Friday, December 10, 2010

Tuesday, meeting of Parliamentary Human Rights Group officers

Wednesday, PHRG meeting with Thomas Hammarberg, High Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, an old friend. He spoke about the treatment of minorities, and particularly the Roma and gays. I sent him the 'letter of allegation' from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, the draft response that was submitted for approval to the CLG Minister Andrew Stunell MP, and my note on the 20% of the Traveller population who are homeless. Also my note on restoring the right of appeal against refusal of asylum to gays from countries that are considered 'safe'.

Thursday, meeting of the All-Party Group on Gypsies and Travellers, to hear from senior officials of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. They are shortly going to publish a new report of the disadvantage suffered by the GRT communities, and it is to be hoped that it will soften the original hard line taken by the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles. The proposal to create an offence of criminal trespass has been dropped, and the funding of new sites and restoration of old sites is to be restored. But the fundamental question is how local authorities are to decide on the amount of land they allocate for new sites. The numbers that were contained in the regional strategies have been abandoned, and every local authority is free to decide what replaces them, on the basis of 'local need'. Of course this means that as long as there is no guidance, no sites will be given planning permission except those for which Travellers themselves win an appeal. Research by Steve Staines of FFT shows that in a sample of local authorities in the southeast that have considered the matter, many intend to provide for not one extra pitch, including London, and the remainder have adopted numbers that are woefully short of the carefully researched requirements that were indicated in the regional strategy.

Friday, another session at King's, this time with the haematologist. Victoria came over, and has made a big difference to the paperwork.

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