction to allow the police to take firm action against unauthorised encampments where local authorities have made adequate site provision without the preconditions in current legislation.

Colin Burgon

I thank the Minister for his reply. My question arose directly from my experiences of three visits by travellers to Allerton Bywater in my constituency, which caused great concern among local people. When the travellers finally departed, they left the place a tip. Will my hon. Friend make sure that the various organisations responsible for implementing the law are fully aware of their powers and use them effectively?

Mr. Wills

I am aware of the problems that my hon. Friend has had in his constituency, which are shared by many Members on both sides of the House and are precisely why we are introducing those new powers. We will make sure that they are widely publicised and used, because that sort of behaviour is intolerable and it will not be tolerated.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)

I thank the Minister for his Department's willingness to meet the town clerk of Totton and Eling town council in my constituency who has been co-ordinating efforts to improve procedures for dealing with travellers in our part of Hampshire. As I understand it, the new powers that will be granted to make removal easier are contingent on the provision of sites for travellers by town councils. Will the Minister issue planning guidelines to adjust current restrictions on planning that make it difficult for town and parish councils to supply those sites, given normal restrictions on planning procedures; otherwise, with the best will in the world, councils may want to supply the sites, but be prevented from doing so by the restrictions on planning?

Mr. Wills

We will look at all those aspects, including the planning guidelines, in the light of experience. There are existing powers to deal with such encampments; the problem is that it is difficult to deal with them quickly enough. That is what the new powers will do. We need to provide somewhere for the unauthorised encampments to go; otherwise they will simply take the problem somewhere else. That is why there is the link with local sites. We are providing extra funding. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minster is trying to find—

Dr. Lewis

Planning guidance?

Mr. Wills

I am coming to that in a moment. The hon. Gentleman should be a little patient. We need to provide extra funding. The ODPM, which has responsibility for the matter, is doing that. We are determined to make the problem go away, and we will not rest until it does. I can assure the hon. Gentleman of that.