New Coalition to be Launched in Parliament to SQUASH Anti-Squatting Legislation
House of Commons, May 18th 2011, Committee Room 6, 7pm
Journalists are invited to attend the meeting in the House of Commons, Committee Room 6. There will be an opportunity for one-to-one interviews between 7pm and 7.15pm with the speakers: John McDonnell MP, Katharine Sack-Jones head of Policy at Crisis and Paul Palmer and others.
Housing charities, MPs, squatters, property consultants, activists, lawyers and artists will gather in parliament this Wednesday to launch diverse campaigns against government plans to criminalise squatting. John McDonnell MP will chair the launch.
The meeting will hear from homeless charity Crisis about how criminalisation will hurt the most vulnerable people in society, already reeling from the cuts and the recession. An associate of the Empty Homes Agency along with the Advisory Service for Squatters will talk of how the law change will only protect property speculators and unscrupulous landlords not home-owners. SQUASH will outline how the legislation may be unworkable in law, unenforceable by the police and unaffordable to the public purse.
A parliamentary briefing[i] by SQUASH on the impacts of criminalisation will be launched at the meeting. SQUASH last met when it successfully opposed criminalisation in the early 90s by the last conservative government[ii]. Now it has reformed to face down the latest attack on the squatting-homeless.
John McDonnell Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington said,
'When government is launching major cuts in public services, especially investment in housing and provision for the homeless, it is no time to also introduce measures that criminalise people for trying to keep a roof over their heads.'
'How does the treasury plan to pay for the additional costs to the police, the courts, prisons, homelessness providers and the housing system with their budgets straining already?'
There are nearly 700, 000[iii] empty investment properties in the UK. The Ministry of Justice has already indicated it would like to extend the existing legal protection of homeowners to these absentee landlords[iv], allowing them to continue to keep the buildings empty.
A spokesperson for SQUASH said:
'Squatters often help these properties to be bought back in to use by bringing the owners out of the woodwork. Very often the owners turn out to be property speculators who are deliberately keeping the properties empty simply to up their profits.'
Paul Palmer an empty property consultant and associate of the Empty Homes Agency said, 'Squatters tend to occupy long term empties often owned by absentee property speculators registered in offshore tax havens. So no I don't think that squatting should be criminalised. To do so would only help to protect one set of people, the greedy and the powerful who can afford to keep property empty.'
Please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07415 516 105 for photos John McDonnell MP on 07956 292 576
Notes to Editors
[i] The briefing (Criminalising the Vulnerable) will be available on the day from www.squashcampaign.org and by email request.
[iii] From 2009 Empty Homes Figures http://www.emptyhomes.com/usefulresources/stats/statistics.html
[iv] Crispin Blunt, Conservative MP for Reigate, and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Prisons and Probation) said in a discussion in Parliament on the 30th March 2011, 'Section 6 of the 1977 Act states that it is an offence for a person to use violence to enter a property where someone inside is opposed to their entry. The offence was designed to stop unscrupulous landlords from using violence to evict legitimate tenants, but its existence has led some squatters to display so-called section 6 notices on the door of properties notifying the property owner that it would be an offence for him to break back in...One option that we have been considering, therefore, is whether section 6 could be amended to give non-residential property owners the same rights as displaced residential occupiers to break back into their property. We think that that would effectively render section 6 notices meaningless.'
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