Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20 - 39)



  20. Maybe this inquiry will teach you that you might do that?
  (Mr Ayers) I hope so. Any benefits that we can receive will be welcome. We will be guided.

  21. Can you tell me why the Guild rule book, for instance, is not made available to local authorities? Surely it would be to the advantage in terms of understanding what the Guild are up to, what individual showmen are up to, if your rule book was able to be made available for local authorities to read and understand?
  (Mr Ayers) I do not know of any local authority that we have refused. I do not say that we make it a public document for anyone just to have but any local authority that has written to us we have always made it available for them.

  22. If we want it we can have a copy?
  (Mr Ayers) Yes.
  (Mr Miller) Yes. Can I return, Mr Donohoe, to a point you have just made about not putting the word of the Guild out. I can tell you that in the ten sections of the Guild there are prominent members of the Guild who do take the trouble to visit schools and other places where they give talks about what goes on in the showman's life.

  23. I am not saying there is not in some areas a very positive attitude that is there between the public, the local authorities and yourselves.
  (Mr Miller) Yes.

  24. It does not seem to be promoted by you and that I would suggest to you is your job and should be your job in an active sense. To get the sorts of answers we are getting this morning suggest that you need to go back and think about that in terms of the way forward for yourselves.
  (Mr Downie) Can I give you an example, Chairman, of what we are doing in this particular section. The Midlands Section in the last two years has become a member of the Heart of England Tourist Board which covers a region far greater than our own, in fact, because it takes in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire. We have done that partly through encouragement by the Board itself, who welcomed an input from us, but also because we believe that we have got something that forms an important part of the—to use the dreadful word—heritage of this area, something which can be seen as a tourist attraction. We are hoping that through our relationship with the Tourist Board we may be able to develop certain promotional strategies, either that we generate or that we assist them with.

  25. Would you say that there is a greater need today than there was, say, ten years ago for there to be permanent sites for quarters for travelling show people?
  (Mr Ayers) I think the need is about the same. I think this problem really came about when the Act was introduced for planning. I know certainly that Guild officials then reported to our members what you would have to do in the future.

  26. You do not think there is a need for any expansion of that or any new sites?
  (Mr Ayers) Yes, there is a need for new sites but what I am saying is the need is not any different when the circular first came out as to now.

  27. It must be that if there are new sites required that there is either an expanding market for it or some of the existing sites are closing down?
  (Mr Ayers) It is a combination of all. The families that grow, that want to keep together, if their site is not big enough and they feel they want to be independent, like everyone does, they get married and they want a home of their own, they want a site of their own to live on, that is a natural progression. There is the problem that they have outgrown the sites. There is a problem that some of them, through development orders and various things, have not been available any more. It is a combination of all that but I do not think in our records or our information we could honestly say to you "Well, in this year we have got an increase of ten per cent of the members who want planning" because it seems to progress over an amount of time. The need is still the same on an average year to year. There is certainly a need there for our members.

  28. When you are doing this, when you say this as the Guild, as the governing body, do you make an assessment of the needs and present these assessments to local authorities where you are arguing for such sites to be created?
  (Mr Ayers) Where we can get the information, yes.

  29. You are businessmen you say?
  (Mr Ayers) Yes.

  30. You can make that as part of a project surely? Any businessmen who are looking for a site, it does not matter where it is, if they want to be in a certain part of the UK, they will go out and make their assessment. Do you involve yourself as a Guild in that type of activity?
  (Mr Ayers) No. In the London section area we tried to get these figures to show how many sites there were registered in the London and Home Counties area, how many sites had been lost, how many sites were needed. We could not get the actual figures to substantiate them as facts. Showmen, when we approached them, were very resistant to giving this information.

  31. Showmen were?
  (Mr Ayers) Showmen were.

  32. You are the Guild.
  (Mr Ayers) Yes.
  (Mr Miller) The object of the Guild is to regulate our members, we do not involve ourselves. They are private individual businessmen.

  33. There is not a role within the Guild, which I can perceive there should be, to take that on board as well as some of the elements which you have already?
  (Mr Miller) No. We assist them in planning matters but we cannot say to them—

  34. Why not? Why do you not?

  (Mr Miller) Because it is not in the objects, it is not in rule three.

  35. Yes, but you change the objects to embrace that in a modern society.
  (Mr Downie) This misunderstands the nature of the Guild.

  36. Just explain why you do not see that as a role for the Showmen's Guild itself? If it is a problem and it has been perceived as a problem amongst individual showmen then surely they are making representations to you as a Guild for you then to take on that responsibility? I would see that as common sense.
  (Mr Miller) So would I, but not all of them have problems. You see we only get involved in planning problems when there is by definition a problem. There may be other sites where showmen live, have lived for many, many years, where there has not been, and I hope never well be, a problem. They become highlighted when we have problems for a variety of reasons, such as the local authorities—and I am sure we will come on to this later—not being as sympathetic as they should be and following the advice of a Government Department, which they should follow. Then we get problems, they we have to become involved. Where showmen have been on a site, as Mr Ayers said, for many, many years, before the planning act ever came in, prior to 1947, we do not bother them and say to them "Well, look here, there is a problem up in that part of the country, we are trying to amass a whole range of information so we can tell the people who know this what the problems are". They will turn around and say "I am sorry, we are okay. We pay our subs to you for you to look after our interests, this is not in our interest".

  37. Do you have a directory of all the permanent sites that you have within the UK for instance?
  (Mr Miller) We do not.

  38. Where living accommodation is concerned, what would you say would be the difference between show people's needs and that of the general public?
  (Mr Ayers) The needs are that we need our equipment with us. We need a facility where we can have our caravans and our commercial equipment, so it is a dual purpose facility. We need hard standing. We need the normal electricity, water and sewage supplies. Obviously we prefer to be within a town or a city, no more than anyone else would like to live in a town or a city or on the edge of a town or a city where we can reach shops and facilities within easy access.

  39. As a Guild do you set a standard and say that these sites should try to achieve it?
  (Mr Miller) Yes.
  (Mr Ayers) We have a planning document that we had drawn up for our members to use as advice how we perceive a showmen's site should be with the screening, the separation of the caravans from the equipment so that the equipment can be maintained.

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