Labour Leader responds to Gypsy and Traveller rights campaign

12 October 2016

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Labour Party, has given his support to a campaign against “disastrous” laws that are having serious repercussions against Gypsy and Traveller people.

Mr Corbyn was contacted during the recent Labour Leadership election by the ‘NO MAD Laws’ campaign which is run by an alliance of The Traveller Advice Team, other legal professional, Gypsy and Traveller campaign groups, and individual veteran Gypsy and Traveller campaigners.

Mr Corbyn said that “It is concerning that the rights of Gypsy and Traveller and other minority communities are being eroded by this government through its ruthless austerity agenda.”

His support has been welcomed by Gypsy and Traveller campaigners.

Speaking on the popular closed Facebook Group ‘Gypsy, Roma and Traveller News’, campaigner Cathyb Birch said: “Jeremy Corbyn has replied to us favourably in regards the No Mad Laws campaign we are running and supports and agrees with everything we have asked for.”

“He is 100% for the Gypsies in the UK,” she added.

Now that the leadership contest has finished and Mr Corbyn has been confirmed as Leader of the Labour Party, we can report on his support for Gypsies and Travellers.

A spokesperson for the NO MAD Laws campaign said that their campaign had been coordinated by Gypsies, Travellers and their support groups and representatives to highlight the “disastrous effect” that the recent legal aid and judicial review reforms will have upon members of the Gypsy and Traveller communities.

 They added that the change in the definition of Gypsy/Traveller for planning purposes will have and is already having “even more disastrous effects” on Gypsy and Traveller communities trying to find legal accommodation on permanent Gypsy and Traveller sites.

“The change to the definition of Gypsy/Traveller in the current Planning Policy for Traveller Sites will lead to Gypsies and Travellers being unable to obtain planning permission for sites, being excluded from Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessments and being excluded from local authority site waiting lists,” they said.

No Mad Laws lorry (455px * 300px)

NO MAD Laws also asked the Labour Leader to fight against changes in how legal aid is given which has had a chilling effect on Gypsies and Travellers hold councils to account for potentially unlawful planning decisions, and for families made homeless by trespass law to be brought back into the legal aid system and the same with Housing Law in general.

The reduction in scope of legal aid has led to situations where Gypsies and Travellers are being evicted unlawfully and are otherwise being denied access to justice,” they said.

“We believe that the predictions that this will lead to increased costs in the end are already being proved correct.” 

Mr Corbyn gave a detailed response to each of the campaign's five recommendations, agreeing fully with them all.  He said:

“I have [called] on the government to initiate an immediate review of cuts to civil legal aid which has had devastating impact on the ability of our most vulnerable people to obtain justice.”

Mr Corbyn has supported Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in the past and attended the memorial service for his friend Lord Avebury, the late, great, campaigner and also a life-long champion for Gypsies and Travellers.

The full response, together with a copy of the NO MAD Laws briefing paper, can be downloaded here:

NO MAD Laws briefing paper.

Jeremy Corbyn response.

Travellers’ Advice Team can be contacted by following this link