HOME OFFICE – TRAVELLERS – 20 January 2003
Dr Julian Lewis: I thank the Minister for his Department's willingness to meet the town clerk of Totton and Eling town council in my constituency who has been co-ordinating efforts to improve procedures for dealing with travellers in our part of Hampshire. As I understand it, the new powers that will be granted to make removal easier are contingent on the provision of sites for travellers by local councils. Will the Minister issue planning guidelines to adjust current restrictions on planning that make it difficult for local councils to supply those sites, given normal restrictions on planning procedures; otherwise, with the best will in the world, councils may want to supply the sites, but be prevented from doing so by the restrictions on planning?
[The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr Michael Wills): We will look at all those aspects, including the planning guidelines, in the light of experience. There are existing powers to deal with such encampments; the problem is that it is difficult to deal with them quickly enough. That is what the new powers will do. We need to provide somewhere for the unauthorised encampments to go; otherwise they will simply take the problem somewhere else. That is why there is the link with local sites. We are providing extra funding. The ODPM is trying to find –]
Dr Lewis: Planning guidance?
[Mr Wills: I am coming to that in a moment. The hon. Gentleman should be a little bit patient. We need to provide extra funding. The ODPM, which has responsibility for the matter, is doing that. We are determined to make the problem go away, and we will not rest until it does. I can assure the hon. Gentleman of that.]