[1st Allocated Day]

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:01 pm on 15th March 2021.

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Photo of Robert Syms Robert Syms Conservative, Poole 8:01 pm, 15th March 2021

My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. What used to happen until recently was that people would turn up, and others would phone the local council, which would say that it could not do much about it. They would then phone the local police, who would say that they could not do much about it—indeed, there have been occasions when the local police have watched people go and set up unauthorised encampments—and then they would phone the Member of Parliament and let him know what they think about him, saying that the Government must do something. It is true that the local authority and the police have had more powers than they have been willing to use, but this is in the “too difficult to deal with” box, so people have just kept their heads down and hoped that, after a week or two, people would move on.

However, this does increase real costs to local authorities, which, apart from cleaning up sites, sometimes have to put special measures in to try to protect sites. Year after year, this costs council tax payers quite a lot of money, so I am very pleased that the Government have put these powers in the Bill. I hope that they survive their passage through the House. They will make a material difference to the quality of life of many of my constituents.

There are issues to do with Travellers that we need to address apart from unauthorised encampments. One of those is the poor educational qualifications that many of their children have—the Government need to pay attention to that to see what more we can do—and another is the health standards of many of these people, who do not access hospitals as easily as the rest of us.

Overall, what the Government are doing is very sensible. This is the sort of Bill that a confident right-of-centre Government should bring in to deal with law and order— not only with Travellers but with many other areas. Personally, I am becoming a great fan of the Home Secretary and the Lord Chancellor, who instead of talking a good game are actually producing things in legislation that will make a great difference to people’s lives.