Govt's traveller policies
msbrown at boltblue.net
msbrown at boltblue.net
Fri Aug 2 20:01:54 BST 2002
Regarding what Rachel Morris says about the bill, namely the racist nature of
the legislation, I accept the concerns she raises (quote: "The policy of
blanket evictions from an area following minimum site provision is a form of
quota formerly known, under the 1968 Caravan Sites Act as 'designation' [or, in
South Africa, as 'apartheid']). I agree where she says that the interests of
travellers would be better served if "there are sufficient, lawful and
appropriate stopping places".
However, I believe this bill is not all bad, despite the concerns raised by
Rachel Morris (though it is clear that additional provision would be best serve
the interests of travellers - such as reprovision of stopping sites which local
authorities removed since the Tory government repealed legislation under the
CJA). What is good about this bill is how the bill gives power to the
travelling community in the assessment of the need for site provision
throughout England and Wales. The bill states that a NEW Gypsy & Traveller
Accommodation Commission will be set up responsible for assessing the need for
sites throughout England and Wales, upon which Gypsies and Travellers will be
on this Commission. This should mean that sites will be located with
Gypsy/Traveller's interests completely taken on board (no more sites located
between motorway intersections).
I also refer to the wording of the bill where it states that "where local
authorities have made insufficient provision, THEY WILL FIND IT MORE DIFFICULT
TO EVICT ILLEGAL ENCAMPMENTS". The key words here are "insufficient
provision", because where the extent of provision by the local authority is
below minimum (sites which will be recommended by the Commission comprised of
travellers and Gypsies), then planning inspectors will have to take this into
account when determining applications by Gypsies and Travellers for permission
to develop sites they hve moved onto to/which they own. Currently, planning
legislation is stacked up against the interests of travellers. Therefore, the
process of site provision is given sufficient room for self-engagement in it's
choice and location by the travelling community - not least with owner-occupied
sites. Time will tell whether this is a success, but these are the encouraging
aspects of the bill which we should consider if we are judging it on it's own
Quoting Tony Gosling <tony at gaia.org>:
> 'This government press release contravenes the race relations act'
> Government policy: racist posturing
> The following is written by Rachel Morris, Co-ordinator of the
> Law Reserch Unit. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily
> reflect those of other Unit staff, Unit funders, Cardiff Law School or
> Cardiff University.
> The 'Gypsy' style is in right now, according to a great many fashion
> but in all other and less superficial ways Gypsies and other Travellers
> right out. On Friday 5 July 2002 the Office of the Deputy Prime
> and the Home Office jointly issued a racist press release about a
> and hackneyed 'policy', which described itself as 'radical' and
> The policies were tried 30 years ago and didn't work. The policy of
> evictions from an area following minimum site provision is a form of
> formerly known, under the 1968 Caravan Sites Act as 'designation' (or,
> South Africa, as 'apartheid'). This is illegal and racist, which is
> precisely why the Northern Ireland government rescinded designation
> in 1997. The Government are, to be charitable, disingenuous if they seek
> convince the settled population, including those who have genuinely
> negative experiences with the minority of Travelling People who do
> problems, that their 'policy' will end them.
> The best way to reduce encampments is to ensure that there are
> lawful and appropriate stopping places. The only way to get sites built
> to create a political climate in which settled people won't react in a
> negative, knee-jerk fashion at the mere suggestion of a site being
> 15 miles of them, but who will be made to realise that - whether they
> it or not - they must respect diversity and the legality and legitimacy
> the nomadic way of life. The government has defeated its own proposed
> 'policy' before it has even begun by (as other governments before it
> 500 years) sending a message to settled society that it's okay to be
> horrible to and about Travelling People, regardless of what they're like
> individuals, purely because of their membership of a group. No sites can
> built now. Racism rules ok.
> Yes there are some Travelling People who aren't, to say the least, much
> to be around. I defy you to find any sector of society which doesn't
> its share. (From crooked corporate fatcats - Enron, anyone? - to the
> middle class, respectable people in my park-rich neighbourhood who are
> squeamish and irresponsible to clear up after their pets). But ample
> well-worn laws exist to deal with them: if there is a ongoing and
> behaviour problem (and senior police officers assure me that they have
> more and no less trouble with Travelling People than from any other
> in the UK) then it is not a Traveller problem, it is a policing
> And the behaviour of individuals is not the same thing as having
> unauthorised encampments on highly visible and unsuitable locations
> the adults and children concerned have nowhere else to stop.
> Both the tenor of the release, and the contents of its ill-thought-out
> 'policies', contravene the Race Relations Act 1976 (as amended, 2000).
> Home Office is not only bound by the provisions of the Act - as are
> Ministers of the Crown and government departments - but oversee them.
> development would therefore be ironically comical if it weren't so
> appalling, cheap and retrograde. In treating accommodation for
> People in such a vastly different way than that for settled people,
> ODPM is directly discriminating against Gypsies and Irish Travellers.
> is illegal. In sending out a press release which elides issues of
> criminality and bad behaviour with those of accommodation, and which
> implies that worse behaviour can be expected of Gypsies and Travellers
> general than other groups in society, both departments breach the
> duty they have recently placed upon themselves to eliminate unlawful
> discrimination; to promote equal opportunities; and to promote good
> relations between people from different racial groups. The Government
> states in the release that all people should have regard for the law.
> would appear not to include the Government. Further details of this
> pandering populism dressed as 'policy' and my objections to it are on
> Epolitix (search with keywords 'Traveller law').
> Aside from Epolitix the UK media's response has been to repeat the
> release verbatim, then drop the story altogether. Imagine this for a
> moment: that the press release has suggested that appropriate
> for black people will henceforth be met piecemeal out of existing
> dependent on the 'tackling' of / a 'clamp down' on Yardi gangsters, and
> implied that all black people are Yardis. Or imagine the announcement
> that the number of Asian people permitted to live in Bradford is to be
> restricted, and that it's time to get tough on them because they're
> violent rioters, man woman and child. Would the Guardian's Society
> still say, on a Monday morning, that it's too late now to put in a piece
> Wednesday and, in any event, they did a piece on Pakistanis just a few
> weeks ago? Would the Commission for Racial Equality stay so shamingly
> silent? Would the Government still be standing?
> The Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention for the Protection
> National Minorities at the Council of Europe has recently published
> report on the UK in which it 'notes with concern that many of the Roma
> Gypsies and Irish Travellers face considerable socio-economic
> in comparison to both the majority and other national minorities, in
> particular in the fields of education, health, employment and housing,
> including the availability of stopping sites (examined further under
> Article 5)'. The Committee then states that 'This situation is
> by the United Kingdom Government'. (I'm not convinced, to be frank).
> negative impact of eviction on education, and racist reporting of
> Travelling People by the UK press also feature. Considering what a
> proportion of the minority ethnic population of the UK are represented
> Travelling People, they are mentioned disproportionately frequently.
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