§ 28. Mr. Dodds
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government, in view of the hardship being experienced by many gipsies, because of the increasing difficulties in obtaining suitable camping sites and because of the disparity of treatment being meted out to them in different parts of the country, if he will look into the matter with a view to introducing an enlightened and progressive policy in this minority problem.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. J. Enoch Powell)
The problem raised by gipsy camps is largely a local one, and my right hon. Friend is not satisfied that there is any policy which would be applicable universally; but he is prepared to consider particular difficulties which may arise within his sphere of responsibility.
§ Mr. Dodds
Is not the Minister aware of the serious position that has arisen because of the enforcement of laws which make no allowance for the closing down of traditional gipsy sites? Is he not aware that many of the gipsies would welcome certain aspects of the segregation laws of South Africa? Does he not know by now that the problem cannot be adequately dealt with by local authorities, but only by the Government living up to their responsibilities to this minority, who are a helpless and a harmless group of people?
§ Mr. Powell
These encampments are very different in the character and in the occupations of their populations, and each case has to be looked at separately. If the hon. Member will refer me to the case which he has in mind, I will certainly look at it.
§ Mr. Beswick
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a problem here which is beyond the capabilities of local authorities to settle, and whilst I accept my hon. Friend's point that there is a hardship to the gipsies concerned, may I ask whether the Minister is aware that there is equal hardship on the residents who are inflicted with these people at their back gardens? Will the Minister extend the scope of his responsibility in this matter, and see what he can do for them?
§ Mr. Powell
It may well be a matter which can more easily be dealt with by several local authorities in consultation than by one, but it is still not a matter for which any national policy seems to be applicable.
§ Mr. Nicholson
Is not my hon. Friend aware that it would be a great tragedy if this historical and picturesque community were squeezed out by the growing pressure of industrialisation and the bureaucratic system?