Wednesday 17th March 2021

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

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Report (4th Day)

Relevant documents: 21st and 28th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee

Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord McNicol of West Kilbride) (Lab)
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As it was not possible to proceed with a Division on this Bill on Monday, I will call for the deferred Division on Amendment 87, which was fully debated and pressed to a Division on Monday. No further speeches will be heard on this amendment. We begin with the deferred Division on Amendment 87, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. The Question will be decided by a remote Division. I instruct the clerk to start a remote Division.

Debate on Amendment 87A resumed.

Baroness Butler-Sloss Portrait Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I have had more emails asking me to support Amendment 87A than any other part of the Bill—I am sure that that is true for many other Members of this House. There is clearly not only great support for it across the country but a major concern about the impact on children of access to online pornography and its link with domestic abuse.

As noble Lords know, pornography is easy to access online, and we know that children are susceptible. I remember being told by the manager of a refuge about a little boy of five hitting his younger sister, who was four; when he was asked why he did it, he said, “That is what daddy does to mummy every day”. Noble Lords may remember that the 10 year-old killers of the little Bulger boy had watched the most appalling videos before they carried out this tragic murder, copying some of what they had watched.

Since age verification has been approved by both Houses, I share the view across the House that it should now be implemented in this Bill.

Lord Morrow Portrait Lord Morrow (DUP) [V]
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My Lords, I again commend the Government for bringing forward the Bill, as I have done throughout its passage through this House. I thank the Minister for the work that has been undertaken thus far. However, as the tragic events in Clapham so shockingly remind us, speed is of the essence when it comes to changing the attitude of men and boys towards women and girls in our society.

The Minister has been keen to point out that the Government’s own pornography research does not prove causation—how could it? It does demonstrate a clear association between pornography consumption and male aggression and sexual violence, as does other research in the field. In this context, addressing the impact of pornography consumption on male aggression towards women must form part of a credible legislative approach to violence against women and a credible response to the outpouring of stories that we have all been moved by this week.

In recent debates, much has been said about how Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act protects children from pornographic websites through age verification. That is certainly very important because, if Part 3 was in place now, children today would be less likely to be exposed to pornographic websites. It would therefore be less likely that they would move into adulthood with the expectation that violence is a natural part of sexual relationships, with all that this means for behaviour.

However, after the events of last week, it is also important to stress that another feature of Part 3—namely, the regulator’s power to take robust action against websites showing illegal extreme pornography, regardless of age verification—is important, because it will help foster an environment that challenges the normalisation of violence against women. It is a vital change that women and children could benefit from right now, that could have brought huge benefits from last year and, crucially, that could bring huge benefits very quickly, for reasons I will explain, if the Government implement Part 3.

The latest letter on this from the Minister comes with an estimated timetable of between 22 and 27 months for implementing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017, with a new regulator. This is perhaps the finest example of a cannot-do, rather than a can-do, attitude to emerge from Whitehall since Sir Humphrey Appleby took his retirement. It is deeply problematic for at least two reasons. First, it clearly draws out the process to the greatest possible extent, making it as long as possible. Secondly, it rests upon a strategy that hopes that none of us will be cute enough to spot the elephant in the room.

The truth is that, if the Government were prepared to redesignate the BBFC as the regulator for Part 3 during the interim period, while the online harms Bill is being developed, then women and children would benefit within a matter of months from the very important protections that this House has already sanctioned in relation to pornographic websites. The taxpayer would also see a return on the £2.2 million investment in the steps taken in preparing for implementing Part 3.

The question the Government must answer is this: is bowing to their preference that Ofcom be the regulator, rather than the BBFC, so important that they are prepared to demand that the price for it is that women and children should be denied the protections that this House has sanctioned for them for a period of years? We can argue about how long it might take for the online harms framework to reach the point of implementation, but if we use the Digital Economy Act as a model, we can assume that the time from the arrival of the primary legislation in Parliament to the point at which it and the attendant secondary legislation and guidance are passed will be about three years. Is the Prime Minister prepared to tell the women and children of the United Kingdom that his preference for Ofcom over the BBFC is so great that women and children should be denied these important protections from pornographic websites for some years, even though he can still have Ofcom when the online harms regime comes into play? Is he prepared to ignore Women’s Aid? Are the Government saying that, because they cannot consent to this, we should cease support for this amendment and all those who want implementation now?

I trust that the Prime Minister still has his political wits about him. I trust that he will think better of taking a different position from all these bodies and the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, whom the people of this country hold in such high regard. Redesignation would take 40 days, as per Section 17 of the 2017 Act, where it was agreed that we should give the websites three months to get ready.

By my reckoning, if the Government show a fraction of the determination that we saw at the vigil in Clapham on Saturday night, Part 3, with all its protections for women and children, could be in force before this House rises for the Summer Recess. It is my great hope that the Government will do the right thing today and tell the Minister before she gets to her feet that she can announce that the Government will now implement Part 3, so that the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, whose leadership on this issue demands our great respect, can withdraw her amendment.

Baroness O'Loan Portrait Baroness O’Loan (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I am pleased to speak today in support of the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin. I am grateful too for the powerful briefings and extensive correspondence on this amendment that I have received from several organisations and individuals.

Like other noble Lords who have spoken, I have seen the Government’s letter of 8 March. I found it unconvincing and I am concerned that there is a danger of completely missing the point of the amendment. As we saw over the weekend, the country is very concerned about attacks on women. I think, too, that we are all concerned about the level of violence against children, and indeed against men, in our society. It is clear that the consumption of pornography is associated with aggression and violence against women, men and children. This is an issue on which we can act today.

Had the Government implemented Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act as planned, we would have had a functioning regulator today. He or she would have been able to take a series of robust actions against any pornographic website showing illegal extreme pornography. We would have seen the introduction of age verification on pornographic websites.

Today, 14 women’s organisations, including Women’s Aid, have written to the Prime Minister asking him to instruct his Ministers to respond to the debate by making a commitment to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act as an interim measure to protect women and children, treating them with dignity between now and when the online harms regime will be ready, probably in three years.

The suggestion in the Government’s letter that

“commencing Part 3 of the 2017 Act as an interim measure would … create a confusing and fragmented regulatory landscape”

is unconvincing; it is also regrettable.

The online harms Bill is not yet before Parliament; it will take time to pass through Parliament and, even if it is passed as suggested and the Government commence implementation immediately, the interim arrangements proposed today would be in place and working for two or three years before it would be realistically possible for any benefit to be experienced through such an Act. That would be years of additional protection before any further legislation was operative.

If providing a greater measure of protection for women and children is a critical issue, as the Government have said, they cannot continue to argue that the legislation that we have passed should not be implemented now, even as work proceeds on developing even better legislation for the future. With child-on-child sexual abuse, we know that between 2012 and 2016 there was a 78% rise in England and Wales. Research from 2017 on preventing harmful sexual behaviour involved interviews with young sexual offenders, asking them what might have stopped them. Their answers included “help in management of pornography”. Implementing Part 3 would do this; it would help to save and protect until new legislation is enacted.

I urge the Government to respond positively to noble Lords who have spoken in favour of this amendment and the many women’s groups that have written to the Prime Minister today, and I shall support the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, if she divides the House on this amendment.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB) [V]
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We should all thank the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, for Amendment 87A. It has been thrown into stark relief by the terribly tragic death of Sarah Everard.

In 2017, Parliament agreed powers to take action against any website showing illegal extreme pornography, yet although we have agreed that non-fatal strangulation is a crime, we still face the cultural normalisation of aggressive sexual activity, of which strangulation activities are the most extreme example. Fuelling such activities is violent pornography and the underlying problem of sex addiction, as explained by the noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich. As with any addiction, the person requires ever more potent dosages of the source of their addiction, whether drugs, alcohol, gambling or abnormal sex. When sexual potency appears to fail, the man seeks greater stimulation in an attempt to achieve satisfaction, developing psychological tolerance to abhorrent acts. The pornography sought gradually becomes ever more extreme, with films and images made exploiting those who are vulnerable, often underage, enslaved or both. This is not about choice or self-control; the addict has surrendered choice—they are controlled by their addiction, compulsively drawn by dependence to extreme pornography. That does not absolve them from responsibility at all but, by leaving the extreme pornography there, we do not just normalise these practices but fuel the addiction, similar to the drug trafficker providing cocaine to the addict.

The Government’s own research into the impact of pornography on male aggression reported in February 2020 that

“there is substantial evidence of an association between the use of pornography and harmful sexual attitudes and behaviours towards women”.

We need robust action against websites based anywhere in the world, accessing the UK with illegal extreme pornography. Age-verification checks would ensure that children are significantly less likely to be exposed to pornographic websites, which have negative implications for their development and give an expectation that violence is a natural part of sexual relationships, with all this means for their behaviour. The terrible costs of not implementing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act are evident. As has been said:

“It’s now easy to find content on the major porn sites of women being hung, strangled, suffocated, garrotted—and with ‘choking’ content often featuring on the front page.”

Moreover, on September 2019, the Journal of Criminal Law noted:

“Evidence suggests that the mainstream online pornography websites, while declaring such material as contravening their terms and conditions, continue to host such material”.

We cannot wait for the online harms Bill. Women up and down the country—[Inaudible.]

Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord McNicol of West Kilbride) (Lab)
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I suggest that we move to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. If we can reconnect with the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, we will return to her after the Minister.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD) [V]
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First, I want to acknowledge that noble Lords all around this House are concerned about the link between violent pornography and violence against women and girls. I accept that this is an important issue that needs to be debated and addressed, but I remind noble Lords of what the amendment actually says. It would require an investigation into the link between children accessing online pornography and domestic abuse. It would require the person appointed by the Secretary of State to conduct an investigation into whether such a link exists and for that person then to decide whether to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act if that person thinks that implementing Part 3 would prevent domestic abuse.

Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act is about preventing children under 18 from accessing online pornography. It does nothing to control adults accessing violent pornographic content unless that content is extreme and, therefore, illegal. Extreme pornography is defined by Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 as

“grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character”.

Examples are given in the Act, which I shall not quote directly, but they are such things as an act that threatens a person’s life; an act that causes serious injury to intimate areas of a person’s body; sex with dead bodies; and sex with animals. When it says extreme, it really does mean extreme.

Part 3 requires only the policing of content that would be banned from sale in a sex shop. When we debated these measures, many noble Lords said that Part 3 did not go far enough. This amendment, if passed, would do nothing to prevent adults viewing violent pornography, other than extreme pornography, which is already illegal. The amendment would attempt to prevent those aged under 18 accessing any kind of pornography from commercial pornographic websites. Of course, I accept the argument that children under 18 should not be able to access pornography, whether from commercial websites or when it is shared on social media, which Part 3 does not cover. Part 3 provides inadequate protection for children online and does nothing to address noble Lords’ wider concerns about adults accessing violent pornography and the link to violence against women and girls.

This amendment is about preventing children accessing online pornography, because there is believed to be a link between viewing pornography and domestic abuse. The amendment would force the Government to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act if such a link was proved and it was believed that implementing Part 3 would reduce domestic abuse. The Government, as I am sure we will hear from the Minister in a moment, have decided not to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act because they want to incorporate different ways in which to protect children into the online harms Bill instead.

We support what my noble friend Lady Benjamin is trying to achieve in protecting children from pornography, but there are also issues with the wording of her amendment. As I said, the amendment requires the person nominated by the Secretary of State to investigate whether there is a link between children accessing pornography and domestic abuse and report within three months—a very short timescale. If the link is proved and the nominated person believes that Part 3 would prevent domestic abuse, the Government would have to implement Part 3; the decision to implement it would be taken out of their hands.

We believe that any decision to implement Part 3 should be taken by a Secretary of State, who would be accountable to Parliament for that decision, not by a person nominated to undertake a review. We also believe that the issue of protecting children from accessing pornography is wider than domestic abuse. Even if the link between children accessing pornography and domestic abuse were not established, children should still be protected from online pornography.

For those reasons, those of us on our Front Bench for this Bill cannot support the amendment. However, I can assure noble Lords that Liberal Democrats will be holding the Government to account to ensure that effective and proportionate measures are introduced in the online harms Bill to protect children online.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, for her commitment on this issue—a commitment that all speakers in the debate share. As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said, all Peers who have spoken have acknowledged the link between pornography and violence against women.

Of course, we strongly agree that there needs to be a mechanism to prevent children accessing pornographic material. We also believe that the Government have failed to show leadership on that matter and have dragged their feet. They should already have brought the online harms Bill forward.

As Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act was going through, we in the Labour Party criticised it as inadequate because it failed to focus on where some of the most serious harm was caused—for example, by not tackling social media sufficiently. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, also made that point.

My understanding is that we now have a timeline for the online harms Bill, with pre-legislative scrutiny expected immediately after the Queen’s Speech—before the Summer Recess—and that Second Reading would be expected after the Summer Recess. I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm that my understanding of the timetable is correct.

We think that there are real inadequacies in Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act, and that the best way to deal with this matter is in full, and as a priority, in the online harms Bill. That will give time for the Commons to consider the amendments to this Bill that we have already sent back to it, including the supervision of dangerous perpetrators, ensuring that all women have access to life-saving services, and ensuring that child contact centres are regulated to protect our children.

I freely acknowledge that the decision we have taken to abstain on this matter has been a difficult one—but I think it would be wrong to give a misleading sense of certainty by passing this amendment, when that certainty is not merited by the Digital Economy Act. For that reason, we shall abstain on this vote.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, outlined on Monday when we began this debate, her Amendment 87A would require the Government to undertake an investigation of the impact of children’s access to online pornography on domestic abuse, and to review the commencement of Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017.

Her Majesty’s Government are committed to ensuring that the objectives of Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act will be delivered by the online harms framework. Children will be at the heart of our new online safety Bill, which will bring in a new era of accountability for online services. I am afraid I cannot comment on the timings that the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, asked about, as announcements about the Queen’s Speech and other things have not yet been made. I am sorry to disappoint the noble Lord on that.

We are confident that the online safety Bill will provide much greater protection for children than would have been the case with Part 3 of the 2017 Act. Unlike that Act, the online harms regime will capture both the most visited pornography sites and pornography on social media, thereby covering the vast majority of sites where children are most likely to be exposed to pornography.

One of the criticisms of the 2017 Act was that its scope did not cover social media companies, where a considerable quantity of pornographic material is available to children. Research by the British Board of Film Classification published last year found that across a group of children aged between 11 and 17, 44% intentionally accessed pornography via a social media site, compared to 43% for dedicated pornography websites and 53% via an image or video search engine.

Crucially, however, just 7% of children accessed pornography only through dedicated pornography sites. Most children intentionally accessing pornography were doing so across a number of sources, including social media, as well as video-sharing platforms, fora, and via image or video search engines, the majority of which would not fall within scope of the Digital Economy Act, but will fall within the scope of online harms legislation.

Implementing Part 3 of the 2017 Act would therefore leave a significant gap in meeting the Government’s objective of preventing children from accessing pornography —an objective that has also been raised by noble Lords who have spoken in the debate. Our online harms proposals will achieve a more comprehensive approach and allow us to address children’s access to pornography in the round, and avoid children moving from one, more regulated, area of the internet to another, less regulated, area to access pornography.

In addition, recent technological changes could render Part 3 of the 2017 Act ineffective in protecting children if it were introduced as an interim measure. One of the Act’s enforcement powers was the power to require internet service providers to block access to material on non-compliant services. Internet service providers themselves have made it clear that they are no longer the sole gatekeepers to the internet. Current and future developments in the way the architecture of the internet functions mean that they may not always be able to offer effective blocking functions, which might make this power obsolete. These potential enforcement challenges could make age-verification very difficult to enforce via the 2017 Act, even as an interim measure.

The most recent prominent change is the introduction of DNS over HTTPS—that is a bit of a mouthful; it is also known as DoH—which, in specific implementation models, could provide an alternative route to access online content that bypasses the current filtering function of internet service providers. Other proposed internet encryption standards may in future limit even further the ability of providers to filter. The Government are actively engaging with the industry to ensure that the spread of DoH and future internet encryption standards do not cause unintended consequences. For example, specific implementation models of DoH could circumnavigate the current filtering mechanisms of internet service providers, which are used to block access to child abuse content.

The noble Lord, Lord Browne of Belmont, raised the definition of internet service providers in the Digital Economy Act. A reference in legislation to internet service providers or similar is usually applied in the traditional sense, requiring the major internet service providers to block access to certain websites. The Secretary of State would have to prepare revised guidance to the regulator to implement Part 3 of the 2017 Act. As the noble Lord has said, this guidance, coupled with the broader terminology of an “internet access service”, as used in European Union legislation, might offer sufficient flexibility to extend the duty for internet service providers to cover other means of accessing the internet, where technically feasible. However, the key point that my noble friend Lady Williams of Trafford set out in her letter to the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, was that, given the evolving nature of how internet services are provided, this approach lacks the necessary certainty.

The proposals in the online safety Bill will future-proof the legislation, and address anticipated, longer-term changes to the architecture of the internet, by enabling the regulator to require alternative third parties to carry out blocking measures. This includes any organisation in the internet infrastructure supply chain which facilitates access to a non-compliant service to restrict that access.

It would also not be a quick solution to commence Part 3 as an interim measure, and this would take much longer than the three months that the noble Baroness suggested on Monday. The Government announced in October 2019 that they would not be commencing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act and, as part of this, took steps to de-designate the British Board of Film Classification as the age-verification regulator. The Government would therefore need to identify a new regulator and ensure that the necessary arrangements were in place before proceeding with formal designation of that regulator. That regulator would then need to produce statutory guidance, as required under the 2017 Act, and consult publicly on this, and the Government would then need to lay regulations and this statutory guidance before Parliament ahead of any new regime coming into force.

As an indication of the potential timescales that would involve, the implementation period for Part 3 of the 2017 Act took over two years, following Royal Assent in April 2017, to the then proposed commencement date of 15 July 2019. Our analysis indicates that it would take a minimum of just under two years to implement the provisions of Part 3 of the 2017 Act. Such a lead-in time, in addition to the nine-month period set out in the noble Baroness’s amendment, would run well into the online safety legislative process, so any benefits of an interim measure would be minimal at best.

Finally, commencing Part 3 of the 2017 Act as an interim measure would create a confusing and fragmented regulatory landscape. It would also require aligning two different enforcement regimes. The regulatory regime under Part 3 of the 2017 Act focuses on a specific requirement on industry to address a specific harm, rather than the wider, more holistic approach to systems and processes under our online harms proposals, which will deliver more comprehensive protections for children as well as for adults.

All pornography services in scope of the duty of care will need to tackle illegal content on their services. Where content is illegal under any criminal law, this will be captured by the online harms duty of care. As the possession of extreme pornography imagery is illegal under existing legislation, it will fall within the duty of care. Our new approach will be more robust than the Digital Economy Act, as it will capture extreme pornography as well as other illegal pornography, including non-photographic child sexual abuse content, which is not included in the definition of extreme pornography referred to in the Digital Economy Act. Companies will need to ensure that illegal content is removed expeditiously and that the risk of it appearing is minimised through effective systems.

In addition, any pornography sites which are designated as category 1 providers will be required to take action on content and activity that is legal for adults but which may be harmful. We expect that priority categories of legal but harmful content for adults set out in secondary legislation will include violent or abusive content. Category 1 services will need to be clear on their platforms about what is acceptable in their terms and conditions and enforce them consistently and transparently.

Given the timeframes for implementing the regulatory framework under the 2017 Act, it is also possible that we would be asking the industry to prepare to comply with the provisions of Part 3 at the same time as the forthcoming online safety legislation, which could distract attention and divert companies’ resources away from preparing for that new legislation, which will deliver better outcomes for children.

We are clear that companies should not wait for legislation to take action to protect children from accessing online pornography, and we are encouraging companies to take steps ahead of the legislation to do just that. To help achieve this, we are working closely with people across the industry to establish the right conditions for the market to deliver age-assurance and age-verification technical solutions ahead of the legislative requirements coming into force. In addition, alongside the full government response, we published an interim code of practice on the steps that companies can take to tackle online child sexual exploitation and abuse.

I can reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, and other noble Lords, that we are working at pace to develop online harms legislation and that the online safety Bill will be ready this year. The Government will continue to work closely with your Lordships’ House and others over the coming months as we prepare this vital legislation. We are already working closely with Ofcom to ensure that the implementation period following passage of the legislation will be as short as possible.

The Government also recognise the vital role that education can play in supporting children to navigate the online world safely. A number of noble Lords mentioned that in their contributions. In England, the Department for Education introduced the statutory relationships, sex, and health education curriculum in September last year, alongside the computing curriculum. Both support children’s online safety. The secondary school component of the relationships, sex, and health curriculum includes teaching that specifically sexually explicit material, for example pornography, presents a distorted picture of sexual behaviours, and can damage the way people see themselves in relation to others and negatively affect how they behave towards sexual partners.

Finally, the noble Baroness has previously raised concerns about Ofcom’s ability to block non-compliant sites and take enforcement action on companies based overseas. I reassure noble Lords that Ofcom will have a robust range of enforcement powers available to use against companies which fail to fulfil the duty of care, or which fail to put in place appropriate measures after being alerted to an issue, no matter where companies are based. Ofcom will be able to issue fines and take business disruption measures against them. This may include removing access to key services to limit the commercial effectiveness of the organisation. For the most serious and egregious failures, Ofcom will be able significantly to restrict access to the services from the United Kingdom. We anticipate that, as other countries introduce similar laws, Ofcom will be able to work with its counterparts overseas to support compliance.

We will be able to deliver the strongest possible protections for children through the online harms framework, rather than Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act. I hope that I have provided some further reassurance that Amendment 87A is not necessary. The Government have demonstrated their strong commitment to protecting children online, a point which ran through all the contributions in this debate. I hope that, on that basis, the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, will be willing to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Watkins of Tavistock) (CB)
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My Lords, I have received requests to ask a short question from the noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich, and the noble Lord, Lord Morrow. I call the noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich, to ask a short question for elucidation.

Lord McColl of Dulwich Portrait Lord McColl of Dulwich (Con) [V]
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The Minister has continued to suggest that it will take a long time to implement Part 3. Why would that be the case if the Government used the BBFC as the regulator, as everything is in order in that regard, save the need to formally redesignate it, which Section 17 of the Digital Economy Act defines as needing only 40 days?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I hope that my noble friend in her letter, and I in my contribution, explained the reasons why we think it would take so long, because it has been de-designated. As the noble Lord will know, work is already going on in relation to Ofcom in preparation for the online safety Bill which, for the reasons I have outlined, we think better addresses the concerns that he and other noble Lords have raised in this debate.

Lord Morrow Portrait Lord Morrow (DUP) [V]
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My question is quite similar. Why is it more important not to have the BBFC and leave women and children with no protection at all for three years? As has already been said, if you used the BBFC, it would just take over three months to have that.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I hope that in my contribution I covered the points about the role that Ofcom can and will play in the new online harms framework, including the point I made at the end of my speech about the enforcement action that it will be able to take, not just in the UK but overseas as well.

Baroness Benjamin Portrait Baroness Benjamin (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, both on Monday night and today, and the Minister for his response. Today, we are confronted with another pandemic, one that ruins lives and for some is the cause of death. That pandemic is violence by men against women. I am very grateful to all those who have spoken in support of my amendment, which attempts to deal with this pandemic. I am also touched and encouraged by the huge amount of support I have received from NGOs and members of the public. I am grateful to them.

I am, of course, very disappointed by the Government’s response, especially as the Minister cannot confirm that the online harms Bill will be debated soon. I am disappointed that, even though those who spoke so passionately in support of my amendment made it clear that we are not opposing the online harms Bill—I want it to come to the House as soon as possible—so much of the Minister’s response was devoted to that issue. I am also disappointed the Minister’s response addressed Part 3 as though it was narrowly concerned with child protection. Of course it is about child protection, but it is also very relevant to stopping domestic violence, because it would make it less likely that children are exposed to pornographic websites as they move into adulthood with the expectation that violence is a normal part of sexual relationships.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, and speaker after speaker have highlighted the fact that, if Part 3 had been implemented, we would today have a regulator that would take robust action against any website showing illegal, violent, extreme pornography in the UK. As we contemplate what is happening in our country at the moment and the concerns about violence against women, the very least the Government could do would be implement Part 3 so that we can create an environment that is less hostile to women by tackling illegal, violent, extreme pornography on pornographic websites.

The Minister also said that it would take far longer than I have suggested to implement Part 3. Apart from the fact that it would take less time to implement primary legislation that has already been passed than primary legislation that has not even been published, the Minister failed to engage with the very serious point that I, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, and others made that Part 3 could be in place in months if the BBFC was used as a regulator. It is capable of doing that. It is all set up to do that.

At the present time, the argument that the Government do not want to use the BBFC because they prefer Ofcom is not convincing. Nor is the argument about changes in technology; this does not hold water. The Government can use Ofcom as a regulator for the online harms Bill legislation when it is implemented, but, as a powerful open letter to the Prime Minister published today by women’s organisations makes clear, if the Government try to suggest that the safety of women should be needlessly compromised over the next few years just because they do not want to designate the BBFC as an interim regulator, that will go down very badly with the public. The public have told me that, and Members across the House have seen what the public feel about that.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Grey-Thompson and Lady Finlay, reminded us of the evidence of how the compulsive use of pornography can affect the brain and the decision-making process of the user over time. This is something we have to take very seriously indeed.

The Prime Minister quite rightly says he wants to protect women and children from violent attacks. My amendment will allow him to do so immediately, by enforcing legislation that has already been passed. Waiting on the online harms Bill means we will continue to create a conveyor belt of sexual predators who commit violence against women because of the porn they watch as boys and men.

There are times in life when we have to do the right thing, especially in the context of the current outpouring of concern about women’s safety. I believe that, regardless of what great protections an online harms Act eventually provides, history will judge that, from the perspective of the best interest of the safety of women and children in the second half of 2021, and 2022 and 2023, the non-implementation of Part 3 was a grave mistake. This is why I simply cannot let this matter go. I would be failing in my duty as a parliamentarian whose life has been devoted to promoting the best interests of women and children. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I wish to test the opinion of this House.

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Watkins of Tavistock) (CB)
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I will now put the Question on Amendment 87A. We heard a Member taking part remotely say they wished to divide the House in support of this amendment, and I will take that into account.

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Watkins of Tavistock) (CB)
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We now come to the group consisting of Amendment 87B. Anyone wishing to press this amendment to a Division must make that clear in debate.

Amendment 87B

Moved by

87B: After Clause 72, insert the following new Clause—

“Guidance on domestic abuse and offences involving hostility based on sex or gender

(1) The Secretary of State must issue guidance under this section which takes account of evidence about the relationship between domestic abuse and offences involving hostility based on sex or gender.(2) In preparing guidance under subsection (1) the Secretary of State must require the chief officer of police of any police force to provide information relating to—(a) the number of relevant crimes reported to the police force; and(b) the number of relevant crimes reported to the police force which, in the opinion of the chief officer of police, have also involved domestic abuse.(3) In this section—“chief officer of police” and “police force” have the same meaning as in section 70 of this Act;“relevant crime” means a reported crime in which—(a) the victim or any other person perceived the alleged offender, at the time of, or in a recent period before or after, the offence, to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on sex or gender, or(b) the victim or any other person perceived the crime to be motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility or prejudice towards persons who are of a particular sex or gender.”

Baroness Kennedy of Cradley Portrait Baroness Kennedy of Cradley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, as is customary, I make it clear at the start of this debate that I may wish to test the opinion of the House on my amendment, though I say to the Government that if, after reflecting on the debate today and in Committee, they are willing to engage constructively with the issue of data collection and the intention behind this amendment, of course I will withdraw it.

In the last two weeks, women and men across the country have come forward to demand action. In sadness and in anger, there is solidarity. The question before us now is whether we will heed their call for change. Will we take a decision that will help ensure that all women, everywhere, can enjoy the same freedoms as men when it comes to being able to go where we want and do what we want without fear?

Our hearts go out to the family of Sarah Everard. She walked down well-lit streets and she wore bright clothes, yet today we stand here knowing that she was not safe. Since Sarah’s tragic murder came to public attention, women everywhere have shared their stories of harassment, abuse and violence at home and on the streets, and their frustration that all too frequently these crimes are not treated with the seriousness they deserve. This amendment is about how we can change that and, in the process, ensure that every police force in England and Wales learns from the best practice in this area from across the country.

Violence against women and girls does not occur in a vacuum. Hostility towards women and girls generates a culture in which violence and abuse is tolerated, excused and repeated. Gathering evidence about the extent, nature and prevalence of hostility towards women and girls and how these interplay with the experience of domestic abuse is crucial to recognising these connections. Last week, UN Women released a report which found that, among women aged between 18 and 24, 97% said they had been sexually harassed, while 80% of women of all ages said they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces. Critically, 96% of respondents said that they did not report these incidents, with 45% saying it was because it would not change anything. It is not hard to understand why they feel this way.

Rape convictions have been dropping since 2017, and fell to a record low this year: only 1.4% of cases reported resulted in a charge. At least 1,000 fewer men accused of rape are currently being prosecuted than two years ago. A recent report by the End Violence Against Women Coalition found that almost one in three women aged between 16 and 59 will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. More than half a million women are raped or sexually assaulted each year. There are more than 135,000 women and girls affected by FGM living in England and Wales. During the first national lockdown, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline saw an 80% increase in calls, and Karma Nirvana, which supports victims of so-called honour-based abuse and forced marriage, reported a 162% average increase in its case load. We need to explicitly acknowledge this epidemic of violence against women and girls. To do that does not mean we are saying that men are not attacked or abused; it is to recognise that these crimes are disproportionately affecting women.

Some 92% of defendants in domestic abuse-related prosecutions last year were male and 77% of victims were female. When other groups in society are targeted for a fundamental element of their being—the colour of their skin, their religious identity or their sexuality—we rightly say that this should be recognised and addressed. Amendment 87B is about doing the same for sex and gender.

This approach, and treating misogyny as a hate crime, was piloted in Nottinghamshire in 2016, under the leadership of former Chief Constable Sue Fish, who explained:

“Making misogyny a hate crime was one of the simplest tasks I’ve ever done working in the police—and yet the results that we saw were incredible. Some of the feedback we had was that women, for the first time, described themselves as walking taller and with their ‘heads held high’.”

The Crime Survey for England and Wales shows that 36% of hate crime victims said they were “very much affected”, compared with 13% for all crime. The survey also found that gender was perceived to be the motivation for more than half of hate crimes reported by women.

So we women know that we are being targeted, but the police do not. Amendment 87B is about ensuring that all police forces do something which increases the confidence of victims to report crime and helps improve their detection. In areas where misogyny has been included in hate crime reporting, there has been an increase in reporting. As police get better at identifying the motivation behind crimes, women feel more confident in coming forward.

If there is so much to support, why would anyone oppose this? I will take each concern I have heard in turn. First, some will say we should wait for completion of the Law Commission review on hate crime. I welcome that review. It has been running for nearly three years and has called for misogyny to be included in our hate crime rubric; I hope to see its outcome realised in the sentencing Bill. However, we do not have to wait for this review to ask all police forces to follow best practice and start gathering data on where existing crimes are targeted at women. We can take this step now and start benefiting from it now.

Some will say that the police do not have the resources to do everything. One chief constable actually said, “I am questioning whether a criminal offence is the best way of dealing with what is essentially an issue about how we all treat each other.” The women in Nottinghamshire were not reporting men for not opening doors for them or calling them rude names. They were reporting incidents that are crimes—sexual assault, abuse and violence. These crimes need to be recorded so that they can be properly addressed.

In addition, 11 out of the 43 police constabularies in England and Wales are currently recording misogyny as a hate crime, have trialled the policy or are actively considering implementing it—North Yorkshire, Avon and Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, Gloucester and Northamptonshire are some of the forces already putting this into practice. This approach also has the support of the national policing adviser for hate crime and metro mayors Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram, Sadiq Khan and Dan Jarvis, and many police and crime commissioners and multiple councils around the country are passing motions in support.

Some will query the wording of this amendment, which talks about recording crimes that are motivated by sex or gender; this is the wording used by the Law Commission. The issue here should not be whether someone was born a woman or becomes one, but identifying and stopping those who target women, full stop. Indeed, while trans identity is currently protected by hate crime, sex is not. Worded in this way, the amendment ensures that no one can avoid accountability for their behaviour through discriminating or further demeaning the victim.

Some will say, “What about misandry?” Whenever a crime is motivated by hate, it needs to be recorded. But, as we have seen from the data so far, the vast majority of victims coming forward are women. For example, in the first two years in Nottinghamshire, of the 265 misogyny hate crime victims who were recorded, 243 were female and six were male.

Finally, some will rightly worry about this being part of a Bill on domestic violence and the risk of creating a hierarchy of sexual violence or reducing sentences for such crimes. This amendment is not about the sentencing element of recognising misogyny as a hate crime; it is about the data required to identify crimes and the interconnections between violence against women in the home and in the community. It complements the Law Commission’s work but is not dependent on it. It would require the police to report on those connections, rather than denying them or missing them, to the detriment of our policing.

In closing, I acknowledge the wide breadth of support for this proposal and those who have campaigned for it for many years: Citizens UK, Stonewall, Refuge, the Fawcett Society, Tell MAMA, the Jo Cox Foundation, HOPE not hate, Plan UK, Our Streets Now, Centenary Action Group, UN Women UK, the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, JUNO Women’s Aid and Muslim Women’s Network UK. All of them are asking for our support for this amendment today.

Across the country, women everywhere are looking to us not just to express sympathy with their concerns but to act: to stop telling them to stay at home and be careful and start finding those responsible for the violence. If we are not recording crime that is targeted at women, how can we effectively address violence against women and girls and the police’s response to it? What is happening to women of all ages, colours and backgrounds is illegal, but clearly it is not being effectively addressed. Let us take the opportunity to put that right with this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, who has made a powerful speech on her amendment, to which I will add a fairly brief footnote.

As she said, over the last few days we have seen growing pressure on the Government to alter the terms of trade, the balance of power, between men and women. The murder of Stephen Lawrence in the 1990s marked a turning point in our attitudes towards race in this country; the murder of Sarah Everard may do the same for attitudes towards women. Other noble Lords may have had telephone calls yesterday from women asking for support for this amendment. Elesa Bryers rang me, asking if she could send me a petition she had started which had some 700 signatures. I readily agreed.

It is crucial for the Government to strike the right balance in response, avoiding a knee-jerk reaction and a headline-grabbing solution that does not stand the test of time but recognising that, after careful analysis, we have to move on from where we are. I can think of few people better placed to help make that judgment than my noble friend the Minister who is replying to this debate.

Turning to the amendment, no one could say that this is a knee-jerk reaction to the tragic events of last week, as, of course, the case for it was made last month in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Russell, and others. I have reread the reply that the Minister gave on that occasion. My noble friend said:

“Given the range and depth of the work undertaken by the Law Commission, we do not think it would be appropriate to prejudice the outcome of its work, including by issuing guidance or requiring the collection of statistics along the lines proposed by the amendment. As I have said, the noble Lord rightly wants to see evidence-based policy. The work of the Law Commission will add significantly to that evidence base.” —[Official Report, 8/2/21; col. 59.]

“We do not think it would be appropriate” is not a total rejection of what we were asking for. Indeed, one could argue that the amendment would add significantly to the evidence base that the Minister referred to in her reply, because it would broaden that evidence base beyond the 11 police forces which currently collect the relevant statistics. I wonder whether my noble friend has sought the views of the Law Commission on this amendment as it completes its work.

We know that the domestic abuse commissioner is supportive of the principles behind the amendment and strongly welcomes proposed subsection (2) about issuing guidance. I was pleased to hear in her interview on Friday that the domestic abuse commissioner said she was listened to by the Government, and my noble friend can build on that basis of trust in her response today.

Winding up the debate in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Russell, offered a way forward by suggesting that we should

“try to send some message to police forces about the benefits that other police forces which have trialled this are having from it, and to encourage them to look at it seriously.” —[Official Report, 8/2/21; col. 61.]

Perhaps that offers us the way forward today.

Rereading the briefing for this amendment, I was struck by the evidence from Citizens UK and from the organisation HOPE not hate that ideological misogyny is emerging in far-right terrorist movements, and that there has been a growth in online misogynistic abuse. Hate motivated by gender is a factor in a third of all hate crimes, the same briefing tells us—all of which reinforces the case for a fresh look at this issue.

As other noble Lords have said, we need to rebuild confidence in the police. The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, referred to the case of Nottingham and the survey, where they have already adopted the measures outlined in this amendment, as she said. That survey showed, first, that the problem was taken seriously by the police and, secondly, that what Nottingham did increased public confidence in the police in the county. Adopting this amendment could do the same for the police nationally.

Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait Lord Russell of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I was very happy to put my name to this amendment, and I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, for the eloquent and detailed way in which she has introduced it.

At Second Reading on 5 January, I mentioned that I would raise the issue of misogyny and probably put forward an amendment in Committee. First, those of your Lordships who, like me, laboured through the Second Reading—there were no less than 90 contributors —were brave, but, secondly, it is interesting to note that, of all the contributors, I think I was the only one to actually mention the dreaded noun “misogyny”. I was not surprised when the Minister, in her summing up of so many contributions, also did not mention misogyny.

We fast forward to Committee, and on 8 February—the fifth day in Committee—I put forward an amendment, ably assisted by the noble Lord, Lord Young, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Bull and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, to all of whom I am extremely grateful. As the noble Lord, Lord Young, said, the Minister basically said, “We can see it is quite a good idea, but we have asked the Law Commission to look at this, and we will wait and see what it recommends”.

Now we fast forward to today—17 March—the fourth day of Report, and Amendment 87B. Harold Wilson once said that one week is a long time in politics. I do not know about the rest of your Lordships, but, for me, the last 10 weeks since Second Reading have felt like a lifetime in politics. But more to the point, as the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, said very movingly on Monday, the last 10 weeks have not only seemed like a lifetime, they have also seen the loss of no less than 30 lives—30 women killed by men, whose names she read out on Monday.

I pay tribute to the police forces that have decided, on their own initiative, to start recording incidents of misogyny as perceived by women and have started tabulating that properly, listening to the women and taking note of what they say. I especially pay tribute to Nottinghamshire, which was the pioneer in this, starting in April 2016, and to the chief constable at the time, Sue Fish, who was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy. Coincidentally, she happened to be on “Woman’s Hour” yesterday. I would like your Lordships to listen and reflect on what Sue Fish, the retired chief constable of Nottinghamshire, said. She said that while for herself reporting a crime against a property would not be “an issue” if she was going to the police, for a crime committed against herself, she would “probably struggle” reporting that to the police because she would be concerned about how she would be judged. She said:

“I also know in terms of conviction rates and the challenges of going through the criminal justice system, as a woman, it’s thankless … Endless repeated humiliation, telling your story over and over again, worrying whether you’re ever going to be believed, putting yourself through that repeatedly, as well as the shame of what’s happened to you.”

Turning to the police forces in general in England and Wales, while admitting that many of our police are wonderful in every way and are completely aligned with what we are trying to achieve in this amendment, she also said:

“I think there is still significant parts of policing where there is a very toxic culture of sexism, of misogyny that objectifies women”.

That gives us something to reflect upon.

I pay tribute to the person who has been the most vocal in Parliament raising this as an issue over several years: Stella Creasy. I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, and thank her for taking on the baton from me from Committee. I also thank the Minister, who has been, as usual, extremely helpful during this process. I know she has been listening. I know this is something that she feels personally, and I am looking forward very much to her response. If it is positive, I will jump up and down with joy.

I would like to leave your Lordships with one other thought. It comes from earlier on today, after Prime Minister’s Questions in another place. Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s chief political reporter, wrote on BBC online:

“From a political point of view, there is no agreement on how to tackle the issue of violence against women, and what the next steps should be.”

As I am a Cross-Bencher, noble Lords would expect me to take a rather dim view of that. But I really do think that the issues we are discussing about violence against women—predominantly male violence against women—have absolutely nothing to do with politics whatever. They are to do with fundamental human rights, dignity and respect for one another.

Every single one of us in this Chamber was born of a mother; many of us have daughters, sisters, nieces and grandchildren. It is unacceptable. We have to start moving forward, and I think this amendment would be an excellent way for the Government to indicate that they are really listening and for the majority of the police forces that I am sure are considering this to actually take the plunge and do it.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, outside this place the amendment is causing quite a lot of excitement and anticipation—certainly a lot of interest —on social media, in the press and among the NGO world and women’s groups, as we have heard. It has been directly linked to the tragic and brutal murder of Sarah Everard. The Fawcett Society, which, along with other groups such as HOPE not hate, the White Ribbon Association, Tell MAMA and others that we have heard about have focused their lobbying on the need to act now against violence against women. We are told that now is the time to change. That was echoed by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, when she introduced the amendment.

We have been asked to vote for the amendment because it will make misogyny a hate crime and will require all police forces to record where crimes are motivated by hatred of women. However, there is a lot of smoke and mirrors here. We need to be careful about allowing an emotive tragedy to be exploited in a way which will not help women and not enhance the Bill. I understand that when something as brutal as Sarah’s murder captures the public imagination, there is a desire to do something. For any of us who have been unfortunate victims on the receiving end of a violent sexual attack, let me tell noble Lords that I empathise with those expressing sorrow, anger and a feeling that they need to act, whether by attending a vigil, going on a protest—legal or otherwise—lighting a candle or even demanding more laws.

Here in this House, we need dispassionate, cool heads and to scrutinise exactly what amending the law in this way will achieve. It is hard to be objective when discussing the murder or abuse of women, of course. There may be a temptation to rush to appropriate blame beyond the perpetrator or to ascribe social and cultural explanations beyond the immediate crime. However, what are asserted as facts are often, at the very least, contentious or contested political concepts. Misogyny is one of those. It is popularly understood as hatred of women but in the past week, and even today, as has been hinted at, the police have been described as institutionally misogynist. Is it true that the police hate women? Should we repeat the mantra that society is suffering an epidemic of misogynist violence? I do not recognise that nightmarish catastrophising vision.

In the Nottinghamshire pilot on measuring misogynist hate crime that has been mentioned, misogyny can include cat-calling, following and unwelcome approaches, which can be conflated with flashing, groping and then more serious assaults. That is all thrown into the misogynist hate-crime category. Meanwhile, as we have heard from another noble Lord, HOPE not hate’s lobbying email for the amendment told us that ideological misogyny is increasingly at the core of far-right thinking, including the threat of far-right terrorism. So, we have gone from wolf-whistling to terrorism. We cannot therefore assume that there is any shared meaning of misogyny and it is therefore unhelpful to tack it on to a Bill on domestic violence or abuse.

I do not think that misogyny is widespread in society and I certainly do not believe that domestic abuse is driven by ingrained hatred of women. That flies in the face of all the nuance, complexity and evidence that we have heard in the many hours of our discussion on the Bill, whether it is our understanding of the impact of alcohol or mental health, the recognition that there are male victims or the debate that we have just had on pornography.

I understand that perhaps opinions are not enough. I acknowledge that the amendment is an attempt at collecting data to assess how much domestic abuse is driven by prejudice, anti-women prejudice. However, if we want accurate data, we should not look to hate- crime solutions because hate is almost impossible to objectively define. The amendment states that the person who defines this hate is the complainant. The police will be asked to collate data based on what

“the victim or any other person perceived the alleged offender, at the time of, or in a recent period before or after, the offence, to demonstrate hostility or prejudice”.

What would be recorded is when an accuser

“perceived the crime to be motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility or prejudice”.

That is not a reliable way in which to collect accurate data and will not help us understand perpetrators’ behaviour as it is based on perceptions, dangerously subjective and untestable legally. There are also some wholly undesirable potential outcomes. It can only encourage individuals to attribute motives to others. Even if they are completely wrong about those motives or intentions, the police will record them as hate-driven. This floats dangerously close to legislating thought crime and could well lead to finger-pointing, malicious allegations, the stigmatising of all manner of behaviour and the labelling of all manner of speech as hateful prejudice.

We already know that the fear of being accused of prejudice or hate is one key factor in chilling free speech. Being officially counted by the police as a bigot would inevitably affect free expression and close down debate. No doubt, some noble Lords will say that I should stop privileging free speech over the amendment because it will mandate the police, to quote the charities, to gather crucial

“evidence about the extent, nature and prevalence of hostility towards women and girls”

and how it relates to domestic abuse. But let us be clear. This is an illusion, too, even a deception because to present the amendment as having anything to do with women or girls is not true. Women are not mentioned in the wording and they are not the focus at all of the amendment. In fact, the language used is particular and purposeful. An amendment championed in the public realm as anti-misogyny and assumed to be about women talks of hostility towards persons who are of a particular sex or gender. That can only muddy the waters and make any data collection unreliable and opaque. Citing the Law Commission as an explanation for the wording does not work because the Law Commission has not yet reported.

Gender is not defined in UK law and is a cultural identity—malleable, subjective and one of choice. Sex is, however, a material objective reality. The Office for Statistics Regulation recently emphasised the need for clarity about definitions and stressed that sex and gender should not be used interchangeably in official statistics, and gave the example of criminal justice statistics. Highlighting that variation in the way in which data about sex is captured across the system means that it is not possible to know which definition of sex is being captured. This, in turn, places limitations on how some criminal justice statistics can be interpreted and used. I should say, in referencing the new resource Sex Matters, that by adding the word gender into this confusing mix the amendment undermines any possibility of accurate information being accrued, let alone of addressing the prior problem that that information is based on subjective perception. If our intention is for the police to track whether domestic abuse crimes against women are based on prejudice and hatred, that should be simple enough to do if the police have a clear definition and a reliable data field for the sex of victims and perpetrators. The amendment will not help and will confuse the situation.

If there is one example of misogyny in plain sight, it is surely here. If I thought that erasing the word “woman” from the maternity Bill was bad, not naming women in an amendment on misogyny seems to be even worse. More grotesquely, it could mean that women will be labelled by the police as misogynistic perpetrators if they are perceived as hostile to a person’s gender in a domestic setting. Is the mother who misgenders their child the perpetrator, the hate criminal? Should the position on sex-based rights and service provision of female staff at a women’s refuge be perceived as motivated by prejudice? The highly charged and febrile atmosphere of the past week, of which I am sensitive, in focusing on violence against women, must not pressurise us into passing an amendment that will allow the Bill to be the midwife of criminalising women with gender-critical views. It will not, anyway, help us to understand or help any victim of domestic abuse.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD) [V]
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My Lords, for those who are wondering why I am at this position in the list, it is because I wanted to speak personally on this issue, rather than as the Liberal Democrat Front-Bench spokesperson on the Bill. Having just listened to the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, that turns out to have been a wise decision. I remind the House of my experience of 30 years as a police officer in the Metropolitan Police service and as a survivor of same-sex domestic violence. Those are the positions from which I make this speech, rather than as the Liberal Democrat Front-Bench spokesman on the amendment.

I want to start by saying that, obviously, I cannot talk about the substance of this amendment without addressing the context of last week’s events. I echo the comments of former Chief Constable Sue Fish, quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool. I did not hear Sue Fish on “Woman’s Hour”, but I want to echo what she said.

As I said in the House yesterday, a serving police officer has been charged with kidnap and murder. He is innocent until proven guilty, and the matter is sub judice. Other Metropolitan Police officers are awaiting trial in connection with sharing selfies taken with the bodies of two women who had been murdered. Some years ago, there was an investigation into officers sharing violent pornography while on duty. I believe that there is a prima facie case for an investigation into whether a toxic macho culture exists in the Metropolitan Police Service. Sue Fish thinks that it should go broader than that, beyond any investigation into these specific incidents.

There is also a prima facie case that politics is becoming increasingly populist—not just in this country—and that this facilitates and encourages

“misogyny, xenophobia and intolerance of diversity.”—[Official Report, 16/3/21; col. 186.]

I do not care which political party noble Lords are from or whether they belong to none, if we advocate for or acquiesce to the erosion of civil liberties and support an authoritarian approach to issues that require a far more nuanced approach just to gain votes, we are facilitating and encouraging that culture. It is time politicians woke up and accepted responsibility for what is happening in our country.

The noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, questioned whether this amendment would result in trivial offences being kidnapped and the development of thought police. I am reminded of the time many years ago when the probation service had a rule that it would not engage with racist offenders. It changed its mind on that approach because it felt that it could do some good with these offenders. Its report was called From Murmur to Murder, because people who expressed racist views could end up murdering on the basis of their hatred. I am not suggesting that trivial offences should be recorded as misogyny; I am suggesting that crimes should be recorded as misogynistic if it is suspected that the motivation of the offender was hatred on the basis of sex and gender. I will come to the noble Baroness’s concerns about including gender a little later.

Some people claim that this amendment would make misogyny a hate crime. It does not. It requires police forces to record offences only where someone perceives that the offender demonstrated

“hostility or prejudice based on sex or gender”.

I have seen emails urging noble Lords to vote for this amendment, one of them written after the author witnessed the appalling scenes at Clapham Common on Saturday evening. It says about offences motivated by misogyny:

“Only when all police forces treat these incidents seriously and with compassion will women begin to rebuild their trust in the police.”

After the week we have had, they may well be right, but nothing in this amendment requires the police to treat offences motivated by misogyny seriously and with compassion.

I want misogyny to be treated as a hate crime comprehensively—not only for the police to record it but for them to provide an enhanced response to victims and provide more support, as is the case with other hate crimes. I also want the courts to treat misogyny as an aggravating factor when it comes to sentencing. When offences are motivated by misogyny, the criminal justice system’s response should be better for victims and make things worse for perpetrators. The Law Commission is looking at doing just that in its review of all hate crimes. The last thing I want is for the Government to say to the Law Commission, “Relax, we dealt with this in the Domestic Abuse Bill”, when this amendment does not do the job.

Hate crimes are crimes against a vulnerable group whose members are targeted because of their membership. I know; I am gay. On Sunday, a government Minister claimed that misogyny cannot be a hate crime because women are not a minority. Hate crimes require an enhanced response from the criminal justice system because victims are targeted because they are vulnerable, not because they are in a minority. In the case of misogyny, on average, women are physically vulnerable to male violence. Men abuse women because they can—because the power in a patriarchal society rests predominantly with them. That makes women vulnerable to abuse because they are women, which is why misogyny should be treated as a hate crime. Being targeted because of your vulnerability demands enhanced victim support and demands that offenders are treated more severely by the courts. This amendment does neither of those things.

I am very concerned—even more so now—about violence and harassment directed at women and girls on the streets. However, this Bill is about domestic abuse against all victims—including male ones, who make up a third of all victims of domestic abuse. Men are three times less likely to report being a victim of domestic abuse than women. There is a danger that this amendment would further discourage such reporting if it were included in this Domestic Abuse Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, referred to retired Chief Constable Sue Fish, who argues that women are less reluctant to come forward once misogyny is recorded. However, the underreporting of domestic abuse is even worse when the victim is male or in a same-sex relationship than it is with women victims of male domestic abuse. Associating domestic abuse with misogyny could make that underreporting worse; for example, by leading to a victim thinking, “I am a male victim but this can’t be domestic abuse as it’s not motivated by misogyny”.

As I said in Committee last week, the essence of a coercive and controlling relationship is when

“compliance is rewarded and defiance is punished.”—[Official Report, 10/3/21; col. 1736.]

I know; I have been there. In the domestic abuse setting, it is difficult to differentiate those elements of coercive and controlling behaviour that are motivated by misogyny from those that are simply the exercise of power by one partner over another. There were no amendments to this Bill seeking domestic abuse to be recorded as motivated by race or by homophobia, because domestic abuse is a serious offence in its own right. Any enhanced victim support or aggravating factor for it to be treated as a hate crime is eclipsed by the seriousness of the substantive offence of domestic abuse.

I am not yet convinced that the downsides of this amendment in relation to domestic abuse, and the potential for shifting the dial further towards the exclusion of victims of domestic abuse who are not victims of male violence against women, have been adequately addressed.

That having been said, we need to reverse the tide of populism and its associated impact on the way that women are being mistreated on our streets, but not by simply requiring the police to record misogyny as a motivation and leaving it at that, as this amendment does. I could not vote for this amendment because it does not go far enough, and it potentially provides the Government with an excuse not to do what really needs to be done: to make misogyny a hate crime with enhanced care for victims and harsher penalties for offenders.

I thank the Minister for advance sight of her speech on this amendment—assuming that she has not changed it since Monday. I agree that Section 44 of the Police Act 1996 makes Amendment 87B unnecessary if, and only if, the Government use existing legislation to require police forces to record offences in accordance with the amendment. I will listen carefully to the Minister, but the Government’s concession does not go as far as the amendment and is in danger of creating unintended consequences.

Here I return to the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, considering gender. If the Government only require police forces to record crimes where the victim perceives them to have been motivated by hostility based on the victim’s sex, which is what I believe the Government’s concession consists of, it does not go far enough. Current hate crime offences are recorded when anyone perceives the offence to have been motivated by hatred, not just the victim. The amendment includes sex and gender, and this is important. If an offender believes the victim is a woman, and anybody perceives that the offence was motivated by hatred of women, it should be recorded as a crime motivated by hatred of women. It makes no difference in these circumstances whether the victim is a transgender woman. Where the victim or a witness believes that they were attacked because they were a woman because they perceive the offender believed the victim was a woman, it should be recorded as such. The use of the term “sex” on its own may exclude some offences, and the whole purpose of recording these offences is to ensure the recording of any attack motivated by hatred of women. Whether they are allegedly by some people who think that trans women are not real women does not make any difference; if that is what they thought the person they were attacking was, it should be recorded as misogyny.

If noble Lords or Members of the other place do not think we should wait for the Law Commission’s report, there is an imminent legislative opportunity to make sure that hatred of women is treated in every way as a hate crime. We could work cross-party to amend the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is being debated in the Commons, to make misogyny a hate crime in every sense of the term. Even if the noble Baroness is not convinced by the Government’s concession, we do not need to rush this amendment through now when the ideal legislative opportunity is at our fingertips.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, we are clearly not going to finish our scrutiny of this Bill before 6 pm, which is the time on the Order Paper suggested for the Statement which follows. Given that there is quite a lot of business still to get through, I gently appeal to noble Lords for brevity in their contributions.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP) [V]
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My Lords, I can only begin speaking on this amendment by taking a moment to think of the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings and their families. It is very early to understand motives for a deadly mass attack, but it is hard not to suspect a link to the kind of hate crime, possibly intersectional hate crime, that we are discussing today.

I want to pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, and the noble Lords, Lord Russell of Liverpool and Lord Young of Cookham, for their work on this amendment and their powerful presentations for it. Had I known there was a space, I or my noble friend Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, who backed a similar amendment in Committee, would certainly have joined them.

I will be fairly brief, noting the intervention we have just had, but it is important to note that this amendment marks a potential national step forward for a grass-roots movement which, as other noble Lords have noted, started in Nottingham. This amendment has not, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, identified, gone as far as Nottingham in data collection, but it is certainly a step in that direction. The recording of misogyny by police in Nottingham can be taken as a case study of how political campaigning works and how grass-roots, community-centred action can make a big difference in the individual community and far beyond. Now, 11 out of 43 police constabularies in England and Wales have made recording misogyny a hate crime part of their practices or are actively considering the policy.

How did this all start? It started with a community group called Nottingham Citizens, which conducted a survey that found that 38% of women had reported a hate crime that was explicitly linked to their gender and that one in five hate crimes that took place were reported. Nottingham Women’s Centre held a conference about street harassment at which the police and crime commissioner asked those who had experienced misogyny to raise their hand. The police and crime commissioner, Paddy Tipping, was quoted afterwards as saying “I just thought people should not be treated like this.” Since the change has been made in police recording in Nottingham, reports indicate that women say that they have been able to walk down the street with their heads held higher and debate and action have made a lot of men recognise the extent of the problem. I urge the House to listen to the experiences of the women of Nottingham and of the increasing areas of the country where people have had their experience understood and recorded and apply that to the victims of domestic abuse.

The noble Baroness, Lady Fox, linked the amendment and support for it to the current level of rightful anger in the country following the death of Sarah Everard, but as the noble Lord, Lord Russell, pointed out, the proposal originated far before that. Indeed, I have to pay tribute to the deputy leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Amelia Womack, who has bravely publicly identified herself as a victim of domestic abuse and who has been campaigning on this issue for many years.

In response to the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, about potential confusion, any examination of what has happened in Nottingham shows that real-world experience does not demonstrate significant difficulties.

It is said often that we have an epidemic of misogyny and violence against women, but my science background makes me want to be precise in my use of epidemiological wording. We have endemic misogyny. “Endemic” defines a disease that is always present in a certain population or region. Smallpox was once an endemic disease in much of the world, but we have almost eradicated it. We need to have the same target in mind, as distant as it may look, for misogyny. That is the only way that women and girls can be safe. I do not think I can put it any better, so I will finish by quoting Mel Jeffs, the former CEO of Nottingham Women’s Centre:

“Misogyny is the soil in which violence against women grows.”

Baroness Grey-Thompson Portrait Baroness Grey-Thompson (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, for her work in this area. The figures that she mentioned are terrifying, and I agree with many of her points.

I received a number of emails asking me to speak to this amendment because of the level of concern about misogyny. Like many others, I am tired of misogynistic behaviour and appalled by the way that women are still treated in society. However, what looks like a simple amendment that I could support is in fact far more complicated. The amendment does not explicitly state the word “misogyny”, and to me the inclusion of the word “perception” is not precise enough.

I am grateful for the various views from other noble Lords and, as always, the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, has given me much to think about and challenged my views about what misogyny actually is. I am still inclined towards a legal framework for it, but I am tired of women having to change their behaviour because of it.

However, we need to consider what we can do to prevent, report and tackle it, and which legislation it should be placed in. Both men and women are affected by domestic violence and all those affected by it deserve protection, but women are undoubtedly more commonly victims. There is only one place in the Bill where the word “female” is used and we should take absolute care with it because it is the only place where women are centred in the legislation.

Domestic abuse legislation is complicated; it should not be, but it is. Last week the Government told me that including a specific provision in the Bill for disabled people who experience abuse in the domestic environment would be too complicated. I am strongly in favour of improving law enforcement around violence against women and girls, which we desperately need, but, while I am moving towards the idea of having a legal framework for misogyny, I do not think the Bill is the right vehicle for it. We should spend more time and care on the question of hate crimes—I am particularly keen to look at disability hate crimes—than on an amendment that comes towards the end of the Bill. We should have an opportunity to explore more options to enable us to do the job that we want it to: offering protection to women and girls.

Counting women should not be complicated. The amendment is largely about the counting aspect of hate crimes. How do the police measure how many crimes of male violence against women are reported and how many are prosecuted? That is fundamental, and this is where it does not need to be complicated. Scotland passed a Bill on hate crimes last week and excluded women and misogyny from it, saying that the issue was too complicated. There is a working group led by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, and many will be interested in its outcome, but that will not be for many months.

I understand that the word “gender” was added to the amendment after previous stages in another place. Earlier versions used the correct legal definition of “sex” and did not have the late insertion of “or gender” so that has not been through lengthy scrutiny. I am concerned that adding “gender” here takes away from the clarity of Clause 73 in centering women. I reiterate that anyone who experiences domestic abuse deserves support and protection. Gender is neither definable nor defined in law, so including it here could undermine the single use of the word “female” in the Bill, again given that it is women who are disproportionately affected by domestic abuse. Surely we should be concerned about whether the police take crimes of violence, abuse and sexual harassment against women seriously, not what they perceive the attitude of the perpetrator towards the idea of sex or gender to be. Sex is a protected characteristic and defined in law, and is adequate to cover the intention of the amendment if it goes forward.

The Law Commission is developing a proposal on reforming hate crimes legislation and has consulted on it. It has an open question on whether include sex or gender in future, and that section alone runs to 43 pages out of a 544-page document. I understand that it received a great number of responses but, again, it will not be reporting any time soon, so it is important that we do not prejudge that outcome. It is also notable that the Law Commission’s proposal draws on the Office for National Statistics in setting out what it means by sex and gender. After the ruling announced this morning from the High Court, it may need to go back to the drawing board. My noble friend Lord Pannick, who is unable to be in his place today, has stated that he thinks it would be very unwise to legislate on this sensitive issue until we see the Law Commission consultation.

Scotland recently removed the word “gender” from a Bill on forensic medical services for victims of sexual offences to ensure that if a woman asks to be examined by a female doctor, there is no confusion or negotiation about what that means. I would also be really interested in the opinion of the domestic abuse commissioner on this amendment, particularly on the addition of the word “gender”.

My worry is that including gender and sex as a caveat to the word “female” in the guidance would prevent domestic violence services being clear about sex. Women who have been victims of domestic abuse need to be able to access female-only services if they choose and, again, all victims of domestic abuse need to be able to access services that offer support and protection. We must take misogyny and violence against women seriously, not just seek to be seen to do something when the issue is in the headlines. It happens every single day.

The Government have just reopened the consultation on their violence against women and girls strategy. Surely that is the right place to be dealing with this complex issue, rather than via this last-minute amendment and its additional wording.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, I am pleased to speak in support of Amendment 87B, moved by my noble friend Lady Kennedy of Cradley and supported by the noble Lords, Lord Russell of Liverpool and Lord Young of Cookham. My noble friend gave the House some harrowing facts and figures today. They were shocking and, for me, illustrate why the Government need to act. This is not a time to hide away; it is the time to step up, and my noble friend’s amendment does just that.

The noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, led the debate on misogyny in Committee. We have spent considerable time during the Bill talking about violence, and violence directed towards women. As the noble Lord told us, this hostility against women generates a culture in which violence and abuse are tolerated, excused and repeated. Understanding how that interplays with domestic abuse is important; I agree entirely with the noble Lord’s comments and analysis there.

We need a culture change, from one where violence and abuse can be excused, tolerated and repeated to one where it is entirely unacceptable and not tolerated. To bring about that culture change, however, we need evidence, and that is what the amendment is all about. All through the passage of the Bill in your Lordships’ House, we have heard appalling examples of violence and tragic outcomes, in which often women victims of violence have been killed. In the examples given to this House there is a common factor of repeated reports being made to the police and other authorities but little or no action being taken until, tragically, it is often too late.

Several police forces have started to record misogyny as a hate crime, and that is enabling valuable data to be collected. The amendment from my noble friend Lady Kennedy of Cradley would move us further forward and require all police forces to record this information and access how it influences the incidence of domestic abuse. That would add to our understanding and help the Government in their difficult task of addressing this truly terrible situation. Sadly, that has been brought sharply into focus by the murder of Sarah Everard and the events on Clapham Common last weekend.

I am also clear that both men and women may experience incidents of violence and abuse. Nothing that I have said previously detracts from that, and we have all been moved by the contributions of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, in previous debates. I agree with many of his points today, but possibly not with his conclusion. I think the amendment is a step forward, and this is an issue on which many of us agree. The noble Lord knows that I like and respect him very much, but I believe that women are more likely to experience repeated and severe abuse, including sexual abuse. I remind him of the dreadful fact that my noble friend Lady Royall of Blaisdon told the House: 30 women were killed by their partner or ex-partner between Second Reading of the Bill and Committee on Monday night, and she read out the names of those women to the House.

I too pay tribute to Sue Fish, the retired chief constable of Nottinghamshire, for the work that she and all the officers and staff of Nottinghamshire Police have done in this area since 2016. It has become the first police force to enable women and girls to report cases of abuse and harassment as misogyny. As my noble friend Lady Kennedy of Cradley said, thanks to the work taking place there, women in Nottinghamshire have been coming forward and reporting crimes. The noble Lord, Lord Russell, reminded us in Committee that to recognise misogyny as a category of hate crime would not make anything illegal that was not already illegal; instead, the amendment would enable a better understanding of the forms of violence and abuse that women experience by ensuring that they are all recorded effectively.

I am aware of the Law Commission’s review that is presently under way. I believe that the amendment would help it with that review, even just for a few months before it reports, and would further supplement the Government’s work in looking at the review and give them valuable data to enable them to respond positively. I am also aware of the interim report from the Law Commission and its views on sex and gender.

I concur with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham. I believe that the intent behind this amendment will assist the Government in dealing with the appalling events that have been brought more sharply into focus not only last weekend but also during the discussions on this Bill.

The contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, was interesting, although it is not one that had much in it that I can agree with. For me, this is not an issue of free speech; it is an issue of dealing with the most appalling violence against women and girls and how we can deal with that effectively. I support my noble friend Lady Kennedy of Cradley, and the Labour Benches will support her if she decides to divide the House. However, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, will respond positively and thus make a vote unnecessary.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in what has been an incredibly thoughtful debate, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, for her rather timely retabling of this amendment, which in Committee was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool. The noble Baroness has highlighted how the collection of data could add to our understanding of the nature of hate crimes against women and thereby find ways of tackling it, and I agree on that. Perhaps I may make it absolutely clear to the noble Baroness that we are more than willing to engage on the issue of data collection. Not only is it crucial to our understanding of the issue, it will enable us to find solutions to some of the problems we face.

I have read the article about Sue Fish’s appearance on “Woman’s Hour”. I was rather taken aback that the woman who had instigated the collection of data in Nottingham said that she would be reluctant to come forward about something that happened to her personally because of some of the prejudice that she felt she might face. That should give us all pause for thought about the issue at hand.

I join with other noble Lords in being appalled and shocked at the killing of Sarah Everard, and again our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends. As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has pointed out, criminal proceedings are under way, but this brings into sharp focus the need to protect women and girls from violence. The Government are of course deeply committed to tackling all forms of violence against women and girls, and this Bill is a testament to that. We have also brought forward a number of measures in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which just last week was introduced in the House of Commons, to strengthen the management of sex offenders and those who pose a risk.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham, who said that we should not react in a knee-jerk way. I do not think that we have done that in this Bill, but I have given this issue much thought. We need to do more to keep women and girls safe from harassment, abuse, sexual and other violence, That is why in December we launched a call for evidence to inform our forthcoming Ending Violence Against Women and Girls strategy. When it closed last month, it had already received more than 19,000 responses, and in recognition of the renewed debate on women’s safety in recent days, we have now reopened it for a further two weeks to 26 March. We have already received over 120,000 responses and I would encourage the public to share their views. We will use the responses to develop a strategy to better target perpetrators and to support victims and survivors. Our aim is to publish the new strategy by the summer.

I cannot but agree wholeheartedly that all hate crimes are abhorrent and should be dealt with using the full force of the law, regardless of gender or any other characteristic. I made the position of the Government quite plain in Committee that all crimes motivated by hatred are totally unacceptable and have no place in our society. I also set out that this was the reason why, in 2018, as part of the Government’s updating of our hate crime action plan, we asked the Law Commission to undertake a review of the current hate crime legislation. This includes a review of whether other protected characteristics such as sex, gender and age should be included.

During the course of the review in 2019 and last year, the Law Commission organised events across England and Wales, speaking to as many people as possible who have an interest in this area of the law. We asked the commission to look at the current range of offences and aggravating factors in sentencing, and to make recommendations on the most appropriate models to ensure that the criminal law provides consistent and effective protection from conduct motivated by hatred towards protected groups or characteristics. In addition, the review took account of the existing range of protected characteristics to identify potential gaps in the legislation so that the review could make recommendations to ensure consistency of approach. As noble Lords will know, the consultation of the Law Commission to support the review closed in December. In that consultation, it focused on the issue of whether sex or gender should be added to hate crime law, noting that adding misogyny by itself might introduce inconsistencies to hate crime laws.

The Law Commission has pointed out that this is complex. Its consultation has highlighted a number of issues that need further consideration to ensure that adding sex or gender to the hate crime framework brings greater rather than less effectiveness to the law. This includes ensuring that linking domestic abuse and sex-based hostility does not create a hierarchy of harm in those cases of abuse where a sex-based hostility is more difficult to demonstrate and is seen as being less important. The Law Commission also talked about the need to ensure that the law itself is coherent, which is why it has been discussing the possibility of carve-outs to ensure that domestic abuse legislation does not conflict with how hate crime laws operate. These are just two examples of the complexity of this issue that the Law Commission is still working through.

I shall go back to the point made by my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham. Before we make long-term decisions on changes to police recording practices in this area, I still think that we should wait for the outcome of the Law Commission’s review, which is an in-depth and wide-ranging one into the complex area of hate crime. Moreover, I do not think that further legislation is required. Section 44 of the Police Act 1996 already allows the Secretary of State to require chief officers of police to provide information relating to policing in their area. This might include statistical or other information related to policing, crime and disorder. It provides the statutory basis for the annual data requirement from police forces in England and Wales, which includes recorded hate crime.

While the amendment is not needed, as the necessary powers are already in place to require forces to provide information of this kind, we agree that data can be helpful and we know that some police forces like Nottingham are already collecting it. I advise the House that, on an experimental basis, we will ask police forces to identify and record any crimes of violence against the person, including stalking and harassment, as well as sexual offences where the victim perceives it to have been motivated by a hostility based on their sex. As I have said, this can then inform longer-term decisions once we have considered the recommendations made by the Law Commission. We will shortly begin the consultation with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and forces on this with a view to commencing the experimental collection of data from this autumn.

In response to the question put by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, and the noble Lords, Lord Russell and Lord Paddick, the detail of the consultation is still to be worked through. That is not to exclude gender, but just to say that the detail remains to be worked out. In giving this undertaking and in the knowledge that the necessary legislation is already in place, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, will be happy to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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I have received two requests to speak after the Minister, from the noble Lords, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath and Lord Russell of Liverpool. I will call them in that order.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I warmly thank my noble friend Lady Kennedy and the Minister for her response. Can the Minister confirm that the Nottinghamshire Police official definition is the following:

“Incidents against women that are motivated by an attitude of a man towards a woman and includes behaviour targeted towards a woman by men simply because they are a woman”?

I take it that there is no question of introducing the sex or gender terminology used in this amendment, which is different from the amendment moved in Committee, and has certainly not been endorsed by the Law Commission.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) [V]
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The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, is absolutely correct about what Nottinghamshire Police records. I cannot confirm what the conclusion will ultimately be, but I have said that I will consult.

Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait Lord Russell of Liverpool (CB)
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I thank the Minister very much for that helpful response. I would like clarification on how we are going to proceed. Does she agree that the police forces currently recording crimes such as misogyny are doing so slightly differently in each case, because each police force has decided to interpret it in its own way? What the Minister’s department is about do to with the National Police Chiefs’ Council is to look at the different ways different police forces currently collect this data. I imagine she will also work with the Law Commission to take into account its evidence taken on sex and gender and its interim recommendations. Therefore, she will come out with a clarification of the guidance to be given to all police forces in England and Wales.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) [V]
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I can confirm that to the noble Lord. I think a bit of consistency here would be very helpful to give us the information we seek.

Baroness Kennedy of Cradley Portrait Baroness Kennedy of Cradley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken today, in particular the noble Lords, Lord Russell of Liverpool and Lord Young of Cookham, who championed this amendment in Committee and again in this debate. I also pay tribute to the many campaigners and women who have taken time to contact noble Lords, as outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham. I also pay tribute to my colleagues in the other place, namely the Member of Parliament for Walthamstow, Stella Creasy, and the Member of Parliament for Birmingham Yardley, Jess Phillips, for all their determined work in fighting for action to end violence against women and girls.

I particularly agree with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham. This data would add to the Law Commission’s consultation and broaden the evidence base to allow us to move forward. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, who gave us a poignant reminder of the shocking figure of the number of women who have lost their lives since we started the debate. I agree with his assessment that this amendment would help us deal with the culture of misogyny and sexism in our country.

Regarding the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, I respect his knowledge and experience as a former serving police officer. His insight is invaluable, and I hope he will support the offer from the Minister today and agree that this is a first step to record data. If data is not recorded, it is hidden. Data shines a light on an issue and allows it to be addressed. I will be with him, by his side, in future legislation to ensure that misogyny becomes a hate crime, which I believe the majority of the House wishes to see.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, for reminding us to think of the victims of the Atlanta shooting—our thoughts are with them—and for her clear explanation of her support and of why and how the work of Nottinghamshire Police has been important. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Grey- Thompson: women are tired—tired of changing our behaviour to keep ourselves safe.

Therefore, I thank the Minister for her response and her confirmation that, starting this autumn, the Government will require police forces to record and flag any crimes of violence against the person, including stalking, harassment and sexual offences, where the victim perceives it as motivated by sex and gender-based hostility. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, for seeking that clarification. This commitment is extremely welcome.

In the police forces already doing this, not only has it helped with detecting crime, it has helped with confidence in the police and changing the culture within the police about how to deal with violence against women. I thank the noble Baroness for confirming that the Government will move forward in this way and thank her for the way she has, as always, sought to engage positively with Members of this House to reach a consensus.

Now all police forces will begin to record this critical data from the autumn. By recording crime targeted at women, I believe we can more effectively address violence against women and girls and the police response to it. As the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, said, we should remind ourselves that violence against women and girls should be an issue that unites us, not divides us. As such, I withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 87B withdrawn.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, indicated that she may press Amendment 87C to a Division. Does she wish to move it?

Amendment 87C

Tabled by

87C: After Clause 72, insert the following new Clause—

“Transfer of joint tenancies and survivors of domestic abuse

(1) This section applies where there are two or more joint tenants under a secure or assured tenancy and the landlord is a local housing authority or a private registered provider of social housing.(2) If one joint tenant (“A”) has experienced domestic abuse from another joint tenant (“B”) then A may apply to the county court for an order that B is removed as a joint tenant, such application to be on notice to B, any other joint tenant, and the landlord.(3) For the purposes of subsection (2) it is sufficient that the domestic abuse was directed at A or to anyone who might reasonably be expected to reside with A.(4) On such an application, the court must take the following approach—(a) the court must be satisfied that the tenancy is affordable for A, or will be so within a reasonable period of time;(b) if the court is so satisfied, then—(i) if B has been convicted of an offence related to domestic abuse against A or anyone who might reasonably be expected to reside with A, the court must make an order under this section;(ii) if B has been given a domestic abuse protection notice under section 20, or a domestic abuse protection order has been made against B under section 26, or B is currently subject to an injunction or restraining order in relation to A, or a person who might be reasonably expected to reside with A, the court may make an order under this section;(iii) if the application does not fall within sub-paragraph (i) or (ii), then the court may make such an order if it thinks it fit to do so; (c) for the purposes of subsection (4)(b)(ii), the court must adopt the following approach—(i) if B does not oppose the making of such an order, then the court must make it;(ii) if B does oppose the making of such an order then it is for B to satisfy the court that, as at the date of the hearing, there are exceptional circumstances which mean that the only way to do justice between A and B is for the order to be refused.(5) Where A has made such an application to the court, any notice to quit served by B shall be of no effect until determination of A’s application or any subsequent appeal.(6) Notwithstanding any rule of common law to the contrary, the effect of an order under this section is that the tenancy continues for all purposes as if B had never been a joint tenant, save that B remains liable on a joint and several basis for any debts, arrears or penalties accrued prior to the making of an order under this section.(7) For the purposes of this section, an offence related to domestic abuse includes, as against A or anyone who might be reasonably expected to reside with A, an offence of violence, threats of violence, criminal damage to property, rape, other offences of sexual violence or harassment, coercive control, breach of injunction, breach of restraining order, or breach of domestic abuse protection order.(8) In section 88(2) of the Housing Act 1985, after “section 17(1) of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (property adjustment orders after overseas divorce, &c.)” insert “, or section (Transfer of joint tenancies and survivors of domestic abuse) of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021,”.(9) In section 91(3)(b) of the Housing Act 1985, after sub-paragraph (iv), insert—“(v) section (Transfer of joint tenancies and survivors of domestic abuse) of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021;”.(10) In section 99B(2)(e) of the Housing Act 1985 (persons qualifying for compensation for improvements), after sub-paragraph (iv) insert—“(v) section (Transfer of joint tenancies and survivors of domestic abuse) of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021;”.(11) This section comes into force on a day appointed by the Secretary of State in regulations.”

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB) [V]
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My Lords, relying on the Minister’s very constructive commitment that there will be a consultation in the summer, followed by action as speedily as possible and legislation if appropriate, this amendment is not moved.

Amendment 87C not moved.

Clause 73: Power of Secretary of State to issue guidance about domestic abuse, etc

Amendment 88

Moved by

88: Clause 73, page 58, line 19, at end insert—

“( ) section (Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship),”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the proposed new Clause in the name of Baroness Lister of Burtersett that amends section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015.

Amendment 88 agreed.

Amendments 89 and 89A

Moved by

89: Clause 73, page 58, line 19, at end insert—

“( ) section (Strangulation or suffocation),”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the proposed new Clause in the name of Baroness Newlove that provides for an offence of strangulation or suffocation.

89A: Clause 73, page 58, line 21, at end insert “, or

( ) section (Prohibition on charging for the provision of medical evidence of domestic abuse) so far as relating to England;”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment gives the Secretary of State power to issue guidance about the proposed amendment in the name of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar which prevents certain health care professionals who either assess a patient under an NHS contract, or provide services wholly or mainly under an NHS contract, from charging victims of domestic abuse for the provision of evidence of their injuries.

Amendments 89 and 89A agreed.

Amendment 90 not moved.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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We now come to the group consisting of Amendment 91. Anyone wishing to press this amendment to a Division must make that clear in debate.

Amendment 91

Moved by

91: Clause 73, page 58, line 32, at end insert “and any strategy to end violence against women and girls adopted by a Minister of the Crown.”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment ensures that statutory guidance issued alongside the Domestic Abuse Bill takes into account any violence against women and girls (VAWG) strategy adopted by the Government, so that efforts to prevent and address domestic abuse are linked to integrated and coordinated responses to tackle VAWG.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I speak to Amendment 91 in my name and those of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester and the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson of Abinger. I am grateful for their support on this important issue. I am also grateful to the End Violence Against Women Coalition, which has helped with the amendment.

The amendment is very modest. It simply ensures that the statutory guidance on the Bill takes into account any violence against women and girls strategy adopted by the Government, to ensure that efforts to prevent and address domestic abuse are co-ordinated and integrated with wider VAWG strategies.

We have retabled this amendment on Report, in part because it rather got lost in debate on the lead amendment it was grouped with in Committee, but more importantly because we were at a loss at to why the Government did not feel able to accept an amendment which does no more than give legislative underpinning to what they claim is their intention.

We are extremely grateful to the Minister, who found time to see us and for the frank discussion we had. However, we came away even more puzzled because it seemed that we agreed on all the arguments relating to the amendment other than the need for the amendment itself.

The amendment has the support of the domestic abuse commissioner-designate and is also one of a small number of amendments that the EHRC have briefed in support of. The latter points out the overlap between domestic abuse and many other forms of VAWG, such as rape and sexual assault. They cite statistics that show that most rapes and sexual assaults are carried out in the context of domestic abuse. Indeed, a Home Office fact sheet on the domestic abuse commissioner states:

“We believe that there is merit in introducing a Domestic Abuse Commissioner specifically to focus on the issues affecting victims of Domestic Abuse. However, we know that a large proportion of sexual violence occurs within a domestic context, and the Commissioner will play an important role in raising awareness and standards of service provision across all forms of Violence Against Women and Girls.”

Why is there resistance to an amendment that simply reflects this position?

The Home Office statement shows that it is quite possible to make an explicit link with to VAWG without in any way diluting the focus on domestic abuse. Moreover, the Minister acknowledged in Committee that

“domestic abuse is, at its core, a subset of wider crimes against women and girls”,—[Official Report, 10/2/21; col. 427.]

which is not to deny that men and boys can also be victims. So in the interests of coherence and a holistic approach, it surely makes sense for the statutory guidance explicitly to reflect that.

The Minister also said in Committee:

“We know that victims’ needs must be at the centre of our approach to domestic abuse.”—[Official Report, 10/2/21; col. 425.]

As the Minister well knows, as evidenced by the lived experience of organisations on the ground, in practice those needs all too often cannot be neatly separated out into domestic abuse and other forms of VAWG. Again, this needs to be recognised in the statutory guidance. Yet in Committee, the Minister said that the amendment was not necessary and that Clause 73(3), which the amendment seeks to augment, is sufficient. That really was her only argument against it. The existing subsection, which was inserted by the Government in response to calls for an explicitly gendered approach, requires account to be taken, so far as is relevant, of the fact that the majority of domestic abuse victims are female, but it says nothing about violence against women and girls as such. The amendment would complement and strengthen the subsection.

The EHRC certainly does not agree that the existing clause is sufficient, nor do the many organisations on the ground working with women subjected to violence in its many forms, including domestic abuse. I will not repeat their wider arguments about the separation of the domestic abuse and VAWG strategies that I made in Committee, but it is important to understand the sector’s concern about this because it provides a context for the amendment. Indeed, EVAW and 11 other specialist organisations with expertise in supporting survivors of domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women wrote to the Minister last week urging her to support the amendment. Please do not underestimate the message it is sending out to these and other stakeholders, which are already very unhappy about the separation of the strategies. If the Government continue to hold out against this minimalist amendment, I am pretty sure that it will be taken as evidence that, for all their fine words, they will not pursue an integrated approach to violence against women and girls and domestic abuse. Symbols matter, and refusal to accept the amendment will be seen as a pretty negative symbol.

Even if the sector’s fears are unfounded, there is another reason why the amendment is necessary. We all appreciate the commitment of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and Victoria Atkins, the other Minister with responsibility for these matters, but Ministers do not remain in their positions forever. Indeed, I have already read speculation that the latter might be heading for the Cabinet. Future Ministers might not share their understanding of the symbiotic relationship between VAWG and domestic abuse. Requirement by law of explicit reference to that in the guidance would future-proof the guidance. Moreover, it would help to ensure compliance with Article 7 of the Istanbul convention, which requires

“a holistic response to violence against women”,

which of course includes domestic abuse.

At a time when public attention is rightly focused on violence against women in the public sphere, it is all the more important that the Bill, through the statutory guidance, makes explicit the link between domestic abuse and the many forms of violence against women that are even more prevalent in the private domestic sphere. It is not too late for the Government to accept this extremely modest amendment, or to signal that they will bring forward their own amendment at Third Reading. There really is no convincing argument against it and recent distressing events have strengthened the arguments for it. I beg to move.

Baroness Hodgson of Abinger Portrait Baroness Hodgson of Abinger (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I shall speak in support of Amendment 91, to which I added my name, and which has been so ably moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. I note my interests in this area as declared in Committee.

I too am very grateful to my noble friend the Minister for finding the time to talk to us about this. However, as I have said before, it is important that the VAWG strategy is referenced in the Bill, because separate domestic abuse and violence against women strategies, albeit complementary ones, will not be more effective than an integrated one. As we have already heard, it is something that a number of organisations working in this space have highlighted as a gap that is very important to address, especially in the light of the events of this past week. This short amendment would neatly remedy this issue, and I hope that the Minister will undertake to think again and accept it.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester [V]
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My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendment 91. I am very grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Lister and Lady Hodgson, for their very clear explanations of it.

The Government have said that they will ratify the Istanbul convention with this Bill. Article 7 requires “a holistic response” to ending violence against women and girls. As has been said, all that Amendment 91 seeks to ensure is that there is coherent join-up. The statutory guidance issued alongside the Bill must be linked with any violence against women and girls framework.

It was very good to hear the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, say last week in response to the amendments on Jewish marriage that a larger section on faith and spiritual abuse is in the draft guidance, following work with the Faith and VAWG Coalition, which a number of us have requested. Amendment 91 simply seeks to add similar coherence.

As has been said, I am extremely grateful to the Ministers here now, who are passionate about the Bill and committed to ensuring that we join the dots, but that might not always be so. Therefore, we cannot rely on good intention alone.

I confess that I am utterly bewildered and baffled as to why the amendment is being resisted, given that it would simply ensure that the guidance is clear about the right hand and the left hand being co-ordinated. If there is nervousness about a focus on women and girls, the reality is that the Government have committed to a VAWG strategy. They do not have a violence against men and boys strategy; if they did, we would ask for it to be named and linked in as well. Not accepting the amendment, which is simply about the statutory guidance, will make a very strong negative statement, not least at this poignant time.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, Clause 73(3) is the one and only reference in the Bill to the fact that the majority of victims of domestic abuse are female. This is therefore an important part of the guidance that should stand alone as fact, unencumbered. Also, adding in a link to

“any strategy to end violence against women and girls adopted by a Minister of the Crown”

seems far too open-ended politically. None of us here knows what the strategy might comprise. Will we agree with that strategy, and should we have blind trust in Ministers of the Crown? It seems like a rather unreliable hostage to fortune.

I am also nervous that this again takes us into the murky area of contested political explanations of domestic abuse, in the name of joining the dots. The Bill, rightly, gives both practical support to victims of domestic abuse, and criminal redress. Its job is not to supply a closed narrative. I am all for political debate on these issues, but statutory guidance could close down such a debate. There is a debate to be had on these matters, because we do not all agree—and we do not all need to agree—on the causes of violence against women or domestic abuse.

As a generalisation, we can say that women have different and, sometimes, more negative experiences of dealing with public life than men. That does not mean that we can assume that all women share common experiences. Age, income, work, education and class also shape women’s lives. One of the most regressive aspects of today’s identity politics is the tendency to assume that women’s experiences are undifferentiated, that any violence aimed at women is one type of violence and that women’s opinions about those experiences are uniform and easy to package up in a strategy. Take the way that Sarah’s kidnap and murder have been linked to victims of domestic violence, her name read out alongside the names of female victims killed in very different circumstances and then explained as proof that we are witnessing misogynistic femicide. That makes me feel queasy.

Not all women and female victims agree with the idea that all men are a threat or that all women are vulnerable and need protection. Sadly, if one challenges the dominant narrative, one can get an unpleasant response. When criminologist Professor Marian FitzGerald pointed out, on Radio 4’s “Today” programme, that women should not be unduly fearful, citing statistics such as 11% of women who are victims of homicide are murdered in public, compared to 33% of men, she was rounded on, denounced and abused—mainly by women activists, sadly—who accused her of downplaying the threat to women.

Similarly, Davina McCall, the TV presenter, wanted to temper quite a high-octane atmosphere on social media and tweeted to her 2.7 million followers that

“Female abduction/murder is extremely rare. Yes we should all be vigilant when out alone. But this level of fear-mongering isn’t healthy. And men’s mental health is an issue as well. Calling all men out as dangerous is bad for our sons, brothers, partners.”

I thought it a well-intentioned tweet, reasonable and humane—a sentiment that she shared in good faith. But it led to a Twitter pile-on, vicious and nasty diatribes, uncharitable headlines and the infamous accusation that Davina McCall was one of those women suffering internalised misogyny. I say this because it is not good enough just to say that we all know what we mean by the continuum of domestic abuse and violence against women and girls. It is more complicated than that.

During all stages of this Bill, noble Lords shared testimonies for the record and I will give my last words to Helena Edwards, one of Sarah’s friends who wrote an incredibly moving article that goes against the prevailing narrative but is worth listening to. This is what she said:

“As for us, her friends? Let us grieve for our loved one, brutally taken in such an awful way. The … misuse of it by those with an ‘agenda’ is not a comfort to us. As a 33-year-old woman, what will I take from this? I am reminded that life is short, and I will try to live mine to the full. Of course, I will be sensible and maybe take a few more taxis than I used to. But I will not live in fear. As soon as lockdown is over, I am going to go out, celebrate, get drunk with my mates in a pub … dance, laugh, cry, hug people and be grateful that I am alive.”

We all deal with tragedies differently. We are all entitled to draw different lessons from events. Sarah’s death has sparked a national conversation, but let us not allow it to become a one-sided monologue or an official strategy. Whatever one’s view, the rightful place for such debates is lively discussion in the public square, not statutory guidance. There is much to admire in this Bill on domestic abuse, but linking it to the strategy to end violence against women and girls is a hostage to fortune that does the Bill no service. In that spirit, I am opposed to this amendment.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD) [V]
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My Lords, with the leave of the House, I just want to get something off my chest. With the greatest respect, I remind the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, that this debate was delayed by 45 minutes because the previous business overran. It is essential that we give this important Bill the consideration that it deserves.

Clause 73(3) of the Bill, as currently drafted, requires that any guidance about domestic abuse issued by the Secretary of State

“must, so far as relevant, take account of the fact that the majority of victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales … are female.”

I expressed concerns in Committee about the importance of not excluding victims of domestic abuse who are not women or victims of male violence from the provisions of the Bill, including any statutory guidance by the Secretary of State. One-third of all victims of domestic abuse are male, and some women victims will be in same-sex relationships—to give but two examples. I was reassured on these points by the Minister’s response from the Dispatch Box in Committee.

But the majority of victims of domestic abuse are victims of male violence, and it makes absolute sense that any guidance about domestic abuse, as far as relevant, takes into account any government strategy to end violence against women and girls. We will support this amendment if the Minister cannot give sufficient reassurance that it is not necessary to include the wording in the Bill.

Baroness Wilcox of Newport Portrait Baroness Wilcox of Newport (Lab) [V]
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My noble friend Lady Lister said at Second Reading that

“the Bill should state explicitly that the statutory guidance must take account of the VAWG strategy. Failure to do so ignores the reality of women’s experiences”.—[Official Report, 5/1/21; col. 40.]

On that day in January, we could not have predicted that the violent reality of women’s experiences would be brought into such sharp relief by the terrible tragedy of the abduction and murder of Sarah Everard last week and the subsequent scenes of protest by women across the United Kingdom.

Many decades ago, I taught at Priory Park School in Clapham. I lived in Helix Road in Brixton and walked those same streets as a young woman. They are some of the capital’s most populated, brightly lit and well-walked paths. Women across the country took to social media to discuss their experiences of walking the streets and the lengths that they went to in feeling safe. Many testimonies exposed stories of being followed, harassed, catcalled, assaulted and exposed to by men. In the year to last March, 207 women were killed in Great Britain and 57% of female victims were killed by someone they knew—most commonly a partner or ex-partner.

The Prime Minister said about the Sarah Everard tragedy that her death

“must unite us in determination to drive out violence against women and girls and make every part of the criminal justice system work to protect and defend them.”

I respectfully suggest to Mr Johnson that he begins by looking at some of the legislation already passed by the Welsh Government in this area. Their Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 required local authorities and health boards to prepare a strategy to tackle violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

As the leader of Newport, my cabinet approved the Gwent VAWDASV strategy in May 2018. It contained six regional priorities that are today being delivered locally. It is a tangible and practical application of lawmaking, which is helping to change perceptions and promote recognition of such suffering in our society. In this House and from this shadow Front Bench, I am determined to keep making those differences to people’s lives in the wider context of the UK Government’s ability to make laws that will help to prevent domestic abuse and support the survivors of such abuse. I strongly support the inclusion of Amendment 91 in the Bill.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I start by acknowledging the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, on what Helena Edwards said—that is something upon which we should all reflect.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, said, Amendment 91 relates to the linkages between domestic abuse and wider violence against women and girls. The Government are working on two new strategies, due to be published later this year, the first of which is a violence against women and girls strategy, replacing the old one, which expired in March 2020, followed by a complementary domestic abuse strategy. The amendment seeks to ensure that any guidance issued under Clause 73 of the Bill takes into account

“any strategy to end violence against women and girls adopted by a Minister of the Crown.”

The main concerns raised by proponents of the amendment centre around the Government’s decision not to produce a single, integrated violence against women and girls strategy that includes domestic abuse. This has wrongly been interpreted as an attempt to downplay the gendered nature of domestic abuse.

It is irrefutable that, while anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, it is a crime of which the majority of victims are women. We recognise the gendered nature of domestic abuse, and the Bill acknowledges this in Clause 73(3), which provides:

“Any guidance issued under this section must ... take account of the fact that the majority of victims of domestic abuse ... are female.”

The draft guidance we have published does just that. We have been clear that the two strategies will complement each other and that the Government fully recognise that domestic abuse is a subset of violence against women and girls.

The Bill is focused on domestic abuse, and for good reason. Domestic abuse is one of the most common crime types, with 2.3 million victims a year, and the cause of tackling it and providing better support and protection for victims is deserving and indeed requires its own Bill, commissioner and strategy. We are producing a separate but complementary domestic abuse strategy in order to continue working on the excellent provisions created by the Bill because, as I have said, domestic abuse deserves this unique consideration.

I reiterate that, in producing a discrete domestic abuse strategy, the intention is to create space to focus on this high-harm and high-prevalence form of VAWG, while allowing space for other VAWG crimes to be considered as part of the VAWG strategy. The two strategies will work together to drive down VAWG crimes and their impact on society, and both strategies will continue to recognise the gendered nature of these crimes. As I have said, the strategies will complement each other and share much of the same framework and evidence.

We recently concluded the call for evidence for the violence against women and girls strategy, through which we also welcomed evidence on domestic abuse. However, as I said in the previous debate—I now have an updated figure—we have reopened the call for evidence for two weeks to allow a further opportunity for everyone’s voice to be heard. As of last night, the call for evidence had received just shy of an incredible 137,000 responses, and I hope that we will now receive many more.

As such, we fully acknowledge the direct link between domestic abuse and violence against women and girls, but the Government do not think that this amendment is necessary or appropriate for a domestic abuse Bill. The Bill already recognises the gendered nature of domestic abuse, and we do not think that a reference to a separate VAWG strategy is directly relevant to the Bill. If it were to refer to any strategy, it should be the planned domestic abuse strategy, but, for the avoidance of doubt, I am not advocating an amendment to this effect.

I do not think that I have persuaded the noble Baroness; I hope that I have and that she will be content to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab) [V]
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I thank noble Lords and all who spoke in support of this amendment. I was puzzled by the intervention of the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, because most of it did not seem to be relevant to this amendment at all. I am even more puzzled and disappointed by the Minister’s response—I think she knew very well how I would respond. As far as I can see, the arguments have not moved on since Committee, whereas our argument has.

I deliberately did not emphasise too strongly the point about gender, although I believe in that. However, I cite the point made by the right reverend Prelate about the need for a holistic response, as called for by the Istanbul convention. The Minister said that, if any strategy were to be referenced, it should be the domestic abuse strategy, but of course that is not referenced in the Bill—the Bill is about domestic abuse. However, she herself has acknowledged the symbiotic link between domestic abuse and VAWG, so I ask her whether—I will not test the opinion of the House, tempting as it is—while she refuses to put this in the Bill, she can give us an assurance that, when the final version of the domestic abuse strategy goes out for consultation, it will include a clear recognition of a link with the VAWG strategy?

She said that they will share a “framework” and “complement” each other. Could she assure us, on the record, that this will be made explicit in the statutory guidance that goes out under this Bill?

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Watkins of Tavistock) (CB)
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I call the Minister to respond. Are you there?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con) [V]
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My host muted me and I could not unmute—I apologise for that temporary blip that delayed my response.

On the question about whether it will be explicitly referenced, I say that the two are so closely interlinked. The noble Baroness asked that question in all good faith, so I will write to her, telling her and giving detail on how one will reference the other.

Amendment 91 withdrawn.

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Watkins of Tavistock) (CB)
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We now come to the group consisting of Amendment 92. Anyone wishing to press this amendment to a Division must make that clear in the debate.

Amendment 92

Moved by

92: Clause 73, page 58, line 32, at end insert—

“( ) Any guidance under this section must include information on—(a) the links between—(i) domestic abuse, and(ii) speech, language and communication needs;(b) the impact of witnessing domestic abuse on children’s speech, language and communication; (c) the services available to support people with speech, language and communication needs who are experiencing domestic abuse and their children, including how support provided by local authorities can be made inclusive and accessible to people with speech, language and communication needs.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment would require that the guidance the Secretary of State issues under the Bill, including to local authorities, includes information on the links between domestic abuse and speech, language and communication needs, the impact of witnessing domestic abuse on children’s speech, language and communication, and the services available to support people with those needs, and their children.

Lord Ramsbotham Portrait Lord Ramsbotham (CB) [V]
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Amendment 92 is in my name and those of the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay of Llandaff and Lady Whitaker, and the noble Lord, Lord Shinkwin. As in Committee, I declare an interest as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Speech and Language Difficulties.

In Committee, I tabled a number of amendments designed to have the speech, language and communication needs of victims of domestic abuse and their children included in the Bill. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, for his response in Committee and for seeing me and a number of colleagues last week to discuss how this might be taken forward. I was particularly pleased to hear that officials were studying the issue, and I am pleased to learn from them that the Government are thinking of making revisions to the Bill before Royal Assent.

When moving a previous amendment, I reminded the House that many noble Lords often raised matters which they thought should be on the face of legislation during the detailed scrutiny that each Bill received in this House, which Bill teams almost invariably briefed their Ministers to turn down, but the method behind the apparent madness of the proposers of such amendments was that officials cannot be expected to know as much detail as professionals in the field, and their successors may well be grateful for having had their attention drawn to particular detail.

One example of this was quoted by the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, very movingly on the first day on Report, when she referred to the traumas suffered by one of her daughters after witnessing the horrific murder of her father, following which she required speech therapy. If the traumatic effects on children of witnessing horrific events such as domestic abuse had been set down somewhere, officials might know what to advise the victims. It makes sense for a Government to draw on the advice of experts in drawing up a Bill and, as they draw up this piece of legislation, I appeal to them to listen to the expertise of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, I CAN, the leading children’s communication charity, and the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers, all of which support the amendment.

The ability to communicate is a vital life skill, and early speech and language training an important factor in every child’s health and development—which I am glad the Minister recognises. As I said in Committee, those victims of domestic abuse who also face communication barriers are arguably among the most vulnerable, given the added difficulties that they face in asking for help. This is why the Government should make it abundantly clear that local authorities should consider what additional barriers they may have erected, preventing victims seeking refuge or access to other, safer accommodation services.

I have gone on quite long enough. My amendment is designed to provide a new opportunity for the Government to set out how they propose to issue guidance to local authorities under Part 4 of the Act. There are four aspects to any guidance, which will each be covered by a following speaker. The first is the link between domestic abuse and speech, language and communication needs. The second is the impact of witnessing domestic abuse on children’s speech, language and communication needs. The third is the services available to support people with speech, language and communication needs who are experiencing domestic abuse; and the fourth is how support provided by local authorities can be made inclusive and accessible to people with speech, language and communication needs. I beg to move.

Baroness Andrews Portrait Baroness Andrews (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and to support the work that he has done on this amendment from the start of the Bill. I will not repeat the arguments for the amendment because, frankly, I think the Government have got the point that children and adults with speech and language difficulties are at greater risk of abuse than others and are therefore among the most vulnerable victims of domestic abuse. They have asked for, deserve and should now be given extra protection. In the debate we have heard powerfully from many noble Lords how much support there is for action in this Bill which will help these children and adults, because they face not only physical abuse but collateral dangers such as other mental health issues, substance misuse, literacy difficulties, learning disabilities, brain injury, neurodiversity, cognitive issues and, for many, rough sleeping and homelessness.

Including references to speech, language and communication needs in the Bill’s statutory guidance is what we are after. If we do this, we can ensure that the issues can be properly addressed so that some of the most vulnerable people can access the support that they need. I think the Government will say this evening that they have listened, but what we are listening out for is assurances that the guidance itself will be explicit on this point.

To make the Government’s task easier, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists has done the hard work. The experts to which the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, referred have suggested a few specific ways of strengthening the guidance, and we are all grateful to them for their thoughtful and expert help throughout this Bill. They suggest:

“The Draft Statutory Guidance Framework might be strengthened by specifically referencing speech, language and communication needs in the following ways”,

I ask the House to bear with me while I read what they said. In chapter 2, “Understanding Domestic Abuse”, they said:

“Referring to speech, language and communication needs as a separate and specific intersectionality, inserting in Paragraph 58 that they are one of the barriers to people leaving … inserting in Paragraph 79 that they are one of the specific impairments that may result in people experiencing abuse.”

In chapter 4, “Agency Response to Domestic Abuse”, they suggest:

“Inserting in Paragraph 176 that they are a specific vulnerability and a barrier to disclosing information and seeking support”.

Finally, in chapter 5, “Commissioning Response to Domestic Abuse”, they say:

“Inserting a reference in Paragraph 232 that they are one of the diverse needs to which local strategies and services have to respond … Inserting a reference in Paragraph 247 that they are an additional barrier that people experiencing domestic abuse face. The Government could also usefully commit to ensuring that the national statement of expectations, which is due to be published later this year, references speech, language and communication needs.”

I will press the Minister to give us an answer, because these are modest but powerful changes. They should be accepted and incorporated in the guidance. As I said, this hard work has already been done for the Government. It is the least that the Government can now do. Having recognised that there is a specific problem, it can be addressed here, even if not entirely solved. We seek the Minister’s assurances that he will absolutely do this.

Lord Shinkwin Portrait Lord Shinkwin (Con)
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews. I shall focus my remarks on the first half of paragraph (c) in the amendment, which deals with

“the services available to support people with speech, language and communication needs who are experiencing domestic abuse and their children”.

I am sure that all noble Lords welcomed the Government’s assurance in Committee that they are committed to ensuring that victims of domestic abuse and their children get the right support to meet their individual needs. As we know, these are often multiple, complex and interlinked. That means that the right support will necessarily involve a whole range of different professionals in domestic abuse services, so that, first, those individual needs can be identified and, then, the appropriate support can be provided, both to the individuals and to the other professionals working with them.

It may sound to us like a no-brainer, but, of course, for those with communication needs, it is absolutely vital that the services provided include, as the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, so cogently argued, speech and language therapy services. It is worth considering for a moment what difference that provision can make to people who have experienced domestic abuse, their children and the professionals working with and supporting them. Is it marginal or insignificant? Perhaps it is just an optional extra.

I suggest that, before we answer, we just pause and place ourselves in their shoes. Let us imagine how much being unable to communicate would compound our sense of vulnerability, anxiety and distress, not to mention the real danger in which we as a victim might still be. Only when we have answered that question can we presume to say whether support really matters.

What does that support look like? I suggest that it has three key aspects. First, it would ensure that any communication needs that people who had experienced domestic abuse, or their children or the perpetrators of domestic abuse, might have were identified in a timely and professional manner. Secondly, it would ensure that the communication barriers to referrals, risk assessments, support programmes and perpetrators’ preventive and rehabilitative sessions were removed. Thirdly, and no less important, it would ensure that training was provided to professionals in communication needs, in how those needs present and in how to adapt assessments and interventions so that those with communication needs can access and benefit from risk assessments and support services. Such training would enable them to know when specialist involvement from speech and language therapy would be beneficial.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, explained, much has been made of the statutory guidance. We all know how important it is. That is why it is imperative that a reference to speech and language therapists be included as one of the professions that have a role to play in securing better outcomes for people who have experienced domestic abuse and their children, and in helping prevent domestic abuse by contributing to work with perpetrators.

How warmly an assurance on that point from my noble friend the Minister would be welcomed by me and other noble Lords, by the excellent Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists—of which I am proud to be a vice-president—and, of course, by victims of domestic abuse with communication needs, on whose behalf, as someone who himself has communication needs, I wholeheartedly support these amendments.

Lord Mann Portrait Lord Mann (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I do not intend to replicate the points made by three excellent and very focused contributions; my comments will be not be instead of but additional and complementary to those, but I will stick to my complementary points because that will assist with brevity and perhaps even with clarity.

In backing the amendment, I want to bring to the House two examples from my experience. The first is the major investigation into heroin abuse that I carried out in 2002 in the mining villages of north Nottinghamshire, where I spoke to more than 300 local heroin users. I found one extraordinary correlation that I did not expect. While they had very different stories, backgrounds and situations, every single one of them bar none had suffered some form of major trauma in childhood. That trauma had not been noted by the system—by which I mean primarily schools and, in some instances, social services, but I am concentrating particularly on what schools missed—or, where it was noted, it was not addressed.

I cited in that inquiry specific examples of young children, primary school children, who got to school late because they did not know when they were meant to get up, because no parent was available to get them out of bed. So they would arrive at school at various times and in various forms of wear to try to participate. My experience was that they were not as successful in school as they could have been. But there was no additionality in the local authority, in its processes and in its funding to identify those problems.

Some children had experienced significant violence in their household, sometimes done to them, and, of course, where there was domestic violence against the mother, there was often violence also against the children. That was a critical part of the trauma in many cases. Such trauma can manifest in very different ways at an early age. One of the most common ways that I found was truancy; in other words, the simple act of not attending school, particularly when it was secondary school. What I noted with some disdain—and I continued to do so for many years, though I would argue against it—was how certain children were categorised as disruptive and their behaviour regarded as dysfunctional, which, on the face of it, it sometimes certainly was, and they did not attend school and school was often happy not to have them.

The fundamental problem that then arises is the effect on all the core communication skills, not least literacy. In a disproportionate number of cases, that directly correlates with domestic abuse, as spelled out in this Bill, in the household. That is example number one.

Example number two is that of a friend of mine, Terry Lodge. He was badly abused as a child. There was always violence, and as a consequence Terry did not go to school. He did not go to primary school as often as would have been helpful, and he did not go to secondary school at all. He was forced to work, and put into major industrial manual work at the age of 11 by his family.

Terry’s is one of the cases I took to the national child abuse inquiry. I represented him there, and I still assist him. He has had a full apology from the local authority, but no compensation yet, four years after his apology. That is absurd and disgraceful—and, more importantly, in my view, damaging. All the way through, Terry Lodge has had one primary request: he never learned to read or write. Nobody is prepared to address that fully. His compensation, if it ever emerges, will be for being handicapped in the labour market, because he could not get to the levels he would have reached if he had been able to read and write.

That directly relates to this amendment, and what it would create. That requirement, in terms of what local authorities do and how they see the world that they are dealing with, is a fundamental weakness in our systems that still exists today. I therefore commend this amendment to the Government. It is vital, and I hope they will accept it.

Baroness Whitaker Portrait Baroness Whitaker (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I declare an interest as vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Speech and Language Difficulties, as patron of the British Stammering Association, and as a stammerer myself. I warmly endorse all that previous speakers have said, and I thank the Minister for his helpful meeting a few days ago.

I shall briefly address the issue of local authority support, as addressed by paragraph (c) of this important amendment. It is good that the Government have confirmed that local authority strategies will be published, in line with the public sector accessibility regulations, but we need more. Local authorities must also ensure that those will be available in properly inclusive formats, which people without mobiles or access to the internet can see, and in languages other than English.

That is because speech and language therapists, as is mentioned in the useful briefing from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, report that various domestic abuse assessments, often verbally communicated, have not always been understood by people with communication needs, because of the level of understanding, retention and processing required, and often also because of their state of mind, exacerbated by stress brought on by abuse. It is difficult for people who are accustomed to communicating with ease to understand the real impediments to understanding experienced by some of those with communication needs.

The consequence, of course, is that assessments will not reflect the problem, appropriate support will not be forthcoming, and any rehabilitation or prevention programme will fail. What a waste of time and resources. Sadly, it is not uncommon for people with learning disabilities, including children, to be abused, and they are at greater risk of an inadequate professional response if we cannot ensure an effective way to communicate with them.

We need more developed and targeted guidance on how to do this—for instance, following my noble friend Lady Andrews, we could insert references, at paragraphs 81 and 105 in chapter 2 of the draft statutory guidance framework, to accessible information and inclusive communication, and we could state explicitly, in Chapter 4, paragraph 125, that any reference to risk assessment must list speech, language and communication needs as a specific vulnerability which requires an appropriate format. Plain English would be a good start.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB) [V]
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My Lords, it is relevant to remind the House that I chair the National Mental Capacity Forum, working for those with a very wide range of impairments to mental capacity. It is a great pleasure to follow such excellent arguments made in support of the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham.

The draft guidance currently includes a specific reference to special educational needs and disabilities. That is welcome, but not adequate. I greatly appreciate having been able to meet staff from the team writing the guidance and to be able to engage constructively to ensure that the communication needs of different groups are recognised and must be met. Communication is far more than expressing words. There is non-verbal communication, and there are language difficulties, word- finding difficulties and a wide range of developmental factors, particularly in children and young people, that need highly specialised speech and language therapy support. Going without such support will further damage the person’s life chances and increase their risk of abuse.

Some speech, language and communication needs are the result of a lifelong condition or disability—some 10% of children and young people can have these—but speech, language and communication needs can also be the result of environmental factors. For instance, in areas of social disadvantage, up to 50% of children can start school with delayed language or other identified communication needs. Such needs are often overlooked and go unidentified for years.

All this is worsened by abuse. There is clear evidence that witnessing domestic abuse impacts on children’s speech, language and communication. Speech and language therapists work with vulnerable children and young people—for example, in services for children in care, children in need, and those at risk of permanent exclusion or of involvement with youth justice services. The therapists report that large numbers of those children and young people have also experienced or witnessed domestic abuse. One speech and language therapy service alone reports that 58% of the children and young people on its caseload have witnessed or experienced domestic abuse.

A speech and language therapist working in a secure children’s home reports a high prevalence of communication needs among children and young people who have experienced significant levels of abuse themselves. Many of them have also witnessed domestic abuse in their home settings. These children and young people have been placed in a secure home under welfare care orders rather than youth justice instructions. A secure home is considered the best place to keep them safe, given the significant challenges to their mental health and well-being associated with the trauma they have experienced, and provides a contained and therapeutic environment.

Take Faisal’s experience. Taken into care as a young teenager after years of observing domestic abuse between his parents, at 15 Faisal had language disorders associated with learning difficulties and attachment difficulties. Joint working by the social worker and the speech and language therapist has been essential to improve his life chances.

Including specific references to speech, language and communication needs in the Bill’s statutory guidance will help ensure better support for children and young people who have experienced or witnessed domestic abuse, by specifically referencing speech, language and communication needs in Chapter 3—“Impact on Victims”. This should reference that deterioration in speech, language and communication can result from experiencing or witnessing domestic abuse, and should ensure that speech, language and communication needs are addressed, supported by ongoing academic research.

I hope the Minister will provide the assurance on the record tonight to strengthen the statutory guidance to include speech and language therapy, and confirm that this will be part of the domestic abuse strategy. My noble friend Lord Ramsbotham has led on a very important issue, and brought a previously overlooked need to the fore. If we do not have that assurance, my noble friend will be forced to test the opinion of the House.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD) [V]
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My Lords, this amendment seeks to ensure that guidance includes information on the link between domestic abuse and speech, language and communication needs, the impact of witnessing domestic abuse on children’s speech, language and communication, and the services available to support victims of domestic abuse with speech, language and communication needs.

The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has been unwavering in bringing these important issues before the House. In answer to the noble Lord’s amendment in Committee, the Minister spoke about the extensive engagement undertaken on the statutory guidance, including a specific working group focusing on disability, including learning disabilities. While that is welcome, I did not hear any commitment to address the specific issues raised in this amendment—in particular how, when children witness domestic abuse, it can lead to communication difficulties and the support required by those with speech, language and communication needs to help them to express the impact that domestic abuse has had on them. Can the Minister address those concerns? We support the amendment.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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The speech, language and communication needs of victims of domestic abuse have to be properly addressed. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for bringing this issue to the Floor of the House, as he did in Committee. He is absolutely right to do so.

The noble Lord’s amendment is important. If we are to have effective domestic abuse support for disabled people, it must be barrier-free and truly accessible. As the noble Lord told us, the ability to communicate is a vital skill. Those with communication difficulties are particularly vulnerable, which is why we need to ensure that local authorities, the police and all other agencies are able to address and ensure that they have provisions in place to make sure that people can make their points effectively and be understood, having their concerns met and needs addressed.

Today and in our previous debate, my noble friend Lady Andrews made the case for providing that extra support and ensuring that it is properly addressed in the guidance. I endorse my noble friend’s call for the guidance to be explicit, and I hope that the Minister can be absolutely explicit on that. The noble Lord, Lord Shinkwin, drew our attention to the needs of disabled people, which can be multiple and complex, and how effective communication plays such an important part, including the ability to communicate to public authorities. As the noble Lord said, just think if we could not communicate—how could we get anything done? It is not right that a victim of abuse is not listened to or heard.

My noble friend Lord Mann made very important points from his experience as a Member of Parliament for Bassetlaw of failings of schools and the social services in north Notts. I am sure that those failures are going to take place all over the country, and that is just one example. That is why we need to ensure that those issues are addressed. My noble friend Lady Whitaker drew attention to the particular risk that children find themselves in.

I hope that the Minister can address those issues; I am sure that he will be very aware of the potential of a vote on this amendment. He will not want to tempt the noble Lord to do that.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I pay tribute to all noble Lords who have spoken in this short but powerful debate. As the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said in opening it, noble Lords bring a wealth of experience to the scrutiny of Bills and, in a short number of contributions, they have done that tonight—whether it is the noble Lord himself through his work as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Speech and Language Difficulties, the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, in her role as chairman of the National Mental Capacity Forum or my noble friend Lord Shinkwin and the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, who speak from first-hand experience. Then there is the noble Lord, Lord Mann, with his constituency experience, and others. The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, reminded us that she speaks as a stammerer, just like the new President of the United States of America—and, as it is his birthday today, like my uncle, who is also a stammerer. I hope that people watching this debate will be inspired by their examples as well as by the content of what they have said.

As noble Lords have all rightly said, people with speech, language and communication needs can be especially at risk of harm and, of course, domestic abuse, as well as facing additional barriers in accessing services. As we said in Committee, we know that this is not a niche issue, nor should it be treated as such, especially in the context of domestic abuse, so we are grateful for the opportunity to continue the debate today.

In July 2020, the Government published the draft statutory guidance that will accompany the Bill, which made specific reference to special educational needs and disabilities. The Government have engaged widely on this already, including through a specific working group focusing on disability, deafness, and learning disabilities. I am pleased to say that, thanks to that engagement and the further engagement that we have had, including that which the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, has had directly with officials involved in drafting, we will revise the guidance to make further express reference to speech, language and communication needs, in relation to not just those with special educational needs but the links between domestic abuse and those with communication needs, specifically children and young people. I am pleased to say that we will cover the points on which noble Lords have rightly pressed me again this evening.

We recognise the impact that domestic abuse can have on the development of children’s speech and communication. We know that children can express themselves in a variety of ways, and it is important, as noble Lords have said, that we are all mindful of that —especially in the context of domestic abuse. For instance, children may display behaviour that might seem aggressive to mainstream professionals when, really, their communication needs are not being tailored appropriately. We are very clear that it is important that we give children and young people the right support as and when they need it because of their vulnerabilities. That is why the guidance issued under Clause 73 includes specific sections on children and how best to support what we know can be their unique needs.

We know that domestic abuse has a devastating impact on all its victims, and that recognising the needs of individual victims is essential, which is why the statutory guidance goes into this particular detail. The guidance also details how perpetrators can exploit these communication needs and requirements. Whether it is through a perpetrator insisting that they are the only person to interpret, preventing access to an external interpreter or removing the victim’s hearing aids, these are horrific tactics, which we know are used to perpetuate abuse, and they will be covered in the guidance.

The Government continue to prioritise improving speech and language outcomes, based on early identification and targeted support. I have previously referred to Public Health England’s excellent guidance, drafted in conjunction with the Department for Education. The guidance outlines the system-wide approach for commissioning early years support on speech, language and communication services. Additionally, speech, language and communication services for children and young people are covered by joint commissioning arrangements set out in the special educational needs and disabilities code of practice. Education, health services, local authorities and youth offending teams can come together to assess needs and agree a local offer. Joint commissioning gives agencies the opportunity to consider the wider factors and interdependencies, such as domestic abuse, and design services accordingly.

In conclusion, we recognise that speech, language and communication needs are extremely important, which is why they will be expressly covered in guidance. There is a wealth of guidance already available, and we intend to augment this with the statutory guidance to be issued under Clause 73. That guidance will be subject to formal consultation following Royal Assent, and I shall ensure that the all-party group which the noble Lord jointly chairs has an opportunity to take part in that process. The forthcoming domestic abuse strategy will afford a further opportunity for us to ensure that we are adopting a whole-system approach when tackling this crime and these unique needs.

I hope that in the light of my reassurances and with my renewed thanks for his and other noble Lords’ engagement on this important issue, the noble Lord will be content to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Ramsbotham Portrait Lord Ramsbotham (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his considered response, particularly his assurance that the Government will be revising the guidance. I also thank all noble Lords who have spoken in support of the amendment, indicating as they did so their expertise in, and knowledge of, the issue. Ministers and officials are clearly seized of the need to satisfy speech, language and communication needs and, from that point of view, to include them in the statutory guidance to be issued to all local authorities. In that spirit, and in the hope that Ministers and officials will also study what has been said in this debate and earlier ones, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 92 withdrawn.

Clause 74: Power of Secretary of State to make consequential amendments

Amendment 93

Moved by

93: Clause 74, page 59, line 23, after “section” insert “(Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship) or”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the proposed new Clause in the name of Baroness Lister of Burtersett that amends section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015.

Amendment 93 agreed.

Amendments 94 to 95C

Moved by

94: Clause 74, page 59, line 23, after “section” insert “(Threats to disclose private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress) or”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the proposed new Clause in the name of Baroness Morgan of Cotes, which extends the offence under section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 to threats to disclose private sexual photographs and films.

95: Clause 74, page 59, line 23, after “section” insert “(Strangulation or suffocation) or”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the proposed new Clause in the name of Baroness Newlove that provides for an offence of strangulation or suffocation.

95A: Clause 74, page 59, line 25, at end insert—

“(1A) The appropriate national authority may by regulations make provision that is consequential on any provision made by or under section (Prohibition on charging for the provision of medical evidence of domestic abuse).(1B) In subsection (1A) “the appropriate national authority” means—(a) in relation to England, the Secretary of State;(b) in relation to Wales, the Welsh Ministers.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the proposed amendment in the name of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar which prevents certain health care professionals who either assess a patient under an NHS contract, or provide services wholly or mainly under an NHS contract, from charging victims of domestic abuse for the provision of evidence of their injuries.

95B: Clause 74, page 59, line 26, after “power” insert “of the Secretary of State”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the Minister’s amendment at page 59, line 25.

95C: Clause 74, page 59, line 29, at end insert—

“(3) The power of the Welsh Ministers to make regulations under this section may, in particular, be exercised by amending, repealing, revoking or otherwise modifying any provision made by or under primary legislation passed or made before, or in the same session of Parliament as, this Act.(4) In subsection (3) “primary legislation” means—(a) an Act of Parliament;(b) a Measure or Act of the National Assembly for Wales or an Act of Senedd Cymru.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the Minister’s amendment at page 59, line 25.

Amendments 94 to 95C agreed.

Clause 75: Power to make transitional or saving provision

Amendment 96

Moved by

96: Clause 75, page 59, line 35, after “section” insert “(Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship) or”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the proposed new Clause in the name of Baroness Lister of Burtersett that amends section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015.

Amendment 96 agreed.

Amendments 97 to 98B

Moved by

97: Clause 75, page 59, line 35, after “section” insert “(Threats to disclose private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress) or”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the proposed new Clause in the name of Baroness Morgan of Cotes, which extends the offence under section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 to threats to disclose private sexual photographs and films.

98: Clause 75, page 59, line 35, after “section” insert “(Strangulation or suffocation) or”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the proposed new Clause in the name of Baroness Newlove that provides for an offence of strangulation or suffocation.

98A: Clause 75, page 59, line 37, at end insert—

“(1A) The appropriate national authority may by regulations make such transitional or saving provision as the authority considers appropriate in connection with the coming into force of section (Prohibition on charging for the provision of medical evidence of domestic abuse).(1B) In subsection (1A) “the appropriate national authority” means— (a) in relation to England, the Secretary of State;(b) in relation to Wales, the Welsh Ministers.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the proposed amendment in the name of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar which prevents certain health care professionals who either assess a patient under an NHS contract, or provide services wholly or mainly under an NHS contract, from charging victims of domestic abuse for the provision of evidence of their injuries.

98B: Clause 75, page 59, line 43, after “(1)” insert “, (1A)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the Minister’s amendment at page 59, line 37.

Amendments 97 to 98B agreed.

Clause 76: Regulations

Amendments 98C to 99C

98C: Clause 76, page 60, line 5, leave out “or Lord Chancellor” and insert “, the Lord Chancellor or the Welsh Ministers”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the proposed amendment in the name of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar which prevents certain health care professionals who either assess a patient under an NHS contract, or provide services wholly or mainly under an NHS contract, from charging victims of domestic abuse for the provision of evidence of their injuries.

99: Clause 76, page 60, line 22, after “section” insert “(Duty to report on domestic abuse services in England)(4),”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the proposed new Clause in the name of Baroness Williams of Trafford imposing a duty to report on domestic abuse services in England, and provides that regulations made by the Secretary of State to extend the 12-month period for making the report are not subject to Parliamentary procedure.

99A: Clause 76, page 60, line 24, leave out “or” and insert—

“( ) regulations of the Secretary of State under section (Prohibition on charging for the provision of medical evidence of domestic abuse)(6), or”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides for regulations under subsection (6) of the proposed new Clause in the name of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, which prevents certain health care professionals who either assess a patient under an NHS contract, or provide services wholly or mainly under an NHS contract, from charging victims of domestic abuse for the provision of evidence of their injuries, to be subject to the draft affirmative procedure.

99B: Clause 76, page 60, line 25, after “regulations” insert “of the Secretary of State”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the Minister’s amendments at page 59, lines 25 and 29.

99C: Clause 76, page 60, line 27, at end insert—

“(7) A statutory instrument containing regulations made by the Welsh Ministers under this Act is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution made by Senedd Cymru, unless the instrument—(a) is required by subsection (8) or any other enactment to be laid before, and approved by a resolution of, Senedd Cymru, or(b) contains only regulations under section 75.(8) A statutory instrument that contains (with or without other provisions)—(a) regulations of the Welsh Ministers under section (Prohibition on charging for the provision of medical evidence of domestic abuse)(6), or (b) regulations of the Welsh Ministers under section 74 that amend or repeal primary legislation (within the meaning of section 74(4)),may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, Senedd Cymru.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the proposed amendment in the name of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar which prevents certain health care professionals who either assess a patient under an NHS contract, or provide services wholly or mainly under an NHS contract, from charging victims of domestic abuse for the provision of evidence of their injuries.

Amendments 98C to 99C agreed.

Clause 78: Extent

Amendments 100 to 101

100: Clause 78, page 60, line 36, after “3” insert “or Schedule (Strangulation or suffocation: consequential amendments)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the proposed new Schedule in the name of Baroness Newlove relating to the proposed new offence of strangulation or suffocation.

101: Clause 78, page 60, line 36, after “extent” insert “within the United Kingdom”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the proposed new Schedule in the name of Baroness Newlove relating to the proposed new offence of strangulation or suffocation.

Amendments 100 to 101 agreed.

Amendment 102 not moved.

Clause 79: Commencement

Amendments 103 to 103A

Moved by

103: Clause 79, page 61, line 23, after “Sections” insert “(Threats to disclose private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress),”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides for the proposed new clause in the name of Baroness Morgan of Cotes, which extends the offence under section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 to threats to disclose private sexual photographs and films, to come into force two months after Royal Assent.

103A: Clause 79, page 61, line 29, at end insert—

“( ) Section (Prohibition on charging for the provision of medical evidence of domestic abuse) comes into force on 1 October 2021.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment provides for the proposed new Clause in the name of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, which prevents certain health care professionals who either assess a patient under an NHS contract, or provide services wholly or mainly under an NHS contract, from charging victims of domestic abuse for the provision of evidence of their injuries, to come into force on 1 October 2021.

Amendments 103 to 103A agreed.

In the Title

Amendments 104 to 106

104: In the Title, line 6, after “circumstances;” insert “to make further provision about orders under section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989;”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the proposed new Clause in the name of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, which makes further provision about orders under section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989.

105: In the Title, line 6, after “circumstances;” insert “to provide for an offence of threatening to disclose private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress;”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the proposed new Clause in the name of Baroness Morgan of Cotes, which extends the offence under section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 to threats to disclose private sexual photographs and films.

106: In the Title, line 6, after “circumstances;” insert “to provide for an offence of strangulation or suffocation;”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is consequential on the proposed new Clause in the name of Baroness Newlove that provides for an offence of strangulation or suffocation.

Amendments 104 to 106 agreed.