Tory MP refers to travellers as a ‘disease’ in call for stronger police powers

A Tory MP has referred to travellers coming to his local area as a “disease” as he called for more powers to move them on from sites.

Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) referred to a “rather vexing issue that has plagued my constituency” as he led an Adjournment Debate on the issue in the Commons on Thursday.

He began by saying: “We’re now in what we call the summer traveller season, it’s like a disease.”

Sir Paul (pictured) said his part of Surrey was “attractive to travellers from afar, and many of those come with a distinct Irish accent”.

He said while there are “a number of popular sites where there are no difficulties, no arguments”, he said “some of the travelling community do not believe the law applies to them” when it comes to building on protected sites on green belt land or in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The MP called for the Government to adopt the “Irish model” and change the law so when travellers “squat on other people’s land” it can be made a criminal offence, and allows the police to take “immediate action”.

In response, Housing Minister Rishi Sunak said a Government consultation into the issue received more than 2,000 responses, and they published a response two weeks ago.

In it there are new measures to consult on giving the police stronger powers to deal with unauthorised encampments, as well as support for local authorities, and funding for the travelling community to improve their life chances.

He said the Government will amend the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to increase the time trespassers removed from a piece of land are allowed to return to it from three months to 12 months.

And Mr Sunak said the amount of vehicles defining an unauthorised encampment will be lowered, as well as police given powers to remove trespassers from land that forms part of the public highway.

The minister also said the Government will look at adopting the so-called Irish model, as part of an ongoing review.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) DV Party.