On the 13th November 2018, Andrew Selous, MP for South West Bedfordshire proposed a bill in the House of Commons calling for drastic changes to policies around Gypsy and Traveller accommodation. The Bill has not yet been made public, but we are extremely concerned that the anti-Gypsy sentiment expressed in Selous’ Ten Minute Rule to the Commons is sugar coating a poisonous push toward the assimilation of Gypsies and Travellers.
In the bill, Selous calls for caravan sites to be converted to ‘settled accommodation’, unauthorised encampments to become a criminal offence and for local authorities to be released from the obligation to provide sites for Gypsies and Travellers. In a bid to disguise the incredible impact the bill could have on Gypsy and Traveller communities, Selous has sprinkled in promises of teaching Gypsy and Traveller culture and heritage in schools and developing temporary stopping sites where there is a ‘demonstrable need’.
We agree with Selous’ argument that planning policy largely isn’t meeting the needs of Gypsy and Traveller communities, but consider the actions he proposes to be deeply harmful to many of the individuals and families we work with on a daily basis. Selous’ argument fails to recognise the abject failure of the government to ensure Gypsy and Traveller families across the country have a place to live.
Gypsies and Travellers have been in England as early as the 16th Century and have a long history of practicing nomadism, which has a huge economic and cultural significance. Around one in 200 people in England are from Gypsy and Traveller communities – they go to work every day, pay their taxes, work in the NHS and are part of their local communities but Selous chooses to focus on unnamed Gypsies and Travellers he alleges to have committed criminal behaviour.
The Bill has not yet been published, so we are unable to comment on the finer details just yet, but in anticipation of its second reading on 25th January 2019, in our role as the Secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma we have been in touch with Equality and Human Rights Commission and other organisations seeking advice and support to ensure the rights and freedoms of Gypsies and Travellers will remain protected in the UK.
Commenting on the bill, Abbie Kirkby, Advice and Policy Manager at Friends Families and Travellers, said:
“The suggestion from Andrew Selous MP, that Traveller sites should no longer exist and be converted to ‘settled accommodation’ is preposterous. Can you imagine attempting to bring in legislation that forced house dwellers to move into caravans?”
We urge our readers to raise their concerns about the recommendations in The Bill proposed by Andrew Selous by contacting your local MP. You can find their details here. If you would like to use a template for your letter, you can find one here.
Notes for Editor
About Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT)
Friends, Families and Travellers is a leading national charity that works on behalf of all Gypsies, Roma and Travellers regardless of ethnicity, culture or background.
Lucy Hetherington, Communications Officer
Tel: 01273 234 777 Email: [email protected]