|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
26 Jul 2000 : Column: 697W
Mr. Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the powers available to (a) local authorities and (b) the police to deal with travellers; and what discussions he has had with (i) local authorities and (ii) the police about strengthening these powers. 
There has been some concern that guidance on dealing with trespass by travellers needs clarifying in some respects. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) has, therefore, today published a revision to DETR Circular 18-94 to local authorities on the use of their powers to deal with unauthorised camping. A copy has been placed in the Library.
We also propose to publish shortly, jointly with the DETR, a revision to the Good Practice Guidance "Managing Unauthorised Camping", aimed at ensuring there is clarity over the use of the relevant powers. In addition, research into the effectiveness of this Guidance has been commissioned and is expected to report in the Autumn. Further changes to the Guidance may be considered at that time.
It is the Government's view that there needs to be adequate site provision if unauthorised camping is to be managed properly. The DETR is about to commission research into the availability and condition of local authority Gypsy sites. The results will be considered as part of the next spending review. In the meantime, the Minister of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford), announced in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) on 24 July 2000, Official Report, columns 398-404W, that his Department would be making available over the next three years £17 million to help local authorities to improve and refurbish a limited number of existing sites. Details of the scheme will be published in the autumn.
Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he received the report of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Transsexual People; and when he proposes to publish it. 
26 Jul 2000 : Column: 698W
Mr. Straw: The Interdepartmental Working Group reported to me just before Easter. I am most grateful to members of the Working Group and those who contributed to it for the thoroughness of their work. Since Easter, I have consulted ministerial colleagues in other Government Departments and the devolved Administrations.
I have today placed copies of the report in the Library. Similar arrangements are being made in the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly. The report will be placed on the Home Office website. Hard copies may be obtained on application to my Department.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary set out the terms of reference for the review in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson) on 25 January 1999, Official Report, columns 80-81W. The review was asked to look at the law in England and Wales and to make recommendations that will provide clear and coherent sex offences that protect the individual, particularly children and more vulnerable people from abuse and exploitation; enable abusers to be appropriately punished; and were fair and non-discriminatory in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998.
This review was open and inclusive--it involved many stakeholders directly in its Steering Group and advisory External Reference Group, and consulted with many more at a series of conferences and seminars. It has looked at the evidence from research and the experience of law reform in other countries. The review has now completed its report to Government. It has made far-reaching recommendations to strengthen the effectiveness and protection of the law for children, raised important questions about the nature of the protection that should be offered to vulnerable people, proposed codifying and clarifying the law on consent in rape and setting the law on a fair and non-discriminatory basis for men and women whether as victim or offender. It also recommends new laws for dealing with the trafficking of human beings for sexual exploitation and the use of children in sexual exploitation, as well as looking at penalties and treatment.
The issues involved are sensitive and complex ones, on which there will be differing views. It is a long time since we have had such a thorough and comprehensive set of proposals on the law of sex offences, based on careful thought and consultation. But these proposals are just that--recommendations made to Government by a broadly based review, set up to provide the framework for further debate. The review involved many people from outside the civil service from many different groups and backgrounds, as well as civil servants from a wide range
26 Jul 2000 : Column: 699W
of departments. Before the Government can come to a conclusion on any of them, we need further input and views on what is recommended. This is the start of a real debate on what we think the law should be and how it should be framed.
We would like views on all of the proposals in the report. The review has posed some specific questions, but we want reactions to all the recommendations. We would like to know how well they would work, whether they would add to the protection of the vulnerable, whether they would apply fairly, equitably and with justice and whether there would be any effects or consequences that have not yet been identified.
The Government particularly welcome the proposals to strengthen the law for children and vulnerable people--we have made great strides in tackling the issues of evidence for children and vulnerable people and it is time that the offences in the criminal law were revised to ensure robust and comprehensive protection for the weakest in our society. It is important to get the law right while ensuring that vulnerable people are not deterred from seeking advice from statutory authorities. We would welcome views on the proposals that relate to the protection of children and vulnerable people--what the impact and consequences of those would be. We welcome the review's clarity on the importance of the age of consent and the need to maintain it at 16.
The Government do not think it would be right to take a view on the proposals in the report until they have been scrutinised and tested in consultation. This report and its proposals are not an end but a beginning--the report provides a carefully argued framework for consideration by all those who are affected, personally or professionally, by these proposals. The report is being made widely available in summary and full form, both in hard copy and on the Home Office website. It is free and available on request, as is a supporting volume of evidence. The period for consultation is long--until March 2001--to give time for the full implications of the proposals to be considered. I look forward to an important social debate that will help the Government frame proposals for a safe just and tolerant society.
Mr. Mike O'Brien: To assist the fire service in improving its efficiency and effectiveness, I am increasing credit approval provision for the service from its current level of £35.7 million to £59.7 million in 2001-02. Planned provision will be sustained at that level in 2002-03 and increased by a further £2 million to £61.7 million in 2003-04.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|