Cardiff lawyers push for travellers’ rights

Lawyers at Cardiff University have drafted an “imaginative and unexpectedly positive” bill to promote the civil rights of Gypsies and travellers in the UK.

Legal academics worked with Gypsies, travellers and a wide range of statutory and voluntary authorities for four years to create the first major piece of legislation to affect Travellers’ rights since the Caravan Sites Act 1968.

Under current law, local authorities are not obliged to provide sites or amenities for travellers, meaning that around 100,000 people have no legal place to stop to dispose of rubbish or access water.

The new bill, which aims to end discrimination towards the travelling community, calls for a permanent commission to assess the need for sites across the country. It also recommends that local authorities should be required to facilitate site provision.

Luke Clements, a solicitor and director of Cardiff’s Traveller Law Research Unit said: “I think that it is highly unusual for a law school to be involved in the drafting of such material. However, Cardiff has developed expertise in this field.”

Rachel Morris, the unit’s coordinator, said the current tenor of debate was not positive. “As recently as January, an MP described Gypsies and travellers as ‘scum’ during a debate and no one complained. But imagine if he had said that about black people or Jews?”

It is hoped that the reforms will be introduced to Parliament as a private member’s bill.