Invited by the University of Birmingham Conservatives, controversial backbench MP Jacob Rees-Mogg visited campus on Friday 9th March, speaking about his views on free speech, housing, mental health, Russia and tuition fees to a packed lecture theatre of around 300 students.Written by Erin Santillo & John Wimperis on 16th March 2018
Traveller Groups Could Be Banned From West Midlands
Proposals to ban traveller groups from the West Midlands, drawn up by the combined authority's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), have been seen by the government
West Midlands PCC, David Jamieson, has argued that there should be the power to ban individuals involved in establishing illegal encampments from the West Midlands for two years.
He also said that it would be 'a serious deterrent' if traveller groups which engaged in criminal activity could face three month bans from the West Midlands, and that councils should be able to order travellers to move out of their specific authority and into authorised camps in one of the other West Midlands authorities.
Local Government Minister Alok Sharma confirmed in the House of Commons that she had seen the work produced by Jamieson and called it 'an incredibly useful document.' She told the Commons that either she or a Home Office Minister would meet with Jamieson.
Travellers are currently already banned from four parks in Birmingham, due to an injunction granted to Birmingham City Council in July. Travellers who set up or join camps in Selly Oak Park, Selly Park Recreation Ground, Perry Park and Hazelwell Park can be arrested on the spot. They can then face imprisonment or having their vehicle impounded.
Steve McCabe, Labour MP for Selly Oak, told the House of Commons that the city council had spent £700,000 on law enforcement and clean-up operations at the sites of traveller camps in the past year. He stated that, across the West Midlands, there had been 395 cases of unauthorised traveller camps.
Several West Midlands MPs raised grievances with the travellers, such as Ian Austin, Labour MP for Dudley North. He described how 'residents and their kids have been unable to use community facilities and parks', with vehicles being driven in 'dangerous' and destructive ways and large amounts of rubbish being left at some of the sites.
The MP for Dudley South, however, Conservative Mike Wood, said that some of the many unauthorised camps in Dudley over the summer had 'caused very little damage or disruption'. He spoke of one group who 'tidied up after themselves, mowed the grass, and probably left the [football pitch they had camped on] in a better condition than that in which they had found it.'
Travellers face a severe degree of prejudice and disadvantage in British society. Despite most Gypsies and Travellers living on legal sites and paying rent and tax, 90% of those surveyed in the most recent National Survey of Travellers had suffered discrimination. A study from the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups and Anglia Ruskin University found that gypsies and travellers have an infant mortality rate three times as high as the national average and a life expectancy 12 years shorter. 90% of children in this group have been racially abused.
Furthermore, over 90% of planning applications by gypsies and travellers are denied, despite these groups being encouraged to buy their own land and being constantly moved on by the authorities if they pitch unauthorised camps.