Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

Responses Kept Secret

Why are the Home Office refusing to let anyone see the responses to the consultation process on squatting legislation?

Squall 5, Oct/Nov 1993, pg. 11.

When John Battle, Shadow Minister for Housing, asked Michael Jack, Minister of State at the Home Office, if he would publish the responses received by the Home Office after its consultation paper, the reply was ‘no’.

Under the pretext that the respondents were not asked to agree to publication, Jack said “it would not therefore be appropriate to publish the 216 replies.”

However, the Department of Environment did not ask respondents whether they would agree to publication after initiating a consultation exercise on the repeal of the Caravan Sites Act. Yet all the replies they have received have been put on public display in the DOE library.

What then does the Home Office have to hide in not following the DOE’s example? According to Michael Jack, the overwhelming majority of respondents were in favour of strengthening the law on squatting. However, although it has not been possible to obtain copies of all the responses directly from sources, a significant number have been collected by SQUALL. We have found that all the Housing Charities including SHELTER, SHAC and CHAS are opposed to the strengthening of the law, as are the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and the Association of Chief Police Officers. Of all the responses sent from law centres that we know of, all are opposed to any strengthening of the law.

So, if law centres, housing charities, the Police and council representatives are opposed to the criminalisation of squatting, who exactly constitutes the “majority in favour”?

At present we know of only one - The Confederation of British Industry who, in their highly informed contribution to the debate, said that squatters were “no different to hand-bag snatchers” and should be given “the boot”.

The consultation paper in all its impartial glory, claimed that “there are no arguments in defence of squatting”. Perhaps this is the eyepiece through which the Home Office have read and assessed the 216 replies.

Certainly, the fact that the consultation period was due to last until March 31st 1992 and yet the Conservative Party published a manifesto promise to “strengthen the law on squatting” in February 1992, clearly demonstrates that the so-called ‘consultation’ process was an inconsequential ceremony.

Related Article

Consultation Exorcise - Who did the Govt listen to when drafting the new CJB squatting legislation? Squall 6 - Spring 1994.