Injunction against traveller encampments

Injunction against traveller encampments

Sutton has had to deal with a number of traveller incursions in our parks in recent months, and most recently they have moved back into the old Evans Auto site as they did earlier this year.

As per my previous updates on this issue, which can be read here and here, as well as pressing for swift action against each incursion as they happened, I have been joining local Conservative councillors in calling for a Borough-wide injunction against these types of incursions, similar to the one recently sought by Croydon Council.

I am pleased that today the Council has confirmed they have listened to our calls and done just that.

The Council has been granted a temporary three month injunction forbidding persons unknown occupying council owned land and or depositing waste on council owned land. They will return to the High Court in November to seek a full three year injunction.

This unfortunately does not help the incursion at the old Evans Auto site, which is privately owned by Aldi. I have been in conversations with Aldi along with local Conservative councillors to ask for updates on what they are doing to get them out and secure the site after they have been evicted.

The government recently concluded a consultation on changes to the law on travellers and I have been campaigning with my colleagues in Parliament for stricter rules. We are calling for the ‘Irish option’ to be applied in the UK, meaning acts of deliberate trespass become a criminal offence (instead of Civil as they are currently) and unauthorised encampments can be removed much more quickly. I recently signed a letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on the consultation on travellers calling for more extensive powers for Councils to deal with this problem. You can read the letter here.

I hope the Council will now pursue those responsible for the recent spate of traveller incursions for the fly-tipping and waste they left behind to foot the bill for the cost of clearing it up.

Whilst this injunction is welcome and means any future incursions can be dealt with quickly, I remain disappointed that the Council and police did not seek to use section 61 powers to evict travellers at any of the recent traveller incursions on our parks. I am also still concerned at how slow the Council has been in responding to calls to better secure our parks after each incursion, and in many cases this has still not happened. This gave the image of Lib Dem-run Sutton Council as a soft touch on traveller incursions. At least this injunction should mean they can act faster in future.

Finally, I will continue to fight any plans for put a permanent traveller site near Sutton Cemetery. I am very disturbed that the Council has not ruled out this as a potential site when it comes to putting together their Gypsy and Traveller Plan by 2023.

Cheam Park Traveller Incursion

Cheam Park Traveller Incursion

As you may be aware, travellers moved into Cheam Park late last night via Netley Close.

I am incredibly frustrated that this has happened yet again in Sutton in such a short space of time. We do not yet know if this is the same people that were on Fairlands Park.

I arrived soon after they arrived, to see what happened and see what could be done. The police arrived shortly afterwards.  I spent a couple of hours whilst the police did their checks and talked through the process with them and residents who had gathered.

It is unclear as of yet whether or not the bollard behind the gate through which they gained access was actually locked at all. The local councillors in Cheam had raised the problem of gates not being locked several weeks ago so the council and their contractor ID Verde have serious questions to answer.

As we have seen elsewhere in Sutton, travellers have little regard for locks, so it may well have made little difference. However, after the large number of incursions we’ve had in Sutton recently, I joined Conservative councillors in calling for all our parks to be properly secured to ensure no one could gain access having left Fairlands Park.

This adds to my concerns that I raised in my recent update on travellers that Sutton was becoming a soft touch on travellers and therefore an easy target: http://www.scully.org.uk/news/travellers-in-sutton/.

I joined local councillors for Cheam, Eric Allen, Elliot Colburn and Holly Ramsey who spoke to the Council last night to push for immediate action. I understand their legal team has been notified.

Recent incursions have taken about a week to move on, but I want to see this dealt with a lot faster. The travellers told the police last night that they were due to head to Brighton on Wednesday but we cannot accept this as read and so the process needs to be pushed through as soon as possible regardless.

Your local councillors have been pushing the councils to begin the process immediately today, by doing the necessary checks to allow them to begin eviction proceedings and issuing a court summons the same day. The Council have agreed to start work on this today, and I will be asking for regular updates along with the local councillors.

We have called for the installation of further security to prevent more travellers arriving, which means the process would have to start all over again. We have also asked that the police set up CCTV and regular patrols as they did at Fairlands. CCTV may be difficult because of where they are pitched at the back of the park but the police have said they will be undertaking regular patrols.

In the meantime, I would again advise residents to keep their distance and keep themselves safe. There were concerns at Fairlands Park about criminal, even violent behaviour that was reported to me, and that the police was letting it happen. However, the police state that they had little actually reported to them and they insist no-one is above the law. So I would urge everyone to properly report criminal activity they see, such as theft or assault, to the police to investigate. They will be given a Crime Reference Number and the police will look into as any other crime. I can help take up complaints with the police if it appears they have not investigated properly, but I need residents to properly report these crime first. I know that some residents had been waiting on hold having dialled 101. If it is an emergency and a crime is taking place, then call 999. If not, please do persist with 101 or speak to your local neighbourhood team. Even if there is no quick investigation, every incident builds up a picture which helps to get a stronger, wider injunction.

However, it is clear to me that we need a longer term strategy to deal with traveller incursions in Sutton. The Council failed to adequately secure our parks after the spout of recent incursions, and I believe the lead councillor needs to take direct responsibility as he was asked personally, on many occasions, to ensure that this happened.

As I said in my recent article (link above), I am supporting calls from Conservative councillors for a Borough-wide injunctions to be taken out against incursions in our open spaces, similar to those used by the London Borough of Croydon, to allow the Council to evict trespassers immediately. This will take longer to obtain than a one-off eviction, so I have asked the Council to seek both at the same time, so that they can be out of Cheam Park, whilst we try to keep them off of our open spaces for good.

In addition, I believe the law is far too vague and takes too long to evict travellers from illegal incursions. Before this round of incursions started, I had already joined colleagues in Parliament in writing to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government last month to support tougher laws, feeding into the government’s consultation on stricter laws on traveller incursions. This consultation is now closed and the responses are being considered, so I hope that this will result in the action we all want to see: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-to-review-powers-to-deal-with-unauthorised-caravan-sites.

Finally, I continue to oppose any new permanent traveller site being put near Sutton Cemetery when the Council puts together their Gypsy and Traveller Site Plan before 2023, which I am concerned they have refused to rule out so far.

I will continue to update residents as I hear more about the progress in evicting the travellers from Cheam Park.

If you have any further questions, please let me know.

Travellers in Sutton

Travellers in Sutton

I have been very concerned to hear about the various reports of traveller incursions across Sutton over the past few weeks. They have been to many locations, leaving behind rubbish and waste, as well as reports of violent behaviour and criminal activity. The terrible current situation in Fairlands Park shows this in all its stark reality.

First of foremost, my advice is to stay away from areas that travellers have set up in and report any violent or criminal activity to the police.

My concern is that Sutton seems to have become prone to traveller incursions recently. I appreciate that the Council and the Police have been made aware immediately after an incursion has been made, including this one, but I have been disturbed by several reports I have heard regarding some of the incursions.

One of the biggest concerns is regarding fly-tipping. There is plenty of evidence, by way of photos and videos, of travellers dumping large amounts of rubbish when they access our parks. The Council seem reluctant to begin any proceedings against the travellers in order to collect fines, which would help save the taxpayer the bill to clear up the mess they leave behind.

I have also heard that the parks police have not been stopping further travellers from entering and the Council has not been securing the sites to prevent further break-ins.

That is why I am joining with the leader of the Conservative group on Sutton Council, Councillor Tim Crowley, for Sutton to follow Croydon’s example in taking a blanket injunction out against any unknown persons occupying public land and depositing waste in Sutton. This should allow the Council and the Police to act much faster in removing travellers from our parks and open spaces. I understand this was looked at some years ago for Sutton and Croydon to apply together along with other Boroughs in order to build up a bigger portfolio of evidence, but Croydon withdrew at the time. I am disappointed that Croydon have now done this independently, but I still think Sutton should explore this as an option.

I am also joining fellow Conservative MPs in calling for tougher laws on traveller incursions in the UK. I recently signed a letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on the consultation on travellers calling for more extensive powers for Councils to deal with this problem. You can read the letter here.

I am concerned that Sutton Council, including the parks police, is becoming a soft touch when it comes to travellers. Taxpayers should not have to endure long periods of time without access to their local parks and open spaces, having to suffer antisocial behaviour and then footing the bill for rubbish dumped unlawfully when it is well known who the perpetrators are. The same people are responsible for most of the incursions across the borough in recent weeks. There are examples, such as this one from Richmond, of travellers being successfully removed very quickly indeed.
I will be joining Councillor Tim Crowley to push for tougher and quicker action, and ensuring that all illegal incursions are moved on as a matter of priority. We need a wider holistic approach to tackling illegal traveller squats in Sutton, including better security of public land, rather than just reacting to each incursion as they happen and travellers then moving onto a new site.

Finally, I will continue to fight any plans for put a permanent traveller site near Sutton Cemetery. I am very disturbed that the Council has not ruled out this as a potential site when it comes to putting together their Gypsy and Traveller Plan by 2023.

Soft Landing, not Soft Brexit

Soft Landing, not Soft Brexit

There has been plenty of coverage of the government position settled at a meeting of Cabinet last Friday at Chequers. Many think that this is a pragmatic starting point for the final rounds of negotiation with the EU. However most of the negative feedback cries betrayal but doesn’t really explain why the critic is against the deal, just that it is not Brexit. We have had a three page statement from the Prime Minister and now, a round of media articles and interviews but the detail comes next week in the White Paper. So rather than relying on the same journalists that both sides have been arguing are biased against remain/leave (delete where applicable), I rearranged my Saturday morning to go to a briefing in Downing Street to hear from those closest to the PM. On Monday I will attend another briefing with more colleagues and hear from the Prime Minister herself before reading with interest the White Paper when released. What I have heard so far satisfies me that whilst this approach is not where I would have wanted to be as someone who campaigned and voted for Leave, but is the most pragmatic offer that we can give at this stage.

When I was debating during the referendum campaign, the main pillars of the argument to leave were sovereignty – taking control and putting the UK parliament in control of our decisions, pooling sovereignty only when we chose to for our advantage; controlling immigration, so introducing a system that was fairer, allowing people with the skills and experience that we need and want into the UK no matter which country they were from rather than allowing unskilled economic migrants from parts of the EU with high youth unemployment to jump the queue and thirdly, to be able to expand our trade through ambitious free trade agreements with countries whose economies are booming and are predicted to become dominant in decades to come, all the time whilst keeping on friendly terms and continuing to trade with our closest partner, the 27 remaining countries of the EU, albeit their economy had been stagnating for the last decade and decreasing in size of our proportion of global trade. I was often asked what my Brexit looked like, to which I would always reply that I could tell them but that would preclude them from having a say. We were giving the government a mandate to leave and the way that we would leave would be arranged through debate and negotiation. So here is why I believe that this proposal fully meets the terms of the referendum in getting us out of the EU, rather than BRINO (Brexit in Name Only)

1. We will be leaving

Nothing changes in terms of our leaving date. We will still formally leave the EU on March 29th 2019. Assuming we reach a deal, we will have an implementation period, something that has already been agreed. This is simply to allow businesses to ready themselves for the trading arrangements that we agree. It’s not practical to reach a technical customs arrangement for example in April and expect businesses to be able to handle this just two months later. We need customs officers, particular technology in place. It’s complicated but deliverable with political will and a reasonable notice period. The agreement reached is that the implementation period will come to an end no later than December 31st 2020.

2. We will stop paying in large sums of money after we leave

The agreement that was completed last year means that we will be paying a final sum which includes the months of the implementation period and brings us to the end of the EU budgeting period that we were involved in preparing the budget for. However as we will be leaving the political organisations of the EU and will no longer be a member, there will be no huge membership fee to pay. Anything that we do end up paying will be based on our decision to buy into particular projects such as ERASMUS, the student exchange programme that comes with EU membership but is also open to third countries like Turkey and Taiwan. We can pick and choose which of these projects we join, if any. The money that we are then not spending on EU membership can be spent within the UK. Some of this will clearly replace the funding that is redistributed from the EU at present to farmers, universities and regeneration projects for example but again, we will decide where and how this is spent so it can be better targeted and spent more effectively.

3. Freedom of Movement will end

The automatic right of EU citizens to come to the UK to live will come to an end. The proposal talks about a mobility framework so that UK and EU citizens can continue to travel to each other’s territories, and apply for study and work. Travelling to each other’s territories is important so we don’t burden holidaymakers and travelling business people with a complicated visa application system, thus hindering travel. Applying for study and work is very different from having the right to walk in and study or work. There may be a preferential system for EU member states in this regard but only on the same basis as our top tier trading partners pushing for one in a free trade agreement, countries such as India, USA, Australia. So again, this is a visa system agreed as a sovereign government in exchange for preferential access to their markets and is reversable.

4. The European Court of Justice will no longer be the highest court in the UK

Once we leave, the Supreme Court will be the highest court in the UK, so UK courts will not refer cases to the ECJ. Clearly the EU will still have the ECJ as their highest arbiter. Ironically if the EU tried to change this at our request, the ECJ would strike the deal down as illegal under EU law. So in any trade disputes, each party will refer cases to their own court system. Our courts will keep an eye on case law set by the ECJ but will not be bound by it. They will try to ensure that they keep a common interpretation in cases where we are applying a common rulebook, such as disputes relating to the movement of goods. (Note, the European Court of Human Rights is a different body and entirely separate from the EU. It will remain.)

5. We will be leaving the CAP and CFP

We will no longer be subject to the Common Agricultural Policy or the Common Fisheries Policy. This means that although we will have some agreed restrictions on exports of agricultural products to the EU and imports, we will not have the EU micromanaging our farmers telling them which crops to grow and how. In leaving the Common Fisheries Policy we can reclaim our fishing waters.

6. There will be no hard border in Ireland, nor will Northern Ireland be treated differently from the rest of the UK

There are no Free Trade Agreements anywhere in the world that completely get over the need for checks. This proposal avoids the demand from the EU that Northern Ireland be kept within the EU Customs Union. However the proposal would bring us to near-frictionless trade with the UK and EU working together on the phased introduction of a new Facilitated Customs Arrangement that would remove the need for customs checks and controls between the two. The UK would apply our set tariffs on goods coming to stay in the UK and the EU’s tariffs on goods passing through to the EU. In the vast majority of cases businesses would pay the right or no tariff upfront and otherwise through a repayment mechanism. It is estimated that only around 4% of businesses will have to engage in the repayment process.

7. We will be able to do our own independent trade deals

By completing this bespoke customs arrangement, we would be liberated to secure our own trade deals with the rest of the world. Some of the conditions of the proposal will mean that some of the deals may not be able to be comprehensive for all sectors. Common rules on agri-foods for example will mean that we would be unlikely to be able to bring in hormone-treated beef from Australia for example, but that would likely be controversial in itself when Parliament considers any agreement. Australia would be content with increasing the amount of non hormone-treated beef that it sells to the UK. The only area that we are proposing to have ‘dynamic alignment’ with the EU is around State Aid. We are proposing to commit to not reduce environmental standards or workers’ rights and a few key areas. Apart from these, we will be free to diverge away from EU rules on the understanding that this will have a consequence on our future trading arrangement with the EU from that time on. Again it is our sovereign decision. There may come a time when we are more confident as a nation to drift away from dependency on the European markets towards the emerging markets that are predicted to grow significantly. This agreement gives us a soft landing from undoing forty years of a constrained partnership with the EU and the ability to take off again in the future when we are ready and importantly, when we ourselves decide.

8. We are stepping up preparations for No Deal

I’ve always believed that a bespoke deal is by far the best option but that we should be confident enough and prepared to walk away with no deal. This gives some steel in our negotiating position. I am pleased that the government has recognised the need to build on the work that they have already been doing to prepare for a no deal scenario. It is the responsible thing to do in continuing preparations for a range of potential outcomes. There is only a short time before we are due to conclude talks so the government has agreed to step up such preparations.

This is not a perfect deal by any stretch of the imagination and there is much more to examine and to achieve. The common rulebook means that we don’t end up with a clean break from the EU. However in talks with businesses, it is clear that many will continue to keep to the EU rulebook anyway in order to keep their existing trading arrangements in place. We are not restricting ourselves in our services-based economy which represents 80% of our GDP and the vast majority of future opportunities. We will be aiming for arrangements on financial services that preserve the mutual benefits of integrated markets and protect financial stability. Much of the pipeline of regulation of financial services markets is on a global basis. These ties are not ideal but help get formalised access and move us on. We need to keep our eyes on the prize and get this deal done. The next stage will be to see if Michel Barnier can accept this, since we are cracking open a gap on the EU’s four treasured pillars of freedoms, the free movement of goods, capital, services and labour, but he would be well advised to understand the consequences of rejection. Whereas he is the custodian of the EU ideology, the leaders of the 27 member states will have far more of a view of the effect on jobs, prosperity and the political climate in their own countries if the 6th largest economy walks away.

Having campaigned to leave, I take my responsibility for getting through this seriously. So if you are taking a view, take the time to look at the whole picture first. It’s complicated, hence this isn’t a tweet or a Facebook post. People may be distracted (rightly) by the World Cup and getting Brexit fatigue but at this stage it’s about detail. The Prime Minister has done a remarkable job in the most difficult circumstances. There is enough in this proposal for me to back her and I look forward to the White Paper on Thursday.

Launch of the Coalition for Global Prosperity

Launch of the Coalition for Global Prosperity

As part of my work on the International Development Select Committee, I was delighted to attend the launch of the Coalition for Global Prosperity (CPG).

The Coalition for Global Prosperity brings together political, military, business and faith leaders who believe that an effective development budget, alongside an active diplomatic and defence strategy, keeps Britain at the forefront of saving lives, alleviating poverty and bringing freedom, security and prosperity to those who need it most.

I enjoyed hearing more about the Coalition’s work and listening to addresses from Rt Hon David Cameron, UK Prime Minister 2010-2016, Penny Mordaunt MP, Secretary of State for International Development, Major General James Cowan, CEO of the HALO Trust and former major general, Becky Platt, NHS nurse and member of the UK Emergency Medical Team, Simon Bishop, Chair of the Coalition for Global Prosperity and Theo Clarke, Chief Executive of the Coalition for Global Prosperity.

I believe Britain is a force for good in the world, and UK Aid is a big part of that. Like the CPG, I believe UK Aid makes Britain, and indeed the wider world, safer, healthier and better off.

Find out more about their work here.

Supporting Carers Week 2018

Supporting Carers Week 2018

I attended a Carers Week speed networking event with carers and charities in Westminster, pledging my support to unpaid carers locally.

The event was in support of Carers Week, to celebrate and recognise the vital contribution made by the 6.5 million people across the UK who currently provide care and support to a family member or friend who has a disability, illness, mental health problem or who needs extra help as they grow older.

It matched up MPs and carers to share experiences of caring and the support they need to take care of their own mental and physical health and well-being.

Eight national charities have come together to call for urgent support for unpaid carers to be Healthy and Connected as new research released at the start of Carers Week reveals the toll that caring can take on many carers’ own health and wellbeing.

I was delighted to be able to show my support for the carers in my constituency at the Carers Week event and I pledge to support the 8,801 carers in Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park through my work in Parliament. Unpaid carers make a huge contribution to our society, providing vital and often hidden support to friends and family members, and it is right that we value them and ensure they have the right support at the right time. I look forward to working with the Carers Week charities, and, with unpaid carers, locally, to make a difference to their lives.

Heléna Herklots CBE, Chief Executive of Carers UK, on behalf of Carers Week, said: “Without the unpaid care provided every year by family and friends, our health and care services would collapse. Yet, caring for a loved one too often means carers neglect their own mental and physical health.Finding the time and space to be healthy, get enough sleep and maintain relationships with others are all huge challenges identified by carers. By working together during Carers Week we have a huge opportunity to make our communities more Carer Friendly and make a difference to those who contribute so much.”

Carers Week 2018 is made possible by Carers UK joining forces with Age UK, Carers Trust, Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support, the Motor Neurone Disease Association, MS Society and Which? Elderly Care and kindly supported by Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition.

For further information visit www.carersweek.org.