Gypsies and Travellers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:34 pm on 10th September 2018.

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Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Conservative, South West Bedfordshire 9:34 pm, 10th September 2018

Given the extra time we have tonight, I am happy for other Members not only to intervene, but to make their own contributions after I have spoken, because the Minister will still have plenty of time to respond to all the concerns expressed around the House.

I am extremely proud to represent an area that has successfully integrated different nationalities over the years, resulting in good community cohesion. Italians, Polish and Irish nationals are all well established and make a fantastic contribution to the area that I am proud to represent. My constituency has many Traveller sites, but a planning policy of segregation and separation makes integration and community cohesion hard to achieve. The 2011 census showed that over three quarters of Gypsies and Travellers generally live happily among the settled population, and I have some heart-warming examples of Travellers becoming settled residents, with the children now attending school regularly and the parents in formal work.

My constituents have had to put up with far more than their fair share of “misery”, as one constituent described it to me on Friday, as a result of current Gypsy and Traveller policy. One of my sites has had three major incidents of modern slavery, with 24 slaves saved by the police on the first occasion. Threats, violence, theft and other forms of intimidation have become everyday occurrences to some of my constituents, and Bedfordshire police, with an already overstretched budget, are not able to respond in as timely a manner as they would wish, leaving many of my constituents living in fear. A lady wrote to me in June to say that she will be moving away from the area as she no longer feels safe, having been assaulted by Travellers, Travellers having trespassed in her garden, having been followed by Travellers and her husband’s tools having been stolen from his car three times, causing a loss of income. That lady also has human rights that have not been respected. Of course, there are many decent, law-abiding Travellers, and all groups have good and bad in them, but I hear too many accounts like the one I just recounted.