Victoria Atkins contributions to the Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21


Mon 6th July 2020 Domestic Abuse Bill (Commons Chamber)
Report stage: House of Commons
37 interactions (4,600 words)
Wed 17th June 2020 Domestic Abuse Bill (Eleventh sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 11th sitting: House of Commons
17 interactions (2,589 words)
Wed 17th June 2020 Domestic Abuse Bill (Twelfth sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 12th sitting: House of Commons
52 interactions (7,472 words)
Tue 16th June 2020 Domestic Abuse Bill (Ninth sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 9th sitting: House of Commons
32 interactions (3,914 words)
Tue 16th June 2020 Domestic Abuse Bill (Tenth sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 10th sitting: House of Commons
35 interactions (3,949 words)
Thu 11th June 2020 Domestic Abuse Bill (Seventh sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 7th sitting: House of Commons
32 interactions (4,218 words)
Thu 11th June 2020 Domestic Abuse Bill (Eighth sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 8th sitting: House of Commons
11 interactions (794 words)
Wed 10th June 2020 Domestic Abuse Bill (Fifth sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 5th sitting: House of Commons
37 interactions (4,440 words)
Wed 10th June 2020 Domestic Abuse Bill (Sixth sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 6th sitting: House of Commons
25 interactions (2,438 words)
Tue 9th June 2020 Domestic Abuse Bill (Third sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 3rd sitting: House of Commons
17 interactions (2,156 words)
Tue 9th June 2020 Domestic Abuse Bill (Fourth sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 4th sitting: House of Commons
55 interactions (6,211 words)
Thu 4th June 2020 Domestic Abuse Bill (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons
20 interactions (1,435 words)
Thu 4th June 2020 Domestic Abuse Bill (Second sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons
36 interactions (3,400 words)
Tue 28th April 2020 Domestic Abuse Bill (Commons Chamber)
2nd reading: House of Commons
3 interactions (1,945 words)

Domestic Abuse Bill

(Report stage: House of Commons)
Victoria Atkins Excerpts
Monday 6th July 2020

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Home Office

Brought up, and read the First time.

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins) - Hansard

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans) - Hansard

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government new clause 16—Special measures in family proceedings: victims of domestic abuse.

Government new clause 17—Special measures in civil proceedings: victims of specified offences.

Government new clause 18—Prohibition of cross-examination in person in civil proceedings.

Government new clause 20—Consent to serious harm for sexual gratification not a defence.

New clause 1—Pornography and domestic violence: research—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must commission research into the impact of pornography consumption on levels of domestic violence.

(2) The Secretary of State must lay the research before Parliament within 12 months of this Act being passed.”

New clause 2—Research into the incidence of domestic abuse within different living arrangements—

The Secretary of State must commission research on the incidence of domestic abuse in the context of different forms of relationship including marriage, civil partnerships and cohabitation, with special respect to both adult and child wellbeing and reporting to the House with this research and policy recommendations within 12 months of this Act becoming law.”

New clause 3—Report on domestic abuse incidence and sentencing—

The Secretary of State must provide a report to the House reviewing trends in the incidences of domestic abuse and sentencing for domestic abuse offences over the last ten years in England and Wales with a view to making policy recommendations including with respect to increasing both minimum and maximum sentences for domestic abuse offences and present to Parliament within the 12 months of this Act becoming law.

New clause 4—No defence for consent to death—

‘(1) If a person (“A”) wounds, assaults or asphyxiates another person (“B”) to whom they are personally connected as defined in section 2 of this Act causing death, it is not a defence to a prosecution that B consented to the infliction of injury.

(2) Subsection (1) applies whether or not the death occurred in the course of a sadomasochistic encounter.”

This new clause would prevent consent of the victim from being used as a defence to a prosecution in domestic homicides.

New clause 5—No defence for consent to injury—

‘(1) If a person (“A”) wounds, assaults or asphyxiates another person (“B”) to whom they are personally connected as defined in section 2 of this Act causing actual bodily harm or more serious injury, it is not a defence to a prosecution that B consented to the infliction of injury or asphyxiation.

(2) Subsection (1) applies whether or not the actual bodily harm, non-fatal strangulation, or more serious injury occurred in the course of a sadomasochistic encounter.”

This new clause would prevent consent of the victim from being used as a defence to a prosecution in cases of domestic abuse which result in serious injury.

New clause 6—Consent of Director of Public Prosecutions—

In any homicide case in which all or any of the injuries involved in the death, whether or not they are the proximate cause of it, were inflicted in the course of domestic abuse, the Crown Prosecution Service may not without the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions, in respect of the death—

(a) charge a person with manslaughter or any other offence less than the charge of murder, or

(b) accept a plea of guilty to manslaughter or any other lesser offence.”

This new clause would require the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions if, in any homicide case in which any of the injuries were inflicted in the course of domestic abuse, the charge (or the plea to be accepted) is of anything less than murder.

New clause 7—Director of Public Prosecutions consultation with victim’s family in domestic homicides—

‘(1) Before deciding whether or not to give consent to charging a person with manslaughter or any other offence less than the charge of murder in an offence of homicide in which domestic abuse was involved, the Director of Public Prosecutions must consult the immediate family of the deceased.

(2) The Lord Chancellor must make arrangements, including the provision of a grant, to enable the immediate family to access legal advice prior to being consulted by the Director of Public Prosecutions under subsection (1).”

This new clause would require the Director of Public Prosecutions to consult the immediate family of the victim before charging less than murder in a domestic homicide and provide the family with legal advice so they can understand the legal background.

New clause 8—Offence of non-fatal strangulation—

A person (A) commits an offence if that person unlawfully strangles, suffocates or asphyxiates another person (B), where the strangulation, suffocation or asphyxiation does not result in B’s death.”

This new clause will create a new offence of non-fatal strangulation.

New clause 9—Offence of non-fatal strangulation in domestic abuse context—

A person (A) commits an offence if that person unlawfully strangles, suffocates or asphyxiates another person (B) to whom they are personally connected as defined in section 2 of this Act, where the strangulation, suffocation or asphyxiation does not result in B’s death.”

This new clause will create a new offence of non-fatal strangulation in domestic abuse offences.

New clause 10—Prohibition of reference to sexual history of the deceased in domestic homicide trials—

If at a trial a person is charged with an offence of homicide in which domestic abuse was involved, then—

(a) no evidence may be adduced, and

(b) no question may be asked in cross-examination, by or on behalf of any accused at the trial,

about any sexual behaviour of the deceased.”

This new clause will prevent the victim’s previous sexual history being used as evidence to prove consent to violence in a domestic homicide case. This draws on the legislative measures in the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 to prevent rape defendants raking up or inventing complainants’ previous sexual history.

New clause 11—Anonymity for victims in domestic homicides—

‘(1) Where a person (“A”) has been accused of a domestic homicide offence and where the person (“B”) against whom the offence is alleged to have been committed has died in the course of sexual activity, no matter likely to lead members of the public to identify a person as B shall be included in any publication.

(2) The matters relating to a person in relation to which the restrictions imposed by subsection (1) applies (if their inclusion in any publication is likely to have the result mentioned in that subsection) include in particular—

(a) the person’s name,

(b) the person’s address,

(c) the identity of any school or other educational establishment attended by the person,

(d) the identity of any place of work,

(e) any still or moving picture of the person.

(3) If, at the commencement of the trial, any of the matters in subsection (2) have already appeared in any publication, the judge at the trial may direct that no further reference to any of these matters may be included in any publication.

(4) If any matter is included in a publication in contravention of this section, the following persons shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale—

(a) where the publication is a newspaper or periodical, any proprietor, any editor and any publisher of the newspaper or periodical;

(b) where the publication is a relevant programme—

(i) any body corporate engaged in providing the programme service in which the programme is included; and

(ii) any person having functions in relation to the programme corresponding to those of an editor of a newspaper;

(c) in the case of any other publication, any person publishing it.

(5) For the purposes of this section—

“domestic homicide offence” means an offence of murder or manslaughter which has involved domestic abuse;

a “publication” includes any speech, writing, relevant programme, social media posting or other communication in whatever form, which is addressed to the public at large or any section of the public (and for this purpose every relevant programme shall be taken to be so addressed), but does not include an indictment or other document prepared for use in particular legal proceedings.”

This new clause will provide the victim of a domestic homicide with public anonymity.

New clause 12—Domestic abuse: report on incidence and sentencing—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within 12 months of Royal Assent being given to this Act, lay before both Houses of Parliament a report on—

(a) the incidence of domestic abuse in England and Wales since 1 January 2010, and

(b) sentencing for any offence where judgment was handed down after 1 January 2010 and it was alleged that the behaviour of the accused amounted to domestic abuse.

(2) A purpose of a report under subsection (1) shall be to inform a decision on whether or not to increase the minimum or maximum sentence for any offence where it is found the behaviour of the accused amounted to domestic abuse.

(3) “Domestic abuse” shall, for the purposes of this section, have the meaning given in section 1 of this Act.”

New clause 13—Screening for acquired brain injury in domestic abuse cases—

‘(1) A woman who has been the subject of domestic abuse shall, with her consent, be screened for traumatic brain injury, and other forms of acquired brain injury, including concussion.

(2) For the purposes of this section, a woman has been the subject of domestic abuse if—

(a) she is the person for whose protection a domestic abuse protection notice or a domestic abuse protection order has been issued, or

(b) she is the person against whom it is alleged that domestic abuse has been perpetrated when the accused is charged with an offence that amounts to domestic abuse within the meaning of section 1 of this Act.

(3) In the case of subsection (2)(a), the screening shall take place within two weeks of a domestic abuse protection notice or a domestic abuse protection order being issued.

(4) In the case of subsection (2)(b), the screening shall take place within two weeks of a charge being made for an offence where it is alleged that the behaviour of the accused amounts to domestic abuse within the meaning of section 1 of this Act.”

New clause 14—Acquired brain injury screening for female prisoners—

‘(1) All female prisoners must be screened for traumatic brain injury, and other forms of acquired brain injury, including concussion, within two weeks of starting their sentence.

(2) A purpose of the screening will be to assist in a determination as to whether a prisoner has been the subject of domestic abuse.

(3) If the screening shows that there is an acquired brain injury—

(a) an assessment must be made of whether such an injury has been acquired as a result of domestic abuse, and

(b) the prisoner must be given appropriate rehabilitation treatment and advice.”

New clause 19—Anonymity of domestic abuse survivors in criminal proceedings—

‘(1) Where an allegation has been made that a relevant offence has been committed against a person, no matter relating to that person shall during that person’s lifetime be included in any publication if it is likely to lead members of the public to identify that person as the survivor.

(2) Where a person is accused of a relevant offence, no matter likely to lead members of the public to identify the person against whom the offence is alleged to have been committed as the survivor shall during the survivor’s lifetime be included in any publication.

(3) This section does not apply in relation to a person by virtue of subsection (1) at any time after a person has been accused of the offence.

(4) The matters relating to a survivor in relation to which the restrictions imposed by subsection (1) or (2) apply (if their inclusion in any publication is likely to have the result mentioned in that subsection) include—

(a) the survivor’s name;

(b) the survivor’s address;

(c) the identity of any school or other educational establishment the survivor attended;

(d) the identity of any place where the survivor worked;

(e) any still or moving pictures of the survivor; and

(f) any other matter that might lead to the identification of the survivor.

(5) At the commencement of a trial at which a person is charged with a relevant offence, the judge may issue a direction for lifting the restrictions only following an application by or on behalf of the survivor.

(6) Any matter that is included in a publication in contravention of this section must be deleted from that publication and no further reference to the matter may be made in any publication.

(7) If any matter is included in a publication in contravention of this section, the following persons shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale—

(a) where the publication is a newspaper or periodical, any proprietor, any editor and any publisher of the newspaper or periodical;

(b) where the publication is a relevant programme—

(i) any body corporate or Scottish partnership engaged in providing the programme service in which the programme is included; and

(ii) any person having functions in relation to the programme corresponding to those of an editor of a newspaper;

(c) in the case of any other publication, any person publishing it.

(8) For the purposes of the section—

“publication” means any material published online or in physical form as any well as any speech, writing, website, online news outlet, social media posting, relevant programme or other communication in whatever form which is addressed to the public at large or any section of the public;

a “relevant offence” means any offence where it is alleged by the survivor that the behaviour of the accused amounted to domestic abuse;

“survivor” means the person against whom the offence is alleged to have been committed.”

This new clause provides lifetime press anonymity for survivors of domestic abuse, and reflects similar protections for survivors of sexual assault enshrined in the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992. It prevents identifiable details from be published online or in print, and creates a new offence for breaching this anonymity.

New clause 21—Register for domestic abuse—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must arrange for the creation of a register containing the name, home address and national insurance number of any person (P) convicted of an offence that constitutes domestic abuse as defined in section 1 of this Act.

(2) Each police force in England and Wales shall be responsible for ensuring that the register is kept up to date with all relevant offences committed in the police force’s area.

(3) Each police force in England and Wales shall be responsible for ensuring that P notifies relevant police forces within 14 days if they commence a new sexual or romantic relationship.

(4) A failure to notify the police in the circumstances set out in subsection (4) shall be an offence liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months.

(5) The relevant police force shall have the right to inform any person involved in a relationship with P of P’s convictions for domestic abuse as defined in section 1 of this Act.”

This new clause would require that any person convicted of any offence of domestic abuse as defined in section 1 must have their details recorded on a domestic abuse register to ensure that all the perpetrator’s subsequent partners have full access to information regarding their domestic abuse offences.

New clause 22—Recourse to public funds for domestic abuse survivors—

‘(1) The Immigration Acts are amended as follows.

(2) In section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 after subsection (10) insert—

“(11) This section does not apply to a person who is a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom who provides evidence in one or more of the forms set out in section [Recourse to public funds for domestic abuse survivors] of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020.”

(3) In paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 3 to the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 after sub-paragraph (b) insert—

“(ba) to a person who is a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom who provides evidence in one or more of the forms set out in section [Recourse to public funds for domestic abuse survivors] of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020, or”.

(4) In section 21 of the Immigration Act 2014 at the end of subsection (3) insert “or if P is a victim of domestic abuse”.

(5) In section 3 of the Immigration Act 1971 after subsection (1) insert—

“(1A) The Secretary of State may not make or maintain a condition under subsection (1)(c)(ii) on leave granted to a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom who provides evidence in one or more of the forms set out in section [Recourse to public funds for domestic abuse survivors] of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020; and it is not a breach of the immigration laws or rules for such a victim to have recourse to public funds.”

(6) For the purposes of this section, evidence that a person is a victim of domestic abuse may consist of one or more of the following—

(a) a relevant conviction, police caution or protection notice;

(b) a relevant court order (including without notice, ex parte, interim or final orders), including a non-molestation undertaking or order, occupation order, domestic abuse protection order, forced marriage protection order or other protective injunction;

(c) evidence of relevant criminal proceedings for an offence concerning domestic violence or a police report confirming attendance at an incident resulting from domestic abuse;

(d) evidence that a victim has been referred to a multi-agency risk assessment conference;

(e) a finding of fact in the family courts of domestic abuse;

(f) a medical report from a doctor at a UK hospital confirming injuries or a condition consistent with being a victim of domestic abuse;

(g) a letter from a General Medical Council registered general practitioner confirming that he or she is satisfied on the basis of an examination that a person had injuries or a condition consistent with those of a victim of domestic abuse;

(h) an undertaking given to a court by the alleged perpetrator of domestic abuse that he or she will not approach the applicant who is the victim of the abuse;

(i) a letter from a social services department confirming its involvement in providing services to a person in respect of allegations of domestic abuse;

(j) a letter of support or a report from a domestic abuse support organisation; or

(k) other evidence of domestic abuse, including from a counsellor, midwife, school, witness or the victim.

(7) For the purposes of this section—

“domestic abuse” has the same meaning as in section 1 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020;

“victim” includes the dependent child of a person who is a victim of domestic abuse.

(8) Within 12 months of this Act being passed, the Secretary of State must commission a review into the operation of the provisions in this section.

(9) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report setting out the findings of the review.”

This new clause seeks to ensure that certain provisions under the Immigration Acts – including exclusion from public funds, certain types of support and assistance and the right to rent – do not apply to survivors of domestic abuse. There will be a review into the operation of this provision.

New clause 23—Commissioning specialist domestic abuse services for victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse—

‘(1) It is the duty of relevant public authorities in England and non-devolved relevant public authorities in Wales in the exercise of their functions to commission sufficient specialist services for all persons affected by domestic abuse regardless of status.

(2) To ensure compliance with the duty under subsection (1) public authorities must—

(a) regularly assess population and support needs changes in their area;

(b) take account of any strategy to end violence against women and girls adopted by a Minister of the Crown; and

(c) co-operate to discharge the duty.

(3) The Secretary of State may issue regulations making provision for the resolution of disputes between public authorities relating to the discharge of the duty under subsection (1).

(4) In relation to the provision of domestic abuse support as defined by section 54(2), each relevant local authority may discharge the duty under subsection (2)(a) through compliance with its obligations under section 54(1)(a).

(5) In performing the duty under subsection (1) a relevant public authority must secure sufficient specialist services for (among others) the following persons—

(a) any victim of domestic abuse aged over 18;

(b) any child aged under 18 who experiences or witnesses domestic abuse;

(c) any person aged over 18 who exhibits abusive behaviour towards another person to whom they are personally connected;

(d) any child aged under 18 who exhibits abusive behaviour towards another person to whom they are personally connected.

(6) In performing the duty under subsection (1), a relevant public authority must where necessary secure specialist services designed to meet the particular needs of a group that shares a status to ensure appropriate and effective service provision.

(7) In this section—

“abusive behaviour” is behaviour that is abusive within the definition in section 1(3).

“domestic abuse” has the meaning given by Part 1 of this Act.

“personally connected” has the meaning given in section 2 of this Act.

“relevant public authorities” are public authorities with statutory functions relevant to the provision of specialist services, including but not limited to—

(a) Ministers of the Crown and Government departments;

(b) local government in England;

(c) NHS Trusts in England;

(d) Police and Crime Commissioners;

(e) prison, police and probation services.

“status” means a status for the purpose of Article 4(3) of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, and combined forms of any such status.

“specialist services” include but are not limited to the following when provided in connection with domestic abuse, whether provided by a public authority or any other person or body—

(a) protective measures and action taken to protect persons against domestic abuse;

(b) residential accommodation, including refuge services and other relevant accommodation and support as defined in section 54(2);

(c) counselling and other support;

(d) advocacy services;

(e) access to welfare benefits;

(f) perpetrator programmes;

(g) financial support;

(h) legal services;

(i) helplines;

(j) services designed to meet the particular needs of a group that shares a status to ensure appropriate and effective service provision, including separate or single-sex services within the meaning given in Part 7 of Schedule 3 the Equality Act, and “communal accommodation” within the meaning given in paragraph 3 of Schedule 23 to the Equality Act 2010.

“victims of domestic abuse” includes—

(a) persons towards whom domestic abuse is directed and

(b) persons who are reasonably believed to be at risk of domestic abuse.”

This new clause would establish a statutory duty on relevant public authorities to commission specialist support and services to all persons affected by domestic abuse. This includes refuge and community-based services; specialist services for groups with protected characteristics; services for children and young people; services for perpetrators.

New clause 24—Proceedings under the Children Act 1989—

‘(1) Part I of the Children Act 1989 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 1 (the welfare of the child) after subsection (2B) insert—

“(2C) Subsection (2A) shall not apply in relation to a parent where there has been domestic abuse which has affected the child or other parent.

(2D) Evidence of domestic abuse may be provided in one or more of the forms set out in regulation 33(2) of the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012.”

(3) Part II of the Children Act 1989 is amended as follows.

(4) In section 9 (restrictions on making section 8 orders) after subsection (7) insert—

“(8) No court shall make a section 8 order for a child to spend unsupervised time with or have unsupervised contact with a parent who is—

(a) awaiting trial, or on bail for, a domestic abuse offence, or

(b) involved in ongoing criminal proceedings for a domestic abuse offence.

(8A) In subsection (8)—

“unsupervised” means where a court approved third party is not present at all times during contact with the parent to ensure the physical safety and emotional wellbeing of a child;

“domestic abuse offence” means an offence which the Crown Prosecution Service alleges to have involved domestic abuse.””

This new clause seeks to change the presumption that parental involvement furthers the child’s welfare when there has been domestic abuse. It also prohibits unsupervised contact for a parent awaiting trial or on bail for domestic abuse offences, or where there are ongoing criminal proceedings for domestic abuse.

New clause 25—Effective protection and support for all victims of domestic abuse—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must take steps to ensure that all victims of domestic abuse, irrespective of their status, receive—

(a) equally effective protection against domestic abuse, and

(b) equally effective support.

(2) In this section—

“status” includes a status for the purpose of Article 4(3) of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence and any combined forms of such status.

“victims of domestic abuse” includes persons who are reasonably believed to be at risk of domestic abuse.”

This new clause ensures all victims of domestic abuse are protected, regardless of their status, in line with Article 4(3) of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention).

New clause 26—Victims of domestic abuse: leave to remain—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within 3 months of this Act being passed, lay a statement of changes in rules made under section 3(2) of the Immigration Act 1971 (“the immigration rules”) to make provision for leave to remain to be granted to any person subject to immigration control who is a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom.

(2) The statement laid under subsection (1) must set out rules for the granting of indefinite leave to remain to any person subject to immigration control who is a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom; and the statement must provide for those rules to be commenced no later than one month of the laying of the statement.

(3) The Secretary of State must make provision for granting limited leave to remain for a period of no less than 6 months to any person eligible to make an application under the immigration rules for the purposes of subsection (2); and such leave shall include no condition under section 3(1)(c)(i), (ia), (ii) or (v) of the Immigration Act 1971.

(4) The Secretary of State must make provision for extending limited leave to remain granted in accordance with subsection (3) to ensure that leave continues throughout the period during which an application made under the immigration rules for the purposes of subsection (2) remains pending.

(5) Where subsection (6) applies, notwithstanding any statutory or other provision, no services shall be withheld from a victim of domestic abuse solely by reason of that person not having leave to remain or having leave to remain subject to a condition under section 3(1)(c) of the Immigration Act 1971.

(6) This subsection applies where a provider of services is satisfied that the victim of domestic abuse is eligible to make an application to which subsection (3) refers.

(7) The Secretary of State must, for the purposes of subsection (5), issue guidance to providers of services about the assessment of eligibility to make an application to which subsection (3) refers.

(8) In this section—

an application is “pending” during the period—

(a) beginning when it is made,

(b) ending when it is finally decided, withdrawn or abandoned, and an application is not finally decided while an application for review or appeal could be made within the period permitted for either or while any such review or appeal remains pending (meaning that review or appeal has not been finally decided, withdrawn or abandoned);

“person subject to immigration control” means a person in the United Kingdom who does not have the right of abode;

“provider of services” includes both public and private bodies;

“services” includes accommodation, education, employment, financial assistance, healthcare and any service provided exclusively or particularly to survivors of domestic abuse.”

This new clause would make provision in the immigration rules for the granting of indefinite leave to remain to migrant survivors of domestic abuse and limited leave to remain to a survivor who is eligible to make an application for indefinite leave to remain.

New clause 27—Victims of domestic abuse: data-sharing for immigration purposes—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must make arrangements to ensure that personal data of a victim of a domestic abuse in the United Kingdom that is processed for the purpose of that person requesting or receiving support or assistance related to domestic abuse is not used for any immigration control purpose without the consent of that person.

(2) The Secretary of State must make arrangements to ensure that the personal data of a witness to domestic abuse in the United Kingdom that is processed for the purpose of that person giving information or evidence to assist the investigation or prosecution of that abuse, or to assist the victim of that abuse in any legal proceedings, is not used for any immigration control purpose without the consent of that person.

(3) Paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 to the Data Protection Act 2018 shall not apply to the personal data to which subsection (1) or (2) applies.

(4) For the purposes of this section, the Secretary of State must issue guidance to—

(a) persons from whom support or assistance may be requested or received by a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom;

(b) persons exercising any function of the Secretary of State in relation to immigration, asylum or nationality; and

(c) persons exercising any function conferred by or by virtue of the Immigration Acts on an immigration officer.

(5) For the purposes of this section—

“consent” means a freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the victim or witness, by an express statement of that person signifying agreement to the processing of the personal data for the relevant purpose;

“immigration control purpose” means any purpose of the functions to which subsection (4)(ii) and (iii) refers;

“support or assistance” includes the provision of accommodation, banking services, education, employment, financial or social assistance, healthcare and policing services; and any function of a court or prosecuting authority;

“victim” includes any dependent of a person, at whom the domestic abuse is directed, where that dependent is affected by that abuse.”

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to make arrangements to ensure that the personal data of migrant survivors of domestic abuse that is given or used for the purpose of their seeking or receiving support and assistance is not used for immigration control purposes.

New clause 28—Enabling access to abortion in abusive relationships—

‘(1) The Abortion Act 1967 is amended as follows.

(2) At the end of section 1 add—

“(5) Subsection (3) of this section shall not apply to the termination of a pregnancy by a registered medical practitioner who is of the opinion, formed in good faith, that the woman is unable to access treatment for the termination of pregnancy in a hospital or a place approved by the Secretary of State under subsection (3) by reason of the abusive behaviour of a person with whom the woman is personally connected within the meaning of section 2 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020.””

In cases of domestic abuse where a woman seeking an abortion is subject to coercive control, this new clause would remove the legal requirement for attendance at a hospital or licensed premises in order to access lawful abortion services.

Amendment (a), line 4 after “apply to the” insert “medical”

Amendment (b), line 6 after “faith,” insert

“that the pregnancy has not exceeded nine weeks and six days and”

Amendment (c), line 10 at end insert—

‘(3) This section may not take effect until the Government has conducted an inquiry into the safety, number, and impact of abortions carried out under the temporary coronavirus crisis provisions where the place of abortion was the woman’s home, and has laid a Report on this before Parliament.”

New clause 30—Local Welfare Provision schemes—

‘(1) Every local authority in England must deliver a Local Welfare Provision scheme which provides financial assistance to victims of domestic abuse.

(2) The Secretary of State must issue guidance on the nature and scope of Local Welfare Provision schemes and review this biannually in consultation with the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and other such individuals and agencies the Secretary of State deems appropriate.

(3) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must provide local authorities with additional funding designated for Local Welfare Provision, to increase per year with inflation.

(4) For the purposes of this subsection “domestic abuse” is defined in section 1 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020.”

This new clause would allow victims of domestic abuse to access a local welfare assistance scheme in any locality across England.

New clause 31—Guidance: Child maintenance—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must issue guidance relating to the payment of child maintenance where the person with care of the child is a victim of domestic abuse.

(2) Guidance issued under this section must take account of—

(a) the potential for the withholding or reducing of child maintenance to constitute economic abuse under section 1(4) of this Act;

(b) the need for enforcement action to prevent non-payment; and

(c) the difficulties faced by victims of domestic abuse in obtaining evidence to support an application for a variation of a child maintenance calculation.

(3) The Child Maintenance Service must have regard to any guidance issued under this section when exercising a function to which the guidance relates.

(4) Before issuing guidance under this section, the Secretary of State must consult—

(a) the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, and

(b) such other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

(5) The Secretary of State must publish any guidance issued under this section.”

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to issue guidance to the Child Maintenance Service to tackle the problem of abusers continuing economic abuse by withholding or reducing child maintenance payments.

New clause 32—Assessment and management of serial and serious domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators—

Within six months of the commencement of this Act, a Minister of the Crown must lay a report before both Houses of Parliament reviewing arrangements for assessing and managing the risk presented by serial and serious harm domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators.”

New clause 33—Monitoring of serial and serious harm domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators under MAPPA—

‘(1) The Criminal Justice Act 2003 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 325 (Arrangements for assessing etc risk posed by certain offenders) —

(a) in subsection (1), after ““relevant sexual or violent offender” has the meaning given by section 327” insert—

““relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator” has the meaning given in section 327ZA;”;

(b) in subsection (2)(a), after “offenders” insert “(aa) relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrators,”.

(3) After section 327 (Section 325: interpretation) insert—

“327ZA Section 325: interpretation of relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator

(1) For the purposes of section 325—

a person (“P”) is a “relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator” if P has been convicted of a specified offence and meets either the condition in subsection (2)(a) or the condition in subsection (2)(b).

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), the conditions are—

(a) P is a relevant serial offender;

(b) a risk of serious harm assessment has identified P as presenting a high or very high risk of serious harm.

(3) An offence is a “specified offence” for the purposes of this section if it is a specified domestic abuse offence or a specified stalking offence.

(4) In this section—

“relevant serial offender” means a person convicted on more than one occasion for the same specified offence; or a person convicted of more than one specified offence;

“specified domestic abuse offence” means an offence where it is alleged that the behaviour of the accused amounted to domestic abuse within the meaning defined in Section 1 of this Act;

“specified stalking offence” means an offence contrary to section 2A or section 4A of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

(5) Within six months of the commencement of this section, a Minister of the Crown must lay a report before both Houses of Parliament reviewing the interpretation of the term “relevant domestic abuse or stalking perpetrator” for the purposes of section 325.

(6) A report under subsection (5) must give specific consideration to arrangements for assessing and managing the risks of domestic abuse or stalking posed by perpetrators convicted of offences other than a specified offence.

(7) Subject to a report under subsection (5) being laid before both Houses of Parliament, a Minister of the Crown may by regulations amend this section.”

This new clause amends the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which provides for the establishment of Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (“MAPPA”), to make arrangements for serial domestic abuse or stalking perpetrators to be registered on VISOR and be subjected to supervision, monitoring and management through MAPPA.

New clause 34—Threat to disclose private photographs and films with intent to cause distress—

In the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, after section 13 insert—

“33A Threat to disclose private photographs and films with intent to cause distress

(1) It is an offence for a person to threaten to disclose a private sexual photograph or film of a person to whom they are personally connected without the consent of an individual who appears in the photograph or film if the threat is made to either—

(a) the individual who appears in the photograph or film, or

(b) another individual who is intended to tell the individual who appears in the photograph or film,

(2) But it is not an offence under this section for the person to threaten to disclose the photograph or film to the individual mentioned in subsection (1)(a).

(3) For the meaning of “consent” see section 33(7)(a).

(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable —

(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or a fine (or both), and

(b) (b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine (or both).

(5) (5) For the purposes of this section, “personally connected” has the same meaning as in section 2 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020.”

New clause 35—Duty to co-operate: children awaiting NHS treatment—

‘(1) The Commissioner must within 6 months after section 14 comes into force issue a request under that section to the NHS bodies in England mentioned in subsection (2) to co-operate with the Commissioner to secure that the objective set out in subsection (3) is met within 12 months after that section comes into force and continues to be met.

(2) The bodies are—

(a) every clinical commissioning group established under section 14D of the National Health Service Act 2006, and

(b) every other NHS body in England (as defined in section 14(7)) whose co-operation the Commissioner thinks is necessary to secure that the objective set out in subsection (3) is met.

(3) The objective is that where a child affected by domestic abuse has been referred for NHS care or treatment in the area (“Area A”) of a clinical commissioning group as a result of being so affected moves to the area (“Area B”) of another clinical commissioning group, the child receives that care or treatment no later than it would have been received in Area A.”

New clause 36—School admissions—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within six months after this section comes into force, secure that the school admissions code issued for England under section 84 of the Schools Standards and Framework Act 1998 (“1998 Act”) contains such provision as the Secretary of State considers necessary to achieve the objective set out in subsection (5).

(2) The Secretary of State must secure that the Commissioner is consulted about any proposed provision under subsection (1).

(3) The Welsh Ministers must, within six months after this section comes into force, secure that the Welsh Government school admissions code issued under section 84 of the 1998 Act contains such provision as the Welsh Ministers consider necessary to achieve the objective set out in subsection (5).

(4) The Welsh Ministers must secure that the Commissioner is consulted about any proposed provision under subsection (3).

(5) The objective is that—

(a) oversubscription criteria for admission to any school to which the school admissions code applies give the same priority to children falling within subsection (6) as to looked-after children (within the meaning of section 22(1) of the Children Act 1989), and

(b) the Code contains appropriate guidance about admission of children who have moved home to avoid domestic abuse or who are otherwise affected by domestic abuse.

(6) A child falls within this subsection if the child—

(a) is in the care of, or provided with accommodation by, a body exercising a function in respect of children affected by domestic abuse which, if the body were a local authority, would be a social services function of the kind mentioned in section 22(1)(b) of the Children Act 1989, or

(b) has moved home as a result of being affected by domestic abuse.”

Amendment 3, clause 1, page 1, line 15, after “abuse”, insert “(see subsection (4A))”

This amendment would provide the ability to further define specific abuse.

Amendment 25, page 2, line 3, after “that” insert

“, unless A believed they were acting in B’s best interest and the behaviour in all the circumstances was reasonable,”

This amendment is alternative to Amendment 1. It clarifies that economic abuse has to be unreasonable and not cover incidents of the withholding of money where it is intended to be in a person‘s best interest – e.g. someone caring for another or the partner of a gambling addict who gives consent. This amendment uses similar wording to the defence for controlling and coercive behaviour.

Amendment 1,  page 2, line 3, after “effect”, insert “without permission, consent, necessity or any other good reason”

The aim of this amendment would be to specify that economic abuse has to be deliberate and unreasonable not just the withholding of money, for example, with lawful authority or good reason – e.g. someone caring for someone or the partner of a gambling addict who gives consent etc.

Amendment 2,  page 2, line 5, leave out “acquire, use or maintain money or other property” and insert

“maintain their own money or personal property”

The aim of this amendment would be to specify that economic abuse must involve the person’s own money and not the lawful property of someone else.

Amendment 4,  page 2, line 6, at end insert—

‘(4A) “Psychological, emotional or other abuse” includes but is not limited to—

(a) parental alienation, false allegations of domestic abuse by A against B, or

(b) A deliberately preventing B having contact with their child or children for no good reason.”

This amendment gives specific examples of domestic abuse – parental alienation, false allegations of domestic abuse and the prevention of contact with a parent for no good reason.

Amendment 24,  page 2, line 6, at end insert—

‘(4A) “Psychological, emotional or other abuse” includes but is not limited to—

(a) parental alienation, or

(b) A deliberately preventing B having contact with their child or children for no good reason.”

This amendment is alternative to Amendment 4. It gives specific examples of domestic abuse – parental alienation and the prevention of contact with a parent for no good reason.

Amendment 5, page 2, line 6, at end insert—

‘(4B) “Parental alienation” is defined as a child’s resistance or hostility towards parent B which is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by parent A.”

This amendment defines parental alienation.

Amendment 6, page 2, line 7, leave out subsection (5)

This amendment removes the potential creation of two victims of a single act of abuse.

Amendment 7,  page 2, line 10, leave out subsection (6)

This amendment is consequential upon Amendment 6.

Amendment 11, clause 6, page 4, line 3, after “the” insert “objective”

This amendment aims to ensure there is no bias and that pre-conceived notions do not form part of the identification of domestic abuse process.

Amendment 12,  page 4, line 8, after “abuse” insert “;

(e) a gender-neutral approach to domestic abuse”

This amendment would recognise explicitly that domestic violence affects everyone regardless of their sex.

Amendment 13,  page 4, line 23, at end insert—

“(h) monitoring the estimated number of actual victims of domestic abuse compared to those prosecuted for such offences according to the sex of the victim and making recommendations to address any differences in outcomes between the sexes;”

This amendment would make sure that male and female perpetrators of domestic abuse are prosecuted in similar relative numbers.

Amendment 14,  page 4, line 23, at end insert—

“(i) monitoring the estimated number of actual victims of domestic abuse in same sex relationships by gender.”

This amendment would ensure that those in same sex relationships are separately monitored in line with the gender neutral approach to domestic abuse.

Amendment 40, clause 7, page 5, line 2, leave out “the Secretary of State” and insert “Parliament”

This amendment changes the provision enabling the Commissioner to report to the Secretary of State to one enabling the Commissioner to report to Parliament.

Amendment 41,  page 5, line 5, leave out subsections (3) to (5) and insert—

‘(3) The Commissioner must ensure that no material is included in the report which—

(a) might jeopardise the safety of any person, or

(b) might prejudice the investigation or prosecution of an offence.

(4) The Commissioner must send a copy of any report published under this section to the Secretary of State.”

This amendment is linked to Amendment 40.

Amendment 15, clause 11, page 6, line 38, after “Board”)” insert

“through an open recruitment process”

This amendment would ensure that members of the Advisory Board are appointed via an open recruitment process.

Amendment 19,  page 7, line 7, after the first “of” insert

“each of (a) male and (b) female”

This amendment would ensure that different people separately representing the interests of male and female victims are appointed to the Advisory Board.

Amendment 46,  page 7, line 7, after “abuse” insert—

“in England;

“(aa) at least one person appearing to the Commissioner to represent the interests of victims of domestic abuse in Wales”

This amendment would require representation for domestic abuse victims in Wales, ensuring that both the interests of domestic abuse victims in England and Wales are equally addressed.

Amendment 20,  page 7, line 9, after “with” insert

“each of (a) male and (b) female”

This amendment would ensure that different people separately representing the interests of male and female organisations are on the Advisory Board.

Amendment 16,  page 7, line 11, leave out paragraph (c)

This amendment would remove the necessity for a representative of health care providers to be on the Advisory Board to make space for representatives of both male and female victims/groups.

Amendment 17, page 7, line 14, leave out paragraph (d)

This amendment would remove the necessity for a representative of social care providers to be on the Advisory Board to make space for representatives of both male and female victims/groups.

Amendment 44,  page 7, line 21, after “abuse” insert “;

(g) at least one person appearing to the Commissioner to represent the interests of charities and other voluntary organisations that work with victims of sexual violence and abuse that amounts to domestic abuse in England”

This amendment will add a representative of sexual violence and abuse specialist services in a domestic context to the Commissioner’s advisory board.

Amendment 18, page 7, line 24, leave out subsection (6)

This amendment is consequential upon Amendment 17.

Amendment 42, clause 13, page 8, line 16, leave out from “must” to “on” and insert “report to Parliament”

This amendment changes the requirement for the Commissioner to submit an annual report to the Secretary of State to a requirement to report to Parliament.

Amendment 43,  page 8, line 25, leave out subsections (3) to (5) and insert—

‘(3) The Commissioner must arrange for a copy of every annual report under this section to be laid before Parliament.

(4) Before laying the report before Parliament, the Commissioner must ensure that no material is included in the report which—

(a) might jeopardise the safety of any person, or

(b) might prejudice the investigation or prosecution of an offence.”

This amendment is linked to Amendment 42.

Amendment 21, clause 55, page 36, line 11, after the first “of” insert

“each of (a) male and (b) female”

This amendment would ensure that different people separately represent the interests of both male and female victims on the domestic abuse local partnership boards.

Amendment 22,  page 36, line 15, after “with” insert

“each of (a) male and (b) female”

This amendment would ensure that different people separately represent the interests of both male and female organisations on the domestic abuse local partnership boards.

Amendment 45,  page 36, line 22, after “area” insert “;

(h) at least one person appearing to the authority to represent the interests of charities and other voluntary organisations that work with victims of sexual violence and abuse that amounts to domestic abuse in its area”

This amendment adds a representative of Sexual Violence and Abuse specialist services in a domestic context to the Local Authority’s advisory partnership.

Government amendments 27 to 29.

Amendment 26, page 46, line 38, leave out Clause 64.

Amendment 8, clause 67, page 51, line 12, leave out paragraph (b)

This amendment is consequential upon Amendment 6.

Amendment 23,  page 51, line 15, at end insert—

‘(4) If it transpires that the local authority has been given incorrect information or that it has taken into account false allegations of domestic abuse as the basis for granting a tenancy, it must revoke the secure tenancy within 7 days of receiving this information by giving the tenant 28 days notice to quit in addition to passing on such information to the police, where they are not already involved, as soon as is practicable thereafter.”

This amendment makes provision for someone who has made false allegations of domestic abuse to lose the home they gained under these false pretences.

Amendment 35, clause 68, page 51, line 28, at end insert—

‘(2A) 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.

(2B) In preparing guidance under subsection (2A) 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.

(2C) In this section—

“chief officer of police” and “police force” have the same meaning as in section 65 of this Act;

“domestic abuse” has the same meaning as in section 1 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 immediately before or after the offence, to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on sex,

(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

(c) the victim or any other person perceived the crime to follow a course of conduct pursued by the alleged offender towards the victim that was motivated by hostility based on sex;

“sex” has the same meaning as in section 11 of the Equality Act 2010.”

Amendment 47,  page 51, line 28, at end insert—

‘(2A) The Secretary of State must issue separate statutory guidance on domestic abuse that also constitutes teenage relationship abuse and such guidance must address how to ensure there are—

(a) sufficient levels of local authority service provision for both victims and perpetrators of teenage relationship abuse,

(b) child safeguarding referral pathways for both victims and perpetrators of teenage relationship abuse.

(2B) The guidance in subsection (2A) must be published within three months of the Act receiving Royal Assent and must be reviewed bi-annually.

(2C) For the purposes of subsection (2A), teenage relationship abuse is defined as any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse, which can encompass, but is not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, economic and emotional abuse, including through the use of technology, between those aged 18 or under who are, or have been in a romantic relationship regardless of gender or sexual orientation.”

This amendment would place a duty on the Secretary of State to publish separate statutory guidance on teenage relationship abuse. The statutory guidance would cover not just victims of teenage domestic abuse but extend to those who perpetrate abuse within their own teenage relationships.

Amendment 9,  page 51, line 30, leave out from “that” to the end of line 31 and insert

“victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse in England and Wales are both male and female.”

This amendment removes the sex specific reference to females, to include male victims of domestic abuse and reflect the fact that both men and women are perpetrators of domestic abuse.

Government amendment 30.

Amendment 10, page 51, line 31, after “female”, insert

“and this should in no way exclude male victims from the protection of domestic abuse legislation and services for survivors.”

This amendment is an alternative to Amendment 9.

Government amendments 36, 37, 31, 32, 38, 33, 34 and 39.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

Homes should be places of love and safety, but for 2.4 million people across the country they are not. We want the abuse to stop, and we want victims to live, peaceful, safe and happy lives. That is why the Government are bringing forward this Domestic Abuse Bill.

Domestic abuse does not just affect adults. It affects the children living in abusive households too. The Government have always recognised the devastating impact that domestic abuse has on a child who sees, hears or experiences it. Indeed, the need to consider the effects on children runs through the Bill, through the draft statutory guidance and in our non-legislative work. As I hope is acknowledged, our approach throughout the extensive scrutiny of the Bill has been to listen, and that is exactly what we have done. We have listened carefully to my right hon. Friends the Members for Maidenhead (Mrs May) and for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller). We have listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken) in Committee, as well as other Members across the House, including the hon. Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist), who have encouraged us to do more. I am, therefore, pleased to introduce new clause 15 to the Bill, which states that children who see, hear or experience domestic abuse are victims.

As with the statutory definition in clauses 1 and 2, we expect the new clause to be adopted more generally by public authorities, frontline practitioners and others responding to domestic abuse. Indeed, it is vital that locally commissioned services consider and address the impact of domestic abuse on children.

We have also listened to the harrowing experiences of victims going through the family and civil courts. It is vital that victims of domestic abuse are supported to give their best evidence in court and to minimise the distress that this can cause. The Bill on introduction already ensured that victims of domestic abuse are automatically entitled to special measures in criminal proceedings, meaning that they can, for example, give evidence from behind a screen or via a video link. New clauses 16 and 17 now extend that automatic eligibility to victims giving evidence in family and civil proceedings.

In May last year, the Ministry of Justice established a panel of experts to review how the family courts deal with the risk of harm to children and parents in private law children’s cases involving domestic abuse and other serious offences. The panel received more than 1,200 submissions and the report was published just a couple of weeks ago. The submissions highlighted that many victims of domestic abuse feel extreme anxiety about appearing in the family court and coming face to face with the perpetrator. Anyone who has tracked the progress of this Bill, or who has worked with and listened to victims outside the confines of this Chamber, will know just how terrible some of those experiences can be. The panel has recommended that the provisions in the Bill concerning special measures in the criminal courts should apply to all private law children’s cases in which domestic abuse is alleged. New clause 16 does that, and new clause 17 achieves the same in civil proceedings.

However, we have gone further with regard to civil proceedings, as new clause 18 prohibits cross-examination in person where such cross-examination by the perpetrator is likely to diminish the quality of the witness’s evidence or would cause significant distress to the witness. This new clause also prevents the victim from having to cross-examine the alleged perpetrator in person, with counsel being appointed by the court, if necessary. In each scenario, such cross-examination can serve to re-traumatise victims and, again, prevent them from giving their best evidence in court. Cross-examination in person is already prohibited in the criminal courts. The Bill, on introduction, extended the prohibition to the family courts and, on the recent recommendation of the Civil Justice Council, we will now ensure that the bar applies across all courts. These changes will have a profound impact on victims in all our constituencies who are seeking justice.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab) - Hansard

I wholeheartedly support everything that the Minister has said, but one additional factor that can make it more difficult for a victim of domestic violence to feel secure in this system is that they have had a brain injury which might not have been diagnosed. So all the anxiety, loss of memory and loss of executive function may be completely misunderstood by many other people around her. Is it not time that we made sure, as my new clause 13 would do, that all victims of domestic violence and abuse are screened for acquired brain injury?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
6 Jul 2020, 4:50 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I, of course, pay attention to the fact that he has had a long-standing campaign on this matter. I have looked carefully at his proposals, and the Government have two chief concerns. The first is that any clinical need of the individual must, of course, be a matter for doctors. I would be very worried about making a blanket application for anyone who is a victim of domestic abuse, not least because we know that, as clause 1 sets out, domestic abuse can take many forms and is not just restricted to physical violence. So I believe that the correct way to deal with the very important point he raises is to enable clinicians to make that judgment. The second point relates to screening. I understand that the UK screening authority would have to consider whether such a universal programme should be introduced. I believe that it has looked at this relatively recently and has concluded that the evidence is not there. If I may, I will return to the text of my speech now. I will hear his arguments develop during the course of this afternoon and comment further if need be.

On the subject of justice, one of the most chilling and anguished developments in recent times has been the increased use of the so-called rough sex defence. This is the subject of the last of the Government’s new clauses on Report, new clause 20. Before I develop the argument for the new clause, I would like to pay particular tribute to the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier), who have been unrelenting in their work to secure justice for victims about whom the most difficult and violent claims can be made by defendants in the course of a criminal trial. They have been absolutely committed in their campaign to clarify the law. Indeed, I seem to remember that my hon. Friend raised this issue in the first Second Reading debate in October, which reminds us all of the journey that this Bill has had. They have called on the Government to codify the law in relation to the use of violence in consensual sadomasochistic sexual acts and the so-called rough sex defence. I am incredibly grateful to them for their continued and constructive engagement on this important and sensitive issue. I also note the support that Members across the House have given to these provisions, and I thank everyone for their work on this.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) - Hansard
6 Jul 2020, 4:51 p.m.

The Minister is setting the scene very clearly regarding what is important and what we wish to see happening, and I congratulate her on that. The increase of this type of activity by some 11.6% on worldwide internet traffic has concerned me. This is not just about getting at people individually; it is also about getting at the people who are the drivers who make it happen. What has been done to ensure that those who buy into that system—some might do so inadvertently, but they none the less find themselves in a difficult situation—and who make it available and make it happen can be caught?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
6 Jul 2020, 4:52 p.m.

If I have understood the hon. Gentleman correctly, he is not just addressing the use of this so-called defence in our courts but reflecting on the wider impact of pornography, particularly internet pornography, on violence towards women and girls in particular. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) will be raising this in her speech and if I may I will respond to her in that part of the debate, but I very much take on board his point.

The hon. Gentleman will know that part of the problem that has emerged in the last 15 to 20 years is that, whereas in the old days cases were reported freely in the newspapers and so on, such cases are now also reported on the internet. In that regard, I must pay particular tribute to the family of Natalie Connolly, who have suffered in more ways than anyone can really contemplate. I am pleased—and I hope they are satisfied—with the developments that have resulted from the hard work of the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham and my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest. I hope that Natalie’s family are satisfied with what we have reached in this Bill.

We have been clear that there is no such defence to serious harm that results from rough sex, but there is a perception that such a defence exists and that it is being used by men—it is mostly men in these types of cases—to avoid convictions for serious offences or to receive a reduction in any sentence when they are convicted. As my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor indicated on Second Reading, this area of law is extremely complex. It is therefore important that anything that is placed in the Bill does not have unintended consequences. In acting with the best of intentions, we do not want to inadvertently create loopholes or uncertainties in the law that can then be exploited by those who perpetrate such crimes.

If I may, I would just like to take a moment to thank my friend the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk). As the co-Minister on the Bill, he has brought all his legal expertise to the consideration of how we can address the mischief and the upset, which we all want to address, in a way that does not have unintended consequences.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) - Hansard
6 Jul 2020, 4:55 p.m.

May I join the Minister in doing that? This issue has bedevilled criminal law cases going back to the 1920s and 1930s. The attempt in the past has been to fit appropriate legal protections within the framework of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. It is particularly to be welcomed that we have now moved away from that rather antiquated straitjacket and have something that is fit for purpose. The work the Government and my hon. Friends have done is immeasurably important to legal practitioners, as well as to victims.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
6 Jul 2020, 4:55 p.m.

I am happy to take that intervention and I thank my hon. Friend, the Chair of the Justice Committee, for his support.

In new clauses 4 and 5, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham and my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest have, broadly, sought to codify the principles set out in current case law in this area, namely that which resulted from the case R v. Brown. That case involved a group of men who participated in sadomasochistic activities. We have taken up the challenge set by the right hon. Lady and my hon. Friend and, working closely with them, have tabled new clause 20 to achieve just that. More specifically, the new clause aims to make it clear that consent to serious harm for sexual gratification is not a defence in law. The new clause codifies, and therefore restates, the general proposition of law expressed in the case of R v. Brown, which is that a person may not consent to the infliction of serious harm and, by extension, their own death. Those interested in such matters will note that we have been careful to preserve the position in relation to sexually transmitted infections, but we have done so in a way very much in keeping with current case law. I hope that the House has been reassured that new clause 20 achieves the objective of providing the confirmation and clarification of the law requested.

I am very conscious that many Back Benchers wish to speak—sadly, many have put in to speak but will not be called due to the level of interest in this important piece of proposed legislation—but, if I may, I will take a little time to address an issue that I know is of great importance not just to those of us in this place, but to those who work in the world of tackling domestic abuse and, of course, to the victims themselves. That is the issue of migrant women, in particular migrant women who have no recourse to public funds. If I may, I will deal with new clauses 22, 25 and 26 in this part of my speech.

I hope hon. Members received a “Dear colleague” letter this morning from me and the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham, explaining our position. We are absolutely committed to doing what we can to support all migrant victims of domestic abuse as victims first and foremost. In 2012, we introduced the destitution domestic violence concession—the DDVC—to support migrant victims of domestic abuse who are living in this country on the basis of certain partner visas. Such people have come to the UK with the intention of living here permanently with the reasonable expectation of obtaining indefinite leave to remain. The DDVC is not available to people who enter the country on other visas, such as visitor, student or work visas, or, indeed, to anyone who is here illegally. This is because in order to obtain such visas they will have confirmed that they are financially independent and therefore require no recourse to public funds, and their stay will be for a defined period of time. They do not, therefore, have a legitimate expectation of securing indefinite leave to remain. Simply extending the DDVC to all migrant victims is therefore not the way to address the needs of migrant victims who currently cannot claim under that scheme. We need to find a way of ensuring that they have adequate support, rather than provide a pathway to indefinite leave to remain or a blanket lifting of the no recourse to public funds condition.

Last July, we committed in our response to the Joint Committee that scrutinised the draft Bill to review the Government’s response to migrant victims of domestic abuse. We published the findings of that review last week. Despite our call for evidence to support the review, there is currently a lack of evidence to demonstrate which cohorts of migrants are likely to be most in need of support, the numbers involved and how well existing arrangements may address their needs. Without clear information that identifies the groups of migrants who may be most in need of support, it is not possible to ensure that any additional funding or support services are targeted correctly and effectively.

Break in Debate

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab) - Hansard

I welcome the points that the Minister has made on other topics, but on this one, if she wants to do further research and investigation why not just lift the provisions and requirements on no recourse to public funds in the meantime, until the research is completed and she has more information about what she wants to do next?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

The right hon. Lady makes a point that I know would, at first blush, be attractive, but the problem is that we do not have that bedrock of evidence. We are coming to the Dispatch Box with an open heart, and I hope that it is acknowledged across the House that that has been our approach throughout the Bill proceedings. I do not know whether she has had a chance to read the report that we published last week into the work that the Home Office has done. There has been some very good work by charities, through the tampon tax funding and so on, but we are unable to put in the figures that we need to in order to undertake the sort of reform that she is urging upon us. We must have the data to ensure that anything that we are putting forward in the longer term best meets the needs of victims and is sustainable.

A person who comes to this country on, for example, a six-month visitor visa falls under one of the categories that one of the witnesses gave evidence to the Joint Committee on, in the evidence that was given to us as part of this review—the Southall Black Sisters. The right hon. Lady will know that people on visitor visas, who may be here for six months, will have made representations to the Home Office specifically on their financial circumstances, and we want to ensure that we can treat such people fairly and give them access to the help that they need. It is why we are very keen to focus on support rather than to follow the urgings of others that we deal with immigration status before we look at support. We want to help these victims to access help first and foremost as victims.

The pilot programme is to determine how we ensure that victims can obtain immediate access to support, and that any future strategy meets the immediate needs of victims and is fit for purpose. Support for migrant victims is a very important issue for all of us. We recognise that, which is why we are committed to launching the pilot project as quickly as possible. We are currently reviewing the options for implementing the pilot and expect to make further announcements in the summer, ahead of its launch in the autumn. We must resist the urge to act before we have the evidence on which to base comprehensive proposals, to ensure that measures are appropriate.

As I say, I want to give plenty of time to Members to debate the Bill at this important stage of its scrutiny. Before I do, I thank hon. Members—I hope I do not speak too soon—for the very constructive, collegiate approach we have taken, all of us, on this Bill. I know some very different viewpoints may be held on particular issues that will be debated in this Chamber this afternoon, but I know that the House will keep at the forefront of its mind that we are debating this Bill because we all want to help victims of domestic abuse and we all want the abuse to stop.

Mr Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans) - Hansard

As the Minister has said, there is a lot of interest, not surprisingly, in wanting to take part in this debate. For the first four non-Government contributors, I will allow seven minutes, and thereafter the limit will be five minutes. Even with that, I am afraid not everybody is going to get in.

Break in Debate

I turn to an issue on which I seek specific reassurance from the Minister—new clause 28, which I am sure will be debated at length today. I have a great deal of respect for the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson), but my view is that this Bill is simply not the right place for that debate. It would permit different treatment for women who were victims of abuse from that of other women. It would potentially require clinicians, over a telephone consultation, to determine whether a patient was a victim of abuse, possibly opening up those clinicians to subsequent legal challenge. I do believe that we must return to this issue in this House—we must have a thorough and full debate on abortion rights—but today is not the time to do so.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

My right hon. Friend knows that in recent days a range of views have been expressed, including by two Royal Colleges, on new clause 28 and what it seeks to achieve. Indeed, there are difficulties with the new clause. The Government therefore consider that the right way forward is to undertake a public consultation on whether to make permanent the current covid-19 measure allowing for home use of early medical abortion pills up to 10 weeks’ gestation for all eligible women. Does that reassure her?

Caroline Nokes Portrait Caroline Nokes - Hansard
6 Jul 2020, 5:47 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for that commitment and look forward to the consultation coming forward. It is important that we have the opportunity to look further at how these emergency regulations have worked during the period of covid and that we understand how they can assist women. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor will say something about this in his closing comments. I do not know whether the appropriate place is via new legislation or via the consultation that my hon. Friend referred to, but there is clearly a real need for debate and for this House to be able to express its view and understand the issue thoroughly.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) spoke with her usual forcefulness, and she will know that I have found common ground with much of what she said. I welcome her support for the broad direction of the Bill. I also welcome her comments about the need for us to find a mechanism to support migrant women who are the victims of domestic abuse. I have said this previously in the Chamber and I have no doubt that I will say it again. I vividly recall sitting around a table with my hon. Friend the Minister; my hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar), who was then in the Ministry of Justice; the noble Baroness Williams, who I think was the Victims Minister; Southall Black Sisters and other charities; and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley, who I always regard as an expert on these matters. There was consensus around the room that we have to find a way to treat the migrant victims of domestic abuse as victims first. I am sure that there are differences of opinion—as there were in the room that day—as to how we best do that. I very much hope that the pilot projects of which my hon. Friend the Minister has spoken will be able to provide us with the data that we need so that we can find a long-term, enduring solution to help, and help effectively, victims of domestic abuse who are here perhaps with no legal public funds or with insecure immigration status that means they are dependent on their partner for their right to be in the UK.

Whether it is the much-needed changes that are to be introduced in respect of the family courts—I welcome new clauses 16, 17 and 18—or other measures, it is crucial that we find a way to make our court system support the victims of domestic abuse. We must find a mechanism whereby it supports the children who might otherwise be obliged to come into contact with perpetrators. I welcome the fact that we are moving to a position wherein the legal process will no longer be able to perpetuate abuse.

My hon. Friend the Minister has worked hard on the Bill, and I welcome the changes that have been introduced. I commend her for having made such enormous progress. It has been a difficult journey for a Bill much delayed. We are not there yet, but I sincerely hope that our noble Friends in the other place do not delay the process much further. I commend my hon. Friend her for her very hard work.

Break in Debate

Fiona Bruce Portrait Fiona Bruce - Hansard

I will come on to that; I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution.

I want to quote someone who works regularly with victims of domestic abuse. She says:

“This proposal in reality is actually a gift to male abusers who want their partners to abort.”

New clause 28 will not help abused women. It could put them in a worse position, and it is dysfunctional. I tabled amendments (a), (b) and (c) to illustrate that fact. I want to thank the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson) and my right hon. Friends the Members for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) and for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) for underlining and accepting that. Amendments (a) and (b) address the fact that there is no 10-week gestation limit, which is potentially dangerous, and that this potentially includes surgical abortions outside clinically approved settings, which is similarly concerning. Amendment (c) relates to the vital need for some sort of review of the current emergency legislation before any extension of the legislation is brought forward. I thank the Minister for her proposal of a consultation. Will she confirm that it will be a proper inquiry?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

I emphasise that the Government are neutral on the very sensitive topic of abortion, but I hope that my hon. Friend and others across the House who hold a range of views—genuine views—on this topic will take comfort from the fact that the Government intend to launch a public consultation, as I outlined in my earlier intervention, and I thank her for her work.

Fiona Bruce Portrait Fiona Bruce - Hansard
6 Jul 2020, 6:59 p.m.

I thank the Minister for that. On that basis, I will not press amendment (c) to a vote, and nor will I press amendments (a) and (b), because they have achieved their purpose, which was to point out the flaws of new clause 28.

Mr Speaker has—quite rightly, for constitutional reasons—ruled new clause 29 as out of scope. This is a domestic abuse Bill; it should not be hijacked by those continuously campaigning on another issue and constantly looking for opportunities in this place to add badly worded amendments to Bills with unforeseen implications and complications.

We have already seen the outcome of such an approach with the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019. This House should, I hope, be very wary of repeating that. I support the Government’s endeavours to tackle domestic abuse: let us ensure that that is the focus of this Bill.

Break in Debate

One in four women experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. Two women a week are killed at the hands of their partner or ex-partner. Three women a week die by suicide as a result of the abuse they have experienced. Two million people experience domestic abuse in England and Wales every year. I make no apology for restating those shocking statistics, but let them remind us all why we are here. With a strong Domestic Abuse Bill, strengthened on Report, we will be able to prove that inaction, apathy and ignorance will finally come to an end once and for all.

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins) - Hansard

It is fair to say there were moments in the past two and a half years where I did not quite believe that I would be able to stand at the Dispatch Box and deliver the winding-up of the Bill’s Report stage, so it is a genuine pleasure to be here doing exactly that.

We have seen extraordinary contributions from across the House, not just in this debate but over the history of this Bill and its progress through Parliament. We have heard from Members who have bravely given their own experiences of the abuse they themselves suffered, whether that was the hon. Member for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield), who moved us all on Second Reading in October last year or, indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mark Fletcher), who brought to the Chamber his own experiences as a child living in an abusive household. Those are but two examples; there are, sadly, many, many more examples we have heard, both through the direct experience of colleagues, but also through the experiences we have all tried to bring into the Chamber.

There are people we know as soon as their names are said—names such as Clare, Rachel and Holly. We know their stories. If one thing can be drawn from today’s debate and the progress of this Bill, it is that we do not just talk about them and the experiences they endured and the experiences that were forced on them, but that we talk about the legacy their lives have had. Their legacy is written throughout this Bill.

As the Minister, I have to, of course, try to respond to the many points that have been made in the debate, and I apologise that I simply will not be able to do so. To give some indication of just how much cross-Government working there has been on the Bill, as well as the work in Parliament, there are now seven Departments—and counting—working on it. During briefing sessions for the Committee sage, the officials briefing me had to have a queueing system because they could not all fit on a conference call. That gives an idea of how many people have been involved in the Bill, and I thank each and every one of them, because I will not have the honour of doing so on Third Reading.

I will jump now to some of the substance of today’s debate. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) and many Opposition Members, as well as my right hon. Friends the Members for Maidenhead (Mrs May) and for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) and the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine), raised—understandably and rightly—support for migrant victims. I reiterate the Government’s commitment to helping victims and to the support for migrant victims scheme, which I announced on Second Reading. We expect to make announcements in the summer about this. We will be working with charities. We are working with the domestic abuse commissioner—I spoke to her about this only on Friday. We want this scheme to have the trust and involvement of everyone who is as concerned about migrant victims as we are. We are aiming to publish the framework of the scheme ahead of Lords Second Reading, and we very much hope that everyone will feel able to support it.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard

If the approximately 3,630 women who we imagine might want to access this scheme a year breaches the £1.5 million that the Government have allocated, will the Government turn people away, or will they make more funds available?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

The hon. Lady has rather set out the problem we have, which is measuring the number of women. She will know that we already help around 2,500 women under the DDVC. She will also be aware that, alongside the pilot project, we have the tampon tax funding, which is continuing. I very much see the two schemes running in tandem.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh West has tabled new clause 27, which concerns the firewall. She will know that the police are facing a super-complaint relating to police data sharing for immigration purposes and that there is a judicial review outstanding. Obviously, we have to wait for those cases, but in the meantime we are working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to ensure that the guidance it issues does the job that is required, so I ask her not to press the new clause.

Members across the House dealt with new clause 23. We all want to support domestic abuse victims and their children, regardless of where they reside. We must, however, ensure that any new statutory duties are properly considered, costed and robust. The new duty on tier 1 local authorities in part 4 of the Bill is the product of extensive consultation and engagement with local authorities and sector organisations. The same cannot be said of new clause 23. The Government are committed to gathering this evidence, and I am grateful to the domestic abuse commissioner for agreeing to lead an in-depth investigation on this. We have to be able to understand where services are and are not provided, to identify best practice and to consult fully with our charities, local authorities and other important parties before considering any statutory commitments. Any new duty must also be properly costed, taking into account existing provision. We expect the commissioner to set out her recommendations in a report under clause 7, and as those who have been following closely will know, we and others will then have 56 days in which to respond. We will act on this, and we will respond promptly.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant - Hansard

Will the Minister give way?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

If I may, I will make some progress.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley in particular raised new clause 24, and she urged us to act on this—we are doing so. Alongside publishing the family harms panel report, we published the Government’s implementation plan for that report. The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk), is acting on the advice of the panel, which gave careful consideration to the issue of the presumption of contact. The panel concluded that an urgent review of the presumption should be undertaken—it did not conclude that we should legislate immediately. My hon. Friend is beginning this work. He is convening the Family Justice Board this month, and we hope and anticipate that this work will be completed by the end of the year. We share the sense of urgency, and we will act on it.

The right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, raised new clauses 32 and 33, and new clause 21 has also been raised during the debate. On new clause 21, there was compelling testimony from several witnesses who gave evidence in Committee against the introduction of a separate register, as proposed in new clause 21, because that might diminish, rather than increase, safety. However, we are very conscious of the concerns that the right hon. Lady and others have raised.

We continue to work to keep the effectiveness of risk management processes under regular review, as well as to modify the processes in accordance with emerging evidence and good practice. For example, the College of Policing is testing a revised domestic abuse risk assessment process, with a view to rolling out an improved model across all police forces. Individual forces are also trialling enhanced risk assessment models, and there will be an evaluation of the new stalking protection orders as well. So there is work to be done, and we will very much keep it under review.

My right hon. Friends the Members for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes) and for Basingstoke both raised important cases of threats to disclose—indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Ruth Edwards) raised this as well—and we very much understand their concerns. Threats to disclose, regardless of the connection between the offender and the victim, can in many circumstances already be captured by a range of offences. However, the Law Commission is conducting a review of the law relating to the non-consensual taking and sharing of intimate images with a view to assessing the currency of the law. In the meantime, we are working with the College of Policing to ensure that the police have all the information they need to make the right charges and arrests, where appropriate.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant - Hansard

Will the Minister give way?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

I will in a moment, if I may.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson) introduced new clause 28, and may I thank the House for its thoughtful consideration of this new clause? As I set out earlier, the Government consider that the right way forward is to undertake a public consultation on whether to make permanent the current covid-19 measure allowing for home use of early medical abortion pills up to 10 weeks’ gestation for all eligible women. In answer to the question she asked earlier, I can confirm that we will keep the current covid-19 measures in place until the public consultation concludes and a decision has been made. I understand that the hon. Lady has been good enough to indicate that, in those circumstances, she will not push the new clause to a vote. I thank her and other Members for their consideration and their responses.

Very quickly, my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes) raised important issues regarding research. As Minister for Women, I commissioned research into the impact of pornography on attitudes towards women and girls. This research is to be published soon, so I invite my hon. Friend and other hon. Members who are concerned about this to save their fire for the online harms White Paper and the research that will be published. Again, of course the Government will keep under review the concerns that my right hon. Friend raised in relation to the circumstances of domestic abuse.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant - Hansard

rose—

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

I know that the hon. Gentleman wants to intervene—very quickly.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant - Hansard

The Minister knows perfectly well that I do not want to divide the House on my amendments, because I want the whole of the House to be supporting women who have suffered acquired brain injury. Will she simply guarantee that she will meet me and other Members of the group before this goes to the House of Lords so that we can clear up any misunderstandings there may have been?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

Yes. I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman.

If I may, I am going to gallop to the finish. I thank all hon. Members for their contributions—whether remotely, or they are not even here at all—such as those of the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) and my hon. Friends the Members for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier) and for Newbury (Laura Farris), who talked so movingly and rightly about the consequences of the rough sex provisions.

May I sum up by saying that this Bill is not just for the victims that we have heard about in this Chamber? It is for the victims that we have not been able to help in the past and it is for preventing the harm to victims in the future, including children, that we bring this Bill forward. This is a Bill in which we can all take pride. We are doing some great work with this, and I thank each and every hon. Member for their help in getting us to this stage.

Debate interrupted (Programme Order, 28 April).

Domestic Abuse Bill (Eleventh sitting)

(Committee Debate: 11th sitting: House of Commons)
Victoria Atkins Excerpts
Wednesday 17th June 2020

(3 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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Ministry of Justice
Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 10:24 a.m.

I absolutely do think that, but obviously not all of them, by any stretch of the imagination. We were told that we were taking back control, but the only thing I feel we actually took back control of was the extra quid I have to pay when I have my period. We will not have to pay the tampon tax anymore. Some of the most vulnerable people in our society are relying on the good will of various pilot projects here, there and everywhere, and we are not expressing in our laws that we see those victims. I recognise that that fund has helped lots of people, but we have an opportunity to change this permanently.

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins) - Hansard

Just to be careful, the tampon tax funding was to assess the nature and scale of the women who cannot claim DDVC. Of course, women who do claim DDVC—there are about 2,500 of them—are not dependent on tampon tax funding. That is business as usual for the Home Office. It is funded by the taxpayer year in, year out.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard

I absolutely agree. I love the DDVC and what I am asking for is business as usual for the people serving coffee. I want the situation to be business as usual for everyone. Business as usual should mean that in this country, if someone, no matter who they are, gets punched in the face, or raped in the evening, we say “D’you know what? We’ll help you.” That is the kind of country that we want to live in.

As I was saying, with both the proposals currently in the pilot projects there is a failure to appreciate the urgency and seriousness of the risk of abuse and destitution that abused migrant women and those on non-spousal visas face. Pilot projects take considerable time—sometimes years—to complete and evaluate, and can be followed by further pilot projects. That simply delays the introduction of the urgent measures that are needed now to protect abused migrant women.

Also, I am not sure why we would not write the pilot project in question into the Bill, because, as everyone knows, there are a number of pilot projects in it. Domestic abuse protection orders are in a pilot project, and so is polygraph testing. The Bill loves a little pilot project. The Home Office has been stalling on addressing the need to implement immediate protection measures for migrant women. It is not good enough just to have an ongoing internal review. We need action.

The internal review has been supplemented by a series of meetings, including ministerial roundtables and periodic calls for evidence, as well as engagement with the sector organisations on a regular basis. I am disappointed that the Home Office has not yet published the outcome of the review, ahead of Committee, so that it could be properly scrutinised, and that it has chosen instead to announced a proposed pilot project.

My position, which reflects the overwhelming views of the sector—the police, the Victims Commissioner, the domestic abuse commissioner, the Children’s Commissioner and social services—is that the domestic violence rule and all the ways in which it works brilliantly should be extended to all migrant survivors. That brings me to new clause 35, which would do exactly that. If I could have anything of all the items in the group—and I recognise that I do not get everything I want—it would be new clause 35.

The domestic violence rule was introduced in 2002. We did not call it that in 2002; it was called the Sojourner project, which I like to say with a Birmingham accent. It was introduced to provide migrants on a spousal or partner visa with a way to apply for indefinite leave to remain when the relationship had broken down because of domestic violence.

In 2012, the destitution domestic violence concession was introduced. It gave domestic violence rule applicants three months of temporary leave and a right to have access to limited state benefits while an application for indefinite leave under the domestic violence rule was considered. The domestic violence rule and destitution domestic violence concession work. Well done to the Home Office. Bravo. It did a great job. It works. It is not perfect, but it does a good job.

That twin-track approach provides a vital lifeline for domestic violence victims on spousal and partner visas, because it allows survivors to resolve their immigration status as well as having access to emergency funding. Ultimately that helps them to become independent of the perpetrator and the state. Yet currently the domestic violence rule and destitution domestic violence concession do not extend to migrant victims on non-spousal visas. That includes victims who are on student or other visas such as work permit holders and domestic workers. We have essentially created a two-tier system. What I find unusual about that two-tier system is that, in my experience of some of the more problematic issues in the visa system and its use for safeguarding, the spousal visa bit is not what I would favour.

Between April 2015 and March 2016, 67% of users who accessed the Southall Black Sisters no recourse fund, supported by the tampon tax, were on non-spousal visas. A survey conducted by Southall Black Sisters between November 2012 and January 2013 found that 64% of 242 women did not qualify for the DDVC and were without a safety net. Similarly, Women’s Aid reported that over a one-year period, two-thirds of its users with NRPF were not eligible for statutory support because they were on non-spousal visas and had no recourse to public funds.

Break in Debate

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 11:04 a.m.

Sorry, I am just getting over the shock of that!

It is incumbent on all of us to make sure that the Bill is good strong legislation and that its primary focus is on supporting victims of domestic abuse, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity or immigration status. We should remember, in all of this, that it could be, at any point, not just someone we do not know, but our sister, our friend or our colleague. It could be any one of us and we should put ourselves in that position and ask ourselves what we would want the Bill to do to defend us.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 11:04 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. I welcome the opportunity to debate this issue in Committee, because very often, with the best will in the world, the very nature of parliamentary questions and oral questions and so on is that they are quick and the next question is heading up and so on. I am pleased that we can spend some time debating this issue today.

I say that because I wish it was as easy as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley has painted—I really do. I think she has the measure of me by now; she could not accuse me of not being compassionate, of not understanding or of not wanting to do the very best that we can for victims of domestic abuse. Against that background, I must not be led by my heart alone, but must also use my head to deal with some of the points and suggestions that have been made.

Let us focus first on that about which we all agree: that victims of abuse should first and foremost be treated as victims. Where we differ perhaps is on how we achieve that, the nature of the support and how it is best provided. For the benefit of those who do not have copies of the new clauses in front of them, they do not deal with services, provision of refuge spaces and so on; they deal only with the provision of legal aid and changes to immigration status. I say that because I am painting the journey that we have taken over the last year on the pilot project. It is very important to bear in mind that, even though the new clauses are being debated, the Government have committed to the pilot project to get some data and evidence on which we can create specific and careful policy.

New clause 29 seeks to extend entitlement for legal aid to migrant victims in relation to their immigration and nationality status. The legal aid scheme is targeted at those who need it and the Government have always been clear that publicly funded immigration advice is available to some particularly vulnerable individuals. The destitution domestic violence concession is run by the Home Office and was created because we understood that there is a problem with victims of domestic abuse who came to this country on spousal visas with legitimate expectations about setting up their lives and those of their family here. We were alerted to and saw that there was a problem, and the DDVC was created.

Under the DDVC, victims are eligible for legal aid when applying for indefinite leave to remain or for residence cards, subject to the statutory means and merits tests—that three-month period can be extended. I have looked at the figures myself; indeed, I looked at the form this morning to refresh my memory. It is a simple form—certainly simpler than some of the forms that the Home Office produces—and it is, I would say, a light-touch form, precisely because we appreciate that it may be used by traumatised victims and we want to be sensitive to their states and circumstances. It is a light-touch form just to log them into the system, as it were, and from that, the benefits—legal aid and so on—can flow where they apply.

People who are not on a spousal visa and who are not therefore eligible for the DDVC may still be eligible for help with legal aid through the exceptional case funding scheme, so long as relevant criteria are met. That scheme is specifically designed for cases in which the failure to provide legal aid could risk a breach of an individual’s human rights. In those circumstances, provided that an applicant passes the means and merits test, legal aid must be granted. The Ministry of Justice is making changes to the scheme to ensure that it is easy to follow and accessible to all, including by simplifying the forms and guidance and working with the Legal Aid Agency to improve the timeliness of decisions.

In the situations that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley mentioned, such as leave to enter, leave to remain and citizenship, victims of domestic abuse can already apply for legal aid through the exceptional case funding scheme, if they are not already eligible under DDVC. One of the consequences of new clause 29 would be that domestic abuse victims would be eligible for legal aid for applications under the EU settlement scheme.

The scheme has been designed to be streamlined and user friendly, and the majority of applicants would be able to apply without the need for advice from a lawyer. Indeed, the latest figures, as of 30 April, show that 3,220,000 applications have been completed. Again, it is not an arduous process. We have deliberately tried to make it as streamlined as possible, while ensuring that the requirements are met in terms of years lived in the country, precisely because we want to help people—our friends, our family—stay in the country in January next year.

The Home Office has put in place measures to ensure that people who may have difficulty with the online scheme have help. We appreciate that age or different circumstances may mean that not everybody is as tech savvy as the younger generation, so we have put help in place. Even then, we have legal aid as a safeguard, if it is necessary. While we recognise the importance of providing support to domestic abuse victims, we consider that the current scope of legal aid and the availability of the exceptional case funding scheme already ensure that victims of domestic abuse can access legal aid when they need to.

New clauses 35 and 36 seek to provide at least six months of leave and access to public funds to all victims of domestic abuse who do not fall within the spousal visa DDVC scheme. This would mean that all migrant victims of domestic abuse would have a route to indefinite leave to remain and ensure that they could access publicly funded support.

If I understand the objective of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley correctly, she wants to extend the DDVC scheme and the domestic violence rule to cover all migrant victims of domestic abuse, to place the DDVC in the immigration rules, and to lift immigration restrictions for any migrant victim of domestic abuse. I will try to break down the figures and I will go into them further in a little while. I appreciate the help from the sector. The hon. Lady was a little unkind to me when she described the way in which we have used the sector. We appreciate the help that the sector has given us on this, but we want to consolidate it and build on it, which is why we are investing in a pilot project later this year.

Southall Black Sisters responded to the Home Office as part of our work over the last year. Again, I will go into that more in a moment. Of the people that they helped in 2019-20, 43% of the women had a spousal visa on arrival and/or upon their contact with services. In Southall Black Sisters’ assessment, the next most frequent category of immigration status among people they helped was right down at 8%. That gives us an idea about how many immigration statuses and routes there are, which is a factor that the Government must take into account.

The next most common category of women that they helped, after those on spousal visas, was those who were seeking asylum. Happily for people who are seeking asylum, there is a whole network of support for them. It goes without saying that not every person who applies for asylum is a victim of domestic abuse, but, again, we have listened to the sector. We have changed the system for people who are in the asylum system and are experiencing abuse, so that they get a few top-up payments to help them access the specialist support services they need, including safe accommodation.

After the category of asylum seekers, which was 8%, there are three categories with 5% in each. Those categories are EU dependants, people who had overstayed on their visitor visas and people who were described as overstayers on unspecified visas. I say that to give context to the variety of circumstances that victims may find themselves in, but I am afraid that treating them in a blanket way gives us cause for concern.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 11:15 a.m.

Personally, Minister, I do not care how people came into the country if they have been beaten up.

Anyway, with regard to asylum, when the Minister states here in front of the Committee that we give specialist support to victims in the asylum system, I would absolutely love to hear about some of that specialist support. For example, if someone was a victim of domestic abuse and they entered into National Asylum Support Service accommodation in my constituency, what is the specialist support they would get in that accommodation?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

Members will no doubt allow me just to flick through the timeline; for those who are not in the room, it is a thick document, so it may take me some time to find the—

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 11:15 a.m.

If the Minister would like me to intervene again, and tell her what support is—

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the Minister. I just thought that I ought to make it clear that while I am in the Chair, I have no views on the matter before the Committee, although many of you will know that I did chair the all-party group on human trafficking and modern slavery, and I was not aware that that subject was going to come up for debate today. Please be assured that while I am in the Chair, I am neutral.

Have I spoken for enough time, Minister?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 11:16 a.m.

May I record my thanks to the Chair, and also acknowledge the work that he has done on this topic, and the difficult questions that he asks me on occasion during Home Office oral questions? I am extremely grateful to him.

There is a Home Office policy entitled, “Domestic abuse: responding to reports of domestic abuse from asylum seekers”, which is dated 16 July 2019. I am told that the policy changes set out in that document provided a concession whereby victims of domestic abuse in asylum support accommodation can apply for top-up payments to cover the cost of transferring to a specialist domestic abuse refuge.

We are listening and we are very much trying to be led by the evidence. However, I will make the point that we need a firmer evidence base. That is not a criticism of the charities involved, but we need to understand this very diverse group of people, who are diverse in terms of their experiences; we need to understand the nature of the abuse and the ways in which they have come to be in our country. That is relevant because—[Interruption.] It is relevant, and I will go on to say why in a moment. We also need to understand the experiences that they may have at home with their family members, and so on. Understanding all of that is important to ensure that public money is spent in the best way possible under our policy.

The Joint Committee that scrutinised the Bill considered similar changes to the DDVC and domestic violence indefinite leave to remain, or DVILR. I have to say that its recommendations fell short of the proposals to incorporate the DDVC scheme within the immigration rules. I also have to say that we are not attracted to the approach being set out today either. The DDVC scheme is an administrative scheme and it has worked successfully on that basis since its introduction in 2012. As a concession operated outside the rules, it can be applied flexibly and can readily be amended as the need arises. Placing the scheme within the rules would remove this flexibility.

In response to the Joint Committee’s recommendation, we undertook a review into the overall response to migrant victims of domestic abuse, and we intend to publish the findings ahead of Report. Just to give an idea of the lengths we have gone to with this review, we examined 100 cases in which the claimant had applied for indefinite leave to remain on the grounds of domestic violence. We specifically looked at the length of time spent in the UK, and at whether the claimant had arrived on a partner visa or had formed their partnership after arrival in the UK. We also looked at the main providers of third-party evidence in these cases and whether or not they were being accommodated in a refuge with access to public funds. Gender and other characteristics were also recorded.

We gathered evidence from a range of stakeholders and held a number of workshops and discussion sessions, to obtain more detailed information and views about the difficulties that migrant victims face. Indeed, some of those meetings and the submissions from the organisations concerned are in the body of work from the past year.

I am pleased that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley mentioned Women’s Aid. It was not excluded from the review or any of our work on the matter. Indeed, it was warmly invited and welcomed. Those Welsh colleagues who are concerned that Wales should not be under-represented will be pleased to know that dial-in details were sent to Welsh Women’s Aid as well. In those workshops, with all the organisations that we would expect, including Bawso, Amnesty, Southall Black Sisters and Step Up Migrant Women, we have had frank discussions about what they experience on the ground and what the women they look after face. The results of the review will be published before Report, but I want to set out that the Government have prepared, and continue to prepare, an intensive and detailed piece of work.

I fear that new clause 35 is based on a misunderstanding of the purpose and rationale for the DDVC and the domestic violence rule. They were and are intended to provide a route to settlement for migrant victims who hold spousal visas. They were designed in that way because the victims in question would, had the relationship not broken down as a result of domestic violence, have had a legitimate expectation of staying in the UK permanently. To compare that with the situation of someone on a visitor visa, such a person comes to the country without a legitimate expectation of staying in the country. I am afraid that the head has to rule the heart in this instance. We have immigration policies and, indeed, the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill is being debated in the Committee Room next to this. We have to try to ensure that immigration policy is maintained. None the less, we need to ensure that there is support for victims when they require it, to help them escape their dangerous relationship.

Neither the DDVC nor the domestic violence rule was designed to support those without the legitimate expectation of remaining in the country. We are concerned that expanding the scope of both provisions would undermine the specific purpose that gave rise to them and introduce a route to settlement that might lead to more exploitation of vulnerable migrants or, indeed, of our immigration system.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 11:23 a.m.

I do not expect the Minister—or even you, Mr Bone—to be able to filibuster long enough to answer this question, to be perfectly honest, but what evidence is there under the current system, in whatever form and in relation to whatever visa, of women lying about domestic violence to get immigration status? Can I have that evidence, compared with the evidence for those who are turned away? My experience recently—and I respect the point that people sometimes use domestic violence legislation to break the rules—is that sometimes they use it to drive to Barnard Castle. [Interruption.] It is the truth, then. I understand why she thinks people lie.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 11:24 a.m.

No. I am sorry—can I just try to bring the tone down? Thus far, we have managed to discuss this incredibly emotive subject in a responsible and constructive way. I shall try to continue to do that. I do not for a moment say that people who apply are lying. I absolutely do not say that. What I am worried about, and what I see with modern slavery, for example, is that the people who manipulate, exploit and take advantage will use every way they can find to do it.

Fay Jones Portrait Fay Jones - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 11:24 a.m.

rose—

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 11:24 a.m.

rose—

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 11:24 a.m.

I will give the hon. Lady an example, and then after I have developed this point I will give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire, and then to the hon. Member for Edinburgh West.

I recently had one of my regular meetings on the topic of serious violence and county lines gangs. Predominantly young men and boys are targeted by county lines gangs in what we call exporting areas—big cities—to go out to the county to sell drugs.

The Chair adjourned the Committee without Question put (Standing Order No. 88).

Domestic Abuse Bill (Twelfth sitting) Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office
Legislation Page: Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21

Domestic Abuse Bill (Twelfth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 12th sitting: House of Commons)
Victoria Atkins Excerpts
Wednesday 17th June 2020

(3 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Home Office

I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following:

New clause 35—Victims of domestic abuse: leave to remain—

“(1) The Secretary of State must, within 3 months of this Act being passed, lay a statement of changes in rules made under section 3(2) of the Immigration Act 1971 (“the immigration rules”) to make provision for leave to remain to be granted to any person subject to immigration control who is a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom.

(2) The statement laid under subsection (1) must set out rules for the granting of indefinite leave to remain to any person subject to immigration control who is a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom; and the statement must provide for those rules to be commenced no later than one month of the laying of the statement.

(3) The Secretary of State must make provision for granting limited leave to remain for a period of no less than 6 months to any person eligible to make an application under the immigration rules for the purposes of subsection (2); and such leave shall include no condition under section 3(1)(c)(i), (ia), (ii) or (v) of the Immigration Act 1971.

(4) The Secretary of State must make provision for extending limited leave to remain granted in accordance with subsection (3) to ensure that leave continues throughout the period during which an application made under the immigration rules for the purposes of subsection (2) remains pending.

(5) Where subsection (6) applies, notwithstanding any statutory or other provision, no services shall be withheld from a victim of domestic abuse solely by reason of that person not having leave to remain or having leave to remain subject to a condition under section 3(1)(c) of the Immigration Act 1971.

(6) This subsection applies where a provider of services is satisfied that the victim of domestic abuse is eligible to make an application to which subsection (3) refers.

(7) The Secretary of State must, for the purposes of subsection (5), issue guidance to providers of services about the assessment of eligibility to make an application to which subsection (3) refers.

(8) In this section an application is pending during the period—

(a) beginning when it is made,

(b) ending when it is finally decided, withdrawn or abandoned, and an application is not finally decided while an application for review or appeal could be made within the period permitted for either or while any such review or appeal remains pending (meaning that review or appeal has not been finally decided, withdrawn or abandoned);

“person subject to immigration control” means a person in the United Kingdom who does not have the right of abode;

“provider of services” includes both public and private bodies;

“services” includes accommodation, education, employment, financial assistance, healthcare and any service provided exclusively or particularly to survivors of domestic abuse.”

This new clause would make provision in the immigration rules for the granting of indefinite leave to remain to migrant survivors of domestic abuse and limited leave to remain to a survivor who is eligible to make an application for indefinite leave to remain.

New clause 36—Recourse to public funds for domestic abuse survivors—

“(1) The Immigration Acts are amended as follows.

(2) In section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 after subsection (10) insert—

“(11) This section does not apply to a person who is a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom.”

(3) In paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 3 to the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 after sub-paragraph (b) insert—

“(ca) to a person who is a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom, or”

(4) In section 21 of the Immigration Act 2014 at the end of subsection (3) insert “or if P is a victim of domestic abuse”.

(5) In section 3 of the Immigration Act 1971 after subsection (1) insert—

“(1A) The Secretary of State may not make or maintain a condition under subsection (1)(c)(ii) on leave granted to a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom; and it is not a breach of the immigration laws or rules for such a victim to have recourse to public funds.”

(6) For the purposes of this section, evidence that domestic abuse has occurred may consist of one or more of the following—

(a) a relevant conviction, police caution or protection notice;

(b) a relevant court order (including without notice, ex parte, interim or final orders), including a non-molestation undertaking or order, occupation order, domestic abuse protection order, forced marriage protection order or other protective injunction;

(c) evidence of relevant criminal proceedings for an offence concerning domestic violence or a police report confirming attendance at an incident resulting from domestic abuse;

(d) evidence that a victim has been referred to a multi-agency risk assessment conference;

(e) a finding of fact in the family courts of domestic abuse;

(f) a medical report from a doctor at a UK hospital confirming injuries or a condition consistent with being a victim of domestic abuse;

(g) a letter from a General Medical Council registered general practitioner confirming that he or she is satisfied on the basis of an examination that a person had injuries or a condition consistent with those of a victim of domestic abuse;

(h) an undertaking given to a court by the alleged perpetrator of domestic abuse that he or she will not approach the applicant who is the victim of the abuse;

(i) a letter from a social services department confirming its involvement in providing services to a person in respect of allegations of domestic abuse;

(j) a letter of support or a report from a domestic abuse support organisation; or

(k) other evidence of domestic abuse, including from a counsellor, midwife, school, witness or the victim.

(7) For the purposes of this section—

“domestic abuse” has the same meaning as in section 1 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020;

“victim” includes the dependent child of a person who is a victim of domestic abuse.”

This new clause seeks to ensure that certain provisions under the Immigration Acts – including exclusion from public funds, certain types of support and assistance and the right to rent – do not apply to survivors of domestic abuse.

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins) - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 2 p.m.

Before we adjourned for lunch, I was speaking about county lines gangs, to demonstrate how vulnerable people can continue to be manipulated and exploited for the aims and advantages of those who are doing the manipulation. When we talk about county lines gangs, most people think of boys and young men being recruited, but we are now getting stories about girls being recruited—not necessarily to do the drug running, although they can be used by the perpetrators to conceal weapons and drugs, but to launder the proceeds of crime.

The perpetrators, the gang leaders, are very deliberately recruiting young women because they want to use their bank accounts, and they do so on the basis that because someone is a girl or young woman, the authorities will not trace her, track her or be on the lookout for her as much as they would be—they say—for young men. They also tell the girls, as part of their manipulation, that even if they do get caught, the consequences, because they are girls, will not be so bad for them.

I say that because in the context of the argument about manipulation and how perpetrators can use and skew systems to their advantage, I am highly cynical when it comes to the ability of perpetrators to do that. That is one reason why, when we talk about how careful we have to be about how the system is constructed, so that it cannot be misused, I do so very much with those cynical perpetrators in mind.

I will return to the fundamental principle of providing support, on which we all agree. It is why, as part of our journey to discovering the scale and extent of the problem but also the most effective ways of helping migrant women or people with no recourse to public funds, we have allocated £1.5 million to a pilot project to support migrant victims to find safe accommodation and services. In addition to offering emergency support, the pilot will be designed to assess the gaps in existing provision and gather robust data that will help to inform future funding decisions. The review that we have been carrying out and are due to publish, or aim to publish, by Report stage, has highlighted that there are significant gaps in the evidence base for migrant victims who are not eligible for the destitution domestic violence concession.

Since 2017, we have provided more than £1 million from the tampon tax fund to support migrant victims with no recourse to public funds. That has helped to deliver much-needed support for a number of individuals, but regrettably the funding has not provided the necessary evidence base to enable us to take long-term decisions. The evidence is at best patchy as to the kinds of circumstance in which support is most needed, how long victims need support, what kind of support works best and how individuals can leave support to regain their independence. That demonstrates a need for further work to ensure that we have a strong evidence base from which we can make sound decisions, and that is what the pilot fund is for.

Peter Kyle Portrait Peter Kyle (Hove) (Lab) - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 2:04 p.m.

May I ask the Minister to clarify her comments? Some people could interpret them to mean that the evidence not being there is a reason not to provide any service for some people, whereas some service might be provided for some people by the pilot. Can the Minister clarify that the Government will look at how they can give as much provision for as many people as possible until we are able to get the evidence to better target it going forward?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 2:07 p.m.

I very much appreciate the way in which the hon. Gentleman raised that. We have systems in place at the moment. I hope that, particularly on the topic of legal aid, I have been able to provide examples of women who were not eligible for DDVC getting access to legal aid support. We accept that there is more to do. We are coming at the matter with an open mind and an open heart. We want to get the evidence, so that in due course we can put in place the systems that will provide the best support. That, as well as helping people in their immediate circumstances, is the intention behind the pilot project.

I turn now to the matter of immigration control. We believe that lifting immigration controls for all migrant victims of domestic abuse is the wrong response. Successive Governments have taken the view that access to publicly funded benefits and services should normally reflect the strength of a migrant’s connections to the UK and, in the main, become available to migrants only when they have settled here. Those restrictions are an important plank of immigration policy, operated, as I have said, by successive Governments and applicable to all migrants until they qualify for indefinite leave to remain. The policy is designed to assure the public that controlled immigration brings real benefits to the UK and does not lead to excessive demands on the UK’s finite resources, and that public funds are protected for permanent residents of the UK.

Exceptions to those restrictions are already in place for some groups of migrants, such as refugees or those here on the basis of their human rights, where they would otherwise be destitute. Those on human rights routes can also apply to have their no recourse to public funds condition lifted if their financial circumstances change. Equally, migrant victims on partner visas can already apply for the destitution domestic violence concession, to be granted limited leave with recourse to public funds.

However, lifting restrictions for all migrant victims would enable any migrant, including those here illegally, to secure leave to remain if they claim to be a victim of domestic abuse. For the reasons I have set out, we believe that the provisions in new clause 35 would be open to abuse and undermine the legitimate claims of other migrant victims and the public support on which our immigration system relies.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips (Birmingham, Yardley) (Lab) - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 2:08 p.m.

Will the Minister outline exactly why she thinks the new clause would give everyone indefinite leave to remain? That is certainly not the case, if I may speak so boldly. We are asking for limited leave to remain for a six-month period, with a view to making an application for indefinite leave to remain. Will the Minister just highlight that the Home Office, even in the case of spousal visas, still has every right to refuse indefinite leave to remain to anyone it likes?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 2:08 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for clarifying. I am afraid that that is not the interpretation that lots and lots of officials who have pored over the new clauses have drawn. Perhaps that highlights the complexity of the area and the law. We have to be absolutely clear about our phrasing and intentions when we draft clauses that will have a huge impact on immigration policy, over and above the cases of the immediate victims whom we seek to help.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 2:09 p.m.

Does the current system of domestic violence destitution and the DV rule guarantee indefinite leave to remain for those on spousal visas? If it were extended to other groups, surely they would live under the same rules.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 2:12 p.m.

I do not want to labour the point, but the purpose and remit of the DDVC and the domestic violence rule has been misunderstood. The DDVC and the rule were, and are, intended to provide a route to settlement for migrant victims who hold spousal visas, because they have a legitimate expectation of staying in the UK permanently. That is the nature of their status. That is why we say it is not, sadly, an easy transfer across for people on other types of visas, such as visitor visas—or, indeed, for people who have arrived here illegally. That is why it is a painstaking process to work out what we can do to help such victims with the immediate circumstances of their abuse, so that the immigration system plays its part and takes its course in the way that it would do for anyone on those different types of visas.

I appreciate the sensitivities of talking about illegal immigrants, but it is important to acknowledge that we have to balance the interests of people who apply properly for immigration routes, as well as the immigration interests of individual victims. That is why the Government keep coming back to the argument that the starting point for the process should not be people’s immigration status; it should be the care that they need to help them flee an abusive relationship, giving them the support they need to recover from that and to lead happier and healthier lives.

I talked about the human rights routes. People on human rights routes can also apply to have their no recourse to public funds condition lifted if their financial circumstances change. Equally, migrant victims on partner visas can already apply for the DDVC to be granted limitedly, with recourse to public funds. We are committed to the needs of victims, which is why we have introduced the pilot to help us understand the particular pressures and needs of these vulnerable people.

I started my speech by setting out the Government’s commitment to helping victims. I made the point that victims must be treated as victims and get the help they need. That is absolutely what we are focused on, which is why the next steps in our programme of work in this very difficult area are to publish the results of the review and then conduct the pilot, so that we can assess and implement the practical support that these vulnerable people need.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 2:13 p.m.

Let me explain to somebody who may never have filled in a domestic violence destitution fund form or have had to apply the DV rule in this or any of its forms. The reality is that even if someone has a spousal visa, it does not guarantee them indefinite leave to remain. They still have to apply through every single one of the same rules through which they would ordinarily apply—unless the Home Office is changing the policy and saying that anyone who applies will automatically be given leave to remain. That is absolutely not my experience.

There is a problem when I stand here representing my experience of years in the field, and with masses of experience of immigration cases in my constituency—more, I feel safe in saying, than any hon. Member present, except perhaps the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster. It is very difficult when Ministers say that what I have experienced is not the case, or that all the victims who have given evidence—some of whom are our friends or family, and certainly our constituents—are wrong to say that the system does not work. There are lists of easements, but the reality on the ground is completely different. I understand what the Minister is saying and certainly what hon. Members want to see with regard to evidence gathering. Lord knows we live in a time when policy is made very quickly, and some people will prove that we needed better evidence for some of it. We live in interesting times. I have absolutely no doubt that that is what is required.

I do not see the point of a review if the evidence is not taken up by the Home Office. Even if all the evidence pointed the other way, I cannot see that the Home Office would come up with a different argument. The desire of all of us for the evidence is a sort of moot point. We are trying in this Bill to protect victims of domestic violence—it’s literally what it says on the tin.

Break in Debate

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 2:16 p.m.

I think it is. I do not get any uptick in sticking up for this group of people because migrant communities are not allowed to vote. People have seen a problem and they are trying to fix it. It is as simple as that. On the issue of leave to remain, I hear what—

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 2:16 p.m.

I rise to protect my officials more than anything else. New clause 35(2) states:

“The statement laid under subsection (1) must set out rules for the granting of indefinite leave to remain to any person subject to immigration control who is a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom”.

That is the hon. Lady’s new clause, and that is how we have read it.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 2:17 p.m.

Okay. That is absolutely fine. I was about to say to the Minister that I hear what she says about the concern that we might let a few too many in the country. I will take the issue up on Third Reading and speak about it every day until we get to Report and I will ensure that people speak about it in the Lords.

The Minister has probably never taken a call in a refuge and had to tell someone that they could not come because they had no recourse. She can say that I speak with my heart and not my head, but I have had to use my head to turn women away. I have had to have women’s children removed from them.

I do not act as an emotional being; I am emotional about the right thing to do. We are here to protect victims of domestic violence. We do not expect to ask them which countries they have travelled from when they present. I will take away what the Minister says about possible confusion. The amendments that will be laid before the House will be clear that, just as for those on spousal visas, there is no guarantee whatever of indefinite leave to remain, as the Minister well knows, in the scheme.

In fact, not everybody gets indefinite leave to remain. The data collected centrally is widely available. All we ask is that for a period everybody will be able to access support and be given a fair chance to make an immigration application. It is as simple as that. I do not want to stand here and let it pass. The point still stands whether we want to call them illegal or whether we want to talk about which particular visa they might have. If anyone does not have asylum accommodation in their constituency, they are free to come to mine to see whether they would like to put victims of domestic violence in it. It’s really cracking.

There will be people exactly as I have outlined. It does not matter what sort of visa they are on. As I have said, there will be people who we come across every day to whom we are currently saying, “This Bill isn’t for you. This Bill doesn’t help you; I am sorry you got beaten up, but you are on your own.” That is the reality of this law, until it is changed. I will do everything I can to change it and I have a better chance of doing that in front of the whole House—either this one or the other place. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 30

Use of bail in domestic abuse cases

“(1) Section 34 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (limitations on police detention) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (5)(a) for the word “applies” substitute “or subsection (5AB) applies”.

(3) In subsection (5)(b) for the word “applies” substitute “or subsection (5AB) applies”.

(4) In subsection (5A) insert after the words “applies if”, “subsection (5AB) does not apply and”.

(5) After subsection (5A) insert—

“(a) This subsection applies if—

(i) it appears to the custody officer that there is need for further investigation of any matter in connection with which the person was detained at any time during the period of the person‘s detention; and

(ii) the offence under investigation is an offence that amounts to domestic abuse as defined in section 1 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020;

(b) save that the person shall be released without bail if the custody officer is satisfied that releasing the person on bail is not necessary and proportionate in all the circumstances (having regard, in particular, to any conditions of bail which would be imposed and to the importance of protecting the complainant);

(c) before making a determination to release without bail or a determination as to any conditions of bail to impose, the custody officer shall conduct an assessment of the risks posed by not releasing the person on bail (including, in particular, to the complainant);

(d) before making a determination of a kind referred to in paragraph (c) the custody officer must inform—

(i) the person or the person’s legal representative and consider any representations made by the person or the person‘s legal representative; and

(ii) the complainant or the complainant’s representative and consider any representations made by the complainant or the complainant’s representative; and

(e) an officer of the rank of inspector or above must authorise the release on bail (having considered any representations made by the person or the person’s legal representative and by the complainant or the complainant’s representative).””.—(Peter Kyle.)

This new clause reverses the presumption against use of bail in the 2017 Act for these categories of offences, and introduces a risk assessment with prior consultation with the parties.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Break in Debate

Peter Kyle Portrait Peter Kyle - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 2:20 p.m.

Good afternoon, Mr Bone. These two new clauses concern how bail is used in domestic abuse cases as a result of the changes to the bail regime as enacted in the Policing and Crime Act 2017.

As reported in the Joint Committee on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, the Policing and Crime Act 2017 restricted the length of pre-charge bail to 28 days in most circumstances and mandated that extensions could be authorised by police officers, but only if the officer authorising the extension had reasonable grounds for believing the investigation was being made “diligently and expeditiously.” That was a legislative response to cases such as that of broadcaster Paul Gambaccini who was repeatedly released on bail for more than a year while being investigated, but then subsequently cleared of all charges and not charged with anything at all.

We can contrast the scrutiny that that Bill received with that on this Bill, as it was reported to the Joint Committee that

“the consultation prior to the 2017 bail reforms did not hear from any women’s organisations, or victims’ groups, and that only policing bodies, organisations representing suspects and defence lawyers participated.”

Though well-meaning and made in response to a legitimate cause where pre-charge bail had been misused, the changes have had a devastating impact on victims of domestic abuse, as the police have drastically reduced the use of bail for perpetrators accused of rape and domestic violence, which has put survivors at an increased risk, as the alleged offender is being released without any conditions. That point was reinforced in the Joint Committee by Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, who agreed that,

“the reduction in pre-charge bail in domestic abuse cases had been significant”

and, more worryingly, told the Committee,

“that it could be difficult to convince a judge of the need for bail when a case progressed to court or if he or she had not been on police bail.”

A 28-day initial grant of bail is simply not enough time for an already stretched police force to gather the plethora of evidence needed in most domestic abuse cases. In evidence to the Joint Committee, Deb Smith of the Police Superintendents Association said:

“To get a charge on a domestic abuse case, there clearly has to be a significant amount of evidence gathered. That is almost always going to be nigh-on impossible in the first 28 days, even if somebody is released on bail. Then obviously we go to the superintendent’s extension for the three months, and even that is a challenging timeframe in which to get all the evidence required to satisfy a charge—third-party material, mobile phone records and so on.”

Once again, I find myself quoting the safeguarding Minister, because she herself admitted that, in the case of pre-charge bail:

“It is almost as though the pendulum has swung the other way, and we need to get it back in the middle by ensuring that for cases where it is appropriate to go beyond 28 days, people are being released on pre-charge bail with conditions as necessary and proportionate.”

It is encouraging that the Government have admitted faults with the current regime and I acknowledge that change has been promised, with a preliminary consultation on proposals for reviewing pre-charge bail legislation having just closed on 29 May. However, considering the opportunity offered by the Domestic Abuse Bill—it is right here before us and we know what the problem is—I do not think survivors and people at risk should have to wait for a possible police protection and powers Bill for the changes to appear.

I hear the Government’s argument that there are risks associated with making piecemeal changes to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 through the Domestic Abuse Bill. However, the way in which the changes in the 2017 Act have affected domestic abuse victims must be restated. The Government’s own figures show that in the first three months of the new law, use of bail conditions in domestic abuse cases dropped by a staggering 65%.

New clause 30 would reverse the general presumption against bail and require a risk assessment by officers in cases where there are allegations of domestic abuse on the impact of imposing or not imposing bail. It strongly mirrors the Home Office’s proposals on pre-charge bail and would therefore not conflict with the eventual legislative outcome of the wider Home Office review.

New clause 31 is a simple amendment that would extend the initial bail period in domestic abuse cases from 28 days to three months. We know from the police’s testimony to the Joint Committee that the 28-day limit is particularly problematic in domestic abuse cases. Increasing it to three months would reduce the burden of bureaucracy created by bail extensions in domestic abuse cases and make bail a more workable tool for the police. It would avoid the situation that currently arises, where bail is lifted after 28 days and victims find it difficult to obtain a non-molestation order without a recent incident, leaving them without any protection at all. Three months on bail is very different from the indefinite bail that existed before the 2017 Act, so the new clause would address the legitimate concerns that led to that legislation being enacted.

I urge Ministers to consider both new clauses in the context of the immediate relief they could offer domestic abuse survivors. It is reassuring that the Minister committed to the inclusion of victims of domestic abuse in the statutory guidance, but I urge Members to take advantage of the opportunity we have before us. We know that we are heading into a period when both Houses of Parliament will be gridlocked with legislation. Despite the potential extension of the parliamentary terms and revocation of recesses, we are heading into a period when the House will be jam-packed with legislation. As we head towards 31 December and our leaving the European single market and customs union, it is certain that next year will be an even heavier legislative period than this one. We have a Bill in front of us, we know what the problem is and there is a simple solution—please, Minister, do not make us wait.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

I say at the outset that I have sympathy with the hon. Gentleman’s position. We are conscious of the unintended consequence of the well-intentioned reforms to pre-charge bail in 2017. We are committed to ensuring that the police have the powers they need to protect the public, and that our criminal justice system has at its heart the welfare and best interests of victims.

Over the past few years, crime has become more complex, and the police are dealing with more digital evidence and new challenges. The Policing and Crime Act 2017 introduced a number of reforms to pre-charge bail to address legitimate concerns that suspects were spending too long under restrictive conditions, with no oversight. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman gave an example of that. The 2017 reforms allowed individuals to be released under investigation and introduced a presumption in favour of release without bail, unless its use was considered necessary and proportionate. They limited the initial imposition of pre-charge bail to 28 days. I must emphasise that the police can still use pre-charge bail when it is necessary and proportionate to do so, and they have our full support in that.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council has issued guidance highlighting that police should use pre-charge bail when there are risks to victims and witnesses, and the need to regularly review cases where such suspects are released under investigation.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard

On risk, the new clause seeks to amend the Bill to ensure that a proper risk assessment is done. Somebody in a case involving me was recently released under investigation, and no risk assessment of my safety was done.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

Obviously, I am concerned to hear that. I take the point about risk assessment and will raise it with the NPCC lead. The hon. Member for Hove referred to the forthcoming police powers and protections Bill, but in the interim I very much want that to be considered.

We have worked closely with policing partners and other partners across the criminal justice system to track its implementation and monitor its impact, and we know that the use of pre-charge bail has fallen significantly. We have listened carefully to these concerns, and in November, as the hon. Gentleman said, we announced a review of pre-charge bail to address concerns raised about the impact of current rules on the police, victims, those under investigation and the broader criminal justice system. We launched a public consultation in February, which closed on 29 May. We received more than 1,000 responses, which we are analysing before deciding how best to proceed.

However, I very much take the point about the needs before the police powers and protections Bill is introduced, but our concern is that we cannot deal with this in a piecemeal, offence-specific manner; we have to take a holistic approach to changing the pre-charge bail system. This Bill is not the correct vehicle for that but, as the hon. Gentleman said, the police powers and protections Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech may well be.

Peter Kyle Portrait Peter Kyle - Hansard

I need to put something on the record. It is always ideal to look at these matters in the round, in the holistic way that the Minister mentions. However, when we see an attack in public, outside, suddenly the Government find the ability to review things, such as early release programmes, and to introduce very specific pieces of piecemeal legislation, if I may describe them in those terms. The Bill is before us. We cannot wait any longer. We believe that every life matters, and we think the fact that victims out there feel threatened by this should be power enough to force a specific change here until we get that holistic report and legislation that she seeks.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

I think the hon. Gentleman is referring to the new powers in relation to terrorism offences, if I have understood correctly. That is a discrete part of the criminal justice system. Pre-charge bail has the potential to apply to pretty much every criminal offence, with the exception of the murder; it would clearly be very unusual for anyone facing a murder charge to be released on bail. Again, we have to look at the system in a holistic way, which is what we are planning. However, I will raise the point about risk with the NPCC so that in the intervening months, while the Bill is still going through Parliament—let us not forget that that does not finish when we finish here tonight; the Bill has some scrutiny ahead of it—we get the message through to the police chiefs, in addition to what we have already said, that this matter is of particular concern to the Committee.

Julie Marson Portrait Julie Marson (Hertford and Stortford) (Con) - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 2:36 p.m.

At the risk of sounding like a one-trick pony, I want to talk about some of my experience in court, touching on some things that we have just been speaking about, or that will be referred to later when the hon. Member for Hove speaks again about court.

My experience is that magistrates consistently deal with difficult cases. It is difficult to balance the rights of a victim and the rights of a defendant. I have not talked much about defendants, but it is true that we see a lot of defendants who have terrible stories to tell. In my maiden speech, I said that being a magistrate had changed my perspective on the world, because I had never seen the kinds of lives that were coming up in front of me, and not just of the victims but of the defendants.

I told the story of a boy who walked in on my first day, when I was still being mentored. He was 18 and it was his first appearance in an adult court. He looked about 10—he was tiny—and he was grey. I said to my mentor, “God, he can’t be in this court, surely,” and they said, “No, I know him from the family courts.” He was malnourished because his parents were drug addicts and he was never fed properly. He was grey because he was malnourished and he had been injected with heroin to keep him quiet as a child. But he had burgled an elderly couple’s house. There are lots of victims in a courtroom and it almost does not matter where they are sitting. It is a constant battle as a magistrate to weigh up the rights of the defendant and the rights of the victim.

That touches on bail, which is an unpopular thing to talk about in court, because in some ways everyone is a threat and everyone can go on to do nasty things to nice people, but magistrates have to weigh up the right of habeas corpus—the right of a defendant to have liberty until he has been convicted of a crime. That is really difficult to weigh up, because it involves thinking about the risks to the victim, the defendant’s right to liberty and the presumption of innocence.

That is why the holistic approach that the Minister is talking about is important, because it will touch on not just domestic abuse cases, but the precedents and the impact that has on the court system and the rights of defendants in the court system. The hon. Member for Hove mentioned the pendulum, which it is important to get right. I think the more holistic approach is genuinely the right way to go on that.

Break in Debate

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 2:44 p.m.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

This new clause arose out of cases that occurred a number of weeks ago, which highlighted something frightening. Specialist domestic violence refuges have supported hundreds of thousands of people over many years. They are life-saving, provide sanctuary, and are established specifically to meet the needs of women and children who need refuge. In most cases, the confidentiality of a refuge is crucial for the safety and wellbeing of those who stay there, and I cannot express to Members how seriously refuges take their confidentiality. Every single person who lives in a refuge signs a licence agreement that says that if they tell somebody, they have to leave, and enforcing that rule when it is broken is heartbreaking.

The Bill offers a golden opportunity to ensure that there is legal clarity about the nature of refuge provision, including the key elements that are necessary to preserve their integrity. At present, it is not explicitly clear that refuge residential addresses and the identity of those who work for a refuge must remain confidential, so that must change. Service of family court orders on families in refuges, particularly location orders, is often applied for by fathers when mothers and children have fled the family home to refuges following allegations of domestic abuse. The family courts use tipstaffs and the police to locate the mother and children in refuges, even though the address of those refuges is not publicly available.

Once they are located, the refuge is usually ordered to provide its address directly to the court to facilitate the service of court orders on mothers. Often the court order explicitly names the refuge and its manager, which is intimidating and could result in them becoming identified. Family courts usually order the police to attend the refuge’s residential address to serve the order on the mother. This causes upset, anxiety and distress to the mother who is served with a court order, and to the other women and children living in the refuge, who have reported feeling retraumatised by the process. Women who experience a number of intersectional inequalities, such as race, language barriers and insecure immigration status, have reported receiving a heavy-handed response from the police, being unable to understand what the police are saying, and feeling that they are being treated as criminals.

In at least one case that I have heard of in the past few weeks, a mother and child were located and stalked as a result of their refuge’s residential address being disclosed to the court. They had to move to two different refuge addresses, and then the father abducted the child and took them abroad. In another case, the police served a family court order on a vulnerable mother who does not speak English and sought safety with her two children. The mother found the experience degrading and humiliating. Concerns arose in that case that the father had discovered the family’s location, and as such the mother and children had to be moved on to another location.

It is acceptable that family court orders must be served on mothers, but the current family judicial practice is not acceptable, as it breaches women and children’s rights to a safe family life and a private life under article 8 of the European convention on human rights. The approach adopted by family courts is haphazard and inconsistent, with much depending on the judge’s approach to the case before them. Many judges have had no training on domestic abuse.

The situation I have outlined could easily be avoided by ensuring that refuge addresses are always confidential and that family court orders are served by alternative means, as per the family procedure rules 2010. A simple amendment to those rules would ensure that a consistent approach is adopted by all family judges. If such an amendment is not made, the same poor practice will continue.

It is imperative that this situation is addressed urgently, before irreparable harm is caused. I have therefore tabled this new clause, to prevent the service of family court orders at refuge residential addresses, and to ensure that refuge residential addresses and the identity of refuge workers remain confidential.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 2:46 p.m.

I apologise to the Committee; I am stepping into the shoes of the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham, as he is about to appear on the Floor of the House, so please spare me particularly detailed questions and I will do my best.

We absolutely recognise the life-saving sanctuary that refuges provide for victims and their children, and we believe that existing legislation and court procedure rules state clearly that parties actively engaged in family proceedings are not required to disclose their address or that of their children, unless directed to do so by the court. Furthermore, parties may apply in any event to withhold such information from other parties.

When adequate information about the location of a child is not known to the court, the court can order any person who may have relevant information to disclose it to the court. In the first instance, details of the child’s address and who they are living with are disclosed only to the court and not to other parties. The court determines how this information should be used, based on the case details. Where there are allegations of domestic abuse, the court can and does treat this information as confidential, and holds it. We therefore believe that subsection (2) of the new clause is not required.

Subsection (1) would prevent the service of a court order at a refuge’s residential address, other than with the permission of the court following an application made under subsections (3) and (4). I fully appreciate that victims living in a refuge are fearful for their safety, and that their experiencing or witnessing the service of an order at a refuge would be very distressing. However, where courts are concerned about the welfare of a child, they must be able to take rapid and direct action to locate them. Direct service of an order at a refuge’s residential address may sometimes be necessary, for example when urgent concern about a child’s welfare demands it. Therefore, provisions to limit how documents may be served in specific places could have the unintended consequence of endangering a child.

I would like to reassure hon. Members that the courts may already direct completely bespoke service arrangements, based on the facts of a case. The family procedure rules 2010 provide clear powers for the courts to order service at alternative places, such as at an address other than a refuge’s residential address, and set out the procedure for making such applications.

In summary, we believe that the important outcomes sought by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley are already provided for in existing legislation and court rules. However, I want to reassure the Committee that we are committed to protecting vulnerable victims of domestic abuse who live in refuges. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham met the deputy president of the family court on Monday and raised these concerns, among others, and we will work with the deputy president to explore whether amendments to the family procedure rules 2010 could strengthen safeguards for victims and their children who live in refuges. On that basis, I ask the hon. Lady to withdraw the new clause.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 2:49 p.m.

I will withdraw the new clause, and I am heartened by the fact that the hon. Member for Cheltenham, who is no longer in his place, has spoken to the divisional lead in the family court. This is one of those situations where there may very well be regulations in place to allow the outcomes we want, but something is still going wrong, and an assessment and a change in this area is needed.

I understand the deep concerns that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle, has needing to think through the potential for harm to come to a child, although I would argue that, in refuge services, there would be somebody there in the vast majority of cases. There are quite strict and stringent safeguarding measures in place in refuges to ensure that children come to no harm. However, I am pleased to hear what she said and will speak to the other Minister about it another time, when he is not debating the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 33

Reasonable force in domestic abuse cases

‘(1) Section 76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection 76(5A) after “In a householder case” insert “or a domestic abuse case”.

(3) In subsection 76(6) after “In a case other than a householder case” insert “or a domestic abuse case”.

(4) After subsection 76(8F) insert—

“(8G) For the purposes of this section “a domestic abuse case” is a case where—

(a) the defence concerned is the common law defence of self-defence;

(b) D is, or has been, a victim of domestic abuse;

(c) the force concerned is force used by D against the person who has perpetrated the abusive behaviour referred to at subsection (8G)(b);

(d) subsection (8G)(b) will only be established if the behaviour concerned is, or is part of, conduct which constitutes domestic abuse as defined in sections 1 and 2 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020, including but not limited to conduct which constitutes the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship as defined in section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015.”

(5) In subsection 76(9) after “This section, except so far as making different provision for householder cases” insert “and domestic abuse cases”.’ —(Peter Kyle.)

This new clause seeks to clarify the degree of force which is reasonable under the common law of self-defence where the defendant is a survivor of domestic abuse.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Peter Kyle Portrait Peter Kyle - Hansard
18 Jun 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause seeks to provide domestic abuse survivors the same legal protection that householders have in cases of self-defence. Householders have a legal protection when they act in self-defence against an intruder, but no such protection is available to survivors acting in self-defence against their abuser. At its base, just think what that means: we are able in law to defend ourselves, to a defined threshold, against people who enter our homes and cause us harm, but we are unable to have the same defence against people who already live in the home and seek to cause the same harm. The new clause seeks to rectify that imbalance.

Common-law defences are outdated and ill fitting in the context of domestic abuse, leaving survivors with no effective defence. The Bill presents an opportunity to modernise the law by ensuring that the available legal defences reflect the improved public understanding of domestic abuse. This issue gained prominence with the case of Sally Challen last year, who had her murder charge for the hammer attack she inflicted on her husband downgraded to manslaughter in recognition of the effect of decades of coercive control that she had endured. That judgment reflects our new understanding of how domestic abuse can effect survivors and lead to offending behaviour, so it is only right that the Domestic Abuse Bill recognises this.

Evidence from the Prison Reform Trust shows that the common-law defence of self-defence is difficult to establish in cases of violent resistance by a survivor of domestic abuse against their abusive partner or former partner, as a jury may well conclude that the response was disproportionate without taking into account the long history of abuse. The self-defence proposal would make it easier for victims and survivors to establish that they were acting in self-defence, providing them with an equivalent protection to those using force against an intruder into their home. This is a really important distinction: all we are asking for is the same threshold to be allowed against people perpetrating violence from within the home as that allowed against people perpetrating violence who enter the home.

The definition is also now successfully established in statute. Section 76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 is the basis for the new clause. Subsection (5A) allows householders to use disproportionate force when defending themselves against intruders into the home. It provides that, where the case involves a householder,

“the degree of force used by”

the householder

“is not to be regarded as having been reasonable in the circumstances as”

the householder

“believed them to be if it was grossly disproportionate”.

[Interruption.] I believe I am being heckled by Siri—I think I might have either turned someone’s lights on or off or ordered their shopping. A householder will therefore be able to use force that is disproportionate, but not grossly disproportionate. A CPS guideline states:

“The provision does not give householders free rein to use disproportionate force in every case they are confronted by an intruder. The new provision must be read in conjunction with the other elements of section 76 of the 2008 Act. The level of force used must still be reasonable in the circumstances as the householder believed them to be (section 76(3)).”

In deciding whether the force might be regarded as disproportionate or grossly disproportionate, the guideline states that the court

“will need to consider the individual facts of each case, including the personal circumstances of the householder and the threat (real or perceived) posed by the offender.”

The new clause would add the same provision and that same test of proportionality of force to cases of domestic abuse.

The Government have gone to great lengths to consider the different forms that domestic abuse can take, but there is not the same recognition of the criminal acts that can result from that abuse. We will go on to discuss the need for statutory defence further, but the new clause would go some way to addressing a difficulty survivors can have in court currently in self-defence cases.

The current Secretary of State was instrumental in providing the increased protection for householders when she was a Back Bencher. The coalition Government put forward their self-defence amendment for householders with the following comments by Lord McNally:

“All we are saying is that if householders act in fear for their safety or the safety of others and in the heat of the moment use force which is reasonable in the circumstances but seems disproportionate when viewed in the cold light of day, they should not be treated as criminals. Force which was completely over the top—grossly disproportionate, in other words— will still not be permitted.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 10 December 2012; Vol. 741, c. 881.]

The new clause would see the Government apply the same sympathy and understanding to domestic abuse survivors that that Act provides in those situations.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

I am very pleased to reply in this debate. I understand that the new clause has been put forward by the Prison Reform Trust, and the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham, had the opportunity to speak in detail about this clause and other matters with representatives from the Prison Reform Trust, the designate domestic abuse commissioner, the Victims Commissioner and others a couple of weeks ago, so this has had his personal attention, as well as mine now.

The new clause aims to give a victim of domestic abuse the same level of protection as those acting in response to an intruder in their home. It has been suggested that that would address a current gap in the law and improve recognition of the links between victimisation and offending. It would, in effect, extend the provisions of section three of the Criminal Law Act 1967 so that a victim could be judged on the facts as he or she believed them to be.

We do, of course, recognise the harm suffered by victims of domestic abuse, and indeed there are several defences potentially available in law to those who commit offences in circumstances connected with their involvement in an abusive relationship. That includes the full defence of self-defence. In addition, the definition of domestic abuse in the Bill should assist with clarifying the wide-ranging and pernicious nature of domestic abuse and alerting all those involved in the criminal justice system to it. It does not seem to us that there is a gap in the law, nor does it seem to us that the situation of a householder reacting, perhaps instinctively, to an intruder in their home is directly comparable to the situation of a person who has been the victim of a pattern of violent and abusive behaviour, including behaviour that would constitute an offence under section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015.

The section 76 provisions in the 2008 Act largely cover a very specific circumstance where an intruder, who will in most cases be unknown to the defendant, puts the householder in a position where they are reacting on instinct or in circumstances that subject them to intense stress. By comparison, in domestic abuse cases the response may well not be sudden and instinctive, but one that follows years of physical and/or emotional and mental abuse, where the current law on self-defence and loss of control will allow that to be taken into account. Accordingly, it remains appropriate that the law on self-defence or loss of control be applied, rather than extend this provision to a wider set of circumstances.

The reality is that any defence counsel worth their salt will set out the journey of the domestic abuse, to the moment where the victim hit back or reacted in a way that has caught the attention of the police. Indeed, this will be flushed out in pre-charge interviews and in defence statements. There are various stages in the criminal justice path where the victim will have the ability to put their defence forward.

Peter Kyle Portrait Peter Kyle - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 3:01 p.m.

This may well be probing the bounds of my knowledge of legal expertise, but am I right in saying that, should the protection be defined in law, the Crown Prosecution Service, prosecutors and law enforcement agencies would take that into account before getting to court? Putting this on the face of the Bill could well save survivors of abuse from the process of going to court in the first place.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 3:04 p.m.

It is in law. It is good, settled law. The law of self-defence is very much in law. We, in this place, understandably concentrate on statute law, but case law and common law have power in influencing the criminal courts, alongside statutes.

As for the CPS taking account of it, it is obliged to apply the code for Crown prosecutors when considering whether to charge. It is a two-stage process. First, there is an evidential test of whether there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction and, secondly, there is a public interest test. Any prosecutor looking at that test properly who has been alerted to the defence of self-defence, either by way of interview, from conversations with defence solicitors or from police officers at the scene of the crime, should be aware of that. They are obliged to take those factors into consideration when making the decision about whether the evidential and the public interest tests are met. I hope that answers the hon. Gentleman’s concern.

We understand that it is said that there are difficulties with establishing the common law defence of self-defence in cases of reactive violence by a survivor of domestic abuse against their abusive partner or former partner. We understand the rationale of the new clause as being that a jury may well conclude that the response was disproportionate, without taking account of the long history of abuse. The joy of the jury system, as we have already discussed, is that each case is tried on the facts by 12 members of the public, who sit on a jury. I would be loth to try to replace their decision-making process and their responsibilities in statute.

We understand the concerns, but we believe that the existing defence is well settled in law and can help victims in the situations that the hon. Gentleman has described, so I invite him to withdraw this clause.

Peter Kyle Portrait Peter Kyle - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 3:04 p.m.

I will withdraw the motion because I believe that other people will want to interrogate this matter in greater detail at other stages of the Bill. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New clause 34

Proceedings under the Children Act 1989

“Proceedings under the Children Act 1989

‘(1) Part I of the Children Act 1989 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 1 (the welfare of the child) after subsection (2B) insert—

“(2C) Subsection (2A) shall not apply in relation to a parent where there has been domestic abuse which has affected the child or other parent.

(2D) Evidence of domestic abuse may be provided in one or more of the forms set out in regulation 33(2) of the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012.”

(3) Part II of the Children Act 1989 is amended as follows.

(4) In section 9 (restrictions on making section 8 orders) after subsection (7) insert—

“(8) No court shall make a section 8 order for a child to spend unsupervised time with or have unsupervised contact with a parent who is—

(a) awaiting trial, or on bail for, a domestic abuse offence, or

(b) involved in ongoing criminal proceedings for a domestic abuse offence.

(9) In subsection (8)—

“unsupervised” means where a court approved third party is not present at all times during contact with the parent to ensure the physical safety and emotional wellbeing of a child;

“domestic abuse offence” means an offence which the Crown Prosecution Service alleges to have involved domestic abuse.’”—(Peter Kyle.)

This new clause seeks to change the presumption that parental involvement furthers the child’s welfare when there has been domestic abuse. It also prohibits unsupervised contact for a parent awaiting trial or on bail for domestic abuse offences, or where there are ongoing criminal proceedings for domestic abuse.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Break in Debate

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard

Definitely not, Mr Bone; I checked with all those involved in the case, and it is done—worry not. I have just been sending wild WhatsApp messages to that very effect. Also, I shall not mention anybody’s names or those of the courts.

The allegations were that the father had exposure his genitals to his daughter and that he had been sucking her toes and fingers while she was asleep. The judge said that if the father stopped doing this he could continue to have unsupervised contact with his daughter. The judge commented that when he was a barrister he had successfully ensured that a convicted paedophile could have unsupervised access to his children. The mother tried to tell the judge that the father has a history of domestic abuse, but the judge replied that she did not look like a victim of domestic abuse. He said that the father’s behaviour sounded more like a man losing his temper, rather than domestic violence. The judge dismissed the request for supervised contact between father and daughter.

In January 2020, allegations were made about the father’s sexual assault on his daughter. A criminal investigation into child sexual exploitation is ongoing but unsupervised contact is still ordered. This woman has no legal representation. She is not eligible for legal aid due to the means test. She has joint property ownership but no financial means to instruct a solicitor. Solace has described the severe impact this has had on the survivor: a complete distrust of the justice system—she felt like she was the one on trial even though she was there as the survivor and a mother trying to protect her daughter from her predatory father. She was met with disdain and not believed, whereas the father was met with sympathy.

I am almost certain that the Minister will refer to—the hon. Member for Cheltenham would have referred to it—practice direction 12J, which is meant to deal with this so that it does not happen in courts. It is routinely ignored in many cases. In this example, where presumption overrules even the child’s best interests, it is clear that there is a serious problem in our current system.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 3:21 p.m.

The hon. Members for Hove and for Birmingham, Yardley have set out fully the legal frameworks that exist, and I will not repeat them. I will bring to the Committee’s attention the fact that the current legislation places absolute primacy on the welfare of the child and does not seek to fetter judicial discretion regarding the factors they can take into account when making an order under the legislation.

I appreciate that this is a sensitive and complex issue. That is why the Ministry of Justice last year established an expert panel on how the family courts deal with allegations of risk of harm in private law children proceedings. The panel has considered the issue of parental contact, informed by the over 1,200 submissions of evidence it received. Its recommendations will be published in the coming weeks.

I have no doubt that the hon. Members for Hove and for Birmingham, Yardley, and other members of the Committee, will want to return to this matter once they have had the opportunity to consider the expert panel’s report. On that basis, I invite the hon. Member for Hove to withdraw the new clause.

Peter Kyle Portrait Peter Kyle - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 3:22 p.m.

As the Minister expects, I will withdraw the new clause, because we do want to assess that. We want to ensure that this issue gets as much debate between us as possible before the next stage, as well as at the next stage and beyond. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 37

Victims of domestic abuse: data-sharing for immigration purposes

“(1) The Secretary of State must make arrangements to ensure that personal data of a victim of a domestic abuse in the United Kingdom that is processed for the purpose of that person requesting or receiving support or assistance related to domestic abuse is not used for any immigration control purpose without the consent of that person.

(2) The Secretary of State must make arrangements to ensure that the personal data of a witness to domestic abuse in the United Kingdom that is processed for the purpose of that person giving information or evidence to assist the investigation or prosecution of that abuse, or to assist the victim of that abuse in any legal proceedings, is not used for any immigration control purpose without the consent of that person.

(3) Paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 to the Data Protection Act 2018 shall not apply to the personal data to which subsection (1) or (2) applies.

(4) For the purposes of this section, the Secretary of State must issue guidance to—

(a) persons from whom support or assistance may be requested or received by a victim of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom;

(b) persons exercising any function of the Secretary of State in relation to immigration, asylum or nationality; and

(c) persons exercising any function conferred by or by virtue of the Immigration Acts on an immigration officer.

(5) For the purposes of this section—

“consent” means a freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the victim or witness, by an express statement of that person signifying agreement to the processing of the personal data for the relevant purpose;

“immigration control purpose” means any purpose of the functions to which subsection (4)(ii) and (iii) refers; “support or assistance” includes the provision of accommodation, banking services, education, employment, financial or social assistance, healthcare and policing services; and any function of a court or prosecuting authority;

“victim” includes any dependent of a person, at whom the domestic abuse is directed, where that dependent is affected by that abuse.”—(Jess Phillips.)

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to make arrangements to ensure that the personal data of migrant survivors of domestic abuse that is given or used for the purpose of their seeking or receiving support and assistance is not used for immigration control purposes.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Break in Debate

There are some nuances about illegal immigrants and not-illegal immigrants. In the case that I am talking about, the victim was entirely within the process set out by the Home Office and living completely within the correct system, but she still ended up being detained. Victims of domestic abuse need to be treated as victims of domestic abuse—end of. When a victim of crime comes to a public body in a crisis, we must respond to that cry for help, and to that cry for help only. We need crystal-clear guidance for our often overworked police and public services. The police must offer protection, investigate the crime and signpost the individual to the specialist domestic abuse service provider, where appropriate legal advice and support can be accessed. As the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine said, where it is in a person’s best interests to have immigration advice, nobody would want to see anything else.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 3:35 p.m.

As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley has explained, new clause 37 seeks to prevent personal information about victims of domestic abuse from being shared for the purpose of immigration control in cases where the individual has not given their consent. The new clause seeks to ensure that migrant victims are not deterred from reporting domestic abuse or seeking support for fear that immigration enforcement action will be taken against them.

The Government share that objective, and it was shared by the Joint Committee on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which made a related recommendation in its report. Before I turn to the issue of consent, the hon. Lady may recall our response to the Joint Committee last year. The Government were clear that all victims of domestic abuse should be treated first and foremost as victims. That is set out in relevant guidance from the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

Although we were unable to hear from Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe, the national policing lead on domestic abuse, during the Committee’s oral evidence session, she did give evidence on the previous iteration of the Bill. She was clear that there would be circumstances in which information sharing between the police and immigration authorities is in the interests of safeguarding victims of abuse. It can help resolve a victim’s uncertainty about their immigration status.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine made a point about removing the perpetrator’s ability to coerce, control and manipulate. It can also help prevent victims from facing enforcement action if they are identified by immigration enforcement in an unrelated system. On the particular constituency point that the hon. Lady raised, I ask her to speak to me afterwards as I would like to investigate further.

To ensure the victim’s needs are put first, the National Police Chiefs’ Council strengthened its guidance in 2018, setting out a clear position on exchanging information about victims of crime with immigration enforcement to encourage a consistent approach across the country. That gives us confidence that data sharing will operate in the interests of the victim.

Turning to the points on consent, alongside our duties to protect victims of crime, the Government are equally duty bound to maintain an effective immigration system, not only to protect public services but to safeguard the most vulnerable from exploitation because of their insecure immigration status. The public expects that individuals in this country should be subject to our laws, and it is right that when individuals with an irregular immigration status are identified they should be supported to come under our immigration system and, where possible, to regularise their stay.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD) - Hansard

I take on board what the Minister is saying, but I keep coming back to the fact that a crime has taken place: it is domestic abuse; it is violence against women. We are making it difficult for the authorities to act in a lot of cases by making the victim afraid of coming forward and we are not identifying people who are a danger, and not just to those women but to others.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 3:39 p.m.

I understand the hon. Lady’s point. It is the balancing act that the Government must employ, and not just on this subject matter. Where there are competing interests, we have to try to find that balance and we take that very seriously. We listen very carefully to concerns that are raised—I am very happy to discuss individual cases outside the glare of the Committee—but we have to abide by our duty to ensure that there is an effective immigration system. We have to balance that against our duties towards the victims.

The data exchanged between the police and law enforcement are processed on the basis of it being in the public interest, as laid out in articles 6 and 9 of the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018.

The problem with consent is that it can be withdrawn at any time—that is the point of consent. As such, it cannot be the basis on which public bodies, such as the Home Office, discharge their duties in the interests of all of the public. To require consent would, we fear, undermine the maintenance of effective immigration control.

I emphasise that we must, of course, keep the NPCC guidance under review, and we work with it to do just that. There are other ways of scrutinising the conduct of the police and, indeed, the Government. We know that there are two forms of legal action on this subject at the moment. Clearly, we will reflect on the findings of those cases when they are delivered.

I very much understand the motivations of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley in tabling the new clause, but I must balance the interests of victims with the need to ensure that our immigration system works as effectively as possible.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 3:43 p.m.

I do not doubt the Minister’s sincerity in wanting to ensure that this matter is sorted out. She invoked the public, and she is right that the public would expect people to live within the rules. However, I think if we asked the general public, “Would you rather a rapist was not reported or that somebody got to stay in the country a bit longer?”, they would be on the side of ensuring that crimes are properly investigated and that people come forward to help deal with those crimes.

All I am trying to do is send a clarion call to victims: “You will be safe and you will be supported if you come forward.” All we are ever trying to do in the field of domestic abuse is to increase the number of people who come forward. That is why we would never ever criticise when domestic abuse figures go up, although it would be easy to use it as a blunt tool and do that; in fact, we all celebrate the idea that more people are coming forward. That is all I seek to do with the new clause. I do not doubt that the Minister agrees and wishes to ensure that that is always the case.

What I would ask, as the situation is reviewed and as we work with the NPCC, is for some sort of evidence—once again, we are calling for an evidence base—that when these matters are passed on to immigration control, it is less about enforcement and more about safeguarding. I am sure that, over a period of time, that data could be collected.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 42

Joint tenancies: removal of a tenant

“(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 B is removed as a joint tenant.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (2) it 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 as 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 19, or a domestic abuse protection order has been made against B under section 25, 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.

(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.

(d) if the application does not fall within subsection (b), then the court may make such an order if it thinks it fit to do so.

(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.

(7) For the purposes of this section, an “offence related to domestic abuse” means an offence that amounts to domestic abuse within the meaning of section 1 of this Act.

(8) In section 88(2) 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 [Joint tenancies: removal of a tenant]Domestic Abuse Act 2020,”.

(9) In section 91(3)(b) Housing Act 1985, after subsection (iv), add “(v) section [Joint tenancies: removal of a tenant] Domestic Abuse Act 2020.

(10) In section 99B(2) of the Housing Act 1985 (persons qualifying for compensation for improvements) paragraph (e), after subsection (iii) add “(iv) section [Joint tenancies: removal of a tenant] Domestic Abuse Act 2020.””—(Jess Phillips.)

This new clause would facilitate occupiers of social housing removing one joint tenant from the tenancy agreement where there has been domestic violence. The tenancy would then continue (so preserving existing rights). The court must be satisfied that the applicant can or will be able to afford the tenancy.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Break in Debate

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 4:07 p.m.

No, they absolutely are carrying out their statutory duty, but the statutory duty is only about refuge—unlike the statutory guidance regarding servicemen and women, which is that they are allowed to move without local connection, recognising that base life does not necessarily mean that they are based in a place, so they might not have a local connection, as well as tipping the hat to people who deserve a break when they are presenting to homelessness services. It is essentially the same thing—recognition that people living in certain circumstances might need extra help. I am sure the hon. Lady does not wish to be political about this, but I could list lots of Tory councils that turn away victims of domestic abuse, and many that have no current provision for refuge, but send their victims to a neighbouring local authority; that is not uncommon. The way some councils choose to fund this is to fund it elsewhere, which I think is problematic and will certainly be furthered by the new statutory duty.

The Government will pay for this statutory duty, which may lead to people having to present to homelessness teams in different areas when they do not have a connection to the local area. That is the problem I am trying to overcome. Together, the new clauses will help to ensure that all women and children fleeing domestic abuse can access safe housing where and when they need to. I urge colleagues to support new clauses 43 and 44 to bar local authorities from imposing dangerous local connections restrictions on survivors of domestic abuse.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 4:07 p.m.

I apologise at the start because, just as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley went into the fine detail of housing law, so, sadly, will I. I will try to cut it down.

We understand the motivation behind new clause 42. Abusers seek to control their victims in many different ways, and threatening to make their victims homeless or actually making them homeless by ending a tenancy is a particularly pernicious form of control. However, we have concerns about the drafting of the new clause, as it would apply only to local authority and housing association periodic tenancies, whereas most social tenants have periodic tenancies that are often known as lifetime tenancies, which generally mean that they can stay in their home for the rest of their life, provided they comply with the terms of the tenancy. A social tenancy with lifetime security of tenure is a valuable asset, which is why the Bill includes provisions designed to protect the security of tenure of victims of domestic abuse when granted a new tenancy by a local authority.

Notwithstanding the general position on security of tenure, current law provides that if any joint tenant of a period tenancy serves a notice to quit, it brings the whole tenancy to an end and the landlord can seek possession. The rule is of long standing; it has been established in many cases over the years and was recently upheld by the Supreme Court. It aims to balance the interests of each joint tenant and the landlord. For example, it would allow a victim of domestic abuse who has had to flee her home to ensure that she is no longer bound by the full obligations of the tenancy, which she is no longer able to enjoy. We recognise that the rule may be problematic in some cases of domestic abuse where the perpetrator can use it to exert control. I appreciate that the aim of the new clause is to find a way around that, to enable victims of abuse to remain in their current home, without fear that the abuser may seek to terminate the tenancy.

We are concerned about a number of areas of the new clause. It would allow the victim to apply to the court to remove the perpetrator from the tenancy, which is intended to effectively transfer the tenancy into the victim’s name. Where there are other joint tenants, it would have the effect of transferring the tenancy into the names of the victim and of those other joint tenants. As my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington pointed out so eloquently—perhaps he should have declared an interest as a long-standing solicitor, as he was bringing his expertise into this—it means that victims may face the prospect of unresolved or remaining debts and costs because of any damage that the perpetrator may have caused to the property. The perpetrator will not be liable, as they will have been removed from the tenancy.

The new clause also fails to provide for how the interests of third parties may be taken into account by the court, including those of the landlord, any other joint tenant or any children in the relationship. A decision to grant a tenancy lies with a landlord. Where a landlord has decided to grant a tenancy to two or more individuals jointly, this new clause means that the number of tenants may be changed without reference to the landlord as the property owner.

It is important to bear in mind that landlords may have other reasons, outside of affordability, for deciding to grant a joint tenancy. In addition, this could amount to an interference with a housing association landlord’s own rights under the human rights legislation. Since this engages other parties’ human rights, we need to consider carefully what is the right approach in order to balance those rights, and ensure that any interference is proportionate and justified.

I understand that officials from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government are engaging with the domestic abuse sector and other relevant stakeholders on these issues, regarding the termination of joint tenancies. I am happy to give a commitment that we will continue to consider the issues with the sector, with a view to arriving at a workable solution.

Turning to new clause 43, this seeks to amend section 199 of the Housing Act 1996, which defines local connection. Local connection relates to how local housing authorities establish and carry out their statutory homelessness duties under part VII of the Act. If an applicant does not have a local connection, as defined by section 199, a housing authority can refer that applicant to another housing authority where they do have a local connection and can access this support. However, under that legislation, the authority must ensure that the conditions for referral are met. This means that a housing authority cannot refer an applicant to another authority if they, or anyone who might reasonably be expected to reside with them, would be at risk of violence.

The homelessness code of guidance makes clear that a housing authority is under a positive duty to enquire whether the applicant would be at such a risk, and stipulates that authorities should not impose a high standard of proof of actual violence in the past when making its decision. The changes the Government propose to make in this Bill, in order to ensure that domestic abuse victims are considered to be in priority need for homelessness assistance, will be strengthened further by amending section 198 of the Housing Act 1996, so that a local authority cannot refer an applicant if there is a risk of not only violence but domestic abuse, as defined in the Bill.

Local connection is also a factor in how many local authorities determine priority for social housing. The allocation of social housing is governed by part VI of the Housing Act 1996. Local authorities must give reasonable preference for social housing to certain groups of people, including those who are homeless or who need to move for medical or welfare reasons. To help them determine the relative priority of applicants who fall into these groups, they may, but are not obliged to, use local connection as defined in section 199. Existing statutory guidance, to which authorities must have regard, makes it clear that they should consider giving additional preference within their allocation schemes to people who are homeless and require urgent rehousing as a result of domestic abuse. Existing legislation and guidance should therefore ensure that the intended purpose of new clause 43 is already in effect. It is not correct to say that a victim of domestic abuse needs to have a local connection for the purposes of a homelessness application, and lack of local connection should not prevent victims of domestic abuse from getting priority for social housing.

In new clause 44, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley proposes that the Government make new regulations to prevent local authorities from setting qualification criteria for social housing that may disadvantage victims of domestic abuse due to lack of a local connection. Many local authorities restrict their waiting lists to those who can demonstrate a close association with their local area. This helps to ensure that, as far as possible, affordable housing is available for those among the local population who are on low incomes or otherwise disadvantaged, and who would find it particularly difficult to find a home on the open market.

Break in Debate

The provisions would fill a significant gap in the law and strengthen the legal framework for those whose lives have been blighted by abusive relationships. They have a precedent in section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and would do no more than provide protection equivalent to what is rightly afforded to victims of trafficking, with the same excluded offences. There should be no delay in introducing such important legal protection, and helping to end the cycle of victimisation and offending.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
17 Jun 2020, 4:35 p.m.

May I take a moment to thank my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine for his non-point of order? It is right that my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) be mentioned in Committee. Ministers are always encouraged by the Whips to engage with Back Benchers. It is an important part of the job to listen, consider views and try, where possible, to accommodate them. At the best of times that can be, depending on the Back Bencher, an interesting exercise, but Members can imagine what it is like to try to do Back-Bench engagement with a former Prime Minister who introduced the Bill that is the subject of that engagement: it is on a whole new level. I am delighted that she was mentioned again in the scrutiny of the Bill.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley for raising the point covered by the new clause. As she said, it stems from a campaign by the Prison Reform Trust. I note that my hon. Friend the Under- Secretary of State for Justice met trust representatives, the designate domestic abuse commissioner and the Victims Commissioner recently, to discuss the issue, among others. It has very much had his attention, as it now has mine.

We of course recognise the harm that is suffered by victims of domestic abuse. That is why the aim of the Bill is specifically to target it and raise awareness and understanding of its impact. It seeks to raise the profile of domestic abuse in all its forms, particularly given its pernicious nature, and to improve the effectiveness of the justice system in providing protection for victims and bringing perpetrators to justice. It also seeks to strengthen the support for victims and survivors provided by statutory agencies. The definition should help further in clarifying the wide-ranging nature of domestic abuse for all those involved in the criminal justice system, at every level.

There are several defences that are potentially available under the law. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley raised some cases in her speech. I have to deal with the fact that we have these defences. The hon. Lady herself acknowledged that there will be occasions where those involved in the system do not apply the law in the manner that Parliament intended. None the less, we still have to respect the independence of the judiciary, the Crown Prosecution Service and the police in ensuring that our criminal justice system works. She mentioned the defences of duress and self-defence, which are full defences. In homicide cases we have the partial defences of loss of control and diminished responsibility.

I recognise that legal representatives and the CPS should be made aware, as soon as possible, of domestic abuse histories and their impact, in the course of making charging decisions and when considering guilty pleas. That needs to be balanced alongside the recognition of the harm done by the perpetrator of a crime and the impact on the victim, in order to ensure, wherever possible, that people do not revert to criminal behaviour. That is reflected in the law, which continues to evolve and aims to strike the right balance between these factors.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley relies on the model set out in section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. We have concerns that that model would create anomalies with other offences. For example, there is a range of offences, mainly serious sexual or violent offences, to which the section 45 defence does not apply, in order to avoid creating a legal loophole for serious criminals to escape justice. The offences that are excluded are set out in schedule 4 to the 2015 Act, which schedule 1 seeks to replicate. Identifying the trigger point resulting in the behaviour that caused the offence remains problematic. If that defence is to be raised, the issue would become at what point in time and in relation to which type of level of domestic abuse the defence became available. Establishing such a threshold would be incredibly difficult. To clarify the circumstances in which the defence would be permissible would likely reduce the applicability or effect of the new defence to the parameters already set out in existing defences. Additionally, a full defence for a defendant subject to domestic abuse would create anomalies with defendants subject to other forms of harm, such as sexual harassment from strangers. Those are anomalies I am sure that none of us would want to see.

Let me deal with the point about the Modern Slavery Act. In earlier debates I talked about the evolving methodology of gang leaders and their efforts to ensnare young people into their gangs. We have in mind that we hear from law enforcement partners that the statutory defence for victims of modern slavery is being misused, primarily by the gang leaders, to persuade the young people they are manipulating and exploiting that it does not matter if they are caught, because they will get off anyway. That will not be the case, particularly for the sorts of serious offences that are not set out in the schedule. This comes back to the point about the ability of perpetrators and those who would exploit and manipulate other human beings, and their never-ending capacity to find new ways to do so—we are concerned about that aspect as well. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley mentioned a female victim of a gang being instructed to have sex with members of that gang—sadly, that is a factor that we know happens in gangs. Gang leaders find many ways to exploit vulnerable people in all walks of life, but particularly in those very hard-edged crimes. We are working with criminal justice partners to assess how the modern slavery defence is used in practice and the repercussions of that.

Existing full and partial defences cover circumstances in which a defendant is also the victim of domestic abuse. Indeed, full defences, including duress and self-defence, are defences to any crime, which, if pleaded successfully, result in acquittal. I refer to the debate that I had with the hon. Member for Hove about the decision-making process that the CPS must go through before the decision to charge is taken. At every stage of the criminal justice process, there are checks and balances. For example, at half-time, when the prosecution has closed its case, if the prosecution has failed to establish a case such that a judge feels confident to leave it to the jury, the judge will stop that case there and then. The jury will not be asked to deliver a verdict because the judge has ruled that, at the half-time submission, the evidence is insufficient and the prosecution has not done their job.

We have those checks and balances all the way through to the closing speeches. When I used to prosecute cases, I would always say to the jury, “If you find yourself using the words, ‘Possibly,’ ‘Likely,’ or ‘Probably,’ I have not done my job proving the case against the defendant beyond reasonable doubt.” Those are the sorts of checks and balances that have been worked out over time to ensure that the guilty are convicted and the innocent are acquitted.

Partial defences, such as diminished responsibility and loss of control, reduce a charge for murder to manslaughter. Very recently, the incredibly moving case of Sally Challen not only demonstrated that partial defences can be employed, but showed the improvement in our understanding over a matter of years. Ms Challen was convicted in 2010 and a matter of years later, we have a better understanding of domestic abuse, and her appeal was successful.

Those checks and balances are important to ensure that, wherever possible, victims make their background and circumstances known. I very much hope that the Bill’s success in raising awareness about the sorts of things that the Committee has debated in such depth and degree will ensure that the justice system is as effective as it can be in providing victims and survivors with as much protection as possible—I am sure that I will work on that with colleagues from across the House. On that note, I will conclude.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard

It seems almost unfair on the Minister that I get the last word on a Bill that she introduced, but that is the system. I welcome what she said, and I will take up that issue with the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Cheltenham, and with the Prison Reform Trust.

I am very interested in—but unsurprised about—the idea that, in the Modern Slavery Bill, there is potential to say, “You are going to get away with it,” without recognising that what we are talking about here is mostly minor crimes—nothing that causes harm to others, no sexual abuse and no domestic abuse. However, it is very much the case that in patterns of abuse, people end up abusing other people. That is a complex area and we want fairness both for those who are accused and for those who are suffering. I will withdraw the new clause, and everybody can finally be done with the millions of amendments. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the Chair do report the Bill, as amended, to the House.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

On a point of order, this is the moment at which it is customary to say a few words to mark the end of our deliberations in Committee and to reflect on the intensive scrutiny that the Bill has received, but also to thank certain people for their help in assisting the Committee with our scrutiny. These thanks come very much from my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham as well as from me. He is busy elsewhere in the Palace, but he is very keen to thank people as well.

First, I thank you, Mr Bone, and Ms Buck. You have both managed to keep us in order at an appropriate distance, which is a skill. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham; it has been a genuine pleasure to work on this stage of the Bill with him. He has shown just what an expert he is as a Justice Minister, having been in the job for only a very short period. He is a real joy to work with and has really made his mark already.

They are not often thanked, but I also thank my Government Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point, who has been excellent in ensuring that, on most days—every day, in fact—we finish on time. She has also been very generous with the hand sanitiser. I genuinely thank the Opposition Front Benchers. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley has brought all her experience outside this place into the Committee room, and I sincerely thank her for that. I thank the hon. Member for Hove for his very pertinent but charmingly articulated points, which can often be deadlier than shouting and creating a fuss. I also thank the hon. Member for Blaydon, the Opposition Whip—our Whips play an incredibly important part in ensuring that the Committee works properly and works to a timetable.

Of course, I thank the Clerks, who have had to, with other colleagues in the House, really test what the Palace—and this room—can accommodate in these very difficult circumstances. Thanks, of course, go to Hansard. It seems like a lifetime ago that we were in Portcullis House and being instructed that Members sat at the back of the Public Gallery would have to shout for Hansard—what extraordinary times, but we managed it. I would normally thank the Doorkeepers; we have not had any Doorkeepers, but I thank them anyway.

I thank the officials and lawyers from the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Department of Work and Pensions, the Department for Education, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Health and Social Care—seven Government Departments have been involved in the Bill thus far. Special mention must go to a certain Charles Goldie, the Bill manager. This is, I believe, the 20th Bill—[Interruption]—the 21st Bill that Charles has manoeuvred through Parliament in expert fashion. To put that in context, last night, when we were dealing with one of today’s new clauses—the reasonable force clause—I discovered that the 2008 Act on which the hon. Member for Hove was relying was managed by a certain Charles Goldie.

I do not want anyone to feel left out, so I must thank Kate in my private office, who has been doing amazing work alongside Robert, who is the MOJ private secretary. They have really tried to get around the awful fact that we cannot have box notes, so Kate has been tapping away furiously. I thank her very much for everything that she does.

I thank the other members of the Committee for what has been really interesting, thoughtful and thought-provoking scrutiny. I hope that they feel that they have both contributed to and gained from that. I look forward to their contributions at the next stage.

Finally, I thank all the witnesses who contributed, both in person and in written form. Particular thank go to the organisations that work on the frontline with domestic abuse victims and survivors, and to the victims, who were very brave and came to give live evidence before the Committee to tell us their lived experiences. Thanks to them all—that is why we are trying to pass this piece of legislation.

Thank you, Minister, for that totally bogus point of order. It was one of the longest points of order that I have ever had, but perhaps one of the best.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, accordingly to be reported.

Domestic Abuse Bill (Ninth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 9th sitting: House of Commons)
Victoria Atkins Excerpts
Tuesday 16th June 2020

(3 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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Home Office

Thank you, Mr Kyle. That has now been placed on the record, and I hope that it will satisfy everyone.

Clause 66

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

Victoria Atkins Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins) - Hansard

I beg to move amendment 40, in clause 66, page 49, line 36, after “64” insert

“, (Homelessness: victims of domestic abuse)”.

This amendment is consequential on amendment NC16.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendments 41 and 42.

Government new clause 16—Homelessness: victims of domestic abuse.

New clause 13—Homelessness and domestic abuse—

“(1) Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 (Homelessness: England) is amended in accordance with subsections (2) to (5).

(2) In section 177(1) and (1A) (whether it is reasonable to continue to occupy accommodation) for each instance of “violence” substitute “abuse”.

(3) After section 177(1A) insert—

“(1B) In this Act, ”abuse” means—

(a) physical or sexual abuse;

(b) violent or threatening behaviour;

(c) controlling or coercive behaviour;

(d) economic abuse (within the meaning of section 1(4) of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020);

(e) psychological, emotional or other abuse.”

(4) At the end of section 189(1) (priority need for accommodation), insert—

“(e) a person who—

(i) is homeless as a result of being subject to domestic abuse, or

(ii) resides or might reasonably be expected to reside with a person who falls within sub-paragraph (i) and is not the abuser.“

(5) In section 198 (referral of case to another local housing authority):

(a) In sub-section (2)(c) for “violence” substitute “abuse”;

(b) In sub-section (2ZA)(b) for “violence” substitute “abuse”;

(c) In sub-section (2A) for “violence (other than domestic violence)” substitute “abuse (other than domestic abuse)”;

(d) In sub-section (3) for “violence” substitute “abuse”.

(6) Article 6 of the Homelessness (Priority Need for Accommodation) (England) Order 2002, SI 2002/2051, is amended in accordance with subsection (7).

(7) In Article 6,

(a) after “reason of violence” insert “(other than domestic abuse)”;

(b) after “threats of violence” insert “(other than domestic abuse)”.”

This new clause amends Part 7 Housing Act 1996, concerning local housing authorities’ duties to homeless applicants, for England. It updates the definition of “domestic violence” to that of “domestic abuse” and removes the requirement that a person who is homeless as a result of domestic abuse must also be vulnerable in order to have a priority need.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 9:27 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Buck. I am pleased today to be able to bring forward new clause 16, which will amend the Housing Act 1996 to give those who are homeless as a result of being a victim of domestic abuse priority need for accommodation secured by the local authority. The Government believe that it is vital that domestic abuse victims who are homeless or at risk of homelessness are supported to find an accommodation solution that meets their needs and reflects their individual circumstances.

In April 2018 the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 came into force. That Act, for the first time, puts prevention at the heart of the local authority response to homelessness, irrespective of whether those seeking support are a family or an individual on his or her own, and notwithstanding what has put them at risk. That means that all households that are homeless or at risk of homelessness should be provided with an offer of support from their local authority to find appropriate accommodation.

Since the 2017 Act was implemented, more than 200,000 households have had their homelessness successfully prevented or relieved. However, for those who need more support, it is right that the local authority should have a duty to house them immediately and secure accommodation for them. Under homelessness legislation, a person who is pregnant, has dependent children or is vulnerable as a result of having to leave accommodation because of domestic abuse, already has priority need for accommodation.

However, the Government are now going further. Through new clause 16, the Government will automatically give domestic abuse victims priority need for accommodation. That change will mean that consideration of vulnerability will no longer be required for domestic abuse victims to be entitled to accommodation secured by the local authority. If the authority is already satisfied that an applicant is homeless as a result of being a victim of domestic abuse, that victim and their family should not need to go through an additional layer of scrutiny to identify whether they are entitled to be accommodated by the local authority. The amendments to the Housing Act will help ensure that victims do not remain with their abuser for fear of not having a roof over their head. Alongside the announcement made in the spring Budget to extend exemption from the shared accommodation rate to victims of domestic abuse, that should support victims to move into a place of their own where they can feel safe and secure.

New clause 13, tabled by the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, who is not here today, would have the same effect as the Government’s new clause 16. The one difference is that the hon. Gentleman’s new clause would also extend priority need status to other persons residing in the same household as a victim of domestic abuse. I want to assure the Committee that such provision is not needed. Where an applicant has priority need, the Housing Act already requires local authorities to provide accommodation that is “suitable” for the household. There is therefore no need for each member of the household to have priority need. Amendments 40 to 42 are consequential on new clause 16.

Alex Davies-Jones Portrait Alex Davies-Jones (Pontypridd) (Lab) - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 9:39 a.m.

Diolch yn fawr, Ms Buck. It is my pleasure to speak to new clause 13, which outlines the need for more stringent housing support for those fleeing domestic abuse in their current households. Colleagues may recall—I certainly will not forget it, and will be dining out on it for a while—that last week the Minister kindly coronated me as the princess of Wales. I was most flattered by the proclamation and make no apologies for speaking up for people across Wales. I plan to use my new-found royal status to ensure that the voices of Welsh victims of domestic abuse are heard and protected in the Bill.

We all know that with great royal power comes great responsibility. I will be using my voice today to focus on themes that are relevant across the board in England. It is clear that domestic abuse has no boundaries; it does not care what nation you are from or what language you speak. It is imperative that we ensure that collaborative working between both nations covered by the Bill can continue if we are to strengthen the spirit of the Union.

I am delighted to speak to new clause 13. I pay tribute to the hard work of my colleague the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark for prioritising the housing needs of survivors of domestic abuse. Sadly, he is unable to join us today, and I know that all Committee members wish him well.

The Government’s change of heart following the brilliant campaign by the all-party parliamentary group for ending homelessness is a welcome step, and these changes will undoubtedly save lives. The campaign was supported by MPs across the House, and a number of organisations in the domestic abuse sector were involved. I hope that colleagues will afford me the opportunity to list the organisations that played a vital role and that are standing together against domestic violence: Crisis, Women’s Aid, Refuge, the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance, St Mungo’s, Surviving Economic Abuse, Shelter, Homeless Link, Depaul, Centrepoint, Hestia, Changing Lives, the Chartered Institute of Housing, The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields, and Latin American Women’s Aid.

It is clear that in England there is a gap in the support offered to those fleeing domestic abuse. These are very real people who are making the brave and bold decision to flee from an unsafe household. We must remember that, because it can be easy to lose sight of that as we sit in this place and discuss the technicalities of the Bill. They should be our priority, but the current system is failing them.

Research by the APPG last year showed that nearly 2,000 households fleeing domestic abuse each year in England are not provided with a safe home, because they are not considered to be in priority need for housing. Colleagues may be aware that during the APPG’s inquiry into domestic abuse and homelessness in 2017, there was clear evidence that local authorities in England were consistently failing to provide people fleeing domestic abuse with the help they need.

I was particularly concerned to read about the vulnerability test being used as a gatekeeper tool by local councils across England. I am pleased that we will now be able to reverse that trend and provide those who are fleeing domestic abuse with a real opportunity to rebuild their lives, yet the amendment still does not go far enough. Despite initial informal commitments from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to adopt the APPG’s amendment word for word, there are now some key differences in the final amendment, which could undoubtedly lead to some domestic abuse victims in England who require housing support falling through the cracks.

The APPG’s amendment would ensure that anyone in a household who applies for homelessness assistance in England due to domestic abuse would qualify for automatic priority need and have a legal right to a safe, permanent home. It is extremely disappointing that the wording of the Government’s amendment means that survivors would be required to physically make the application for homelessness assistance themselves in order to receive automatic priority need. Both the domestic abuse and homelessness sectors have expressed concern that the Government’s amendment fails to guarantee adequate protection to survivors of domestic abuse.

Colleagues will be aware that a note from the APPG, containing more information, was circulated to Committee members recently. I am aware that the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), in his capacity as co-chair of the APPG, recently wrote to Ministers and received a reply indicating that the Government do not intend to change their position on this. The Government response states:

“Allowing a member of the household to make the application could allow a perpetrator to manipulate the situation and frame themselves as the ‘new partner’, using the victim to obtain accommodation for their own gain and allow the abuse to continue.”

However, the domestic abuse sector does not agree.

The APPG’s amendment makes it clear that priority need status for settled housing can be guaranteed regardless of whether the homelessness application is made directly by someone in the household who is experiencing domestic abuse. In comparison, the Government’s amendment would not allow for other members of the household to make the application. So many examples spring to mind of where domestic abuse victims could slip through the cracks under the terms of the Government’s amendment, such as children who have had to flee an abusive situation with their mother.

Specifically, this is relevant in a context where only the mother has been abused but the children are not able to reside with their mother, perhaps due to parental addiction or the children being adults. Similarly, if a mother and her children were facing abuse by an adult child against one or more siblings who are under 16, but not against the mother, they would not be entitled to seek urgent support. I hope colleagues will forgive my listing the technicalities of those situations, but they are very real and present in all the communities that each of us represents and serves.

Allowing a member of another household to make an application for homelessness assistance on behalf of an individual who is the victim of domestic abuse is a vital safeguarding mechanism for those fleeing abuse. The strength it takes to flee an abusive household is undeniable, but it will not always be safe or suitable for victims of abuse to make an application for assistance in person. In many cases it will be too dangerous for them to leave their home until they know that they have somewhere safe to seek refuge, or there could be logistical issues, such as where a victim is receiving hospital treatment. For other groups of people considered to be in automatic priority need for settled housing in England, it is already the case that someone else in the household is able to make the application—for example, if a woman is pregnant, their partner is able to make an application on their behalf. The same principle must be extended to people who are fleeing domestic abuse.

Having spent some time discussing the provisions needed in England, I will turn my attention back to my home nation of Wales, to highlight the impact that the truly groundbreaking Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 has had. In Wales, the Labour Government have implemented legislation that puts a duty on the devolved public sector to prevent, protect and support. This has increased understanding and built referral routes to specialist support, allowing local authorities to work alongside and in conjunction with those specialists in order to ensure rapid support for those who need it. After a decade of funding cuts to local authorities across the UK, it is clear that those local authorities are under pressure, particularly when it comes to the housing crisis that we see up and down the country. I urge the Government to reconsider and allow more flexibility for domestic abuse victims who are seeking urgent housing support.

Finally, I hope that colleagues will indulge me as I use some key case studies to highlight the importance of a more accessible system for applying for homelessness assistance. At Women’s Aid, one service user said:

“After a year of fallout, I was still homeless and on my backside—it felt like I was worse off for going through ‘the system’.”

A key worker from Solace Women’s Aid—a fantastic charity based in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark—said:

“A lot of women I work with have a secure tenancy. They really don’t want to leave the secure tenancy. But then often they might not have a lot of choice… some women will prefer to…take massive risks…than leave it.”

One case highlighted by Crisis was that of Danielle, who was made homeless when her relationship ended, after her neighbour called the police following a two-day beating. Despite visible bruising and a letter from her partner admitting the abuse, she was told by the council that she needed to provide further evidence of her vulnerability, and that she was not a priority. So she ended up homeless and sofa-surfing for more than two years.

An anonymous survivor said that he had escaped a three-year abusive relationship where, on occasion, his partner had locked him in a room for five days and beaten him so severely that he was confined to a wheelchair. When he approached the council, he was refused help with finding a safe home, which left him with no option but to sofa-surf for several months. Eventually, a charity that supports victims of domestic abuse helped him to deal with the council, and he is now socially housed.

It is clear from those testimonies that we have an opportunity to change the course of people’s lives and affect their ability to regain their independence following a period of domestic abuse. It is not unreasonable to allow for a more flexible system to ensure that victims can get access to the housing support they need. That additional power would improve people’s ability to flee, and could be hugely powerful as a lifeline for those in need. The new clause is well written, with substantive detail. I ask that the people I have talked about be made a priority.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

I thank the hon. Lady for her comments. In the spirit of the Bill, and of the Committee, let us welcome the fact that we are making changes in the area in question. It is fantastic that new clause 16 has been tabled.

There is a sliver of disagreement between the Government and the hon. Members for Pontypridd and for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, on the role of other people in the household. We have heard a great deal—just in the Committee Room, let alone in our experiences outside it—of the manipulative nature of some perpetrators and their ability to seize an opportunity against their victim, use it for their own ends and do incredible damage to the victim. Also, the children are often victims. Victims of domestic abuse may be vulnerable and at risk of such manipulation—of being controlled by the perpetrator, whether that is a partner in an intimate relationship, as described in clauses 1 and 2, or indeed a family member. It was against that backdrop that we drafted the clauses.

Our primary concern, on the sliver of disagreement between us, is that an abusive partner could apply for new housing under the approach suggested by the hon. Lady, to the detriment of the victim and the gain and advantage of the perpetrator. Clearly no one wants that.

I take the point about the need to ensure that the system is sensitive to the needs of victims. Indeed, I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East, who has led the campaign with the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, wrote to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Member for Thornbury and Yate (Luke Hall), who responded on 10 June. In the course of the correspondence and conversations, the hon. Lady’s concerns were clearly canvassed as well. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary told my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East that there is already the flexibility in the system to take care of cases where someone has difficulty making their own application, whether that is because they are in a hospital bed or because they are in a refuge that they cannot leave.

The homelessness code of guidance covers such circumstances. Paragraphs 11.13 to 11.16 make it clear that where a face-to-face appointment does not meet the applicant’s needs, assessments can be completed on the telephone or internet, or with the assistance of a partner agency. As for the case studies that the hon. Lady raised, I very much hope that, under new clause 16, Women’s Aid and the other fantastic organisations that we all support would be able to help the victims who could not make applications face to face because of their circumstances.

The hon. Lady raised the issue of secure tenancies. Again, that is addressed in the Bill, in clause 65. Our slight disagreement, as I have said, is on the point about a perpetrator’s ability to manipulate.

We want victims to have full control and ownership of their homelessness application and the accommodation offer from the local authority. That is what new clause 16 manages to achieve.

The hon. Member for Pontypridd also raised what she called the analogous example of pregnancy. Pregnancy is different. It does not—one would hope—involve the same relationship of abuse, manipulation, and coercive and controlling behaviour, and the assessment of priority need is pretty straightforward. One can assess that someone is pregnant without the need for expert evidence past a certain stage. I would argue that that is a different set of circumstances.

Break in Debate

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips (Birmingham, Yardley) (Lab) - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 9:46 a.m.

The Minister used the term “all victims”. Does the new clause cover those victims who are working in this country but have no recourse to public funds?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 9:47 a.m.

We will come to debate that set of circumstances tomorrow. In terms of homeless applicants, including victims of domestic abuse, we are dealing with this within the confines of the regulations as they apply at the moment.

Amendment 40 agreed to.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 9:47 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 55, in clause 66, page 49, line 42, after “children” insert “;

(c) the support employers should provide to victims of domestic abuse, including through the provisions of paid leave.”

This amendment would ensure that employers are provided with guidance about the support they should provide to victims of domestic abuse, including provision of paid leave.

I did not do this last week, but I just want to say a massive thank you to the people in the Public Bill Office. The amount of work that has gone into these amendments might be clear from the number of times that I stand on my feet. It is important to thank the people who sit in the background doing all that work, having an argy-bargy with all of us as we try to table amendments. They are a godsend, so I want to say a massive thank you to them.

This amendment goes back to the Committee’s conversations last week about workplaces. In part, the Government’s announcement of a review of domestic abuse in the workplace potentially covers what this amendment seeks to do. It did not exist when I tabled the amendment.

This amendment is about workplace guidance, which would ensure not only that a victim is supported, but that secondary benefits are offered to other employees, who would be indirectly affected by the abuse happening at their workplace. Without guidance, we expect employers just to know what to do. In many cases, which I spoke of last week, they have considered terminating employment in order to protect their business and their employees, removing the only lifeline that a victim might have. Often, when we try to change things in the workplace—certainly in relation to an equalities framework—the argument we get back is, “This will be too onerous on big and small business.” Over the past couple of years, however, I have seen that businesses are truly interested in trying to do something about this.

I was called to one of those fancy things where lots of businesses sit around a table in a fancy building. It was so fancy that I saw Anna Wintour from Vogue in the lift—she was exactly as Members might imagine. Businesses from all over the country came to listen to me talk about what they might be able to do to help domestic violence victims in their workplaces. Various companies, such as Lloyds and Vodafone, have offered two weeks’ full pay to victims of domestic abuse.

Studies by those organisations—EY, for example, has done a specific study, such is the nature of its business—show that although that right was appreciated and used when needed, no employee had taken the full two weeks off as part of their paid employment. Those organisations are trying to be proactive. We have to make sure that that is available for everybody.

During my work on sexual harassment at work, I was often on the phone to fancy people in Los Angeles who ran the Time’s Up campaign. I constantly used to say, “We mustn’t forget about Brenda in Asda. We mustn’t forget that the person we are talking about is actually a woman called Brenda in Asda.” The same applies to the amendment, which seeks an element of paid leave as well as guidance for employers who want to do more than simply step forward and be the goodies and go to fancy lobby lunches to talk about these issues. We have to truly seek to change that.

The Government have suggested that they are going to hold a consultation and review what exactly that will mean. I have absolutely no doubt about what the findings will be. They will be the same as those reached over a number of years by different groups, including the all-party parliamentary group on domestic violence and abuse, working alongside the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse and the TUC. An unusual group of people have been working on this for a while. There are rabble-rousing union stewards working alongside some of the poshest organisations I have ever worked with. Those meetings are always a delight. We have taken evidence from New Zealand, for example, where that right already applies.

I will not press the amendment to a vote. It was tabled before the Government announced any sort of action in this area. It is merely a probing amendment, given that businesses have told us that they would not find onerous.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 12:06 a.m.

The amendment brings us to the role that employers can and should play in supporting employees who are victims of domestic abuse. The Government expect all employers to show compassion when faced with cases of domestic abuse. It is important that the Government help employers to support victims. We recognise the excellent work of organisations that provide guidance to help employers to do more. The Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse, for example, does great work and has increased the services that it can provide employers during covid-19, because it recognised its ability to send messages through its network of support. We very much support and applaud that sort of work.

Public Health England, in partnership with Business in the Community, which is a business-led membership organisation, provides an online domestic abuse toolkit, including advice on developing a workplace policy and guidance on practical workplace support. Although not specifically designated for victims of domestic abuse, some existing employment rights can help to support victims who face particular circumstances. For example, statutory sick pay may be available where the employee is suffering from physical injury or psychological harm. The right to request flexible working may also help in circumstances where working patterns or locations need to change. We committed in our manifesto to taking that further and consulting on making flexible working the default. In addition to the statutory right, many employers offer compassionate leave or special leave to their employees to enable them to take time to deal with a wide range of circumstances. That leave is agreed between the employer and the employee, either as a contractual entitlement or on a discretionary basis.

We accept, however, that that framework of rights may not work for every circumstance faced by victims of domestic abuse. There may be more that the Government can do to help employers better support those who are experiencing abuse. That is why the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy last week launched a review of support in the workplace for victims of domestic abuse. I always like to give the end date of such consultations so that colleagues are nudged into responding if at all possible: the end date is 9 September 2020. I ask colleagues to please submit their views and those of their networks of contacts, charities and businesses.

The review invites contributions from stakeholders, covering the practical circumstances that arise in relation to domestic abuse and work, best practice by employers, and where there is scope for the Government to do more to help employers protect victims of domestic abuse. We will also host events to build the evidence base further, before publishing the findings and an action plan by the end of the year. Our view is that the Government review provides the right framework for identifying how the Government can best help employers to support victims of domestic abuse. It creates a firm basis on which to make progress.

I am pleased that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley has indicated that this is a probing amendment, so I invite her to withdraw it.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 12:07 a.m.

I thank the Minister. If anyone in this room were faced with an employee—and I have been in this situation a number of times—going through a court case, I cannot imagine that anybody, no matter whether they were working here or elsewhere, would expect that person not to be paid or even to be paid statutory sick pay for that period. However, that is the reality for the vast majority of people. Victims of domestic abuse need access to a specific sort of leave. That would change the culture in an organisation, and including information about it in the big pack that people receive on their first day would be a real sign that they could speak to their boss about it.

Asking for sick leave or compassionate leave because you have been raped is completely different from doing so because your mother has died. It is much easier for someone to ask their boss for leave because a relative has died than to do so because they might have been raped the night before. If someone’s house was broken into, they would ring their boss in the morning and say, “My house has been broken into. I can’t come in today because the police are coming.” That is a different conversation from, “My husband beat me up last night. I’m sorry I can’t come in, but the police are coming over.” It is not the same. We need to change the culture from the top down, to make sure there is a marker that shows people that if they have to go to court—which can take weeks and weeks—and if they need to flee, something can be done.

The Minister mentioned different guidance. The TUC says that its guidance on domestic abuse is the most downloaded piece of guidance ever from its website. Let us hope that culture is changing and that the review mentioned by the Minister shows real courage on what needs to change in the workplace. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Break in Debate

My question is, why would we not want to ensure that the Domestic Abuse Bill is preventive? Why would we not want to ensure that it reaches out to young people, some of them children, sets them on the right course and has the referral pathways for them? Surely that is so much better than having to pick up the pieces of broken young lives.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 12:02 a.m.

I thank the hon. Lady for her powerful speech and for setting out the case for the amendment.

We know that domestic abuse in teenage relationships has the potential to shape adult lives. We know that it can be severe and can have many consequences outside the two people in the relationship. We are clear that the impact of domestic abuse on young people, including those in abusive relationships, exists and that we need to ensure that agencies are aware of it and of how to identify and respond to it.

The Bill’s definition states that behaviour is domestic abuse if parties are aged 16 or over. I note that that was supported by the Joint Committee and, indeed, by the evidence we heard from Lucy Hadley of Women’s Aid and Andrea Simon of the End Violence against Women Coalition at the evidence session of this Bill Committee. We are of the view that having a minimum age of 16 years does not deny that younger children are not impacted or affected by domestic abuse, including in their own relationships.

I have no doubt that the amendment is well intentioned. However, having established that minimum age as the threshold in the definition of domestic abuse, it follows that any statutory guidance issued under clause 66 of the Bill, which relies on the definition in clause 1, cannot and should not as a matter of law, address abuse between people who are aged under 16.

That is not to say that the guidance issued under clause 66, which addresses abuse between older teenagers, cannot have wider application. There are other sources of guidance for younger age groups. We intend to publish a draft of the guidance ahead of Report and, in preparing that draft, we have worked with the children’s sector, among others, to include the impacts of abuse in older teenage relationships within the guidance. Clearly, we will continue to work with the children’s sector to ensure that the guidance is as effective, thorough and accessible as it can be before it is formally issued ahead of the provisions in clauses 1 and 2 coming into force.

Nickie Aiken (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con) - Hansard

As the Minister knows, I have concerns about this—I spoke to her when in listening mode. At the evidence session two weeks ago, for me the powerful evidence was from the Local Government Association spokesperson, the leader of Blackpool Council, whom I questioned specifically. He said that he felt that under-16s were dealt with under the Children Act. Does my hon. Friend agree that there are other ways of dealing with the matter?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

I thank my hon. Friend for her contributions, her canvassing of views sympathetic to the situations faced by teenagers under 16, and her work on that. She is right to point out the evidence of Councillor Simon Blackburn. He is an experienced councillor and also, in a previous life, was an experienced social worker. He contributes on behalf of the Local Government Association in all sorts of forums on which he and I sit—not just on domestic abuse, but on other areas of vulnerability.

I appreciate that it sounds rather lawyerly to focus on the age range, but we are careful not to tamper inadvertently, albeit with good intentions, with the strong safeguarding mechanisms in the Children Act. That is why we are not able to accept the amendment to the guidance, given that the guidance is based on the definition in clauses 1 and 2. However, other forms of information are available and as of September relationships education will be introduced for all primary pupils, and relationships and sex education will be introduced for all secondary school pupils. That education, particularly for primary schools, will cover the characteristics of healthy relationships, and will help children to model the behaviours with knowledge and understanding, and cover what healthy relationships look like. Of course, as children grow up and mature, the education will grow and develop alongside them, to help them as they are setting out on those new relationships.

In addition, the important inter-agency safeguarding and welfare document produced by the Department for Education called “Working together to safeguard children” sets out what professionals and organisations need to do to safeguard children, including those who may be vulnerable to abuse or exploitation from outside their families. It sets out various scenarios, including whether wider environmental factors are present in a child’s life and are a threat to their safety and/or welfare.

Finally, of course, the courts and other agencies should also take into account relevant youth justice guidelines when responding to cases of teenage relationship abuse, avoiding the unnecessary criminalisation of young people, and helping to identify appropriate interventions to address behaviours that might constitute or lead to abuse. As I have said, I appreciate the intentions underlying the amendment, but I return to the point that the age limit was on careful reflection set at 16 in the definition, and so the statutory guidance must flow from that.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine - Hansard

Having heard the Minister’s comments, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Break in Debate

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 10:22 a.m.

I agree that consultation is necessary, but I see that as making the point. Consultation is necessary and we need the data to be able to figure out how much of it is due to borderline personality problems and social background, and how much of it is misogyny. We can only do that by having the police gather the data.

Where misogyny has been identified as a hate crime by police forces, it has helped the way that they address the causes and consequences of violence against women and girls. The proposal in this amendment is not theoretical. Police forces around the country are already doing this, showing the positive impact it can have. In 2016, Nottinghamshire police were the first. Their proposals have gone some way to allowing the Nottinghamshire authorities to see exactly where there are problems and how to deal with them. For four years, women and girls there have been able to report crimes that they regard as hate crimes and misogynistic.

This amendment has, as I said, wide support from women’s groups. Let us not wait for the Law Commission before we start working on it. If misogyny is the soil in which domestic abuse flourishes, we have the opportunity with this Bill to root it out, not just to pick up the pieces. We have to support victims and survivors, and we have to encourage perpetrators away from the crime. But if we can identify the different causes of abuse, we can tackle the cause and begin to reduce and eliminate domestic abuse.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 10:24 a.m.

The Government are clear that all hate crime is completely unacceptable and has no place in British society. That is why we have tasked the Law Commission to review current hate crime legislation. By way of background, I should say that the Law Commission was asked to review both the adequacy and parity of protection offered by the law relating to hate crime and to make recommendations for its reform.

The review began in March last year, since when the Law Commission has tried to meet as many people as possible who have an interest in this area of law; it has organised events across England and Wales to gather views. Specifically, the Law Commission has been tasked with considering the current range of offences and aggravating factors in sentencing, and with making 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. The review will also take account of the existing range of protected characteristics, identify any gaps in the scope of the protection currently offered under the law, and make recommendations to promote a consistent approach.

The Law Commission aims to publish its consultation, as the hon. Lady said, as soon as it can, and I again encourage all hon. Members to respond to it. Given that this work by the Law Commission is under way, we do not believe that the time is right for specific guidance to be issued on this matter. Our preference is to await the outcome of the Law Commission’s review before deciding what reforms or other measures, including guidance, are necessary. However, I point out that in clause 66(3) we do put the gendered nature of this crime in the Bill. It states:

“Any guidance issued under this section must, so far as relevant, take account of the fact that the majority of victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales are female.”

And of course the guidance itself will reflect that.

The hon. Lady raised the Istanbul convention. We are making good progress on our path towards ratification. We publish an annual report on progress, with the last one published in October 2019. Provisions in the Bill and other legislation before the Northern Ireland Assembly will ensure that UK law is compliant with the requirements of the convention in relation to extraterritorial jurisdiction and psychological violence, so we are on our way. I very much hope that on that basis the hon. Lady will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine - Hansard

Following the Minister’s comments, there is just one reservation remaining. If misogyny is a hate crime, we can gather the data. Does the Minister accept or appreciate that perhaps we could start doing that before the Law Commission has reported?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 10:27 a.m.

The Law Commission, in all its reviews, is incredibly thorough and of course independent. How long it takes is, I have to say as a Minister, sometimes a little bit frustrating, but that is because it is so thorough, so I cannot criticise the commission for that. I would prefer the commission to do its work so that we have a consistent body of evidence that I hope will enable the Government to draw conclusions as to the adequacy of the existing arrangements, and take steps from there.

Liz Saville Roberts Portrait Liz Saville Roberts - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 10:28 a.m.

I wonder by which instrument the hon. Member for Edinburgh West and I might seek to ask the Government whether they will be implementing any recommendations from the Law Commission.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 10:29 a.m.

I confess that I had not given thought to that particular detail. Far be it from me to suggest to ingenious Back Benchers how they can hold the Government to account. As I have said, we have the Law Commission review under way, and when the commission has reported, we will, of course, in due course publish our response to that review.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine - Hansard

Having heard the Minister’s comments, I am happy to beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 66, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 67

Power of Secretary of State to make consequential amendments

Amendment made: 41, in clause 67, page 50, line 27, after “64” insert “, (Homelessness: victims of domestic abuse)”.—(Victoria Atkins.)

This amendment is consequential on amendment NC16.

Clause 67, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Break in Debate

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins - Hansard

Understandably, questions have been asked about the territorial extent of the Bill, so I think it right to explain it. This is a standard clause setting out the territorial extent of the provisions in the Bill, the majority of which apply to England and Wales, or to England only. Following discussions with the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Department of Justice, the Bill also includes some limited provisions that apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Part 6 of the Bill extends the extraterritorial reach of the criminal courts in each of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, to cover further violent and sexual offences. The provisions are a necessary precursor to enable the United Ki