Simon Kirby, MP for Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven, yesterday introduced a Bill to Parliament yesterday which would give greater powers to police forces and councils to move on Travellers from unauthorised sites. Although it has little chance of becoming law, Theresa May's statement below suggests it has the sympathy of the government.
The Bill would revise the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 2004 to clarify whether the Local Authority or the police should take the lead on evictions. It also calls for changes to the welfare checks Local Authorities are obliged to carry out before making any decision to evict and would allow for the impounding of Gypsy and Traveller homes if they failed to move when directed.
Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): Following an illegal encampment of 13 caravans in Harlow town centre at the weekend, Essex police have refused to be the lead agency in removing the trespassers because they are following Association of Chief Police Officers guidelines. Will the Minister confirm that ACPO guidance is no substitute for the police enforcing the law, rather than forcing Harlow council to go through a lengthy court process?
Mrs May: My hon. Friend raises an important issue. First, however, may I commend Essex police for the action that they took alongside Basildon council in the operation at Dale farm? We are looking at whether we need to give the police extra powers in relation to the clearing of encampments and other incursions on to land. Currently, assuming that the incursion is not stopping the normal life of the community, the landowner has to take legal action. If it is stopping the normal life of the community, the police do have some powers. This matter concerns a great many people, and we are actively looking into it.