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Mike Wood: My constituency, like my hon. Friend’s, has been occupied by a number of unauthorised Traveller camps over the summer, which have caused a large amount of criminal damage and left a great deal of litter. Local residents have had to witness defecation and urination in play areas and playgrounds, and near schools. Does my hon. Friend agree that the police need better and clearer guidance on when it is appropriate to use their section 61 powers?
Andrew Selous Conservative, South West Bedfordshire
Absolutely. Not only is that unacceptable, but it leads to terribly bad feeling between different groups in society, which we must try to stop.
If we want a country that works for everyone, we must do better, and do it urgently. The last debate that I initiated on this subject took place on 4 February 2014, and I am disappointed that there has been no substantial improvement since then. The Government must act now to bring about peaceful, harmonious communities that get on with each other in a law-abiding manner. I want everyone to have a decent home; perhaps more properly regulated park homes should be provided to help to address the issue. In my constituency alone, 9,500 homes are being built from just two major developments, and the Government appreciate the scale of housing need.
Of course there are decent, law-abiding Travellers. My criticism is aimed not at them, but at the conflicting and unworkable legislation that sets settled residents and Travellers against each other, and hinders the effective enforcement of the law. In my view, a separate planning system for one group in society is no longer justifiable when the outcomes for Travellers of a range of measures are so poor, and there is so much fear and ill feeling among settled residents and Travellers alike.
I do not want to be back here in two years’ time, making the same points. The situation is untenable, it has gone on for too long, and the time for action is now.