Traveller Sites (Dorset)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:18 pm on 12th March 2012.

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Photo of Robert Syms Robert Syms Chair, Regulatory Reform Committee 8:18 pm, 12th March 2012

My hon. Friend makes a good point. I think that the 2011 Act is a landmark piece of legislation, and we have high hopes that it will transform local government. He is right that we need a little more clarity on whether it will offset some of the other requirements that the Government have put on Poole. We want to do the right thing and provide sufficient sites. We want to provide what we have a duty to provide and to pay for it, but the difficulty is that he and I have extremely compact constituencies. It is difficult to find appropriate sites in our constituencies, yet there might be appropriate sites five or 10 minutes away from the conurbation. However, because we have unitary and strategic authorities it is very difficult to do that and leave Dorset constabulary in a situation where it can move Travellers on if it has to.

I know that Bournemouth has problems with Travellers on occasion and a number of temporary sites to deal with them at certain times of the year. Later in the debate I would be interested to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth West set out his constituents’ concerns on what is a difficult and worrying subject, but one on which we as politicians need to get more clarity. Essentially, we want three authorities to work together on this, which is the whole thrust of the 2011 Act and which they want to do. We want to combine financially and make provision for Travellers in the appropriate way; the most appropriate way might be for the three authorities to make that provision on a collective basis. That might mean not necessarily having the sufficient number of sites within the boundaries of Bournemouth or Poole.

We need more clarity, and I hope that we will get it from the Minister. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth West has similar views and concerns to me and I would be interested to hear them, so that the Minister may reply with conviction and give us more reassurance on this very difficult policy issue that our local councillors have to comply with. That is really all I have to say. I am pleased to see the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Andrew Stunell in his place and am sure that he will respond brilliantly to the debate. If we do not get the answer we demand tonight, my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth West and I will look forward to further meetings with Ministers so that we can meet our objectives of providing for Travellers, safeguarding our constituents and getting efficient and effective local government.