HC Deb 26 July 2000 vol 354 c697W
Mr. Coaker

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the powers available to(a) local authorities and (b) the police to deal with travellers; and what discussions he has had with (i) local authorities and (ii) the police about strengthening these powers. [131888]

Mr. Charles Clarke

We consider that the statutory powers currently available are adequate provided that they are used effectively and at an early stage when necessary.

There has been some concern that guidance on dealing with trespass by travellers needs clarifying in some respects. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) has, therefore, today published a revision to DETR Circular 18–94 to local authorities on the use of their powers to deal with unauthorised camping. A copy has been placed in the Library.

We also propose to publish shortly, jointly with the DETR, a revision to the Good Practice Guidance "Managing Unauthorised Camping", aimed at ensuring there is clarity over the use of the relevant powers. In addition, research into the effectiveness of this Guidance has been commissioned and is expected to report in the Autumn. Further changes to the Guidance may be considered at that time.

It is the Government's view that there needs to be adequate site provision if unauthorised camping is to be managed properly. The DETR is about to commission research into the availability and condition of local authority Gypsy sites. The results will be considered as part of the next spending review. In the meantime, the Minister of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford), announced in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) on 24 July 2000, Official Report, columns 398–404W, that his Department would be making available over the next three years £17 million to help local authorities to improve and refurbish a limited number of existing sites. Details of the scheme will be published in the autumn.

There are regular discussions involving Ministers, Members of Parliament, local authorities and the police about all aspects of the Government's policy on travellers.