Gypsies and Travellers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:09 pm on 10th September 2018.

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Photo of Ruth George Ruth George Labour, High Peak 10:09 pm, 10th September 2018

I want to echo many of the sentiments that have been expressed tonight, but from the point of view of my constituents and of a local business in Buxton that suffered the incursion of a group of Travellers this summer, as I mentioned earlier. That was the first time that this has happened in our area, and I extend my sympathies to all those who have been suffering this for many years. The worry among residents of Buxton and High Peak is that this could be the first of many such visits, and that once people know where they can come and where there are rural areas with sparse policing, there will not be the resources to effectively monitor and move them on.

As it was, Derbyshire constabulary rose to the occasion and was very good at coming to monitor what was happening as much as it could. However, the problem was that one of our local businesses on an industrial estate had its car park taken over by a group of Irish heritage Travellers who proceeded to issue threats to the staff there. The staff were working across two sites, and when they had to travel between the buildings to go about their work, they were threatened and harassed. They were looked at through the windows, and small children were trying the windows and doors of the building to see where they could break in.

The owner of the business was threatened and told that if he paid money, the Travellers would be able to get the ferry back to Ireland, but until that happened, they were not going anywhere and there was nothing he could do about it. That business had the same frustrations that have been mentioned by many Members, but as a private company, it is not their business to try to evict Travellers. There is no experience in the community, as there is in other areas where this has been an issue for many years. It was therefore extremely difficult for the business to deal with that.

The staff were left perturbed, and many of them had to go home out of fear because they were being threatened with such horrific physical violence. Besides the mess that was made of the car park, there were no toileting facilities, so you can imagine the clean-up that they had to do afterwards. When lorries arrived to deliver to the premises, they were swarmed, and the drivers were asked the value of the goods inside their lorries. There were attempts to prevent the lorries from making the deliveries and prevent the business from being able to carry on.

The concern is that, where local authority sites have been used in the past, the travelling community may move on to business premises if people see that as an easier target. It is very important that action is taken, so that people in my constituency and everywhere across the country know that the police have powers to stop this on their behalf, and that they will not have to go through the civil courts, which takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money for businesses. I very much hope that the Minister will be able to give all Members on both sides of the House those assurances today.