Gipsy Sites

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:46 pm on 10th July 1990.

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment) 9:46 pm, 10th July 1990

I shall not give way again. I have given way twice, and I have four minutes left in which to reply to the debate.

Important points about enforcement have been raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green spoke about section 39 of the Public Order Act 1986. The House will be aware that, on 26 October 1989, my right hon. Friend the then Home Secretary announced an evaluation of the working of section 39 of that Act, which will consider the sort of problems that my hon. Friend raised. The outcome of that review is expected at the end of the year. Certainly there seems to be a difference in the policies of police forces in different parts of the country.

My hon. Friends the Members for Sevenoaks and for Dudley, West (Dr. Blackburn) spoke about enforcement, which is a problem. I was interested to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks said because, many years ago, I cut my teeth as a barrister largely relying on defending gipsies in Sevenoaks magistrates court. I am familiar with the number of gipsies in my hon. Friend's constituency.

Robert Carnwath, in his report on planning enforcement, considered caravans and how one can effectively issue an injunction against the unlawful occupation of land by a caravan that is being used for residential occupation. The Government believe that legislation is needed in that respect. I hope that it will be brought forward soon and will do something significant to relieve the problems to which my hon. Friends drew attention.

My hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) di .d not believe that the designation powers were quick enough, cheap enough or effective enough. I believe that those powers can be used effectively, but the speed with which they are used obviously depends on the relationship that the local authority has with the local magistrates court—most local authorities do not seem to have a problem in that respect.

Obviously, costs can be incurred when cleaning up after the gipsies have left, but such cost is unavoidable so long as some gipsies behave in an anti-social manner. Designation and enforcement are more effective when more authorities are designated; that is why the Government are putting a lot of emphasis on trying to encourage more authorities to come forward with gipsy sites so that they can be designated.

This is very much a carrot-and-stick policy. The Government have tried to give local authorities the incentive to designate more sites. We have backed that up with a 100 per cent. grant and we are now considering whether to say that after a given period of time we shall no longer give any grant so that the minds of local authorities will be even more concentrated, giving them a greater incentive to seek designation for the provision of the extra gipsy sites that we need.

It being Ten o'clock, MR. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to paragraphs (4) and (5) of Standing Order No. 52 (Consideration of Estimates), to put forthwith the deferred Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on Estimates, 1990–91 (Class III, vote 3 and Class VIII, vote 4) and the remaining Estimates appointed for consideration this day.