I spoke in the House of Commons last night (9:38pm) on the issue of illegal traveller camps in Walsall North. Due to the time limit I had to shorten my speech slightly but here is what I said:
The people watching on the TV and seeing this unusual level of agreement will clearly be scratching their heads in the months and years to come if we do not sort out this significant problem as we have discussed this evening. We have heard about hundreds of unauthorised encampments costing millions of pounds. Until 26 September this year, we had 54 unauthorised encampments in Walsall: 40 on public land and 14 on private land, costing a total of £190,000—that is just the cost to the council and does not include the cost of police and other support services. This summer has felt like a bizarre game of cat and mouse, as the council has chased pretty much the same group of Travellers all around the authority.
For me, a huge part of the solution lies in injunctions. We have heard mixed messages this evening about whether they work or not, but in the Black Country we have got a High Court injunction against car cruising. That injunction has been taken out against unknown people, and since it came into effect, I understand that 17 people have been prosecuted. If it is possible to have an injunction of that nature across the whole Black Country, why can we not have something similar that will address the issue of unauthorised encampments?
Now that we have got a combined authority in the West Midlands, why not move some powers up there to give it greater power to deal with the problem? For example, we have heard Members talk about section 62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. I understand that one of the problems is that the police can move people only within a borough. Clearly, we have a level of devolution in the west midlands; we have got the combined authority. Why do we not give those seven authorities the opportunity to try to tackle the problem collectively? I would also like the Government to review the law in relation to private land and businesses. The police and crime commissioner advises that better legal protection for private landowners and business premises would assist with that work.
I do not think it is beyond the wit of the people in this room and the Government to deal with the problem. We have heard from Members in all parts of the Chamber that there is a willingness to collectively address the problem. I hope sincerely that after this debate we see some movement in that direction.