Skip to main content

Gipsy Sites

Volume 884: debated on Wednesday 15 January 1975

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has in connection with the number of authorised sites for gipsies and other travelling people in England and Wales.

As already announced, my Department has appointed an advisory officer whose main task will be to assist local authorities to tackle this problem. There will be discussions as soon as possible with all the local authorities in the main problem areas.

Does not my hon. Friend agree that it is appalling that there are still not enough authorised sites to provide for the existing gipsy and travelling population? In these circumstances, does he not accept that there is an urgent need for legislation to compel local authorities which are not yet providing sites to act, so that the gipsies do not continue to be harassed and the authorities which are playing their part are not forced to do the work also of those authorities which are not?

I agree that this is a problem. There are now 117 official sites in England and Wales accommodating 1,700 families, but well over 3,000 families have still to be accommodated. I do not know whether legislation is the answer. There is legislation already, and I would remind local authorities that the Act places a statutory duty upon them.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the long term gipsy problems will not be solved except in an atmosphere of good will on the part of the gipsies and of the communities in whose areas gipsy problems exist, and that judging from my constituency this will not be achieved by the bulldozing methods available under the statutory powers of the Caravan Sites Act? Is the hon. Gentleman having advice from his newly-appointed advisory officer on these problems?

Yes, that was one of the main reasons for his appointment. We hope that he will bring to the attention of authorities the best practices of other authorities and that he will have the support and respect of the gipsy population and of local authorities.

In view of the serious neglect by many county councils of their duties under Section 6 of the Act, does my hon. Friend consider that he should now himself, without further legislation, use his power of direction under Section 9?

We consider the use of that power from time to time but we much prefer local authorities to tackle this problem on their own, rather than risk what the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) mentioned, with the Department intervening and creating even greater disharmony with the local authorities concerned.

Is the Minister aware that one of the biggest sources of anxiety is that some authorities play their Fart and provide the places, but neighbouring authorities do not and thereby put greater strain on the good authorities? Is his adviser a gipsy, as it were, or a civil servant, as it were?

The adviser is certainly a civil servant; I have no idea of his racial origin. What the hon. Gentleman mentions is one of the things that the adviser will be doing, pressing on local authorities which are not providing sites and which are in problem areas just how unfair they are being to neighbouring authorities.