HOME OFFICE – ILLEGAL ENCAMPMENTS – 28 April 2003

Dr Julian Lewis: As I understand it, the Government are giving the police extra powers to evict illegal travellers' encampments provided that local authorities provide sites for the permanent establishment of travellers' encampments that can be properly designated and run. The trouble is that planning restrictions are not being eased to enable local authorities to build those sites. Will the Minister undertake to examine that weakness in the Government's proposals?

[The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr Hilary Benn): As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, that is a matter for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, but I undertake to draw it to the attention of my colleagues. The benefit of the new powers that we propose to make available is that they would apply without the conditions that affect the section 61 powers that the police have under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. They would also cover, for example, industrial estates and road lay-bys, which are not covered by the current powers, and deal with the phenomenon which I am reliably informed is described as "hedge-hopping", whereby those who are removed from one field can then transfer their encampment to another one. That is what we seek to achieve, provided that the relevant local authority makes the provision that the hon. Gentleman mentioned.]