Gypsies and Travellers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:12 pm on 10th September 2018.

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Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 10:12 pm, 10th September 2018

I acknowledge the issue my hon. Friend raises with regard to segregation, but notwithstanding the percentage he mentions, a significant percentage of the travelling community still wishes to live a nomadic lifestyle. The question is how we best facilitate that, so that the impact of that lifestyle on existing communities is minimised, while at the same time allowing those who do wish to travel from place to place to live as peacefully and harmoniously as possible, with their children in particular getting the outcomes he desires.

The final area, which was raised by a number of Members, is that of enforcement. Several hon. Members spoke about the difficulties of enforcing the law and gave examples of cases in which the police are unable to act. The consultation underlined that illegal behaviours, such as industrial fly-tipping, can be difficult to address. We have seen that a multi-agency approach is vital in dealing with these incidents successfully. Local authorities, the police and other agencies should work together to find appropriate solutions. In some areas, such as Sandwell, we have seen that that can work. The majority of Gypsies and Travellers are entirely law-abiding, but we take very seriously the significant incidents that we have heard of involving a minority of individuals. We should not allow them to tarnish the reputation of Gypsy, Traveller and travelling show people and communities.

We want to prevent local residents from suffering when a problematic unauthorised encampment occurs and to improve the outcomes of the most vulnerable in British society. We are funding a programme to improve outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community groups in educational attainment, health and integration, and we are working closely with the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Education to maximise the impact of our projects. I acknowledge—I think both sides of the House agree—that more needs to be done to ensure harmonious relations between our communities. We recognise that the problem is by no means simple. We are giving these issues our urgent attention and we will publish a response to the consultation in due course.

My hon. Friend has expressed his frustration with Government action thus far and calls for significant change. I have no specifics for him tonight, but I fervently hope that, through my actions and the actions of the Department over the months to come, we can obviate the need for a fourth such debate.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.