"Government has to get a grip on the issue": Philip speaks at the debate on Gypsies and Travellers

Many Travellers and Gypsies are a law unto themselves and benefit from special treatment from the authorities, according to an MP.

Shipley MP Philip Davies said officials were turning a blind eye about their treatment of animals and not enough was being done to tackle illegal campsites or the high numbers of crime they commit.

Speaking in a Commons debate on Travellers and Gypsies and local communities Mr Davies said: “It is not surprising that local people are fed up about it. Bradford Council has not too long ago spent £820,000 refurbishing Gypsy encampments, including in my constituency. Even though only eight pitches are being used at Esholt, also in my constituency, that does not stop illegal encampments in other parts of the constituency, when there are perfectly good pitches to be used on such sites.”

He cited examples of how travellers around the country are invading land and demanding cash to move, in one case a man in Slough had to pay out £5,000 to Travellers and left with a £20,000 clear up operation despite going down the legal route.

“The Government has to get a grip on this issue and I hope that the debate will spur them to do so,” Mr Davies said.

Mr Davies, who previously called for a Parliamentary debate over the “absolutely disgusting” treatment of horses at Esholt, told the Commons the authorities had ignored the problem for too long.

“Despite numerous complaints from me, local residents and other campaigners about the appalling treatment of animals, particularly horses, at Esholt Gypsy encampment in my constituency, for many months Bradford Council and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals did absolutely nothing.” he said.

“That comes back to the same point: people feel that different rules apply to different people. If anybody else were treating animals in that way, they would be prosecuted, but because they were Gypsies and Travellers, people were pussyfooting around them and people, understandably, get fed up. I am delighted that the RSPCA eventually took some action and people were convicted—rightly so and not before time, but also not before those animals suffered far more than they should have done.”

Mr Davies said there was a “massive problem” with crime repeating statistics already confirmed by other MPs in the debate that five per cent of prisoners identify themselves as Gypsies or Travellers. He dismissed claims by some that it was due in part to magistrates and judges being racist and treating the group unfairly.

Mr Davies added: “It does not take a mathematical genius to work out that, if something like 0.1 per cent of the population in England or Wales is Traveller or Gypsy, and if five per cent of the prison population identify themselves as Gypsies or Travellers.

“Given that we know how hard it is to be sent to prison in the first place, I begin to wonder what crimes they must be committing. This does not apply just to adults who are Gypsies and Travellers; it also applies to juveniles and young offenders. We must not pussyfoot around these issues—we must address them head on. The public expect nothing less.”