BUSINESS QUESTION – CRIMINAL TRESPASS – 17 June 2004

Dr Julian Lewis: I was tempted to ask for a debate on just how badly a Labour Government have to lose a European Election before they will realise that they should not sign up to a European Constitution, but as I know that I would not get that, may I ask instead for a statement or debate on the law of trespass? I was involved in a case whereby a burglary took place and the police identified the fact that people had been present but were not able to charge them because their alibi was that they had gone into the house with the intention of occupying it and setting up a squat. Is there not something extremely strange about a situation where if people steal and take away another's property, they commit a criminal offence, but when they enter another's property, change the locks and sit there, they cannot be touched by the police and the owner has to go to enormous expense and trouble to reoccupy his or her own property?

[The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Peter Hain): That is a rather strange situation, I must concede. I am sure that Ministers in the Department for Constitutional Affairs, one of whom is sitting to my left, will have noted very carefully what the hon. Gentleman has said.]