New clause 5 - Removal of unauthorised encampments and waste

Anti-social Behaviour Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:30 am ar 22 Mai 2003.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

'.—The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is amended as follows:

In Section 61 (Power to remove trespassers on land)

(a) For subsection (1) there is substituted—

''(1) If the senior police office present at the scene reasonably believes that two or more persons are trespassing on land and are present there with the common purpose of

residing there for any period and that reasonable steps have been taken by or on behalf of the occupier to ask them to leave he may direct those persons or any of them to leave the land and to remove any vehicles, other property or waste they have with them on the land or which appears to the officer to be connected to their presence on the land.''.

(b) Subsection (2) is omitted.

(c) In Subsection (4) there is inserted after paragraph (b)—

''(c) Fails to remove any vehicles, other property or waste which he has with him on the land or which appears to be connected to his presence on the land.''.

(d) In Subsection (6) paragraph (b) is omitted.'.—[Mr. Paice.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Mr James Cran Mr James Cran Ceidwadwyr, Beverley and Holderness

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New Clause 11—Deliberate despoiling and/or mis-use of land—

'(1) The Chief Executive Officer of the relevant local authority may make an eviction order in relation to premises to which this section applies if he reasonably believes that—

(a) a public nuisance is being caused by deliberate despoiling or misuse of land by the owners or occupiers of that land;

(b) the eviction of any persons whether owners or occupiers or trespassers or visitors is necessary to prevent that nuisance and/or to correct the despoiling or misuse of the land.

(2) A person commits an offence if he permits or authorises the continuing misuse or despoiling of land or creation of a public nuisance on it or aids or abets others to do so.

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to—

(a) imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months,

(b) a fine not exceeding £20,000,

(c) both.'.

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

We now come to two new clauses. I shall be quite frank about the fact that I drafted the first and my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath drafted the second. I am sure that he will explain the reason for the difference, should he catch your eye, Mr. Cran. We both address an issue that I hope strikes a chord not only with us but with Members in many parts of the House.

I have heard Labour Back Benchers speak in the House about the mess and other problems that can arise from unauthorised traveller encampments. That is a very serious problem in my constituency. Cambridgeshire has a long-standing history of hosting traveller populations that goes back to the days of casual agricultural labour. Those days are long gone, but Cambridgeshire still features strongly in the travellers' itinerary. Some counties are fortunate to be almost exempt from that itinerary, but those such as ours are not. I have heard Labour Members who represent much more urban areas also complaining about the problems.

There have been a number of attempts in legislation to address the problem of unauthorised traveller encampments on both public and private land. By far the most significant attempt to deal with the problem was the Criminal Justice and Public Order

Act 1994, in particular sections 61 and 62. One theme that has emerged from the Committee's proceedings is that although there are many powers in place, for one reason or another they are not used. I am attempting with new clause 5 to redraft section 61 of the 1994 Act slightly to remove some of the excuses for failing to take any action that police and public authorities have put to me. I do not pretend that I have necessarily got rid of all those excuses and I do not know what the Minister will say, but I am anxious that we try to ensure that there is no excuse for not using the powers to deal with unauthorised encampments that Parliament has given to police and local authorities.

Such encampments are a tremendous problem. Only this week there was a headline in the Cambridge Evening News about how two of my constituents had been burgled for the 192nd time. Their fence abuts on to a legal traveller encampment—there is great resentment that it is there, but there it is by the grace of the district and county councils. There is no doubt that those constituents and others whose houses abut the camp have been the constant victims of crime ever since it has been there. The crime has been not only burglary, but the throwing of rubbish over the fence, the breaking down of fences and so on.

That is a serious case, but over Easter my constituency also saw a huge influx of travellers. Most were in vehicles bearing Irish number plates, so there was nothing traditional or local about them—they were genuine itinerants. They came into the area and settled, in some cases on public land and in others on private land. The problem is not just that travellers come and park somewhere, causing an horrendous visual blight, but that there is a criminal element among them who use that facility to carry out burglary and robbery in the vicinity. Police officers are convinced of that, although it would of course be wrong to brand every traveller as criminal. I strongly doubt that it is any coincidence that a number of workshops have been burgled in the vicinity of my village in the two or three weeks since there has been an illegal traveller encampment three miles down the road. I think that the two are linked.

At present, the only recourse that private landowners have when a number of caravans arrive on their property is to go to court to obtain an eviction order. Only when the landowner has that eviction order will the police take any action to remove those caravans. The process is time-consuming and costs something in the ballpark of £1,000, but that is not all. Once that has been achieved, assuming that the travellers are removed, they leave behind them the most awful mess. They leave burned-out vehicles, scrap, broken glass and, perhaps worst of all, a vast amount of human waste—not just food waste, but faeces. It is unimaginable, unless one has been in the unfortunate position of seeing it for oneself. In new clause 5, I am seeking to require not only that those individuals be removed, but that they take with them all the waste that they have created.

I take the site that I have referred to—three miles from my village—as an example. It is 100 yd outside my constituency, but it is very close to where I live. The travellers there were removed after the landowner

went to court last week. He has been put to immense expense in order to clear the area. He is in the process of spending even more money to construct an earth bank of about 150 m to prevent the travellers from re-entering that site.

I am grateful for the supportive words that I hear from the Labour Back Benchers. The Minister may not be grateful, but I am. Those problems are not an exclusive feature of Conservative constituencies; it is a serious antisocial problem.

I see that the Government Whip has returned; the nodding will have to stop.

New clause 5 seeks to do several things. First, it seeks to remove from section 61 of the 1994 Act two of the criteria that a senior police officer must meet before he can take action. The first criterion that must be met is

''that any of those persons has caused damage to the land or to property on the land or used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards the occupier, a member of his family or an employee or agent of his''.

That is not too difficult to achieve. If one goes anywhere near them, one is told where to go.

The second criterion that must be met is

''that those persons have between them six or more vehicles on the land.''

I do not believe that threshold needs to exist. I am seeking to remove those two elements.

I am also seeking to remove section 61(2) of the Act. That is another loophole. It states:

''Where the persons in question are reasonably believed by the senior police officer to be persons who were not originally trespassers but have become trespassers on the land, the officer must reasonably believe that the other conditions specified in subsection (1) are satisfied after those persons became trespassers before he can exercise the power conferred by that subsection.''

That gives more excuses and opportunity for action to be contested in the courts—more opportunity for inaction. That subsection should be removed. I have also added that all waste must be removed because there is a question mark over whether property includes waste. I am anxious that when people are removed from land, they should be forced to clear that land.

It has been clear from the Committee's reaction while I have been speaking that it is a huge problem. It is totally and utterly antisocial, and is of huge cost to the landowner. My hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath will explain some of his experiences in his constituency, and why he has addressed the matter slightly differently. However, we are both trying to achieve the same end. I do not know whether I have got new clause 5 absolutely right; I do not have the help of parliamentary draftsmen. However, I ask the Minister to take very seriously the need to remove from current legislation every excuse for inaction. It is far too full of excuses, and of references to courts and to local authority departments. I am not belittling the need to look after families, but if one asks a social services department for advice on the welfare of a particular family, that request will go to the bottom of

its list, because it has many other things to do. Meanwhile, that family is parked on someone's land, despoiling the countryside or the community and causing various problems.

We need short, simple legislation to let the police know that if people are illegally parked for the purposes of residing on the land, they should be removed, assuming that that is what the owner of the land wants, and should take with them everything that they brought on to the site. That process should take place expeditiously. That is the only satisfactory way to remove what has become a blight on large parts of my constituency, and on urban and rural constituencies throughout the country. The problem is the same whether it concerns waste land or a green field, and must be resolved. I therefore hope that the Minister will heed not only my words, but the acknowledgment of the hon. Members who sit behind him, and accept that although my wording may not be perfect, the issue is serious.

Earlier in the Committee's discussions, the Minister said several times that the Government were undertaking reviews of various issues. I do not want to belittle his reviews, but taking action two or three years down the road is inadequate. The issue must be addressed quickly, and the Bill is a good vehicle to deal with it. It clearly, if I may say so, fits the Bill. I hope that the Minister, even if he cannot accept my proposal, will use the Bill as a vehicle to tighten up the legislation and to ensure that the powers that have been given are used swiftly and effectively.

Photo of Mr Matthew Green Mr Matthew Green Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Ludlow 10:45, 22 Mai 2003

Before I discuss the reasons why I cannot support the amendments, I agree that there is a problem. The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the matter, because on some occasions there seems to be no possibility for action. However, he casts his net too wide in his attempt to find a solution to the problem. If he reads his amendment carefully, he will realise that it may have unforeseen consequences.

By removing the wording about vehicles, for example, and by rewording the first section, he would allow a police officer to remove wild campers, by which I mean people who are camping overnight—[Interruption.] I will clarify the term. Wild campers are people who, for example, might camp on a mountain but who do not use a public campsite. I have done it myself—technically it is trespassing, but it is a widespread practice and one that does not cause problems for anyone. There may not be many police on a mountain, but the way in which the hon. Gentleman has framed the amendment would mean that a police officer had the power to make two people in a tent move it off the site, and would potentially render them liable to imprisonment if they happened to leave some litter behind. I am sure that that was not the hon. Gentleman's intention.

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman supports what I said. I am saying that if people camp on land and leave a pile of litter, they should be prosecuted. Litter is a visual affront, and leaving it behind in any other context would be an offence, so it is right that they should be required to remove it.

The hon. Gentleman slightly misinterprets my amendment. Casual campers, or two people in a tent, whatever their purpose might be, will not cause problems of the sort that I have described. However, I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that the new clause specifies that reasonable steps must

''have been taken by or on behalf of the occupier to ask them to leave''

and that then he may—not he shall—direct them to leave. It is clear that the police officer will retain the discretion. If he thinks that the occupier is being unreasonable in saying to—

Photo of Mr James Cran Mr James Cran Ceidwadwyr, Beverley and Holderness 11:00, 22 Mai 2003

Order. The hon. Gentleman is beginning to move from an intervention into a speech.

Photo of Mr Matthew Green Mr Matthew Green Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Ludlow

I understand where the hon. Gentleman is coming from. However, I still believe that he is attempting to make the power too wide. He said that he might not have the wording exactly right. I am pointing out a potential pitfall that might occur if the legislation is widened, whatever the good intent might be.

New clause 11 uses the term ''misuse''. I understand that the hon. Gentleman sees the new clause as dealing with a particular problem. However, we have to consider whether the law will be used in circumstances other than that for which it has been proposed. The new clause would give powers to a local authority to evict somebody who was deliberately misusing or despoiling land, even if that person owned the land. A couple of such cases have occurred in my constituency. They were difficult, but they have been resolved. They both concerned farmers who had deposited large amounts of more than redundant, broken, bits of machinery on their own land next to the public road. Eventually, because of complaints, the local authority took action. After some time and several court actions, both sites were cleared up, using existing legislation. The problem with this legislation is that a local authority could use it to evict those owners from their land. I realise what the hon. Gentleman is trying to do, but I caution him about how wide he is making the legislation. He might have one purpose in mind, but it could be used in circumstances for which he does not intend it.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Ceidwadwyr, Uxbridge

I am listening to the hon. Gentleman. I do not say that the wording of the new clause is perfect, but the problem is with the matter of excuses, which I think he recognises. Are the Liberal Democrats in favour of framing more effective measures for removing travellers from unauthorised encampments?

Photo of Mr Matthew Green Mr Matthew Green Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Ludlow

We would want to be able to be sure that the law could be used. The Gentleman has made a good point in saying that there are occasions when the existing law needs to be enforced but is not being used. I understand his desire to try to use the existing law. That is a different matter from widening the scope of the law. I am trying to urge caution about widening the law, rather than about removing hurdles to the use of existing legislation. The hon. Gentleman has made a stab at removing the hurdles, but in the new clause he has widened the legislation beyond the

purpose that he intends it to serve. I cannot support the new clauses because they have the potential to draw in much wider issues.

Several hon. Members rose—

Photo of Mr James Cran Mr James Cran Ceidwadwyr, Beverley and Holderness

The hon. Gentleman's name is on the tip of my tongue.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Ceidwadwyr, Surrey Heath

And you have been a colleague of mine for 11 years, Mr. Cran. [Interruption.] Demob happy or what?

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Ceidwadwyr, Surrey Heath

As my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire rightly said, with the new clauses we are aiming at slightly different aspects of an undoubted problem, but if I may, I shall incorporate into my speech every word that he said. All of us, particularly those who represent rural or semi-rural constituencies, which includes me, have seen the appalling amount of waste that is left behind by travellers who are trespassers. My hon. Friend's aim relates to travellers who are trespassers, whereas my new clause 11 is intended to cover the situation in which such abuses have been caused even by owners of the land. The hon. Member for Ludlow rightly pointed that out, but he did so in an ''on the one hand, this; on the other hand, that'' speech, which is typical of the Liberal Democrats. They are never prepared to address the extent of the abuses.

There is a particular constituency reason why I raise this point. Similar issues have arisen in other constituencies and I hope that other members of the Committee, because they may face exactly the same problem that my constituency has had, will take note of this. In new clause 11, I have tried to deal with a relatively recent aspect of the problem. We now have the situation in this country—this has happened not only in my constituency—in which some travellers have become very wealthy. They have probably become wealthy because they operate in the black economy in very many cases and do not pay tax. They are quite often referred to as ''the boys from the black stuff''. They go round many houses in my constituency asking, ''Can we tarmac your drive?'' Anyone who is unwise enough to let them in usually has a lousy job done and is hugely overcharged. If they decline to pay, and particularly if they are elderly and vulnerable, heavies from the traveller community come and threaten them. We all know that that goes on. As a result of such activities, some travellers become wealthy.

In a village called Chobham in my constituency, unscrupulous travellers have bought a field. It is known as field 0081—that is its numbering on the land plan—and is at a place called Pennypot lane. Those travellers have dumped thousands of tonnes of hard-core—I do not exaggerate—on a field that is on a flood plain. They have moved lots of tarmac and asphalt on top of the hard-core, and lots of caravans on to that.

Even if owners of land misuse it in that overt way, the current law does not give local authorities or, indeed, anyone else the same powers to deal with them as the previous Conservative Government did in relation to trespassers in the Criminal Justice and

Public Order Act 1994. I was proud to serve on that Committee. It was one of the most important pieces of legislation that we introduced in my time in government; it was a very big Bill. I was responsible for dealing with it, with the help of my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (David Maclean), who was then a Home Office Minister of State and lead for the Government on the Committee.

We toughened up the powers, and there was a lot of support from Labour members of the Committee, who were in opposition, because we all, as far as the main parties were concerned, wanted to toughen up the law against travellers. In the early 1990s, we had started to see the problem of illegal raves and we had certainly seen huge problems with travellers who were trespassers. However, I do not think that any of us anticipated back in 1994 that we would have the wholly new problem of wealthy travellers buying land and misusing it.

I make no apology for saying what new clause 11 is intended to do and I do not think that there would be unintended consequences. Even if people own land, I want the law to be able to deal with them if they deliberately misuse it, for example, by wrecking the drainage of an area by laying thousands of tonnes of hard-core and asphalt on a flood plain, and putting caravans on top. I want the Committee to understand how frustrating it has been for all the law-abiding residents of Chobham, and for the chief executive, senior officers and councillors on Surrey Heath borough council. They have tried to use the courts wherever possible. They have tried to get round the problem that the travellers are now the legal owners of the field by using the local authority's compulsory purchase powers. Once they compulsorily purchase the field, it will return to the ownership of the local authority, which will be able to evict the travellers, who will by then be trespassers. However, in the meantime, there is continuing damage to the drainage. Chobham has suffered extensively from flooding in the past and the position will become worse.

Earlier, in a brief response to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, I said that he was not helping his case by referring to the Environment Agency. I shall explain why. There is huge anger—I cannot stress it too strongly—in my constituency, up to and including the leader of the council and the chief executive, a senior and experienced local government officer, with the Environment Agency, because although the Environment Agency originally said, ''Oh dear, this is building on a flood plain'', it has failed to do anything about it.

The councillors for the ward concerned and the residents have found out that the man who was sent by the Environment Agency immediately went native and started siding with the travellers. I have had some very acrimonious correspondence, as has the chief executive of the local authority, with the chief executive of the Environment Agency. I make no apology for putting that on the record. An extraordinary thing has

happened. The chief executive of the Environment Agency, as she now is, was originally appointed as a Labour peer. Subsequently, when she changed jobs, it was felt that it would be wrong for her to continue to be a Labour peer, so she became a cross-Bench peer. When I wrote to her and suggested that she was too busy pursuing her duties supporting the Government to do the Environment Agency job properly, she wrote back and said that I was wrong: she spends hardly any time in the House of Lords but is working full-time as chief executive of the Environment Agency.

Two points immediately occurred to me. First, what is she doing in the upper House of this place if she is writing to me, a Member of Parliament, to say that she is not going to do her job? Secondly, what were the Government doing appointing this person to be a peer? I want those points on the record because they have caused huge anger in my constituency. When that sort of thing is put in writing to me and made clear to the chief executive of my local authority, I am not surprised that local people are angry. They look to senior people in a body that exists to protect the environment and to address the concerns of innocent, law-abiding landowners and house owners in Chobham about flooding, and they see that that work is not being done.

There is also concern about the fact that the travellers own the land and the courts are failing to help the local authority do something about it. I stress the sequence of events. The local authority, Surrey Heath borough council, recognising the serious extent of the problem, sought—as any responsible authority would—an injunction. Having managed to get one on Wednesday 12 February 2003 against some named occupants of field 0081 in Pennypot Lane, Chobham, it issued proceedings in the High Court for an application for committal of some of the named people—I shall not trouble the Committee with all the names—as a result of the defendants' being in contempt of the court order made on 12 February. The application sought an order that the defendants be committed to prison or such other order as the court may think just to punish them for their contempt—that is, the continuing dumping of thousands of tons of hard core. A few weeks ago I spoke to somebody who has been working at the neighbouring farm. To give the Committee an idea of the scale of the problem, he said that lorries were arriving every 15 minutes and dumping more hard core. Naturally, I have been to see the field.

The chief executive of Surrey Heath borough council, Mr. Barry Catchpole said:

''The Council takes breaches—

of the planning regulations—

very seriously. The Council hopes that the High Court will take a firm line with those who breach the injunction and send the right message to such transgressors that society's rules and laws are to be respected and obeyed by all.''

The county council, the borough council, the parish council in Chobham and I, as Member of Parliament, all hoped that that would happen.

On Friday 2 May, Mr. Justice Holland said that the injunction was being ''flagrantly ignored'' and that he

would commit to prison any of the named respondents in the application if any further breaches occurred before the hearing. At that time, the local authority councillors and officers and I were confident that something would finally happen.

However, on Monday 19 May, despite three months' further evidence of the flagrant breaches of the injunction granted in February, the court decided not to take any notice of any of the breaches, simply added to the injunction, which remains in place, 24 other named occupiers of the site, adjourned the contempt hearing indefinitely and took no action. Not surprisingly, the borough council's formal statement said:

''The Council is extremely disappointed with the outcome of the judge's view of the breaches of the injunction and how he has dealt with the hearing. Despite his previous comments on the situation the Court has completely backtracked and has failed to sentence anyone for the clear and persistent breaches of the injunction.''

My close friend and colleague, borough councillor Stuart Stevenson, who represents the neighbouring ward of Bisley, is the chairman of the borough council's planning applications committee. He said:

''It is a pity that the courts are not very supportive of Government . . . which—


''encourages the use of High Court injunctions to combat flagrant breaches of planning control. I know that many residents will feel let down by this decision and I share those feelings, especially as this apparent gutless decision made by the Court sends the wrong message to all parts of the community and will not be understood by the residents of Pennypot Lane''—

and the rest of Chobham and the local authority.

''However the lack of action by the Court will not diminish the Council's commitment to remove the unauthorised occupants as soon as legally possible.''

That refers to the fact that the local authority was going to try to use compulsory purchase measures, which is a long and slow process, as hon. Members who have dealt with such matters know.

I finished the story so that all members of the Committee could understand the seriousness of the problem and appreciate why new clause 11 or, if its wording is not quite right, something similar is needed to deal with property owners in these circumstances. It may be a rare situation, but it will become more common as travellers profit from the black economy. If what they do works in Chobham, they will try it everywhere and get round the laws against trespassers on land by buying property and despoiling the land by building on flood plains and so on.

Photo of Mr Matthew Green Mr Matthew Green Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Ludlow 11:15, 22 Mai 2003

We can sense some of the hon. Gentleman's frustration. I want to discuss the ''misuse'' of land, because the use of land is a planning term. Deliberately misusing it could be interpreted as deliberately not obeying the planning rules that pertain to it. That is my interpretation.

There are a vast number of situations, not just those to which the hon. Gentleman alluded, in which people might deliberately not follow the planning use that has been laid down. Does the hon. Gentleman realise the implication of the proposal, in that people would face eviction and, possibly, imprisonment?

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Ceidwadwyr, Surrey Heath

I understand entirely the hon. Gentleman's point, but he will understand that the chief executives of local authorities will not use the powers in a draconian or silly way. Although one tries to ensure that the law has a sense of proportion, he will understand why there must be a measure to give the chief executive of a local authority the power to deal with a situation such as that in my constituency, otherwise how can it be dealt with? We cannot have a situation in which local residents have to put up with these problems for months because the courts will not use the current law and it will take the council a long time to take out and enforce compulsory purchase orders. The travellers will simply sit there, ignoring all the laws for as long as they can, as they do when they trespass. They wait until the last minute and move on only when the local council arrives with a massive police back up.

We must give the chief executive of the local authority power to deal with the kind of flagrant abuse that there is in my constituency, and then rely on their good sense and judgment not to misuse that power when it is not appropriate. As my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire said, the Bill is the appropriate vehicle for giving them such a power. No behaviour is more antisocial than the problems caused by travellers; it is about the worst thing that can happen to any community when travellers descend like a plague of locusts. I know that Labour members of the Committee have faced similar problems in their constituencies because it has been such a big problem in my constituency that I have had lots of cross-party conversations.

I am talking about an extension of the usual problem of trespassers. The previous Conservative Government introduced tough laws, which have frequently been effective—albeit at the last minute when the police back up arrives—to deal with trespassers. The law is there and can be enforced. If something similar to the new clauses is not in the Bill, we shall not be able to deal with the new variant of the problem. If a loophole in the law exists, travellers will get through it.

I hope that the Minister understands the importance of the problem. I have received more letters about the travellers on Pennypot lane than about the war on Iraq, not just from people in the village of Chobham, but from neighbouring villages too. I know that the same sort of thing is happening in other constituencies. The problem is growing and I hope that the Minister recognises that it must be dealt with. It should be dealt with in the Bill because that provides the opportunity to deal with antisocial behaviour. I hope that the Government will table their own similar clause if new clause 11 is not perfectly worded.

Photo of Dari Taylor Dari Taylor Llafur, Stockton South

I have tremendous sympathy for what has been said in relation to new clauses 5 and 11. The way in which they have been introduced by the hon. Members for South-East Cambridgeshire and for Surrey Heath has been to the point and valuable. I shall be interested to hear how the Minister responds to them. I see both

new clauses defining a clear power to prevent unauthorised parking or camping.

There is a serious problem in Thornaby in my constituency. Travellers come at least twice, sometimes three times, a year. They move on to any small, green spaces and cause an enormous nuisance. Those spaces, which are in a tight urban setting, are left in the most disgusting condition. I am not referring just to human waste, but to wheel ruts in the grass where children often have been playing football. They can no longer play there, as the grass and the land must be sorted out.

The noise of not only humans, but of generators is also a problem. They make a formidable sound when they are next to one's garden fence. One has to hear it to believe it. Travellers are, on the whole, unprepared to be persuaded to move elsewhere. In my constituency, we have a travellers' park, but they will not use the site. They want to park wherever they feel it is convenient for them. I, therefore, have tremendous sympathy with both the proposed new clauses.

The police and the local authority in my constituency are proactive and will use their muscle, as well as their personal commitment, to move people on. Even then, it takes two or three days to move them. I know elderly people who are virtually demented about the problem. They sit up all night

because they are so frightened of these people, and it is true that crime rises considerably while they are around.

The proposed new clauses are about despoiling and misusing land. I am not saying that the travellers have a way of life that we want to reduce in any way, but nor do we want them to reduce the quality of life of our constituents. I hope that the Minister takes the proposed new clauses on board and supports them. I am anxious to hear his response.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Ceidwadwyr, Uxbridge

I think that I may be interrupted during my speech, but never mind.

I understand the frustration of my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath. In my dealings with the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Ms Taylor), she has always been professional and reasonable, so I am fortunate.

Like everybody else, most of my constituents get fed up hearing excuses. My local authority and the police division in Hillingdon have, over the past year or so, been active. They have successfully reduced the incidence of antisocial behaviour, but unfortunately it is still going on.

It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.