Gipsy Sites

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:24 pm on 10th July 1990.

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Photo of Mr Mark Wolfson Mr Mark Wolfson , Sevenoaks 9:24 pm, 10th July 1990

The hon. Gentleman makes a perfectly proper point, and I accept that it is a valid example. It highlights the points that have been made that such incidents can produce social tensions, and that must be addressed by the changes in legislation. It is little wonder that the residents of those houses felt angry because, as they perceived it, a group of travellers were illegally encamped, yet the law and authority had no power to overcome the problem. That does terrible damage to the law and the standing of the law. We should not be prepared to tolerate that.

A site in my constituency was owned by a gipsy family, on which one caravan was legally parked. The family allowed other members of the "family"—30 caravans—to park on it. They sold plots of the land to members of the family. That was illegal, but they are arguing about title to ownership and can appeal against any action and remain there pending the outcome of those appeals. I am aware that local authorities—I hope that this will not occur in this instance, but I know that it has occurred elsewhere, because I have some knowledge of Cambridgeshire—have done deals to allow part of the site to be used permanently for caravans as a way of solving the problem for the whole of the site. Completely averse to any long or short-term planning arrangements, a permanent site is established quite illegally because there seems to be no other alternative.

Ministers cannot allow that to go on. We need urgently to change the law; and I support the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) that, if action does not follow this debate, we shall be back with more debates on this fundamental and vital issue. We hope for change, and that we shall receive a positive response from my hon. Friend the Minister.