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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 October 2005, 09:21 GMT 10:21 UK
Gypsy row Tory AM faces censure
David Davies MP

A Welsh politician has sparked a row by announcing plans to register himself as a "Gypsy traveller".

David Davies, the Conservative AM and MP for Monmouth, wants to avoid being accused of racism when criticising travellers who break the law.

He is being referred to the Welsh assembly's standards committee for a possible breach of the AMs' code of conduct.

Mr Davies said there should be no reason why he could not air his views.

Plaid Cymru AM Helen Mary Jones has claimed Mr Davies breached the statutory duty to promote equality of opportunity and good community relations.

Speaking on BBC Wales' The Politics Show on Sunday, she accused Mr Davies of giving "support and comfort to people who behave appallingly towards Gypsies and travellers".

Mr Davies has said in the past there were "lots of law-abiding Gypsy travellers".

But, he added, there were "a significant number" whose behaviour fell "significantly below the accepted norm".

He has been criticised for his statement, but he maintained there should be no reason why he should not be able to make such a comment.

"If I am dragged before the standards committee to answer a completely false accusation that I've got something against Gypsy travellers, I am going to register as one myself," he said.

"Government advice says you can identify yourself as any ethnic or cultural group you like.

'Distasteful' comments

"I would then be well within my rights to say that I'm a Gypsy traveller. I couldn't possibly be accused of racism because I would be myself."

If found guilty of a breach of standards, Mr Davies could be suspended from the assembly.

Both Nick Bourne, the Conservatives' leader in the assembly, and David Maclean, the Conservative chief whip at Westminster, have refused to comment on the row.

The row surrounding Mr Davies began last month after he criticised a 48,000 lottery award for a project for schools in Hampshire on Gypsy and travelling communities.

He wrote to the Heritage Lottery Fund asking for the same amount of money to make a film about the "settled community".

The fund had given a grant to Hampshire Council for a project on the traditions of travelling communities.

A spokesman for the Gypsy Council said at the time that Mr Davies' comments were "distasteful".

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