Tories urge Harlow Council “to back government new laws to tackle unauthorised encampments”

General / Thu 18th Mar 2021 at 09:07am

ON Tuesday night, the Labour Party voted against a new Bill in Parliament that will give police new powers to tackle unauthorised and illegal encampments. The vote comes after Harlow Council did not renew the town’s injunction to stop unauthorised and illegal encampments coming to Harlow – as they have in recent years. 

One Labour MP said that the new measures to tackle the problem are “racist and draconian proposals” and Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary said that the new measures to toughen up laws against illegal encampments with criminalisation “would potentially breach the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act.”

Harlow’s MP, Robert Halfon, who has campaigned to change the laws and led debates in Parliament about the difficulties Harlow has faced with unauthorised and illegal encampments, said:

 “I have worked hard for many years in Parliament to ensure the Police have the powers they need to stop unauthorised and illegal encampments – that have blighted our town so badly in the past. 

“The legislation has now come forward to tackle this issue properly and it is very sad to see the Labour Leader Keir Starmer and the Labour party voted against these measures. 

“I will continue to do all I can to ensure our town never faces these difficulties again, but I urge Harlow’s Labour Council to speak to Keir Starmer and ask him to support these new powers not vote against them. It is no use talking tough locally on tackling crime and the blight of illegal and unauthorised encampments, but voting against the laws when they come forward.  Harlow Labour Council is soft on unauthorised and illegal encampments in our town.”

The Leader of the Harlow Conservatives, Cllr Andrew Johnson, added: 

“Every Harlow resident knows the chaos and disruption that unauthorised and illegal encampments have caused in our town and no one should be against plans to tackle these. 

“I urge residents to raise this directly with Harlow’s Labour Council and call on them to support these new measures.”

The Government’s new laws on illegal and unauthorised encampments will build on existing laws by criminalising trespass and strengthening police powers. This means that police will have the power to seize vehicles and arrest or fine trespassers who intend to reside on private and public land without permission, whilst also ensuring they are not able to return for at least 12 months. The new criminal offence will carry a maximum sentence of three months in prison, a fine of up to £2,500 or both.

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