HC Deb 05 March 2004 vol 418 cc1202-12

Order for Second Reading read.

1.42 pm
Mr. Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar) (Con)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

When I was preparing my speech yesterday, I did so in the almost certain knowledge that I would not have an opportunity to speak. I therefore thank my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), who is a fine advertisement for eating a Mars a day, for allowing us time to debate an important issue. I put on record my gratitude to the Bill's sponsors, particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) and for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown), as well as Baroness Hanham in another place.

The subject of the Bill is substantially the same as that of amendments tabled in Committee to the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill, which were not debated because of the guillotine that the Government ruthlessly impose on Bills. The subject was debated on 5 February in the other place, which is more civilised and confident. My Bill is designed to address the serious and growing problem of landowners abusing and flouting the planning system by constructing unauthorised caravan parks, often in the middle of the green belt. But it has wider use against developers who routinely ignore planning controls. I notice that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister produced a consultation paper on the management of unauthorised encampments. My Bill has nothing to do with unauthorised encampments where, for the most part, the Travellers are trespassing, but deals specifically with the case where the Travellers own the land.

Before I describe the measure in detail, I shall start—unusually, perhaps, for an Opposition Member—by praising the Government. Whether that will help my sensible and modest proposals get onto the statute book remains to be seen. I was somewhat cheered and felt rather optimistic about my chances when I received a chatty and friendly note from the Government Whips Office dated 14 January. It starts pleasantly with the words "Dear Eric", and continues: re: Fridays—Assistance Request Thank you for being able to assist on 5th March, 23rd April, 14th May, 18th June and 16th July. I will have briefings for you the week of your Fridays. Best wishes Jim That was from the hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick). Although I found the briefings extremely useful, perhaps I can give notice that, regretfully, I cannot be present on 23 April, 14 May, 18 June or 16 July, but in order to demonstrate my good will it is my intention to be in the Chamber next Friday to support the Cardiac Risk in the Young (Screening) Bill, on which I hope to catch the Deputy Speaker's eye and make a brief contribution.

The reason why I am so pro-Government at present is their announcement of 25 February that they will table amendments to the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill currently in another place, allowing local authorities to issue a new kind of stop notice. That is very welcome and goes some way towards meeting the demands in my Bill.

Ministers have suggested in the past that the existing planning laws and regulations are more than adequate to deal with the problem of blatant disregard of planning laws, despite evidence to the contrary. Given their dramatic change of heart, I shall draw a veil of discretion over past misjudgments.

According to the announcement by the Minister for Housing and Planning— what a pleasure it is to see him in his place today— Local authorities will be given more powers to stop unauthorised development and protect the environment". The announcement continues: As a result of the 'Review of the Planning Enforcement System in England', the Government has tabled an amendment to the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill to enable local planning authorities (LPAs) to issue a 'temporary stop notice' at the start of unauthorised development, before an enforcement notice is served. The Minister states: When someone starts damaging the local environment by breaking the planning g rules we want to ensure local authorities can act more effectively. The temporary stop notices could be used across a wide range of circumstances such as to stop the setting up of a scrap yard or haulage business without consent in the Green Belt. He continues: Communities must have confidence in the planning system, which will only be the case if the rules are enforced. I particularly commend the last sentence to the House. However, without the power to overcome the delay in the system, this welcome and well-intentioned move could end up as another piece of paper in the ever-growing stream of ineffective paperwork.

It is precisely because communities have lost confidence in the system as a result of its slowness that I bring the Bill before the House today. Communities also feel powerless and abandoned by authority. Many thousands of taxpaying, law-abiding people feel a mixture of bewilderment and anger that the present system allows, and even enables, blatant breeches of planning control that will take months and probably years to remedy. I suspect that many hon. Members on both sides of the House have stood alongside local councillors and planning officials in an angry public meeting, explaining why nothing can happen immediately and that patience and restraint are required, and saying that there will eventually be an inquiry and a decision. At such meetings, one describes the lengthy and tortuous process and watches the audience's demeanour change from anger to frustration to incredulity, and then back to anger again. When one finally gets up enough courage to tell the audience, as one must, that the outcome is far from certain, one can almost taste the feeling of abandonment in the air. To take the Minister's words to their logical conclusion, communities have lost confidence in the planning system because the rules are not enforced.

When the rules are enforced, it is always years down the line, after Travellers have lived on a patch of land and regard it as their home. I have seen that happen in my constituency, and I see it daily in the village where I live. The eventual decision is rarely happy or harmonious for anyone. In events not far from my constituency, my constituents got a taste of what might be from the eviction of Travellers from a Travellers' caravan site at Meadowlands, near Chelmsford. The eviction, which occurred on the morning of 26 January, made a lengthy item on the regional television news, with footage of blazing barricades, 100 police officers with riot shields, tearful women and rocks being thrown at 40 bailiffs hired by Chelmsford borough council as the Travellers tried to keep their homes.

The Travellers had bought the ground; they moved their caravans on to it three years ago and called it Meadowlands, but their four planning applications to live there had been rejected. Chelmsford borough council has rightly said that no Travellers were hurt during the eviction, and it insists that the eviction was carried out purely on planning grounds, after the Travellers had failed to comply with two enforcement notices and an injunction ordering them to leave the unlawful site, which was zoned for agricultural use only. Four bailiffs were injured during the operation, which cost a staggering £150,000. This is not an isolated incident. We saw on our television screens pictures of similar sieges in Warwickshire this year. Both Brentwood and the Epping forest part of my constituency have about five sites awaiting a similar fate.

I do not want planning controls to be routinely decided on the basis of riot shields, with each scrap of land fought over as in some mediaeval battle, but that is the position that this House has forced on hard-pressed councils such as Chelmsford, which must take such action in order to enforce the rule of law.

I note with approval the words spoken in Westminster Hall in January 2002, when the hon. Member for Wallasey (Angela Eagle), as the Minister responding to the debate, stressed that Travellers should be accorded the same rights… as others". She went on to say: However, within the context of what I have just said—that all people's rights are equal in our society—if people behave in an antisocial or criminal way, or in some of the ways…outlined, the full force of the law can and should be brought to bear." — [Official Report, Westminster Hal1, 15 January 2002; Vol. 378, c. 67WH.] She was right, but the full force of the law can be costly and heartbreaking, and the effects of the delay inherent in its enforcement can be extremely harsh. Surely, it is better to have a remedy that discourages abuse of the system, corruption and social blackmail, and encourages openness and respect of the law.

For hon. Members who are lucky enough not to have experienced such events at first hand in their constituencies, let me briefly explain how they usually turn out. The first thing that one notices is that a previously greenfield site is fenced. When inquiries are made, assurances are given that the land has been purchased for grazing a few horses. In reality, that is a lie that is meant to be seen through—these are but the opening moves of a ritualised dance.

Village meetings are hurriedly called and the planning officers get a taste of what life will be like for the foreseeable future. Next, earth-moving equipment arrives to strip away the topsoil, which is quickly disposed of. Even the most trusting now realise that it is about more than just a few horses. Then come the tonnes of hardcore, which are quickly pounded into the earth. Next, caravans towed by top-of-the-range 4x4 vehicles move in, usually over a weekend to minimise the council's interference.

Let us remember that a lot of money changes hands: the conveyance and purchase of the land cost thousands of pounds. The plot is sub-divided and re-conveyed and there is a rapid churning of ownership, which makes the accurate serving of documents difficult.

Agents make a nice living acting as middlemen in identifying and negotiating the purchase of the land. The new owners of the land purchase it in the full knowledge that it is without planning permission. However, after a period of years has passed it is uncertain whether that fact is passed on to subsequent purchasers, so some injustice, not to say fraud, may be perpetrated.

The arrival of the caravans is just the start of the difficulties. Nervous planning enforcement officers are sent to serve notices and to erect official notices on the site, which, if the officer is particularly forceful, will remain intact throughout the duration of his visit. Mains drainage and electricity are connected in dangerous and unauthorised ways. Negotiations are started to regulate those services, much to the annoyance of local residents. If one is lucky, the matter can be resolved within a couple of years, but it can sometimes drag on for up to seven years.

We should not make the mistake of assuming that such people accord with the stereotype. By and large, they are not penniless, oppressed people who depend on benefits—on the contrary, they are an industrious community with an outward display of wealth, including modern caravans, expensive all-terrain vehicles and smart, well-maintained commercial vehicles. The sites bristle with activity and with TV satellite dishes.

None of those problems would occur without an original vendor. Sometimes, people feel that the provision of Travellers' sites is inadequate and sell off their own land to increase the supply, but that is rare. Most vendors have one driving principle, apart from the money—payback. The land usually has a history of repeated planning refusals, and is often isolated from other land holdings and difficult to develop. It is an act of cocking a snook at authority and lining the pockets at the same time.

The practice is widespread. It has created a new type of blackmail and a modern kind of danegeld. My attention has been drawn to cases where objectors to a development receive a polite call pointing out that if the development does not go through they might find a Travellers' site there instead. I am also aware of cases where the local solution is to buy back the land—in effect, making a payment to export the problem to another community. All that is usually achieved is the identification of a community that is a soft touch, and where a repeat visit would be profitable.

Sadly, the lawlessness is not all one-sided. I am aware of criminal damage and arson committed against Travellers to frighten them into moving off. As the sites usually house families, that is a despicable act. One day, somebody will die as a result of the inadequacy of our planning system.

Direct and illegal action, corruption and blackmail are operating within previously law-abiding communities because people have lost confidence in the planning system as the rules are not enforced.

The Bill is intended to address the inadequacy of local authority enforcement powers to achieve a rapid cessation of the use of land in breach of planning controls. It is especially designed to tackle the problem of use of land for stationing residential caravans with the consent of the owner or tenant of the land.

Under the current system, two notices can be served against development carried out without planning permission. Enforcement notices require steps to be carried out or activities to cease. There is a minimum period of 28 days before they take effect, and usually a period for compliance thereafter. The notices can be appealed to the Secretary of State and do not take effect until after such an appeal has been finally determined. Breach of an enforcement notice after the period for compliance has passed is a criminal offence. If the steps have not been carried out within the required period, the local planning authority may enter the land and carry them out.

Secondly, there are stop notices. If an enforcement notice is issued, the local planning authority may also serve a stop notice that prohibits carrying out any activity that is required by the enforcement notice to cease, and any action that is part of that activity or associated with it. For example, if the enforcement notice prohibits the use of land for residential caravans, a stop notice can also prohibit that activity. A stop notice takes effect from a specified date, which can be immediate, cannot be appealed and is not suspended by an appeal against the underlying enforcement notice. Breach of the stop notice is an offence.

The Bill would give local planning authorities a power to remove from the land objects, not including buildings, that are used for a prohibited activity, if that activity is a breach of an enforcement or stop notice. For example, caravans could be removed, or when the activity is the unlawful construction of a building, the builders' equipment could be removed. It would apply only in circumstances in which criminal offences are committed, although there is no need to bring a criminal prosecution. If caravans are moved on to a site in breach of planning control, the local planning authority could serve an enforcement notice and a stop notice. That amendment to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 would allow the authority to remove the caravans if the notice is not complied with.

The Bill would allow entry only when a criminal offence was being committed. It builds on existing section 178 powers, and I am advised by counsel that they are compatible with the Human Rights Act 1998.

When a similar measure was debated in another place, stress was placed on the shortage of official sites for Travellers. I have sympathy with some of the views expressed, but they have nothing to do with the Bill. Current provision is determined on the basis of neglect, money, corruption, blackmail and intimidation. That is no way to make decent provision for those who seek a permanent settlement for their caravans.

The Bill would make an important shift to make the system work. It would discourage the unauthorised occupation of land as a tactic to bump the planning system; allow proper applications for planning permission; enable Travellers to purchase land for sites in the normal way; place Travellers on the same basis as the settled community; and discourage unscrupulous people from making money out of the sale of land, which offers no long-term security. Above all, it would restore to communities confidence in the planning system through effective enforcement.

2.4 pm

Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) on introducing the Bill. I am delighted to support it, not least because our constituencies share a boundary. Although Havering is a London borough, it is 50 per cent. green belt and therefore especially vulnerable to the sort of Traveller incursions that my hon. Friend described. I am regularly contacted by constituents who have indeed lost confidence in the planning system.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister last week issued a very helpful piece of guidance on managing unauthorised encampments, but it has several fatal flaws when it comes to dealing with the sort of case that my hon. Friend has described. It provides advice to local authorities on managing unauthorised encampments where people have camped on land without the landowner or occupier's permission. However, most sites in my constituency where problems occur are owned by Travellers who have bought greenfield sites with the intention of using them for permanent occupation.

Another difficulty with the ODPM guidance is that the powers depend on a local authority's having an authorised site available for Travellers. The London borough of Havering had just such a site, but unfortunately, over a short period, two rival Traveller families laid waste to everything on the site. It had had hard standings, laundry, plumbing, water, lighting and fencing, but by the time the Travellers had finished, there was nothing. Even the fences had been ripped up and burned, and all the facilities had been destroyed. Local authorities in that position are left with a dilemma: either they invest more of their local taxpayers' money in re-providing the facilities that they have already provided, or they leave themselves vulnerable to illegal Traveller encroachment because they do not have an official site to which they can direct Travellers.

Last week, I went to view one site, Hogbar farm in Harold Hill, at the invitation of some of my constituents. The council has been trying to clear that site for the past two years, but one of the greatest impediments to its efforts is its lack of an official site. The new guidance says that councils will have the power to remove any vehicles and other property that is on the land", but the difficulty is that some of the properties are not the sort of caravan that can be hitched up behind a four-wheel drive and towed off the land. They are large mobile homes that have been brought on to the site by transporters and bricked up round the bottom. To all intents and purposes, they look like bungalows. Even police entering the site would have extreme difficulty in removing them, which would be quite a long-winded process. I know from my service as a Havering councillor in the 1900s that the official site was a no-go area to local councillors. No rent was ever collected because no council officer was brave enough to enter the site to try to collect it.

The whole system is fraught with difficulties, and I am delighted that we are debating this Bill today, because it would offer local councils additional powers to deal with these very difficult problems. As my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar said, we are dealing with people who have a great deal of cash available to them. They can employ highly competent barristers to take their appeals through the courts — probably barristers of a higher quality than local authorities can afford, which gives the Travellers a distinct advantage. They know the planning system inside out, they know the appeals system and they are winning, hands down. That is certainly the case on sites all over my constituency, and I know that the constituencies of many of my colleagues also suffer.

There are problems with the planning, enforcement and appeals processes, and having worked in local government, I know the practical difficulties of issuing an enforcement notice in such circumstances. It is now habitual for sites to be subdivided, and an enforcement notice has to be accompanied by an accurate plan, designating the subdivisions in the site, giving accurate details of the owners of those subdivided plots and having the exact spot where a caravan is placed demarcated on each subdivided area. The occupants of the land know that system only too well, and all too often, when a case comes to court, the subdivisions and the ownership of the subdivided plots are found to have changed, and the caravans are found to have been moved within the subdivided areas. So the occupants play the planning system along, and consequently remain on the site for ever-longer periods. During those periods, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, all sorts of commercial activities take place, involving commercial vehicles, hardcore, tiling and slabs for people's front gardens. Those people carry on commercial activities and become more and more established.

The view from the windows of my constituents whose houses back on to what was a greenfield site when they bought their properties is now one of densely parked caravans and mobile homes that have been bricked up round the bottom. The council is now faced with trying to identify somewhere else in the constituency where it can set up an official site before it has any power to get rid of the unofficial site. Finding such a site is not an easy matter. It might be able to find a site that would be large enough and have road access, but the process then has to go to consultation, and the local residents will undoubtedly object because they do not want a Travellers' site near their homes. Alternatively, the council will have to designate another piece of green belt, which flies in the face of its trying to clear a green belt site that has already been encroached on illegally. That is quite apart from the practical difficulties involved in dismantling what is on the site. We are not talking about a couple of touring caravans that have appeared overnight and can be towed off by the police.

I welcome the steps that my hon. Friend is taking. Any powers that can be given to local councils to enable them to set the processes involving Traveller camps on a legal footing, and to deal with illegal camps, are very welcome, as are any measures that will give stop notices some power so that they can be acted on. At the moment, enforcement notices and stop notices are barely worth the paper that they are printed on. I hope that the Minister will take these comments into consideration and do what he can to help local authorities to deal with this problem. They receive complaints about it on a daily basis, as do I.

2.12 pm
Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham) (Con)

I have no intention of detaining the House for long, but I would like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) on introducing the Bill. I know that he and his constituents have suffered grievously from difficulties involving Travellers. He was telling me about the Meadowlands operation while it was going on; it was an appalling situation. I commend him for introducing the Bill, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson) for supporting him. She and her constituents obviously suffer in the same way. Most of us can tell similar tales. It is a hopeful sign that the Government have tabled some amendments. I do not intend to detain the House for long because I want to hear what the Minister has to say about ensuring that this issue is addressed. I congratulate my hon. Friend once again on introducing such a timely and effective Bill.

2.13 pm
The Minister for Housing and Planning (Keith Hill)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) on securing the opportunity to introduce this Bill, in which he seeks amendments to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 in respect of enforcement notices and stop notices. He made a typically moderate and balanced speech, in which he dealt with genuine issues of concern in his constituency and gave some vivid illustrations of some highly regrettable incidents. I entirely agree with him that the law needs to be understood and to be enforced in a civilised fashion.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman welcomes the amendment we have tabled in the other place on temporary stop notices. I suspect that we have, in fact, anticipated most of his wishes. I agreed with his comments on the community and confidence in the planning system; indeed, they were my own comments. I entirely understand the discontent that is felt, often under intense pressure, over the slowness of the planning system to respond to challenges. It is one of the issues addressed in our planning reform agenda, as set out in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill. Our aim is to create a new planning framework that is fair and flexible, while also speeding up the system.

The temporary stop notice amendments are specifically designed to allow the rapid intervention in potentially inadmissible developments to which the hon. Gentleman referred. They are a response to the strength of feeling demonstrated by him and by the hon. Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson) during the Committee and Report stages of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill. I know the hon. Gentleman agrees — for he said as much — that the amendments must be not just effective, but used objectively and in a non-discriminatory fashion.

The hon. Member for Upminster brought a wealth of experience in local government to her speech, and gave vivid examples of unacceptable practices and inappropriate use of sites. We are greatly concerned about gypsies' carrying out developments without planning permission, whether or not on green belt. We do not want to discourage Gypsies and Travellers from making provision for themselves, but we want them to work with planning authorities to identify land that is suitable for development. As part of our review of policy on Gypsies and Travellers — a report is due in the summer — we have announced that we shall be reviewing circular 1/94 on Gypsy sites and planning.

The hon. Gentleman made a number of kind observations about me, and it is therefore with a tinge of guilt — but nevertheless with utter determination—that I tell him that I am unable to support any aspect of his Bill. It may be helpful, however, if I explain the operation of this element of the current enforcement system. The hon. Gentleman referred to section 178 of the 1990 Act, under which a local planning authority may itself secure compliance with an enforcement notice once the period for compliance has expired. The power is exercisable in respect of steps required by the notice. Local planning authorities may enter land and carry out remedial action specified in such notices. They can also recover the reasonable costs of that action from the current owner of the land. Regulations may allow unrecovered local planning authority expenses that arise from having entered the land to be charged on the land. Section 178 also provides that it is a criminal offence to obstruct a person exercising the powers of entry or taking the steps necessary under the notice.

Let me explain why the measures in the Bill would not be appropriate. It would extend the provisions of section 178(1) on non-compliance with an enforcement notice by referring to activities required by a notice to cease and the removal of moveable objects. The subsection already allows local planning authorities to enter the land and take those steps required by an enforcement notice. I believe that it is unnecessary to extend the powers as proposed in the Bill because the current powers can be used in connection with any step required by the enforcement notice to be taken.

Mr. Pickles

I am grateful to the Minister for his general attitude, even though he does not want my Bill to go further. It would be helpful to planners generally if he was specific. Is he saying that the removal of caravans and moveable items of building material is permissible under current legislation and regulations?

Keith Hill

I am saying that, and I hope to develop the point further. Let us be clear. It is common ground between the hon. Gentleman and the Government that the issue at stake in the Bill and in the Government's response in the temporary stop notice amendments is not the substance of the powers, but the speed with which they may be enforced. The purpose is preventive. Imagine a case in which building works are commenced and, because of the delays in the law, continued; ultimately, the authority might be faced with a fait accompli. Our aim in our amendments is to achieve the ability to act far more swiftly in such cases.

As I was saying, it is unnecessary to extend the powers in section 178(1) of the 1990 Act as the hon. Gentleman proposes precisely because the powers can be used in connection with any step required by the enforcement notice to be taken. That includes steps to be taken to remedy the breach, including the removal of objects, to remedy any injury to amenity and to ensure the discontinuance or cessation of a particular activity. The Bill would give local planning authorities similar powers in respect of enforcement of a stop notice as they already have to seek compliance with and to take remedial action in respect of an enforcement notice. We do not believe that that is necessary.

When a breach of planning control occurs, the local planning authority may take enforcement action to remedy the situation by serving an enforcement notice on the owner or occupier of the site where the breach has occurred. If there has been an extremely serious breach of planning control, a local planning authority can serve a stop notice under section 183 of the 1990 Act. I emphasise a point that I believe the hon. Gentleman made that contravention of a stop notice is a criminal offence. However, the stop notice can be served only after, or at the same time as, the enforcement notice. Although both the enforcement notice and the stop notice set out the details of the activity or development that must cease, it is the enforcement notice, not the stop notice, which gives details of the remedial action that must be taken. I note that the hon. Gentleman agrees with my analysis there.

As I have already said, local planning authorities have powers under section 178 of the 1990 Act to enter land and take the steps required by the enforcement notice to remedy the situation. A stop notice can be served only on the back of an enforcement notice, and must relate to the activity prohibited by the enforcement notice. The breach of a stop notice will therefore mean that the enforcement notice, too, has been breached, and the powers of entry and other powers associated with the breach of the enforcement notice will therefore be available to the local planning authority. I believe that that answers the hon. Gentleman's question.

In addition, section 187B of that Act already gives an express statutory power to serve an injunction in support of other enforcement functions, so an injunction can be used to enforce a stop notice's provisions where the law has been deliberately and flagrantly flouted.

A majority of those who responded to our recent review of the planning enforcement system in England — there were more than 500 responses — agreed that the range of enforcement powers currently available to local planning authorities give them the right tools to enforce planning controls. However, respondents also suggested a range of ideas and proposals for making planning enforcement more effective. We shall publish our full conclusions on the review later in the year.

It was evident during our proceedings in Committee and on Report on the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill that there was a strong feeling that a measure was needed to deal more quickly with breaches of planning control. That is, of course, part of what prompted the hon. Gentleman to introduce his Bill. However, we believe that there is a better solution than duplicating existing powers, as this Bill would.

As I said earlier, we have tabled an amendment to the Planning and Compulsory Purchase (No. 2) Bill that would give local planning authorities a new power to enable them to issue a temporary stop notice. The hon. Member for Upminster asked me to spell out in more detail the terms of that amendment, and I know that that would also be of interest to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar.

Mr. Pickles

I realise that time is quickly passing us by, but I must tell the Minister that I am not aware of even one example of local planning authorities using the powers that he says they have to remove caravans from a site. I suspect that that is because authorities are not aware of those powers. If the Minister gets his Bill through the House, will he make it absolutely clear in guidance that as well as a temporary stop notice, removal is permissible as part of that process. If he makes that clear and explicit, he will not only make me very happy, but do a great service for local communities.

Keith Hill

I can tell the hon. Gentleman immediately that we intend to spell out as clearly as possible the existing powers, as well as the new powers that will arise from the temporary stop notice provisions.

My ministerial colleagues and I have many meetings with hon. Members from both sides of the House, especially Opposition Members, on problems associated with Gypsies and Travellers. Those problems are high on the Government's agenda, and we want to find practical solutions. My feeling is that the issue has been somewhat in abeyance in terms of policy development for some time, and that this is the moment to take our policy forward. In that context, we shall publicise the new powers under the temporary stop notice provisions as extensively as possible.

If the House will permit me, I shall say something about the content of the amendment that the Government have tabled in the other place. Where the local planning authority considers that there has been a breach of local planning control and it is expedient that the activity that amounts to a breach should stop immediately, it may issue a temporary stop notice or TSN. This differs from the normal stop notice powers, because the TSN does not have to be parasitic— It being half-past Two o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER adjourned the debate, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.