MEP In Dale Farm Removal Complaint

An MEP who was ejected from the UK's largest illegal travellers site in Essex has complained to the European Parliament that his freedom of expression was denied.

Richard Howitt, Labour MEP for the East of England, also claims the integrity of Parliament was damaged when he was "forcibly" removed from the media pen at Dale Farm during the multi-million pound eviction of travellers.

A spokesman for Mr Howitt, who publicly backed residents on the site, said the European Parliament is asking the British Government to respond to the claims.

Mr Howitt was removed from the site on October 19th as protests against bailiffs descended into violence.

A spokesman for the MEP said that Basildon Council ordered its own security staff to "physically manhandle" Mr Howitt - who had entered the media compound, which was organised by the council, on invitation of a regional news programme.

At the time, Basildon Council said that Mr Howitt was removed after he "tricked" his way in to the media facility.

A council spokesman said Mr Howitt had been warned both verbally and in writing that he could not enter the site for security reasons and was told he could visit the following day.

In a speech to the European Parliament, Mr Howitt said: "For a public authority to use its powers to enable the views of one political party to be heard and to inhibit those of another, is an unfair, unjustifiable and unreasonable interference in my rights, which should be defended by the Parliament of which I am proud to be a Member."

Mr Howitt said he has lodged a formal complaint to Basildon Council about its actions.

Basildon Council spokesperson says:


“Basildon Council has had to maintain stringent security at its media compound, allowing access only to members of the media with relevant accreditation, council officials, staff and contractors – any other visitors that have been on the site have requested this access at least 48 hours prior to being on site.


“Richard Howitt was advised both verbally and in writing earlier today and told he could not enter the compound today but was offered a fully supported visit to the compound tomorrow (Thursday).


“We are extremely disappointed that he chose to ignore our communications and tricked his way into the compound which was a security breach. He was subsequently removed from the compound and will not be allowed back.”


Reflecting on Richard Howitt MEP’s comments regarding the site clearance, Cllr Stephen Horgan, deputy leader of the council told BBC Essex:


“Where has Mr Howitt been for the last ten years and during his time as a member of the European Parliament?


“He could have had significant clout when the Labour Government was in power to help this situation, but was nowhere to be seen – it is only now at the end of the process and with major media interest in the site clearance that he has appeared on various outlets offering negotiation and so called solutions to the problem. Prior to the the last few months, we have not heard a peep from him.”