§ Mr. Atkinson
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has any plans to amend the law on squatting to enable local authorities to take action in the absence of action by the owners of the properties concerned; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. John Patten
The Government have no plans to amend the law in this way. The police and local authorities have powers to deal with squatters who commit criminal offences; these may include criminal damage, theft, assault or using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, and powers under the Public Health Act 1936 and Control of Pollution Act 1974 to act against premises which are verminous or prejudicial to health, or give rise to a statutory nuisance or where the occupiers cause a noise nuisance. Additionally, the Criminal Law Act 1977 created certain offences aimed at squatters including failure to leave premises when required to do so by a displaced residential occupier. Otherwise, squatting is an act of trespass, which is a matter for the civil law, and it is for those whose interests are affected by the trespass to consider whether they wish to bring a civil action.