Police review MP’s leaflet on Traveller sites amid ‘discrimination’ complaint

Police in Wales are reviewing the contents of a political leaflet that raised concerns about Traveller and gypsy sites and was sent by the Wales Secretary of State to his constituents.

The Conservative leaflet asks for people’s opinion on the proposal to establish sites in David TC Davies’ Monmouth constituency.

An advocacy group said the MP’s “actions intended to create a hostile environment for gypsies and Travellers”.

After the complaints Mr Davies said the “location of sites was a legitimate matter for public debate”.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said Mr Davies is “standing up for his constituents”.

Gwent Police said it was aware of a leaflet published and distributed in Monmouthshire regarding proposals for a development of a gypsy and Traveller site.

Detective Inspector Steve Thomas said: “Officers are reviewing the content of the leaflet and its impact on the gypsy and Traveller and settled communities in Monmouthshire.

“We take any allegation of discrimination extremely seriously and we’re committed to ensuring our communities are safe places and welcoming for all.”

The leaflet, which displays pictures of Mr Davies and one of the potential sites, is headlined: “Gypsy and Traveller site coming to your area soon!”

It talks about a Monmouthshire County Council consultation and says Mr Davies “believes that there will be insufficient consultation with the members of the public affected”.

“The council plans a short consultation during the summer holiday period when many residents will be unable to participate,” it adds.

It then asks people to fill in the form overleaf with their views and send it back to the MP’s constituency office in the area of Usk.

One of three questions asks: “Would you like to see a Traveller site next to your house? Y/N.”

Mr TC Davies said: “The location of authorised and unauthorised Traveller sites is a legitimate matter for public debate and scrutiny. It is entirely valid to criticise a lack of wide public consultation by a council.

“I have been contacted by many upset residents at the shortness of the consultation and the proposed locations for the sites.

“I have also been told that many from the gypsy and Traveller community are also upset at the proposed locations for the sites. This is not a criticism of the gypsy and Traveller community.”

Travelling Ahead, which provides advocacy and advice for gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in Wales, tweeted: “Which other group would you do this to and get away with it?

“Clear breach of Equality Act, dog whistle actions intended to create hostile environment for Gypsies and Travellers.”

The group said it had reported what it called Mr Davies’ “targeted” leaflet to the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Welsh Conservatives and to the House of Commons standards committee.

The charity’s project manager Trudy Aspinwell told Wales Online this week that the leaflet had been sent to her by local people who had received the leaflet through their doors on July 25.

“They were absolutely horrified by it and felt like it was very discriminatory,” said Ms Aspinwell.

She said some gypsy, Roma and traveller families had also been in contact with her, concerned the leaflet would cause hostility towards them.

The consultation, she said, was over whether the land in question would be “earmarked to go into a local development plan with the potential to use them in the future”.

Ms Aspinwell said feedback from the gypsy and Traveller communities was that the land was not suitable for them due to it being near to houses.

“However, this was a disproportionate and hostile response which is targeted at the race and ethnicity and the implied prejudice of gypsies and Travellers,” she added.

The row has erupted around the date of the international Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, which commemorates the victims of the Romani genocide by the Nazis at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp on August 2 1944.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, asked if he thought the language on the leaflet was racist, told Sky News: “No, and I think what David TC Davies was doing was highlighting the failure of the local Labour council to carry out a proper consultation on this, that is entirely what people would expect their local members of Parliament to do.

“He is standing up for his constituents, making their case for them and I totally support his right to do that.”