Southend West MP Sir David Amess continued to urge the Government to take action to tackle illegal encampments during a House of Commons debate on Monday 10th September.
Speaking during the debate titled ‘Gypsies and Travellers’ the local MP reiterated his support for implementing the Irish option to solve the ongoing issue of illegal traveller sites.
Sir David said: “Mr Speaker, this year, a crowd of these people, who are not genuine poor Travellers, turned up and pitched their caravans in a big circle in our beautiful Priory park. They took out their deckchairs and then were absolutely threatening to the local population who happened to be playing organised games with the children. They turned up on Southend seafront and took out their deckchairs. This is going on morning, noon and night. Colleagues stand up and tell the House and the Minister how dreadful it is. Everyone looks concerned and absolutely nothing happens; nothing at all changes.”
The MP for Southend West went on to point out that this is not the first time he and other colleagues have raised the topic in Parliament: “My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire has had, I think, two Adjournment debates on the matter. I had an Adjournment debate earlier this year. We had a meeting with the Secretary of State. The officials were there. Everyone was very, very anxious, but nothing ever changes.”
Sir David ended his speech on a high, anticipating a different result from this debate from previous sittings. He made it clear that he would stand shoulder to shoulder with his colleagues to challenge the current situation so that changes can be made to protect local communities in the future.
Responding on behalf of the Government, the Minister for Housing (Kit Malthouse MP) said: “The Government takes the issue of living conditions and illegal activity on Traveller sites and unauthorised encampments extremely seriously.
“I have listened carefully to all the accounts of the conditions on some sites, the challenges faced by those living on these sites and the difficulties that communities face as a result of unauthorised encampments, as well as all the constructive recommendations for how we could improve the way in which we deal with the present situation.”
The Minister continued: “I will take in order some of the broad themes raised by hon. Members. First, on unauthorised encampments, in the spring we launched a consultation on the effectiveness of powers for dealing with unauthorised development and encampments, alongside colleagues in the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office. The document sought views on a range of issues—from the powers available to local authorities and the police, to the provision of authorised stopping places and the impact that a change in existing powers could have on travelling communities.
“The consultation, which closed on 15 June, allowed the Government to hear views from everyone with an interest—settled and nomadic communities, organisations and individuals, and public authorities—on how best to address unauthorised encampments. We have received a substantial response, with over 2,000 representations, which signals how strongly people feel about this issue. We are grateful for the time that people have taken to engage with us, and we remain committed to working with the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice to consider all representations before deciding on the way forward.”