Beth Winter MP
"I could never vote for this harmful and unjust bill and urge everyone to stand with me in opposing it."
Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to speak against the Policing Bill last night as I was too far down the call list. Below is the speech I would have delivered.
“I had hoped when this Bill was withdrawn earlier this year, the Government had seen the strength of feeling and reconsidered the more troubling aspects of the Bill. I was gravely mistaken and disappointed to see it return to the House in its current form.
This Bill will criminalise the way of life for one of the most marginalised groups in our society. Having worked with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Communities I have seen first-hand how they experience some of the starkest inequalities of any ethnic group in the United Kingdom. I can bear witness to the inequalities and hardship they suffer daily. We should seek to end racist and discriminatory behaviour towards the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and legislate to safeguard their culture, background, and nomadic way of life.
Part 4 of this Bill would make this culture and way of life untenable. It would give the police new powers to destroy Traveller property and arrest Travellers for trespass. The new offence will even apply to those who might be intending to reside, or who are on the land and suspected of intending to have a vehicle. I would like the Secretary of State to clarify how this will be enforced in practice.
Significantly it also gives police the power to confiscate a vehicle of those suspected of the offence. For members of these communities, confiscating a vehicle isn’t merely an inconvenience, it means seizing their homes and all their belongings. I fear this may push many Travellers into homelessness.
I wholeheartedly oppose this provision in the Bill and plan to support my honourable friend the member for Liverpool West Derby’s amendments 8, 9 and 10 which will remove part 4 from the bill entirely.
This legislative approach reinforces anti traveller sentiment and normalises prejudice and discrimination. We know that anti traveller violence is on the rise across Europe. The recent killing of a Romani man in the Czech Republic by the police is not something we want to see in this country. This is one of the reasons why I have supported new clause 51, tabled by my friend the member for the city of Durham, which calls for a review of crime against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
It is important that state representatives are educated and understand minority groups like the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and I am pleased that the member for the city of Durham has also tabled new clause 52 to address this matter.
I want my home in Cynon Valley to be a place that welcomes Gypsy Roma and Traveller communities. I am pleased to have had the opportunity of working alongside Travelling Ahead, the advice and advocacy service for the Gypsy Roma and Traveller community in Wales and am keen to promote their excellent work.
I would urge the UK government to take its lead from Welsh Government and how they work with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities to lead fulfilling lives in accordance with their traditions, language and culture.
I could never vote for this harmful and unjust bill and urge everyone to stand with me in opposing it.”