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Caravan Sites Act 1968

Volume 961: debated on Wednesday 31 January 1979

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6.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will now review the working of the Caravan Sites Act 1968.

A review of the working of part II of the Act was undertaken by Sir John Cripps, and we are already acting upon many of his recommendations.

Do the Cripps proposals go to the heart of what is happening? For example, will the Minister look again at the situation in Oxford, where, because of the rigidity of the Act, the county council feels that it cannot close one site where conditions are appalling without designating another site, which may very quickly turn out to be equally appalling? Is this a sensible way of tackling the problem?

Part of the problem is that there are about 8,500 gipsy families and only 2,000 sites for them. I appreciate that the county councils have difficulties with district councils when they come to carry out their duties under the 1968 Act. We are bringing in a Bill which will give those councils a 100 per cent. grant for the provision of new sites, and I hope that they will make the best possible use of it.

My hon. Friend's promise of a Bill will be greatly welcomed, particularly in Peterborough. When is the Bill likely to come before the House?

The Bill has been published and I hope that it will have its Second Reading in another place within the next couple of weeks.

Is the Minister aware of the gravity of this problem, particularly in the fruit-growing counties? Does he appreciate the great difficulty in which the private citizen finds himself with regard to planning permission for individual caravans, or two or three caravans on a farm, whereas the district and county authorities have a free hand? There seems to be one law for the councils and another for the individual.

As I said, we hope to assist the county councils in their problems with the districts by repealing section 8 of the 1968 Act. One of the problems which the gipsies face, and which the towns now face, is that many of the gipsies who went to work in areas such as the hon. Gentleman's during the summer do not now do so, but concentrate on the towns.