Traveller Law Research Unit on the "Traveller Law Reform Bill"

tliouk office at
Mon Jul 22 18:53:30 BST 2002

The Traveller Law Research Unit lobbied for & collaborated in the 
drawing up of the new Traveller Law Reform Bill. 
Here is their view on the new bill now going before Parliament:
>From their website:

The Traveller Law Reform Bill is the product of a process over more 
than four years of discussion and collaboration by Gypsies and 
Travellers and their organisations and the statutory and voluntary 
sectors (including representatives from the police, local 
authorities, education and health providers, churches, equality 
organisations, lawyers and planners). The Joseph Rowntree Charitable 
Trust has funded the technical drafting of the Bill which was 
undertaken by the Traveller Law Research Unit at Cardiff Law School, 
part of Cardiff University. The Bill was launched on 31 January 2002, 
was read in the House of Commons by David Atkinson MP on 10 July, and 
will receive its second reading in Parliament on 19 July. 

The process formally commenced in 1997 when a proposal was made to 
create a common 'platform' to take forward the reform debate. This 
reform process has already produced a number of conferences and a law 
reform document published as Gaining Ground: Law Reform for Gypsies 
and Travellers (launched at the House of Lords on 31 May 1999), and 
accompanied by a number of significant and positive governmental 
policy changes, including as:
- planning development advice; 
- advice from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the
Regions [now Office of the Deputy Prime Minister] concerning 
toleration of unauthorised encampments; 
- NHS guidance specifically drawing attention to the health care of
Gypsies and Travellers; 
- amendments to the housing repair grants regime to include caravans 
on publicly-owned Gypsy sites; 
- ministerial endorsement concerning the 'best value' implications for
local authority site provision and toleration policies; and 
- voting rights for Gypsies and Travellers. 

Clearly, however, there have also been a number of negative 
developments, most notably in the tenor of political comment and 
press coverage of Gypsy and Traveller issues: the stigmatisation of 
Gypsies and Travellers, essentially as an evil underclass. As 
recently as 15 January 2002, an MP described Gypsies and Travellers, 
in a House of Commons debate, as 'scum' not entitled to human 
rights. If for example Jewish or Black people had been spoken of this 
way, there would have been an international outcry. 

Many of the clauses in the Traveller Law Reform Bill make important 
amendments to remove discriminatory statutory provisions. The Bill's 
most significant innovation, however, concerns the extent to which it 
seeks to remove from the political stage decisions concerning site 
provision and site 'toleration'. In effect it creates self-enforcing 
provisions; measures which do not depend upon 'political will' for 
their subsequent enforcement. 
This is to be achieved by:
1. Creating a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Commission which will 
be responsible for assessing the need for sites throughout England 
and Wales. 
2. Local authorities will be required to facilitate site provision 
(by e.g. providing for planning permissions for owner occupied 
sites, 'tolerating' historic sites and collaborating with Housing 
Associations which will have power to provide develop and manage 
3. Local authorities which have failed to facilitate the provision of 
sufficient sites will have greater difficulty in evicting illegal 
encampments on their own land; likewise planning inspectors will have 
to have regard to such a failure when determining applications by 
Gypsies and Travellers for permission to develop their own sites. 
An example of the other provisions in the Bill (designed to remove 
discrimination between the laws that apply to Travelling and non-
Travelling people) concerns Gypsy site developments. Since 1994 there 
has been no duty on local authorities to provide accommodation for 
Gypsies and Travellers and no central government grant available to 
fund site construction. On the other hand, local authorities have a 
duty to house certain people and the Housing Corporation has major 
resources to support the construction of public housing. 

The Bill removes the discrimination by extending the Housing 
Corporation's powers to use its resources to support caravan site 
development. The Bill is the first major initiative in relation to 
the law affecting Gypsies and Travellers since the Caravan Sites Act 
1968 (repealed in 1994). The CSA was introduced as a Private Members 
Bill by Eric Lubbock MP (now Lord Avebury). Lord Avebury chairs the 
TLRU Advisory Committee consisting of representatives of many Gypsy 
and Traveller organisations, which has also been influential in 
shaping the terms of the Bill. 
Notes for editors
For further information get the press contact list or contact TLRU.
See also the Commission for Racial Equality's guidance notes on 
Travellers, Gypsies & the media. 

The Traveller Law Research Unit is a specialist unit within Cardiff
Law School at Cardiff University. The Unit has, since its creation in 
1995, undertaken research for a number of charitable foundations, and 
aims to promote law reform, policies and services of benefit to 
Travelling people. 
Contemporary photographs of Gypsy and Travellers that may be used in
articles covering this development (subject to photographers' credit) 
are available from Cardiff University's Public Relations Office. 
Email Debra Lewis or call her on 
029 2087 4499. 

There are between 200,000 and 300,000 Travelling People in the United 
Kingdom. The majority of these people are Gypsies - whether English, 
Welsh or Scottish - and Irish Travellers, racial groups under the 
protection of the Race Relations Acts. At least 1/3 of these people 
have no safe, legal and secure stopping place, and many such people 
have no access to water, refuse disposal and other essential 
services. See further data here or on our information page. 
Let Travelling People tell you about themselves in Travellers' Talk 

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