24 Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe debates involving the Home Office

Mon 15th Mar 2021
Wed 10th Feb 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 1st Feb 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 25th Jan 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee stage

UK: Violence Against Women and Girls

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Thursday 29th June 2023

(1 year ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Moved by
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe
- View Speech - Hansard - -

That this House takes note of violence against women and girls in the United Kingdom.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, for health reasons my noble friend Lady Drake cannot be here today. She has asked me to deliver on her behalf what she wishes to be said in opening this debate, and I share her views.

The UK Government have labelled violence against women and girls as a national threat. The prevalence of violence against women and girls in the UK is not only unacceptable but frightening. Such violence covers a depressingly long roll-call of crime types, including domestic abuse, stalking and harassment, modern slavery and human trafficking, rape and sexual offences—which show a particularly large increase—spiking, child sex abuse and exploitation, female genital mutilation, adult sexual exploitation and so-called honour-based abuse. The exponential advancement of technology has fuelled the opportunities for sexual harassment and abuse. Such violence accounts for at least 15.8% of all recorded crime. Domestic abuse makes up a third of violence recorded by the police. In the six months from October 2021 to March 2022, at least 507,827 offences against women and girls were recorded. That equates to two crimes per minute.

Even these figures are an understatement. The National Police Chiefs’ Council’s first strategic threat and risk assessment of such violence confirms that many crimes remain hidden. Victims do not report them. ONS data reveal that only one in four women who are victims of rape or penetration before the age of 16 told someone about the abuse at the time. More than half give “embarrassment” as a reason. Just under half thought that no one would believe them. Some 1.7 million women aged 16 and over experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2022, and while 81% of female victims of partner abuse told someone, mostly a friend or relative, only 18% contacted the police. Between April 2020 and March 2021, 5,395 women and girls attending a hospital or a GP had FGM identified.

The impact of violence extends to experience of the criminal justice system. Women from minoritised groups and immigrant women are particularly fearful of engaging with the police. Victims’ experience in the court process too often serves to enhance the impact of the violence. Public trust in policing has eroded over recent years. A series of high-profile public cases has clearly affected women’s confidence in how policing responds to crimes affecting women and girls. The impact of the violence is complex and long lasting. Girls who experience abuse before they are 16 are much more likely to experience abuse later in life.

Sadly, the burden of harassment and abuse on girls from a young age has for a long time been invisible. The Children’s Commissioner recently surveyed more than half a million children in the “Big Ask”. Young girls wrote about feeling unsafe and intimidated in public spaces. It is a compelling read and reveals a deeply disturbing reality for our children. It describes a society that downplays and accepts harassment as a norm and leaves perpetrators unpunished.

I will take noble Lords to that reality through the girls’ own voices. A girl of 16 said:

“There’s no safety for young people: harassment and crime, no-one feels safe, girls in uniform get catcalled by creeps … We deserve better. We deserve for things to change”.

Girls as young as 11 feel responsible for their own protection strategies, avoiding certain areas or routes home, or planning escape or self-defence. One girl of 11 wrote:

“I think that lots of girls are afraid of things that will happen to them. For example, harassment or assault … most girls my age (including me) do not know what to do when this happens. I think we should be taught what to do, like a form of self-defence. This is very important to me”.

Another little girl of 11 said:

“The fact that girls all over the country have to always have an airpod out to listen for danger, to carry self defence skills, to always go home with friends, to wear trainers more often to run away from trouble. Girls are constantly thinking of this at school and it frightens us”.

Boys and girls are increasingly exposed to pornography from a young age, which is normalising violence against women and girls and warping young people’s perceptions of what healthy sexual relationships are. Reports by the Children’s Commissioner, including Evidence on Pornography’s Influence on Harmful Sexual Behaviour Among Children, vividly capture these voices. A girl of 18 who first saw pornography aged 11 said that it had

“affected me in my adult relationships and my body image and how my sex life is currently”.

A 19 year-old girl who first saw pornography at the age of 10 said:

“You see a lot of stuff like barely legal teens on porn sites and it’s not nice. They want us to act like porn models but we can’t change who we are, what we like, what we are afraid of”.

Pornography depicts sex as a transactional, one-way interaction in which women perform as objects for male gratification.

The survey also captured boys’ views. A boy of 18 who first saw pornography at the age of 13 said:

“Males can be led to believe women are purely for sex”.

A boy of 18 who first saw pornography at the age of 12 wrote:

“Many heterosexual men grow up to have certain expectations of how to treat women when having sex, and in general. A lot of that is actually just abuse”.

The reports find a link between specific acts of sexual violence commonly seen in pornography and those reported in official documents on the investigation of children who have abused other children.

Building on this research, the commissioner has been speaking with girl victims of peer-on-peer abuse about the impact of pornography. Key things emerged. One was toxic relationships: “He would just lose it quite a lot, and he could be quite violent”. Another was negative role models for boys: “I got catcalled by this guy, and I remember telling the boy I was with and he was like, ‘Yeah, like, that’s funny, me and my dad do that’”. There was the sharing of intimate child abuse images—“My friend said, ‘Basically, he’s filmed like you’re having sex with him and he’s been showing everyone at school’”—and rape and sexual assault: “He came round and it was all fine, and then it just got a bit not fine very quickly”.

Girls often do not tell. They often believe that they will get a poor response from professionals and adults. Reporting a crime to the police can be as traumatic as the event itself. To share one abused girl’s advice to her abused friend: “I don’t even want to turn round and go, ‘Go to the police, get justice’, because it’s not going to make her feel any better. I think if I could do it again I wouldn’t, because I’d get over the abuse much faster. I only reported it because I wanted the perpetrator to not do it again”. The court process is not always child-centred and trauma-informed. One victim of peer-on-peer abuse observed that it feels like punishment for the victim.

These experiences are confirmed by recent Girlguiding attitudes surveys, which show that 53% of 11 to 21 year-old females do not feel safe when they are outside on their own, 79% have experienced online harms and 67% of 13 to 18 year-old girls experience sexual harassment at school. The 2021 Ofsted Review of Sexual Abuse in Schools and Colleges found that nearly 90% of girls and 50% of boys said that being sent explicit pictures or videos of things that they did not want to see happens a lot or sometimes to them or their peers. Sexual harassment of children is commonplace. The frequency of harmful sexual behaviours means that some children consider them as normal.

By failing to protect our girls from the increasing prevalence of violence, we continue to fuel the level of violence and harassment experienced by women in our country. I have focused on children’s experiences because they highlight for us all the appalling and fundamental challenges they face and what that bodes for the future, However, I want to end by briefly reminding the House of some statistics. Two women are killed by partners or ex-partners every week. Rape prosecutions and convictions are at a record low. One rape per school day is reported as taking place on school premises. The Crime Survey estimates that approximately 1.7 million women over 16 experienced domestic violence last year. The position of women from minority groups is even more precarious; they have no recourse to public funds, which is a significant barrier to accessing support, including safe accommodation such as a refuge. Too few women experiencing domestic abuse can find a safe home with the support that they need to rebuild their lives.

There is so much more that we need to do, and some things will of course take time, but I want to make some proposals to the Minister for immediate action. Will he strengthen the Online Safety Bill to ensure that all platforms and service providers, including user sites and pornography providers, are subject to stringent requirements to protect children and women from online pornography? Will he strengthen the Victims and Prisoners Bill to ensure that every child victim is entitled to support, including specialist advocacy, if they are a victim of sexual abuse? Will he ensure that the code of practice sets guidance on how children’s rights will be met? Will he ensure that training in relationship, sex and health education teaching in schools takes a “safeguarding first” approach? Teachers should receive training on delivering sensitive topics, including pornography. Will he fund vital community-based domestic abuse services? Will he take immediate steps to rebuild women’s and girls’ confidence in our police and criminal justice system? These proposals are only a start but urgent action is needed now if women and girls are to be free to live and thrive in Britain today. I beg to move.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I also thank the Children’s Commissioner, Girlguiding, Refuge and others for their very helpful briefing, which I know that we have all taken advantage of. It has been a passionate but very thoughtful debate, dealing with so many different facets of violence against women and girls and recognising how widespread it is and, indeed, how damaging.

I will not even attempt to summarise the debate, particularly given the time, but I thank the Minister for his very detailed response and his clear determination to try to approach, assess and deal with every one of the issues raised. So many proposals for action and change were put forward during the debate that I will have to read his response very carefully, as indeed I suspect we will all have to do, to judge whether it is strong enough to deal with the size of the problem. As several noble Lords have said, we have debated this many times, yet things seem to be getting worse rather than better.

In conclusion, it is vital that we recognise the need for urgency, particularly in protecting young girls from these behaviours. I again thank everybody for their contributions to the debate.

Motion agreed.

50th Anniversary of the Expulsion of Asians from Uganda

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Thursday 27th October 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley of Nettlestone. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Popat, for providing us with an opportunity to reflect on the tremendous contribution to life in the UK made by those Ugandan Asians expelled by Idi Amin in the autumn of 1972. Listening to the noble Lord’s experiences, and those of others in this debate, has been both moving and inspiring.

I wanted to speak in this debate for two reasons. The first was simply to add my voice to the many who have expressed their thanks and admiration for the hard work, determination and entrepreneurial spirit that the noble Lord and so many others demonstrated following their arrival in the UK, bringing such huge benefits to this country. Those of course include the corner shops that stayed open when people needed them, challenging the inflexible nine-to-five shopping culture of the 1970s, and beginning the revolution in opening hours that transformed our high-street shopping. On a personal level, they were a lifeline for me and my husband in Clapham during our first few years of marriage, when we were working out how to juggle busy working lives and get dinner sorted out every night.

Those welcoming shops, run by multigenerational family members, offered more than just a late-night loaf of bread; they gave communities a focal point—even providing a platform for local politics—and became integral to their local neighbourhoods. As the noble Lord has said, it is that integration across the UK that lies at the heart of the British-Ugandan Asian success story. Look at their many successful bigger businesses—which have contributed so much to our economy, bringing jobs, vitality and pride to towns and cities throughout the country—and of course the mighty contribution to our political life, which, 50 years on, is so impressively represented in this House and the other place. That contribution is echoed in academic life, the City and various professions—and indeed is now being shown in the second and third generations of those early arrivals. This debate has touched on all this, and I am delighted that we are able to take this time to celebrate the success that followed what was a seismic and shocking event for all involved.

At this half-century vantage point, the story of the Ugandan Asian expulsion and resettlement can seem the stuff of history: a fit subject for commemorative exhibitions and academic conferences. One might ask what its relevance is to today’s febrile politics. This brings me to my second point. Britain did a good and honourable thing 50 years ago, and we have been repaid many times over. While I am not disregarding the racist tensions and struggles that many individuals faced on arrival, the Ugandan Asian story is proof that, given the right conditions and will, people who are suddenly uprooted can be incorporated into a new society and help it to thrive. There are many refugees who cannot count on that tolerance, compassion and welcome today.

In today’s turbulent world, where upheaval, uncertainty, migration and misery are still happening, where racism and anti-immigrant nativism are seemingly on the rise, this 50th anniversary gives us much to think about. The story of British-Ugandan Asians shows us how much minority communities have to offer, and how vital diversity is to the strength of the UK. The integration and assimilation of Ugandan Asians is proof that multiple identities can coexist and help people to flourish. It is timely to ask ourselves whether our current immigration policies acknowledge this sufficiently. I feel that Britain’s current plan for immigration carries a very different message from that of our actions in 1972. Will the Minister agree, for example, that further relaxing post-Brexit immigration rules—as has been done to allow more senior care workers to enter the UK by adding them to the shortage occupation list—could be a useful route to addressing severe staff shortages in other key but lower-paid roles, such as in social care?

The legacy of British-Ugandan Asians lies not just in their monetary and professional contribution but in the example that they have set in how they have embraced this country. Their enterprise and determination have played a part in Britain becoming a vibrant, multiracial and multicultural society. The need to integrate new communities successfully remains as important today as it was 50 years ago.

Violent Crime, Gang Activity and Burglaries

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Thursday 20th October 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, I wish I could speak with the same passion as the noble Lord, Lord Bird. I thank my noble friend for introducing this debate: it is very timely.

Recent ONS figures show that police recorded crime data for “violence against the person” offences in the year ending March 2022 showed an 18% increase on the 1.8 million offences recorded in the year ending March 2021, and the similar figure in the pre-coronavirus year ending March 2020. The 710 homicides recorded for the year ending March 2022 was a return to pre-pandemic levels, while knife-enabled crime recorded by the police saw a 10% year-on-year increase to more than 49,000 offences in the same period. There were increases across all knife-enabled violent and sexual offences, with the sole exception of attempted murder. Violence with injury offences increased by 22% to more than 560,000 in the year ending March 2022 compared with the previous year. This was also 5% higher than the levels recorded in the pre-Covid year ending March 2020.

While overall levels of homicides fell during 2021—a decrease that coincided with the pandemic and related restrictions to social contact—it is the case that young people, particularly girls, have been disproportionately affected, as recent terrible headlines have reminded us. In a survey this year, the ONS found that people now feel less safe walking alone, in a park or in an open space. Young people in particular feel unsafe using public transport after dark. We are going backwards rather than improving lives for the better.

Of course, recent statistics on crime levels have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. There are also difficulties around how data is collected, whether it is by crime surveys or as crimes reported to the police. However, there is no escaping the stark truth that, despite more than a decade of tough talking by the Government, we are still facing truly shocking levels of violent crime in this country.

Many of these crimes are driven by drugs and gang activity. Gang involvement with drugs is often, and most destructively, manifested through county lines activities. I saw the impact of this in my housing work, and I will focus my comments on violent crime as it affects young people—specifically county lines drug dealing and the dangers for young people, particularly those in care or in vulnerable families who get caught up in gang violence and knife crime. My noble friend outlined how county lines operate.

The Government have declared that this a priority for the police to tackle. In October 2021, they published their Beating Crime Plan, and money has been spent on dedicated task forces and 18 violence reduction units. They have also set up the youth endowment fund to fund early intervention projects. We have been given the stats to show that this is having some impact. Policing responses have interrupted and closed down some gang activity. In 2019, the National Crime Agency estimated that there were more than 2,000 individual county lines in operation. It revised that in April last year to nearer 600, ascribing the reduction to increased policing and new guidance on tackling this issue.

However, there is no room for complacency. The National Youth Agency warns that the county lines business model is adapting, making offending harder to detect and increasingly resilient to disruption by law enforcement. This is far more deeply embedded than can be resolved by policing alone. The threat of gang-led county lines drug dealing to young people and the risk of violence and exploitation remain at shocking levels. It is estimated that 20% of those involved in county lines are children. The most common age range is 15 to 16, but the NYA notes anecdotal reports of children as young as 7 or 8 being exploited.

It is our most vulnerable children who are most likely to become ensnared. This means those who lack a safe or stable home environment; those who have prior experience of neglect, physical and/or sexual abuse; those who have mental health or substance misuse issues; those who have been excluded from mainstream education or are in care; and those who are homeless, in social housing or in insecure accommodation. They are the most vulnerable to exploitation.

We know the criminal exploitation of children is a common feature of county lines activity, yet we still have no statutory definition of child criminal exploitation. This potentially makes it all the harder for our public services to work together to identify how much support a child needs or, indeed, the level of risk surrounding an exploited child. Can the Minister tell the House when the Government will implement in law a definition of child criminal exploitation?

If we are to tackle the threat from gangs and violence associated with county lines, we must have sufficient youth services and support for young people living in areas of deprivation and disadvantage. Further, they must be trained and upskilled so that they can build capacity and outreach in order to work with vulnerable young people wherever they are. Sadly, along with years of cuts to policing and the courts—this has been mentioned already—we have had years of cuts to funding for youth services. The provision of safe spaces and group activities for young people, with trained youth workers and skilled volunteers, is enormously patchy. This leaves young people vulnerable and prey to gangs. Again, from my work in housing, I have seen where youth workers now have so few resources that they are not able to offer alternatives to keep young people out of gangs and off the street.

The YMCA report Out Of Service noted that, since 2010, more than 4,500 youth work jobs have been cut and more than 750 youth centres closed. In 2010-11, local authorities spent an estimated £1.36 billion in real terms on youth services in England. By 2018-19, the real-terms reduction was £959 million—a 71% cut during that period. The consequences of these cuts during 12 years of this Government are seen in our shocking levels of knife crime, rates of serious violence and the rise of mental health difficulties among young people. Youth services are a lifeline for many young people, but these cuts have left many without local safe spaces or support.

The NYA’s 2021 report, Between the Lines, called for a high-level government strategy—a youth workforce development to recruit, train and deploy 10,000 full-time qualified youth workers. This goal should sit alongside the target of 20,000 more police officers outlined in the Government’s Beating Crime Plan. The NYA is now also calling for revenue investment to recruit a further 20,000 youth support workers and 40,000 trained volunteers. Have the Government listened to the call from the Home Affairs Select Committee last year for a youth service guarantee? How have they responded?

If it is the case that violent crime is disproportionately committed by young people, we need investment to deliver viable alternatives. We must increase support for those initiatives that have proved successful. All this points to the vital importance of the levelling-up agenda and investing in skills development to put people on a more productive path.

The pattern of job-related crimes is changing all the time. Our most disadvantaged communities and our most vulnerable young people continue to live with serious crime and the reality of gang violence. We need to tackle the roots of these problems, but we are running out of time if we are to keep our communities safe.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Sharpe of Epsom) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Snape, for securing this debate and I am grateful to all noble Lords who have participated in it. Tackling crime is a key priority for any Government. As set out in our Beating Crime Plan, we are particularly determined to see reductions in homicide, serious violence and neighbourhood crime. These offences strike at our sense of security in our homes, on our streets and in our country, which is why combating them forms a key part of our Beating Crime Plan.

As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, noted, at the heart of efforts to reduce crime will always be the police. I pay tribute to the work of the many dedicated police officers who do the difficult and sometimes dangerous job of keeping our communities safe, day in and day out. I note the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Snape, about police morale but, as an ex-policeman myself, joined on the Front Bench today by my noble friend Lord Davies of Gower, another ex-policeman, we can say categorically that morale is affected by many factors, internal and external.

I detected a degree of gang activity on the Opposition Benches when it came to members of the Government. I will not engage with all of it. I am afraid I will not apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Bach. I appreciate that the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Bird, was passionately delivered, and I will make sure that the Ministry of Justice is alerted to his contribution in Hansard. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, that I will visit a petrol station after I have given this speech.

We need to make sure the police service is properly supported and resourced. That is why the Government set a target to recruit an additional 20,000 police officers across England and Wales through the police uplift programme by March 2023. These are new posts. We are on track to succeed: as at 30 June 2022, 13,790 additional officers had been recruited. To the right reverend Prelate’s point, we are actually better than half way.

It is worth remembering that, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, pointed out, the nature of crime has changed and moved, as have our times. If this descended into a debate solely about numbers, we would not be taking into account technology, tactics and all the rest of the factors that go into effective policing.

I turn to some of the specific crime types that are referenced in the title of this debate and that noble Lords have discussed in their contributions today. The Government are determined to reduce serious violence and bear down on violent criminal street gangs. We are pursuing a robust twin-track approach that combines tough enforcement with measures to prevent young people becoming involved in the first place. I will talk to this strategy more in a moment, but first I shall outline the data. I accept the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, about data; it can of course be used in many ways. He asked me a number of detailed questions about data. I will write to him on all those, because I simply do not have time to address them all. I hope that is acceptable.

I start with serious youth violence. I remember that behind these numbers and percentages, which are of course very dry, there are real people; I am not forgetting that. Serious youth violence, as measured by hospital admissions among under-25s for assault by a sharp object, is falling. In the year ending June 2022 it had fallen by 11% across England compared with the year ending June 2021. We know that those figures, as with all crime, have been affected by the pandemic, and we are not complacent in our efforts to continue to do all we can to reduce violence.

I noted the comments from the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, about the surgeon in Peckham, and I commend his efforts. I am afraid she rather lost me at the PM’s pension; I will not go into that. I also noted and was moved by the comments from the noble Lord, Lord Austin, about Dea-John Reid. Obviously, my thoughts and prayers are with his family. That is an appalling set of circumstances and I will investigate a little more.

To go back to the serious violence and gang situation, the Government have made £130 million available this financial year, 2022-23, building on similar levels of investment in previous years, to tackle serious violence including murder and knife crime. This includes £64 million for our network of 20 violence reduction units, which are delivering a range of early-intervention and prevention programmes to divert people away from a life of crime, and £30 million for Grip, a police programme that—to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker—uses a highly data-driven process to identify violence hotspots, often to individual street level, and target operational activity in those areas.

I shall give the noble Lord one specific example of how this works. In a hotspot policing pilot in Southend-on-Sea in Essex, which has recently adopted Grip, a 30% reduction in serious violence on days when patrols took place compared with days when they did not was noted. As he rightly points out, the activity was not displaced. VRUs and targeted police enforcement programmes have prevented an estimated 49,000 violent offences in their first two years of activity.

The noble Lord, Lord Snape, specifically asked me about the West Midlands. It has had £16 million devoted to this programme since 2019, and £5.9 million this year. Its VRU is projected to support more than 21,000 young people in the region next year. The West Midlands is also very active in Grip.

We are determined to do more and to strengthen our response, including in the prevention space, which is why we have invested £200 million through our 10-year youth endowment fund to test and evaluate what works in reducing violence. Next year we will commence the serious violence duty, which will require specified agencies across England and Wales to work together collaboratively, share data and information, and put in place a strategy to prevent and reduce serious violence within their local area.

We will also pilot serious violence reduction orders, which will provide the police with the power to stop and search adults already convicted of knife or offensive weapons offences. Serious violence, as has been noted across the House, destroys lives, shatters families and plagues our communities. The Government remain wholly committed to confronting these crimes wherever and whenever they occur.

The noble Lords, Lord Snape and Lord Coaker, both referred to the homicide figures. The figures in England have remained relatively stable in recent years. That is not an endorsement, I have to say; I still think they are shockingly high. There were 710 homicides in the year to March 2022, while in the year to March 2020 there were 714. Obviously there was a decrease in homicide in the lockdown year.

I turn to county lines gangs, which were noted, movingly, by the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick of Undercliffe—I share her opinion on and outrage about child exploitation—and to which the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Brixton, also referred. They are driving crime across the country, not just by supplying illicit drugs but by perpetrating violence and exploiting the most vulnerable and, in some cases, the very young. Cracking down on this pernicious, poisonous threat is an obvious priority. The Government have a 10-year drugs strategy to save lives and cut crime. We have committed to investing up to £145 million to bolster our flagship county lines programme. The programme has provided targeted investment in those areas with the greatest county lines threat, with dedicated task forces in four key areas—London, Merseyside, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester—but county lines affect all forces, which is why we also established the National County Lines Coordination Centre to co-ordinate a national law enforcement response.

We are bringing the full force of our law enforcement capability to bear in tackling this issue, but we recognise that a wider system response is needed to support those vulnerable individuals being exploited by these gangs. That is why, through the programme, we are investing up to £5 million over the next three years to provide specialist support to victims of county lines exploitation, and their families. From the start of the programme in 2019 until April this year, the police have closed more than 2,400 lines. That includes 8,000 arrests and more than 9,500 individuals engaged through safeguarding interventions. Since April 2022, the programme has delivered a further 500 line closures, bringing the total line closures since the programme was launched in November 2019 to 2,900. It is a move in the right direction, but these gangs are resilient. We are not, and will not be, complacent, so we will continue to target county lines relentlessly, persistently closing them and putting those responsible behind bars.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans made a very good point when he reiterated how important civil society is. Much of that is down to local authorities and activities in local areas, but the Supporting Families programme has helped thousands of families across England—162,000 this year alone—through a whole-family approach.

Before I get on to the thorny subject of burglary, the noble Lord, Lord Snape, suggested that the Government are blaming the Mayor of London for the state of play in London. Rather than repeating what I said yesterday in answering the Question asked by my noble friend Lord Lexden about the report by the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, I refer him to Hansard where I endeavoured—I am afraid it is quite boring—to describe the split of accountability and responsibility as it exists in London. We can debate whether it is the right split, but it exists.

As many noble Lords have pointed out, burglary is a particularly harmful crime. The feeling that your own home, which should be a place of safety, has been invaded and your possessions rifled through is distressing and disconcerting. The impact on victims and wider communities can be profound. It is therefore right that proper priority is given to tackling burglary. Of course, primary responsibility for this, as it does for any crime, rests with police forces which are accountable to locally elected police and crime commissioners. It is therefore worrying that in a report published only two months ago, the independent His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services noted that when it comes to tackling burglary and robbery

“too often there is a failure to get the basics of investigation and prevention right.”

I know this is something that the leadership of the police service is very concerned about, and we will continue to work with the police to ensure that they do get the basics right. This is a top priority for the Home Secretary.

Providing reassurance to victims and making sure that evidential leads are followed up is a key part of this. We were therefore very pleased when, just two weeks ago, the head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the chief executive of the College of Policing confirmed that chief constables and commissioners in England and Wales had collectively agreed that we should have police attendance at all home burglaries. I want to be clear that the Government are playing their part. As well as the police uplift programme, we have invested £120 million over the past three years in our flagship Safer Streets programme, which is supporting a range of crime prevention measures, including practical measures such as improved home security, street lighting and CCTV. According to the most recent statistics covering the year to March 2022—I appreciate what we have been discussing about statistics—burglary, as recorded by the Office for National Statistics’ Crime Survey for England and Wales, has fallen by 23% compared with the year ending December 2019. Of course, that number was recorded during the pandemic and showed a dramatic 27% decline, but I should note that as lockdown restrictions have eased police have recorded residential burglaries starting to increase a little. The figure for December 2021 was 11% higher than the figure for March 2021, but volumes remain substantially lower than pre pandemic.

The focus on preventing crime, including burglaries, sits across government. One core strand of this is our ambitious whole-of-government drugs strategy, which will drive down the burglary committed by those with a dependence on opiates and crack cocaine, who are responsible for almost half of all acquisitive crime, but I take note of the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, about alcohol. Evidence shows that drug treatment can have an immediate and sustained impact in reducing offending, which is why the Government have committed to expanding and improving treatment and wider support to tackle drug-related offending, which blights communities across the country.

I have had a go at answering all the questions. This has been a very worthwhile debate, and I reiterate my thanks to all who have participated. There is much that all noble Lords who have spoken have agreed on. Crime has a profound effect on victims and the communities where they live, and it is vital that we do everything we can to tackle it. As I have emphasised, this Government are committed to bringing down crime, and I have set out some of the many measures that we, working with colleagues in the police and across the criminal justice system, are taking to achieve that result. Our message is clear: we will not stand by while decent, law-abiding people suffer at the hands of criminals. We will support and empower the police to fight crime in all its guises, and we will use every available tool and resource to keep the public safe.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, could he address the point I raised about the legal definition of child criminal exploitation?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am afraid I will have to disappoint the noble Baroness regarding the legal definition, but what I can say is that the data picture for group-based child sexual exploitation is currently poor. However, the Government are improving data quality in policing to support this. We are funding the Tackling Organised Exploitation programme, as well as regional abuse and exploitation analysts in every policing region, to develop enhanced intelligence about all forms of this. I appreciate that that does not answer the noble Baroness’s question, and if I may, I will write to her with a more enhanced answer.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, acutely aware of the time, I will be extremely brief. It is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, and to agree with everything she just said.

I pick up a really important point from the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool. So many people have been campaigning on this issue for so long, with the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, being such a powerful champion, and many other Members of your Lordships’ House as well. But I think we are looking tonight at two different kinds of amendments and two different structural issues. It is really important that we make it clear to those outside this Chamber that, as the noble Lord, Lord Russell, said, if we support Amendment 114F —I strongly support it—that will create the chance to have a debate in the other place. I want to make it clear to people that this is different from other amendments that will be considered later this evening.

My simple message to campaigners is that if Amendment 114F passes, as I hope it will, this is an opportunity for you to really make your voice heard in the other place. Write to your MP; make this a place where this debate is finally settled. I made a contribution in Committee, and back in March I made a contribution on the same issue on the then Domestic Abuse Bill. We really need to make progress, and this is an opportunity for this House and for people out there to get into this debate.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I will be very brief, since I supported an amendment in November attempting to achieve a similar outcome. I commend the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, on her tenacity in pursuing this issue. This amendment simply builds on best practice already established in policing, where forces need to recognise the causes of violence against women. It attempts to fill a gap in our hate crime legislation, where sex and gender are the only protected characteristics not recognised, and to send a clear message that women’s safety matters. I simply reinforce those points and all those that the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, made. I support her amendment.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I was not going to intervene in this debate, but I will do so briefly. First, I will not stand behind anyone else in a queue of people showing respect and admiration to my noble friend Lady Newlove, so it pains me when I find myself on the opposite side of an argument to her. That said, I agree with so much that she said in the way she described the crimes and assaults that many women experience. I also agree with a lot of what the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, said.

I do not want to get involved in any kind of discussion about the difference between sex and gender. The point that I want to put on the record, not least because of what the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, said, is that there is not a consensus among women that misogyny should be introduced as a hate crime. I would be very concerned if that were to happen, not because I am in any way not concerned about the violence, the hatred and some of the discrimination that women face but because I do not want us to cultivate a society in which women are universally seen as victims and all men as aggressors. That is a risk and a potential consequence of us pursuing this course. I put that on record and look forward to the way in which my noble friend the Minister responds to this debate.

Hate Crimes: Misogyny

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I agree with the noble Baroness that terminology is important—and terminology changes, so it is important to keep up to date with it.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, on 15 November, the Minister said, in response to an amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, that she would ask police forces to record and identify any crimes of violence against the person where the victim perceives it to be motivated by hostility based on their sex. If she has not already done this, when will she do it? Does she accept that, whatever policy is adopted following the Law Commission’s report, women should be able to expect the same approach across all police forces?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I agree with the noble Baroness that we need consistency across police forces. I know that we are working with police forces across the country to assist in the endeavour that I outlined to my noble friend Lady Newlove.

Forensic Science and the Criminal Justice System (S&T Committee Report)

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Monday 26th April 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, it is an honour and a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Patel, and his comprehensive introduction to the debate. His speech got right to the heart of the dilemma the House faces in judging the adequacy of the Government’s response to the committee’s report and recommendations. After weighing all the evidence presented, the committee saw the need for systemic, root-and-branch reform across the whole of forensic science if it is to play an effective role in assisting the justice system. The Government have chosen not to take that strategic view. Rather, they have focused on just one element and only one part of the report: the creation of statutory powers for the regulator. Welcome though that is, unless there is an increase in the regulator’s scope and powers, and unless there is a body responsible for driving and implementing strategy, I fear little will really change.

I joined the Science and Technology Committee only this year, so was not involved in the production of this excellent and hard-hitting report, but I have read it and much of the evidence. Its findings shocked me profoundly. I suspect that other Members of this House may, like me, have gained awareness of the role of forensic science in the criminal justice system largely from the limited coverage in the news media. I understood the received wisdom to be that we had a world-class system, but whatever confidence that had given me in the competence of the service, its scientific base and the reliability of its judgments was shattered by this report.

The main conclusion of the Select Committee is that the quality and delivery of forensic science in England and Wales is inadequate. It highlighted an absence of high-level leadership, a lack of funding and an insufficient level of research and development, which had all been exacerbated by the coalition Government’s abolition of the government-owned Forensic Science Service in 2012. It further identified the need for the regulator’s powers to be expanded and made statutory, as the coalition Government had promised.

It was particularly concerning to note that although there have been no fewer than nine reports on the state of forensic science in England and Wales, all raising similar concerns to those raised in the Science and Technology Committee’s report, very little, if anything, has been done. As the report says, the delivery of justice depends on the integrity and accuracy of the evidence available. The inadequacies of the service are clearly endangering that integrity, as well as undermining public confidence.

In their July 2019 response to the report, the Government acknowledged the inadequacies of the system and seemed to be largely positive about, and apparently supportive of, the committee’s recommendations. So it was strange that the Government seemed reluctant to accept the structural changes proposed by the Select Committee, such as a forensic science board to oversee strategy and a national institute for forensic science to address the problems of under- resourcing in research and a lack of co-ordination.

The committee’s report is robust in its criticism of the lack of co-operation and co-ordination between the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. The Government agreed that there needed to be a joint approach, and said:

“Following the appearance of ministers from the two Departments before their Lordships, there has been much closer cooperation.”

While this may be flattering to the immediate persuasiveness of your Lordships’ committee, there is nothing to guarantee that this new spirit of co-operation will be maintained. Indeed, the lack of any action in the last two years does not suggest much has changed. Can the Minister tell the Committee how she proposes to ensure that collaboration continues, and how she will evaluate its effectiveness?

Similarly, in rejecting the recommendation for a national institute for forensic science, the Government rely on the two ministries

“developing an even stronger working relationship with UKRI … to … set strategic priorities for forensic science research and development”.

I wonder whether the Minister agrees that this is rather a loose arrangement. It does not really seem any change from the current situation. In the last two years, some conversations have apparently been initiated with UKRI but there has been no formal recognition, so far, that forensic science requires dedicated funding, and no progress has been reported on the need for strategic oversight of research and development or identifying funding to enable it. Will the Minister acknowledge the very significant lack of funding—less than 0.1 % of UKRI spend over the last 10 years—and indicate how that will be resolved looking ahead?

I referred earlier to a change that the Government have agreed. In the last few months, they have been able at last to find parliamentary time for the Private Member’s Bill introduced in the Commons by the Labour MP Darren Jones, which we debated in this House last month and which had its Third Reading just last Thursday. It had full government support and in part addresses the recommendations in the Select Committee’s report in placing the regulator on a statutory footing and giving it powers to enforce a statutory code of practice. It is a great start but as the chair of the Select Committee said at Second Reading, while most welcome it was a missed opportunity to address the other issues identified by the committee and by the outgoing regulator, and highlighted today by the noble Lord, Lord Patel.

I hope that today’s debate will prompt the Minister to go further; the delivery of justice requires it and the confidence of the public must be won back. Will the Minister keep these matters under close and regular review so that further changes can be brought in as necessary? I hope she will agree that this is the only way in which to avoid yet a further future report that reiterates the concerns of the nine previous ones, as well as the 10th one that we are debating today from the Science and Technology Committee.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Given the complexities of getting the drafting absolutely correct, especially as regards third-party and property interests, the path through consultation is acceptable, provided that the Minister will give absolute guarantees that this is to be completed within months and that the opportunity is seized in the next appropriate Bill to insert this amendment. I believe that a renters Bill is on the horizon which would provide a good vehicle. I understand also that the consultation can take place swiftly, but so often it is the response from the Government that drags these things on. We do not consider it a good idea to wait to see how a similar provision is working in Scotland. I have heard the “Let’s wait for Scotland” excuse so often in relation to other proposed reforms that it always puts me in mind of “Waiting for Godot”. I hope that the Minister will accept this way forward and put strict time limits on any consultation. I will seek to divide the House on this amendment.
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendment 87C and to support all the arguments made so powerfully by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech. I declare an interest as the chair of the National Housing Federation, which is wholeheartedly behind this amendment as a means of protecting families and providing survivors with a choice to determine their own future.

Some very strong arguments were made in Committee on joint tenancies and those of us supporting this amendment were grateful for the opportunity to discuss the arguments with the Minister. I know that he is sympathetic to what we are seeking to achieve. I hope that he will focus on the need for what is called a “whole housing approach” to improve the housing options and outcomes for people experiencing domestic abuse so that they can live independently in a safe and stable home as a first step to overcoming abuse and its devastating impact.

Rather than repeating the points I made in Committee, I want to focus on what can be done by housing associations and social landlords to support those suffering abuse, since they are well placed to recognise the signs in their residents, including economic abuse, which create pressure on their tenancy. Case studies gathered by the National Housing Federation show the impact that housing officers with the right training can have in identifying domestic abuse. I will give just one case. During a meeting to discuss rent arrears, a housing officer adopting what is called a “trauma-informed approach” was able to identify the signs of abuse and became the resident’s main source of support, including during a police investigation, working with adult and child social care to ensure that the resident had access to all the help they needed. The resident was able to retain their tenancy, and in this case the abuser did not resist the change. In fact, they chose to relocate from the property linked to the abuse and, 18 months later, the housing officer continues to support the resident. In this instance, the survivor was successful in achieving what she needed and had a choice. In so many instances where there is a joint tenancy, this is not possible. As was said in Committee, the perpetrator must agree to the transfer of the tenancy if the survivor wishes to remain in the family home as the sole tenant. There are so many instances where he—and it is usually he—refuses.

Social housing providers have no legal mechanism to evict the perpetrator. This amendment, carefully crafted, allows the joint tenancy to be transferred in a simplified way to a sole tenancy. As we have heard, it is a more modest measure than that already proposed in Scotland, and I hope the Minister will consider that when he comes to reply. I know that he will listen carefully to this debate. We know that he is sympathetic to what we want to achieve and I hope he will accept this modest but far-reaching amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Butler-Sloss Portrait Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I agree with everything she and the previous speakers, particularly the right reverend prelate Bishop of Gloucester, have said. These two amendments follow on from Amendment 67, and it really is time that the Government at last implemented the Istanbul convention without reservations, treated all victims of domestic abuse equally and made provision for those subject to immigration control to have a route to make the appropriate applications. The Government would retain control, but it would at least give these people, who are not married, or not treated as married, a possible route to remain in this country—without having certainty of it, which would remain in the hands of the Government.

Without these amendments, like with Amendment 67, there is a danger of serious discrimination against groups of victims and the creation of a flawed piece of legislation negating much of what would otherwise be, as so many people have said, a landmark Act. I add that the pilot project is just delaying an important and necessary decision.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I declare an interest as the chair of the National Housing Federation. I will not repeat what I said in Committee on this issue. Suffice it to say that migrant women are particularly vulnerable in an abusive situation because their insecure immigration status can be used as a tool against them. They often cannot access refuges or other safe accommodation because they have no recourse to public funds.

Women’s Aid, whose excellent briefing I acknowledge, considers that the Government may be in breach of several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights and in breach of the Istanbul convention obligations because they have failed to ensure that survivors with insecure immigration status can access equal support for and protection from domestic abuse. Assurances by the Minister in Committee that

“the Secretary of State is taking steps to ensure effective protection and support for all victims of domestic abuse”—[Official Report, 8/2/21; col. 99.]

have not convinced anybody. Amendment 70 provides a way through by regularising survivors’ immigration status irrespective of whether or not they are on a spousal visa, and by extending the destitute domestic violence concession from three months to six months to underpin that.

In Committee, the Minister was reluctant to extend the rules in this way because it would undermine their original purpose. That rather begs the question of whether the original purpose was sufficient, and the trenchant points made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester and all the evidence from migrant survivors suggest that it is not. It also begs the question: how do the Government otherwise propose to assure the International Agreements Committee that they are fulfilling their obligations under the Istanbul convention, when all those most closely involved can show quite clearly that they are not? I would appreciate it if the Minister would address both these points directly in her response.

Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am glad to have this opportunity to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, who referred to the International Agreements Committee, on which I have the privilege to serve. We considered the question of the ratification of the Istanbul convention. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, the chairman of that committee, will have an opportunity to contribute to the debate in a few moments, so I will not pre-empt what he has to say by way of an authoritative description of the committee’s views.

I want to add just three points. First, the Istanbul convention was signed by the coalition Government in 2012, a Government of which I was then a member. We would not have anticipated then that it would have taken so long for it to be ratified or that there would have been any difficulty in respect of non-discrimination in achieving that. I am glad the Government are bringing forward Clauses 66 to 68 to enable the extraterritorial jurisdiction measures to be dealt with. Surely now is the time and this is the Bill to take ourselves to the point where we can ratify.

Secondly, a number of us in your Lordships’ House served in the other place and realise what it takes to get as many as 135 Members of Parliament to turn up on a Friday morning to support a Private Member’s Bill, but that is what happened on 24 February 2017 to support what is now the Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Act 2017. There is a tendency in government to say, “Well, that was just a Private Member’s Bill.” No, it is an Act of Parliament that requires Ministers to set out in a Statement to the House when they have a timetable for ratification and, in the absence of such a timetable, to report annually on the situation. Back in 2017, the 135 Members who turned up on a Friday morning to support that Bill and turn it into an Act would not have expected that there would have been four annual reports, with no resolution yet in sight and no timetable published by the Government. The evidence from this House and, indeed, the other House, is that Parliament expects that to happen.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 10th February 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 View all Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 124-VI(Rev) Revised sixth marshalled list for Committee - (8 Feb 2021)
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I declare an interest as the chair of the National Housing Federation, the representative body for housing associations.

The amendment seeks to enhance the welcome improvements in relation to tenancies embodied in Clauses 71 and 72. They show that the Government have recognised that survivors of domestic abuse in this area are currently let down by the law. The tenancy laws can mean that where there is a joint tenancy a survivor of domestic abuse has only two options: to stay and endure further abuse or to leave the home and potentially become homeless. There is currently no way in which the survivor can exercise a right to stay in the home, with all the security and instability that that means, and require the abuser to leave. Indeed, an abuser could unilaterally terminate the joint tenancy, thereby effectively evicting the survivor into potential homelessness.

Where the landlord is the local authority or a registered provider of social housing, there is no requirement for alternative accommodation to be under the same security of tenure that the survivor and her children previously enjoyed. As Women’s Aid has said, the risk of losing a lifetime tenancy is a significant concern for survivors who fear the consequences of losing security of tenure if they leave. Yet, that is a frequent outcome for survivors and children who escape to a refuge.

As I have said, Clauses 71 and 72 are welcome. However, they assume that it is the survivor of abuse who must quit the family home and not the abuser. The amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, would ensure a legal solution for survivors with joint tenancies to retain their housing security and stay safely in their own homes long term. It is important that there be a range of housing options available to people experiencing domestic abuse and that if they wish to stay in their home they should be able to do so safely and affordably. They should not have to become homeless or struggle to afford their tenancy because of abuse.

I know that housing associations are keen to work to support people who are experiencing domestic abuse and I know that they have also worked supportively with survivors if there are any arrears on the tenancy and/or damage to the property caused by the perpetrator. As the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, has said, it would be useful if there were more workable rules for joint tenancy in general, but the amendment is certainly a good first step.

The Government have recognised the importance of guaranteeing safe accommodation for survivors who flee their home and their abuser. I hope that they will agree that the best outcome for any family is to have the safety and security of staying in their own familiar home, free from the abuser and free to get on with their lives.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I should declare a number of interests because this is a housing matter. I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association, chair of Heart of Medway Housing Association and a director of MHS Homes Ltd.

The amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, is one that I fully support. I am delighted to sign it with other Members from across the House. During our discussions on this Domestic Abuse Bill, we have heard how perpetrators can take control of all aspects of victims’ lives. The victims need help and support to get away from their abuser. The ability to live in your home without fear of the person you are living with is an important first step to getting control of your life. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, when she says that a victim being driven out of their home—to a refuge or other temporary accommodation or to stay with friends—is something that should make us all very angry. It is just part of the devastating consequences that abusers have on victims’ lives and their children’s lives. We all want to ensure that we stop this.

The noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, again made an excellent contribution. I would be happy to support an amendment with his suggestion at the next stage. Maybe the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, could respond to that. It may be that we need something more expanded. If someone is not a tenant at all but is living in the house, perhaps they should have the right to take over the tenancy as well. I think it is an important point.

Both the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, and the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, listed the disadvantages that a victim can suffer. As the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, said, we need to take away the power of the abuser in this situation. We can all see the situation in which an angry abuser wants to get even or cause trouble for the victim, for example by ending the tenancy or doing something else equally unpleasant and nasty. We need to ensure that we are doing what we can to stop those things. As my noble friend Lady Warwick of Undercliffe said, you can see the real concern of a victim, “I’m in this terrible situation. Even worse, I’ll be on the street”. It just makes it even more difficult for people.

This is a very important issue and a very good amendment. As we have heard, the amendment provides for a new mechanism whereby a survivor of domestic abuse can apply for the transfer of the tenancy from a joint tenancy to a sole tenancy. The amendment is welcome and it gives the victim support and another option as to the action they can take to protect themselves and their children. If they want to stay in their home, they can stay and get the abuser out.

I hope for a very positive response from the Government. Hopefully we can find a solution at the next stage.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 1st February 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 View all Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 124-IV(Rev) Revised fourth marshalled list for Committee - (1 Feb 2021)
Lord Lucas Portrait Lord Lucas (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I welcome these amendments and support very much what has been said by other noble Lords before me. My particular interest is in data, and I am delighted to see in Amendment 89—in proposed new subsection (1B)(c), for instance—a really detailed enumeration of the sort of level of data that we should be collecting. The basis on which this data is collected should be specified nationally, so that it is coherent and comparable and we can really start to understand what is happening and, from that understanding, move continuously to improve matters.

A very good example of what happens when you do not do this has been provided by the recent statistics on sexual abuse. The figures for the UK show that in 2019 there were 2,300 reported cases of children being abused by women in England and Wales, which is about twice what it was four years before. The first question we should ask when faced with a statistic like that is: what is going on? Unfortunately, we have no clue, because the police have stopped collecting data on sex as a characteristic when recording reports of abuse. They now record only self-reported gender. So we do not know whether this is something happening to women that we really ought to be paying attention to—an extraordinary rate of increase to which we ought to be preparing a policy response—or whether it is just a fiction due to the way the police have changed their reporting; in other words, whether this reflects the number of male offenders who are now declaring themselves to be women. Either way, we want to know; we absolutely should know. Apart from anything else, when it comes to the subject of the Bill, there will be trans women in relationships with men who are being abused and need looking after. We need to know how to provide for them properly. We may perhaps need specialist arrangements; we need to know the right level of any such arrangements that we should be providing.

If we do not have detailed statistics on sex and gender—and, in other circumstances, on a whole range of other characteristics—we will not be providing what is needed. So, I really support that part of these amendments, and these amendments in general.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I support this amendment in the names of my noble friend Lord Rosser and the noble Lord, Lord Woolley of Woodford, as well as other amendments in this group in their names. I declare an interest as the chair of the National Housing Federation. I congratulate my noble friend on the comprehensive way in which he set out the large number of issues at stake if these amendments are not included in the Bill. I found it a very effective and moving speech.

Housing associations are in a unique position to help survivors of domestic abuse and have been at the forefront of innovative responses during the pandemic, when it has been so difficult to deliver normal services. They have prioritised domestic abuse survivors in new lettings and transfers and worked with refuges to support move-on as well working to keep survivors in their homes safely. It is a further tragedy of the pandemic that we have seen such a surge in instances of domestic abuse.

One of the most important things that the Bill can do is to ensure that all its provisions are underpinned by secure funding, so that no survivor is turned away from the specialist support that they need and there is fair, national distribution of resources. There must be an acknowledgement of the specific challenges faced by BME survivors and migrant women—this has come up so many times in our debates on the Bill. For example, many housing associations provide English classes and support for skills and employment as well as mental health and well-being support. I particularly thank Women’s Aid and Imkaan, together with Stonewater and other housing association providers of specialist support, for their invaluable briefing on these amendments.

I do not want to repeat the details and statistics already given by many noble Lords about the increasing level of need and the reality of the cuts in funding and the inevitable reduction in services and support that results. These amendments reflect what needs to be done to make the Bill the step change in provision that I know the Minister and, I believe, the Government want to see.

In that spirit, I hope the Minister will heed the call for a number of additions. I highlight the need for a tighter definition of “relevant accommodation”, the need to ensure that the support provided is specialist and sufficient to meet demand and the need to make arrangements for the provision of accommodation for all victims, regardless of their immigration status. I also highlight the need to ensure that local specialist services are adequately represented on partnership boards and that a national oversight group, involving all relevant interests, is recognised in the Bill to ensure robust evaluation of the delivery of these life-saving services.

My organisation, the NHF, wants to work together with government to build models that are cost-effective for local authorities to enable the safe removal of perpetrators of domestic abuse from the home, prevent the homelessness of survivors and enable them to live independent lives. In May 2020, the NHF asked the Government to implement a targeted approach to accommodation provision for rough sleepers and homeless people fleeing domestic abuse. Housing associations stand ready to help local authorities fulfil the new duty to provide support and accommodation for survivors.

Amendment 89 and others in this group seek to ensure that there is provision of a variety of housing options for people experiencing domestic abuse, based on choice. Some will certainly need and want a refuge space, and it is vital that these are funded and come with adequate support services to help survivors achieve better health, well-being, employment and housing options.

I echo my noble friend’s concluding remarks on funding: we need to ensure, together with other provision of supported housing for rough sleepers and older people, an annual £1.6 billion of ring-fenced funding, which is needed to allow local authorities to provide these life- saving services. I hope the Minister will be able to tell the Committee that there have been discussions with Treasury colleagues about a specific ring-fenced investment in supported housing in the upcoming Budget.

Lord Alderdice Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Alderdice) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord, Lord Naseby, has withdrawn, so I call the next speaker, the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 25th January 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 View all Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 124-II(Rev) Revised second marshalled list for Committee - (25 Jan 2021)
Lord Shinkwin Portrait Lord Shinkwin (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong of Hill Top. I am delighted to speak in support of these amendments and join previous speakers in praising For Baby’s Sake. I will keep my remarks brief.

These amendments go with the grain of this widely welcomed Bill, and this visibility in public policy is essential if action is to follow. It follows that babies, both before and after birth, must figure in the Bill in the way that is specified in these amendments if their vulnerability to domestic abuse is to be taken into account. As my noble friend Lady Stroud and the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong of Hill Top, both made clear, the statistics on the percentage of women who experience domestic abuse during pregnancy throw the importance of addressing this issue into sharp relief. As a lay person, it strikes me as entirely logical that the added stress resulting from domestic abuse of a mother instinctively desperate to protect her child—especially when it is at its most vulnerable in her womb—will be communicated to the baby and have a negative impact on its physical and neurological development. As we have heard, this has lifelong consequences for physical and mental health, and economically.

These amendments are entirely logical and add to the beneficial impact of this important Bill. I very much hope that the Minister will see fit to respond positively to them.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the Domestic Abuse Bill offers an opportunity to deliver substantial improvements to the way we respond to domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls. In preparing for this Bill, we have received a great deal of excellent briefing, and some very brave women have shared their horrendous stories of violence against them and of the impact that it has had on their children. Too often, children are the hidden victims of domestic abuse, and I was particularly struck when I read the briefing from For Baby’s Sake and the Institute of Health Visiting arguing that there are baby “blind spots” in policy, planning and funding which we, in this Bill, could do much to address.

I am no expert in this area, and I was startled to discover that about 30% of domestic abuse begins during pregnancy, although perhaps not so surprised that of those women who suffer abuse, 40% to 60% continue to experience abuse while they are pregnant. The consequences for those children later in life, and for public policy and expenditure as a result, are incalculable. The Covid pandemic has exacerbated this situation dramatically. The December 2020 survey by the Institute of Health Visiting found that 82% of health visitors reported an increase in domestic violence and abuse. In an earlier survey, 83% had perceived an increase in perinatal mental health issues.

As others have said, the first 1,001 days of a child’s life from pregnancy are crucial in safeguarding and nurturing babies’ development. Domestic abuse during this period increases the risks of poor outcomes and has an impact on long-term life chances. It is linked with poor mental and physical health, impaired social development and lower academic achievement, so it is really important to ensure that in the Bill, the definition of “children” includes babies to ensure that they can specifically benefit from targeted interventions to support parents, that the impact on them is recognised in the collection of data, and that they can be highlighted in the domestic abuse commissioner’s encouragement of good practice.

When she concluded at Second Reading, the Minister said, as the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, reminded us:

“No age group has been left out of the debate, including the unborn child and the foetus.” —[Official Report, 5/1/21; col. 124.]

I am glad to support the spirit of these amendments to ensure that this is reflected on the face of the Bill.

Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord McNicol of West Kilbride) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the next speaker, Lord Cormack. Ah, we have lost Lord Cormack, but we will try to bring him back. I call Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe.