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

I am pleased my hon. Friend mentions that, because it is a good example of how we are failing Travellers with this ridiculous system. I have come across water tanks containing green slime, heating systems that do not work and hot water systems coming up through the toilet. It is just unbelievable. I have seen raw sewage going into ditches from caravans in which children are living. We are not a developing country; we are the fifth richest economy in the world. It is an absolute disgrace that we allow this to happen in our country, and we have allowed it to happen for so many years.

Why do we continue with a policy that is manifestly failing everyone affected by it? A Government who are truly compassionate and who have courage and clear-sightedness would act now to deal with these failing policies. I want tonight’s debate to result in a significant change of Government policy to improve outcomes for Travellers and the settled community. I held debates on Gypsies and Travellers on 4 February 2014 and 12 October 2016. If I speak with passion tonight, it is because I have had to come back to the Chamber to make these points for a third time—I know that you encourage tenaciousness in Members, Mr Speaker.

In 2014, the then Minister, the current Minister without Portfolio, told the House that he had set up a cross-Government ministerial-level working group to address these inequalities. He also said that he wanted to

“break down the barriers to social mobility through a planning system that is fair and equal to all.”—[Official Report, 4 February 2014;
Vol. 575, c. 22WH.]

I am afraid that we have failed in those two objectives.

On 12 October 2016, the former Minister Gavin Barwell acknowledged that the interests of all members of the community had not been respected. He said that he would come back to the House having considered the Land Registry issue and that the Government were “constantly reviewing these issues.”

The time for endless constant reviews is over. Fair and decent-minded people who are fed up with living in fear and with seeing atrocious living conditions in their area that often become ungoverned spaces where modem slavery and other crime flourishes want action now, not constant reviews. The requests for action from Central Bedfordshire Council, which has to pick up the pieces of a failed national policy, and from Bedfordshire police, whose already over-worked officers have to spend far too much time on this issue, include the following.