WESTMINSTER DIARY by Solihull MP Julian Knight, from latest edition of Solihull Observer
This week I stood up in the House of Commons and gave vent to your anger about the unacceptable disruption and distress caused by the recent spate of incursions into Solihull’s green spaces.
Over the summer I have been in constant contact with the authorities as they have tried to tackle the unprecedented spate of unauthorised camps on public land. These have been accompanied by a wave of anti-social and even criminal behaviour.
In the House of Commons on Monday evening I highlighted how travellers can make a mockery of out-of-date legal and physical protections, dragging the council into expensive and time-consuming games of cat-and-mouse as they move from park to park.
Ministers should ensure that the authorities have the tools to do the job. That means at the very least making it easier for the police to use their stronger powers under Section 62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.
We should also introduce an outright ban on camping on public land without the explicit consent of the local authority. This would allow the council to carefully control the location of camps and minimise their impact on local residents.
Unfortunately, too many MPs on the opposition benches don’t share my concerns – some even complained that we were focusing too much on the ‘negatives’ of traveller camps! This means it may be very difficult to get meaningful reforms through the Commons – although I am ready to work with MPs from other parties on this important issue.
I will continue to press ministers for a response on this issue, but I am pleased to have made progress on another important area: animal welfare.
Since our party conference in Manchester the government has announced both a sharp increase in the maximum sentence for animal cruelty (from six months to five years), but an outright ban on the sale of ivory except for a very limited range of historical and artistic artefacts.
I have called for both of these measures during my time as your MP. As we look ahead to our future as ‘global Britain’, I am particularly proud that our country is taking the lead in stamping out the global scourge of the cruel, criminal ivory trade.