My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and our hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) pointed out very clearly that one of his constituents had that exact experience. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower talked about good services and best practice in Devon and Cornwall; some best practice in hospitals in Manchester was also highlighted by hon. Members. But that simply cannot be the case everywhere. As with all violence against women and girls, those presenting at A&E will be made to feel brilliant in some places—amazing and believed, and there will be specialist workers there—and in other places that will absolutely not be the case. But the single most important thing that the Government have to tackle is not how victims interact with the system. We have spent so many years trying to improve the experience of people who end up in this situation, which is noble—I will not stop trying to do that, and I am sure nobody else in the House will either. However, the fundamental point is that we have to end the perpetration. We have to make perpetrators feel as frightened of being caught with this type of thing in a nightclub as being caught with a knife. A rape victim once said to me, “If I had a stab wound, I wouldn’t have to prove that I’d been stabbed—everybody would be able to see that—but because I’ve been raped, I have to prove it. I have to prove it to you.”
We have heard many brilliant examples from Swansea and elsewhere of women speaking up with one voice. I have spoken to women about the issue, such as a local councillor in Oxfordshire who has been dealing with around 20 cases. She is working with 25 young student freshers who have been spiked in recent months, who were all deeply reluctant to report it to the police, saying that they did not want the hassle or were worried they would not be taken seriously. Statistics are starting to flood in from big and small organisations, and I am sure we can all see it on Instagram. I came across a Birmingham women’s safety initiative group that had done a survey of 100 Birmingham respondents, and more than 95% said they felt unsafe in their local area.
As always, I stand with each and every one of these women. There are things we can do now and I would like to hear what the Government will do to make sure that they happen. Venues must be clearly led to do far more robust security and search protocols, improve training for staff and have high-quality and well-positioned CCTV. The Minister might know that I am not always a fan of the sticking plaster of CCTV, because I would like someone to be stopped from hurting me, rather than it being possible to find my body. However, I have seen CCTV work well in clubs when something is found which shows that women were not drunk or stupid or lying or attention seeking.
I have a slight concern about searches in nightclubs, relating to the protocols for testing and securing staff who work on the doors of nightclubs. There has been a series of newspaper articles in recent weeks about the vetting of people who work on the doors of our nightclubs. There is a live debate among Members of Parliament about having our own security and how we vet the people doing that. I am afraid to say that, in lots of circumstances, journalists found what a lack of vetting had not: door staff who had been convicted of sexual assaults. I have to say, remembering what it was like to be searched going in and out of clubs, that it can often feel like a sexual assault to lots of women. We need to make sure that there are women on hand to ensure that those searches are done properly and appropriately. I certainly would only ever want to be searched by a woman.
It is very important that we do not treat this as just another issue where not much can be done. The Government need to start telling us exactly how they are going to deal with perpetrators of violence against women and girls. They are currently resisting, stating for the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that they will make it a serious crime, and that local authority areas have to—not can choose to, if they like, which is the sort of standing we give violence against women and girls—have a violence against women and girls prevention plan, as they would for crimes such as county lines. They have to have a public health approach to that locally. In this instance, the Government could be working with licensing; it would be incredibly helpful to have a protective duty.
I would hope to see the Government committing, finally, to make violence against women and girls a serious crime with a serious crime prevention duty. Mainly, I hope that they will take the advice of Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire and rescue services. The former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), did lots of good work in this area, but the inspectorate’s very long name is not something I will ever thank her for. It is a ridiculously long name. Her Majesty’s inspectorate has clearly set out a timeline and a timeframe for exactly how police forces could be working to tackle perpetration and build up trust in victims to come forward. The Government are, for some reason, still resisting saying how they are going to do this.
I will sit down now so that the Minister can speak, but I want to finish by saying that my parliamentary assistant, as I was preparing for the debate, told me this morning that at the weekend her and her mates had had to compare the features of their new safety keyrings, which included whistles, seatbelt cutters and rape alarms, just so that they could go on a night out. It is no longer on the young people and women in this country to make themselves feel safer. It is on the Government now.