Tory MP calls to make setting up unauthorised Traveller sites a criminal offence

Travellers attend a protest after residents were evicted from a site (Niall Carson/PA Wire)

A Conservative MP is seeking to make it a criminal offence for Gypsy and Traveller communities to set up unauthorised encampments.

Andrew Selous, Conservative MP for South West Bedforshire, said that the current laws for travellers ‘are not working’.

Mr Selous, whose constituency has 40 Traveller sites, said that people in his area had written to him to say they have moved house through fear of Traveller communities after being repeated victims of crime, including assault and theft.

He added that living conditions in Traveller communities are often extremely low, with human excrement flowing into local ditches because there are no proper sewage systems.

Andrew Selous called for the criminalisation of unauthorised Traveller sites
An illegal Traveller site in Selby, North Yorkshire (SWNS)

He told the House of Commons: “Travellers themselves and, especially, their children and many others who live on Traveller sites have all had terrible experiences in recent years.

“The current policy of segregation has resulted in a failure of integration and poor community cohesion.”

Mr Selous introduced a bill to Parliament that would also require local authorities to provide temporary caravan stopping sites where there is a demonstrated need, to improve the education of Traveller children, and to teach Gypsy and Traveller culture in schools.

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He said that Traveller ponies are often let loose across private land and that fly tipping is a major problem.

“When I look at the standard of accommodation that many Travellers and their children are living in, I am truly shocked,” he told MPs.

“Some sites do not even have proper water supplies and, in some cases, neighbouring settled residents have lost their supply of water when it has been illegally tapped into.”

He expressed concerns that Traveller children are missing out on an education due to poor school attendance, particularly during the summer months.

In the most recent census it was found that 76% of Travellers in England and Wales live in settled accommodation, with the rest living in temporary sites.

The most recent figures show that there are more than 22,000 Traveller caravans in England, 16% of which are on unauthorised sites. The rest are on privately owned land (54%) or sites operated by local authorities.

Local authorities are currently responsible for the provision of sites for Gypsies and Travellers.