There have been 5 exchanges between Victoria Atkins and Ministry of Justice
|Wed 17th June 2020||Domestic Abuse Bill (Eleventh sitting) (Public Bill Committees)||16 interactions (2,589 words)|
|Thu 11th June 2020||Domestic Abuse Bill (Eighth sitting) (Public Bill Committees)||9 interactions (794 words)|
|Wed 10th June 2020||Domestic Abuse Bill (Sixth sitting) (Public Bill Committees)||22 interactions (2,438 words)|
|Tue 28th April 2020||Domestic Abuse Bill||2 interactions (1,945 words)|
|Wed 2nd October 2019||Domestic Abuse Bill||7 interactions (2,031 words)|
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.
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.
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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.
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?
If the Minister would like me to intervene again, and tell her what support is—
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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.
The hon. Gentleman makes a really important point. Long before I ever see a victim in court, there has been a huge process to get there and to provide the right support. Independent domestic violence advisers and different support mechanisms are in place; there are supporting people who come in and sit with the victim in court, but it is a hugely traumatic experience and support is needed throughout that process.
I would add a point about a common theme among perpetrators. When, in normal criminal cases, shoplifters or burglars or other violent offenders are convicted and sent to prison, there is a shrug of the shoulders—it is a part of their life; a general hazard of the criminality that they are involved in. When I have had—I will use the phrase—the pleasure to convict a perpetrator and send them to prison, it is noticeable that all the power has all of a sudden been stripped away. Their indignance and fury is palpable; you can sense it and see it. That is what makes it a different crime and a different experience, and that is why special measures are important. I speak to that experience.
Absolutely; I completely agree. We cannot legislate for everything you can do in a court—every courtroom is set out differently. I have seen a lady with two teenage daughters, with the husband, and some really clever dynamics were needed to keep everyone separate, including in the toilets. In my experience, such measures have been very positive. There have been specialist domestic violence courts. Everyone is keenly aware of what is needed and is trying to think ahead for the kinds of measures that can make justice effective and make sure that justice is done. Such measures are all part of that.
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The domestic violence disclosure scheme, which I will refer to from this moment forward as Clare’s law, was introduced in 2014 after Clare Wood was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, George Appleton. For those who are unfamiliar with the case, Clare Wood had made several complaints to the police about George Appleton before her death. Those complaints included criminal damage, harassment, threats to kill and sexual assault. A panic room had been installed in her house following an attempted rape.
Clare was unaware that George Appleton had a history of violence against women and had been jailed for three years in 2002 for harassing another woman, and for six months a year earlier after breaching a restraining order. However, he was still able to enter Clare’s home, strangle her and set her on fire. The Independent Police Complaints Commission concluded that Clare had been let down by individual and systematic failures by Greater Manchester police.
Clare’s law was designed to set out procedures that could be used by the police in relation to disclosure of information about previous violent, abusive and offending behaviour by a potentially violent individual towards their partner where that might help to protect that partner from further violent and abusive offending. There are two procedures for disclosing information: the right to ask, which is triggered by a member of the public applying to the police for a disclosure, and the right to know, which is triggered by the police making a proactive decision to disclose information to protect a potential victim. Disclosures are made when it is deemed that there is a pressing need for the disclosure of the information to prevent further crime.
While there is no doubt that Clare’s law was introduced with entirely good intentions—I am not here to challenge that at all—there is some concern that this well-intentioned piece of legislation is currently not operating as it should be, and concern about some alarming instances where, as it operates currently, it could be causing more harm.
First, Clare’s law has had limited use since its creation in 2014. According to data from March 2018, there were 4,655 right to ask applications, resulting in 2,055 disclosures, and 6,313 right to know applications, resulting in 3,594 disclosures, so it can be seen clearly that disclosures are not made in every case. In comparison, in the same time period there were just shy of 1.2 million recorded domestic abuse cases in England and Wales, so we are talking about a very small number of cases that seem to be using the scheme. That in itself is not necessarily evidence that it is not working, but I think it is descriptive of where it may work in some places and not others.
In addition, there appears to be a postcode lottery regarding disclosures. It is assumed that that variation is due to the vague nature of the pressing need test that currently exists in the law. For example, in 2019 Kent had an 8.5% disclosure rate for right to ask disclosures, while Hampshire had a 99.5% rate. That is worrisome, but what is of even greater concern is that the average time taken for each disclosure is 39 days. I imagine all will agree that in cases of domestic abuse, that mitigates quite a lot of the potential prevention and could potentially heighten a victim’s risk.
In addition, while there was a review of the initial pilot phase of Clare’s law and a review one year on, those reviews were procedural and did not consider the impact of the scheme on domestic abuse or analyse the scheme’s value for money. There is therefore no evaluation of whether the disclosures made have any benefit to the person they are made to. In fact, one survey indicated that 45% of early-wave recipients of information went on to be victimised by the partner they warned about. In normal language, that means that 45% of the people who have been given the information following one of the variety of requests under this law went on to be victimised and abused by that person.
One such example is Rosie Darbyshire, who was murdered with a crowbar by her partner Ben Topping. Having made an application for information under Clare’s law on 28 January, she was killed just over a week later on 7 February. She was left unrecognisable after sustaining more than 50 injuries.
Other concerns include the impact of coercive and controlling behaviour where women are unable to contact the police or where contact from the police would only serve to make matters worse. At the beginning of a relationship—I think we can all understand this, and it applies not just to women but anyone—women are often not alive to the risk of domestic abuse. Only when it is too late are they advised of their partner’s past.
Gemma Willis from Teesside, reporting to the BBC, was only advised of Clare’s law after her partner was arrested following smashing her head into a window, slashing her neck with a trowel, hitting her with hammers and threatening to kill her family. Also reporting to the BBC, Dr Sandra Walklate from the University of Liverpool said of the scheme:
“We have no real way of knowing whether it’s working or not”.
While clause 64 operates to place Clare’s law on a statutory footing, the proposed amendments are designed to safeguard against circumstances and the case studies outlined above. The amendments would mean that police should evaluate whether disclosures made under Clare’s law are having a positive impact on the safety and empowerment of victims. I am not seeking for police forces just to do a paper-shuffling exercise: “A request has come in. What will we do with this request? Does it meet the tests as set out in the law?” I am rather seeking for police forces to run some manner of risk assessment on the impact of this disclosure being made, not on the perpetrator but on the victim.
The amendments would also require police to undertake an exercise to establish the efficacy of the disclosures that have been made in the past few years, to simply have a look over how well it is working. The pressing need test, which I have already referred to, would be refined and clarified to create uniformity with future disclosures. Based on information set out, it cannot be argued that my amendments are anything less than essential for the Government, if they want to ensure that Clare’s law is as good as it could be and that the protective effect it was intended to have does not, in some cases, cause harm.
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I am indeed content. I look forward to working with the Minister to ensure that the law—it bears somebody’s name and is their legacy—truly does what Clare’s family wish it to do. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 64 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Grant of secure tenancies in cases of domestic abuse
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
I was just discussing the issue of a notice being breached on behalf of the victim. I had started to say that in the case of Caroline Flack, who sadly took her own life, there was a notice between her and her partner that they had not breached. In that instance, the partner would be considered the victim in the context we are discussing. That case has highlighted in the public’s mind the fact that when a victim is told not to contact somebody, there will always be pressures, for lots of different reasons, and certainly if the victim shares children with the perpetrator.
In a case where somebody is struggling with their mental health or wishes to reach out, I just want some assurance about how it might play out in court if a breach of these notices occurred on the side of the victim—that is, if a victim breached a notice for pressure reasons, or even for humanitarian reasons. I have seen lots of cases in the family courts, for example, where the fact that orders have not been kept to has been used against victims. I wondered what we might think about breaches of these particular notices from the victim’s point of view.
One of the most striking features of the clause is set out in subsection (2), which states:
“A person arrested by virtue of subsection (1) must be held in custody”.
These are indeed strong powers, but they send a very clear signal that the law and law enforcement are on the side of the alleged victim at such times. It is a very welcome move and will give confidence and respite to any alleged victims in future, so we thank the Government for delivering it.
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The clause is very robust and replaces an incredibly confusing picture of which orders one can get where. As somebody who has filled in the paperwork for pretty much all of these orders, I do not think I could explain it right now. It is very complicated, but we have a clear listing of exactly who can do what. What the Minister has said about regulations being laid around relative third parties is an important point. I know that the Joint Committee on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill and also anyone who works in this building will have potential concerns about the misuse of third parties applying for DAPOs. I cannot imagine many circumstances in which they could be misused, but unfortunately perpetrators are particularly manipulative and can sometimes find ways to do that, so I will be interested to see the regulations on third parties when they are laid and how much that will be in consultation with the victim and, in fact, the perpetrator. We are infringing on people’s rights. Although I want to see those rights inhibited in lots of cases, they are none the less rights that we are here to fight for.
The Minister has outlined the police force area in which the DAPO is filed. This is always a complicated thing, but does she foresee any problems with resource in the police force area? I raise this because of personal experience in having orders in my own cases. I am not very popular in Manchester for some reason. I feel desperately sorry for Greater Manchester police. When coming to take statements from me to look at options around protections for me personally, it takes a whole day out of a police officer’s time to come all the way to Birmingham and sit in my house, sometimes for nine hours.
Is there a plan that could be put in guidance around police force partnerships where there is a big geographical spread? In these cases, most likely people will be close by, but when women go into refuge they can move across the country, often from Birmingham to Wales, for some reason—I do not know why, but it is close and we like the water. I have concerns about victims feeling, “Oh, that’s really far away,” or, “Gosh, I’m bothering the police.” I have certainly felt myself that I am bothering Greater Manchester police and that I might just give up on this because it is such an effort for them to drive there.
Those are not reasonable things, and we cannot mitigate people’s feelings in the law. As the Minister said, we do not try to put people’s feelings into the law, because we would never be able to represent them properly, but I think this has to be considered. The clause is well written and substantive in its detail.
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It will be a very thin silver lining to what has been an enormous cloud over our country. The Minister is absolutely right: we have been learning some things in this period. Because of the availability of resource in our police forces as a result of the reduction in other areas of crime, this will in some regards be a high point—a gold standard—in terms of how we act in domestic violence cases. If there was certainty in a police force area, built in partnership with a local authority, that there would absolutely be a place for a perpetrator to stay, I can almost guarantee that the police would be much more active in the DVPO area, because that is what we have seen during the coronavirus crisis.
There should be five elements of a perpetrator strategy. We need criminal justice systems and other public and voluntary services, such as housing, health and education. We need training, and clever and tough working, to hold perpetrators to account. We need proven interventions and behaviour change programmes for all perpetrators available everywhere, and we need education to prevent and raise awareness of abusive behaviours. We need regulation to end poorly run programmes, some of which are actually dangerous. And we need ongoing research to ensure that we know what stops abuse, particularly within groups that are currently under-served by these kinds of preventive interventions, such as LGBT groups.
Essentially, money is needed. A sustainable and predictable source of funding would save millions in policing, justice and health costs—perhaps even billions, given the Home Office costings on the cost of domestic abuse. Leadership is ultimately needed to make it happen. It is pleasing to see that the domestic abuse commissioner is taking a proactive stance on this. She will need backing from Ministers in all Departments to look beyond their important response to victims to the other side of the coin: the people causing the harm.
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Clause 37 relates to arrest for breach of order and it makes provision for breach of a domestic abuse protection order to be dealt with as a civil matter— that is, as a contempt of court. A breach of an order is a criminal offence under clause 36, which we did not debate, whereby a police officer can make an arrest without a warrant under powers in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
However, we understand that some victims may be concerned about their partner or ex-partner being convicted of a criminal offence for breaching the order. Where an order is made by the High Court, the family court or the county court, clause 37 makes provision for the victim—the original applicant for the order—or any other person with leave of the judge to apply to the court for a warrant of arrest to be issued. That means that the court can then deal with the breach as a civil matter as a contempt of court. We consider that this allows effective action to be taken by the court following breach of an order, while still providing an option for victims who do not wish to criminalise their partner or ex-partner.
Schedule 1 makes further provision regarding remand under clause 37, where breach of a DAPO is being dealt with by the court as a civil matter. It sets out the procedure whereby the court may remand the person who has been arrested for breach. The process set out is consistent with existing law and replicates the approach the court already takes in regard to remand in such cases. It is sometimes necessary for the court to adjourn the hearing in order to allow for evidence to be prepared. In such cases, the court may decide to remand the person in custody or on bail.
Remand would usually only be used in cases where the court considers that the person arrested for breach is at a high risk of either committing further breaches or evading the return hearing. That may include, for example, if the court considers that person a flight risk.
Clause 37 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule 1 agreed to.
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Clause 41 is about the variation and discharge of orders. Another example of the DAPO’s flexibility is that the requirements imposed by the order can be varied so that the courts can respond to changes over time in the perpetrator’s abusive behaviour. That is important for the complainant, so to speak, as well as for the person who is subject to the perpetrator order. It is important that he—it will usually be a he—can come back to the court to seek to vary it if appropriate. That is why the clause is drafted as it is.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 41 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 42 to 44 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Nature of certain proceedings under this Part
Amendment made: 35, in clause 45, page 31, leave out line 15 and insert
“sections 79, 80 and 82 of the Sentencing Code”—(Alex Chalk.)
See the explanatory statement for amendment 31.
Clause 45, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Special measures for witnesses
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
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The clause relates to powers to make other orders in proceedings under this part. I will speak briefly on this, because it is important. Clause 49 makes provision for DAPO proceedings to be included in the definition of family proceedings in the Children Act 1989 and the Family Law Act 1996, if they are taking place in the family court or the family division of the high court. In practical terms, that will ensure that family judges have access to their powers under the Children Act and the Family Law Act in the course of DAPO proceedings.
For example, if a family judge is hearing an application to make or vary a DAPO, and concerns around child contact arrangements are raised, the judge will be able to make an order under the Children Act without a separate application having to be issued. We consider that that will provide clarity and flexibility to the court, as judges will be able to use their powers under the Children Act and the Family Law Act in any DAPO proceedings to best protect victims of domestic abuse and their children.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 49 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 50 to 52 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Rebecca Harris.)
I want to thank everybody who has spoken in this debate. In a rare moment, I agreed with almost all of it. I think I will have a chat with the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) another time; we like our little chats. I want to pay a special tribute to the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Sara Britcliffe), who appears on the call list as a virtual maiden, which I just think is an absolutely brilliant thing to be called. Her speech was full of heart—it is very odd that I cannot look at her—but from one bloody difficult woman to another, I am sure she will have an impact in this place.
I want to thank Ministers and the officials of the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, who have always been co-operative. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris); I have worn leopard print in her honour today. She was my predecessor, and she acted with characteristic tenacity in the brief. Ministers will know how often I have fought for this Bill to progress. However, there is still such a long way for it to go for it to be truly groundbreaking. It wants to be that groundbreaking, and we have to allow it to be that.
Covid-19 has laid bare the lack of protection for women and girls from violence. The lockdown has allowed the public to imagine what it would be like if their home, a supposed place of safety, contained the danger they feared most. The Bill is of course about the long term, but we cannot ignore the crisis facing millions of people in this country today—a crisis that is threatening our precious domestic abuse sector. To all those working with victims of violence and abuse and with victims of coercion, both adult and children, I pay tribute. They deserve access to extra, emergency, ring-fenced funding, as laid out by my hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary, and they deserve it now.
So far, the sector has not received a single penny. Not from the £2 million that was announced, or from the proposed £750 million. That money was needed weeks ago. That issue was highlighted today by the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, and I could not agree more that the Minister must listen to the domestic abuse commissioner and the Victims’ Commissioner on this issue. We need a ring-fenced fund, and we need it now.
I pay tribute to the Mother of the House, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), and the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier) for their dogged campaign to end the rough sex defence and post-mortem abuse. I have heard some of the worst cases, and it never stops being alarming to listen to stories such as those we have heard today. They have my full support, and from this House I hope that the hon. Gentleman will pass on our love to Natalie’s family.
I praise my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) for her nominatively determined wallpaper background, and for her effort to continue the campaign of our friend, Gloria De Piero, to end the asset grabbing of attempted murderers. My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield) was as moving this time as she was last time, and I repeat the praise to the new hon. Member for Bolsover (Mark Fletcher). It helps so much for people watching these debates when people like them speak out.
In a strange moment today my hon. Friend the Member for Luton North (Sarah Owen), a firebrand union activist, joined forces with a Conservative ex-Prime Minister to call for better workplace measures and rights for workers. I am sure Ministers will be delighted to join in that union with them.
There is much to cheerlead in this Bill. I welcome proposals for a dedicated commissioner, not just in theory but in practice, and Nicole Jacobs is already breathing life into that position. I also welcome the long fought for statutory duty to ensure future sustainable accommodation-based services. I shall not retire just yet, even though we might have got that, but it is a change I have championed since I worked in refuge, let alone since I have been in this place. Finally, being able to stand here after four years and say that no perpetrator will be able to cross-examine a victim is a welcome relief.
As the Bill progresses, however, I do not want to give the impression that there are not areas that will be contentious. There are currently huge gaps in what the Bill proposes. Members across the House, including the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Vicky Foxcroft), and, movingly, the hon. Member for Bolsover all highlighted gaps in the Bill regarding children. The Bill cannot simply be words written on goatskin in some attic in Parliament that Ministers lean on to prove how much they are doing.
For every part of the Bill I will ask how it would have helped or hindered the victims and their children whose hands I have held over the years. Which of those victims have we forgotten? The only qualification for access to support, housing, refuge, social security, and police protection for victims of domestic abuse in this country should be this: are you human? The issue of migrant women’s access to support was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), my hon. Friends the Members for Brent Central (Dawn Butler), for Nottingham North (Alex Norris), for Erith and Thamesmead (Abena Oppong-Asare), and for Ilford South (Sam Tarry), and by no means only by Labour Members. Across the House, the issue of no recourse to public funds was raised again and again. We cannot pass a Bill that discriminates against migrant women, or that has a blind spot about the effect of domestic abuse on the children who live with it. Currently, the Bill would not change the lives of those groups for the better.
The past few weeks have shown that we are a community. How can it be that there are care workers, NHS workers and key workers serving the public right now in this crisis who would not be equally protected if they needed to escape abuse? Surely it is about all of us, or it is about none of us. Let the new Bill reflect that.
I am troubled that in this area the Home Office is currently in the middle of a review into migrant women. The gaps are already well known. The right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) spoke about how migrant women were an issue raised in the report by the Joint Committee, and they remain an issue today. Yesterday, a report by the Home Affairs Committee stated that migrant women are still an issue. This is not something new that we do not know about, or that needs to wait for a review. We need to act now. How can this House or the other place possibly scrutinise and seek to change the Bill without the outcome of this review or the Family Justice Board review? Surely the Minister can see that this seems back to front and that, actually, political will says that she can act today.
The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Joy Morrissey) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Neil Coyle) made eloquent cases for the priority housing need, and I hope that Ministers heard their calls, because I am certain that they will only get louder as we head to Committee.
Although we welcome the statutory duty on housing support, 70% of known victims of domestic abuse accessing support do not receive it in a refuge setting. The vast majority of support for domestic abuse victims and their children happens in the community, and the Bill is currently not addressing those needs. These are the women whose names I read out each year. The high-risk women on that list are served by our community services and our independent domestic violence advisers. The domestic violence protection orders regime proposed in the Bill, which seeks to place more of the burden on the perpetrator rather than the victim, is incredibly welcome. However, there must be an agreed set of standards in this area and a proper Government strategy on how we manage perpetrators. It has been done in a wild west fashion in the past, and that needs to change. Without that, these orders will, at best, not change people’s lives, and, at worst, place them in further danger.
The Lord Chancellor and my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy), who we could actually hear when she thought we could not, mentioned Claire Throssell, and I am grateful that they did. I have to ask: what does this Bill offer to Claire Throssell and the mothers of the other 19 children murdered by known violent perpetrators following decisions in the family court? For three years, Claire has told her story to us policy makers, yet I do not see the loss of Jack and Paul reflected back at me in this Bill. I hope that I will. Many Members spoke ably about their experience of the family courts, but, alone, the changes to cross-examination are not enough to make it better. They would not have saved Jack and Paul.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham North did a great job of giving voice to victims. I ask the Minister to ensure that, during the Bill Committee evidence sessions, we can hear the voices of victims such as Claire Throssell. I ask her to assure me that that will be the case.
Standing at the Dispatch Box in this Chamber, making my closing speech to a handful of people and a few more on computer screens, I am reminded more than ever that the decisions that we make in this room have huge consequences on the lives of the British public. Sometimes the decisions that we make here determine who lives and who dies. This is one of those moments. I hope that Ministers will work with us to make this Bill everything that it can be. This is the first major legislative Bill of a post-covid-19 world. Let it help all those who need it. Let it reflect who we want to be.
I pay massive tribute, as everybody has done, to those who have spoken, particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Bradford West (Naz Shah) and for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield), and the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier), whose contribution was so moving. When we in this place talk about these things, people really are watching. Victims of domestic abuse will today feel that we care about them, and even if that is all we achieve today, that is a good thing to have done.
I notice that during this debate, Prorogation 2.0 has been announced. Somebody sent me a tweet saying that there is a view that Parliament will prorogue—sorry, shut down—again. I want assurances from the Minister, when she sums up, that we will use Standing Order No. 80A—
Super-duper. I am delighted to hear that.
As everybody else has said, it has been an honour to work on the Bill over the past three years—I wish it had been only one or two—not only with Front Benchers on both sides on the Chamber, but with the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) and others who are no longer on the Front Bench, including the right hon. Member for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes). She spoke of having listened; I feel delighted to have been in the meeting about migrant women under the Bill that she spoke about so eloquently. Also, I should mention the people sitting in the Box—the civil servants we have worked with to get the Bill in front of us today, and to carry it over. It has been a real privilege to help ensure that this place recognises the effect of domestic abuse on our communities.
For the past three weeks, I have been fighting for us to come back to this place just for the sake of this moment, this day—just so that we could get this Bill back into this place. I found myself in the treasured position of defender of the Domestic Abuse Bill, as though it were mine. It is not mine; it is a Government Bill, and that needs saying. However, as a defender of the Bill, I will defend the point that improvements certainly need to be made to it.
As the right hon. Member for Romsey and Southampton North stated, in the Bill’s next stages, we absolutely must aim for it to be for all victims and all women—I am not afraid to say “all women” in this context. I truly mean that. It does not matter what a person’s status is; if my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury has taught us anything today, it is that it does not matter who someone is; the primary thing we should see when they first disclose abuse is what happened to them. It should not matter if they were born in this country, if they are here on a spousal, student or refugee visa, or if they are an EU citizen. What we should see in front of us is the person, and we should ask what we can do to help them. The Bill needs a huge amount of work in that area—not just around migrant women, but around disabled and older women and LGBT people.
With all the good work being done in here and across Departments we still need to stop essentially just seeing a benefit-dependant woman with a couple of kids in a refuge. Disabled women are being turned away. I ran refuges and I think we had two disability access beds out of hundreds of beds. It is simply not enough any more. We live in a society where we have to take need into account, no matter what. We have to take into account the likelihood of someone being abused if, for instance, they are a carer or have someone caring for them who can easily control them.
I want to say one final thing—I could speak for weeks and weeks, but I won’t. The statutory duty on refuge accommodation is so welcome. I had to explain to my husband what it was when the Ministers rang to tell me they were going to do it. I was not allowed to tell anyone, but I really wanted to tell someone. My husband was slightly nonplussed. We were promised at the time of that brilliant step forward that there would be £90 million in the next comprehensive spending review. We have now had that comprehensive spending review and it was not in there. I would be grateful if the Minister could tell us where the cash will come from.
Break in Debate
It is a privilege to reply to the debate this evening, which has shown the House of Commons at its very best. I wish to start by paying tribute to the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), who made what I believe to have been her first speech from the Back Benches since leaving office as Prime Minister. She set the tone of the debate and said that domestic violence was not something that should ever be viewed as being “behind closed doors”. That attitude was prevalent in the past and we must do all we can to ensure that it is not prevalent in the future.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield) for making a courageous and extraordinarily moving speech. Not only did it have a considerable impact on everyone in the House who heard it, but it will have an extraordinary impact on everyone outside this House and give them extraordinary confidence about speaking out in the dignified way she has done today.
I also pay tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), and to the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier), for their remarks about the harrowing Natalie Connolly case. I am sure that amendments will be tabled in Committee that relate to the issues that were identified in that case.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) for her remarks about serial perpetrators; to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), who drew on her experience of working in the domestic violence field in the past; to my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Jenny Chapman), who spoke very well about the Bill’s potential impact; and to my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Peter Kyle), who spoke very well about an issue to which I shall return—the cross-examination of victims in the family courts by their perpetrator.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Ruth Jones) spoke about the various people who have had an impact on the Bill’s coming into being. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford West (Naz Shah), for her extraordinarily moving contribution, both about her mother and her experience as a survivor. Her speech, too, will reverberate far beyond this House. Her achievements are an inspiration to others.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), who spoke about controlling behaviour; my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris), who spoke about refuge funding; my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen (Tracy Brabin), who also mentioned the need for reform of the family courts; my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Jo Platt), who spoke very movingly about the experiences of Leanne and Nikita; my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips), not just for her speech but for all her extraordinary work in this area; my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green), who spoke very movingly about experiences in prison; my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams), who talked about the importance of a whole-society approach; my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes), who spoke about the impact of domestic violence on children, and my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Ruth George), who spoke about reform of universal credit. It was fitting that my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) ended with a tribute to charities in this area, who do so much across all our constituencies to make lives better.
The Bill has produced a remarkable degree of welcome consensus in the House today, but it will clearly need work in Committee. I will start with the definition of domestic violence. I agree with the former Prime Minister, who said that it was clearly a step forward to have a statutory definition. Reading clause 1, though, it seems to me not to include abuse perpetrated by a person in a position of trust. I believe the hon. Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge) mentioned an example of it, but there may be other examples in the domestic context that are not quite covered by clause 1. I ask the Minister to go away and look at that issue. Hon. Members across the House have picked up other issues, including the impact on children and the gendered nature and impact of domestic abuse, that need to be considered as the Bill progresses.
I welcome the appointment of a Domestic Abuse Commissioner, although I consider that person should be full time. The commissioner must obviously have the powers to provide the strategic oversight that we need, and to hold public authorities in this area properly to account.
I welcome the domestic abuse protection notices and domestic abuse protection orders, and the extension of special measures for complainants mentioned both by the Lord Chancellor and the Chair of the Justice Committee in their opening speeches. I consider that the domestic violence disclosure scheme should be on a statutory footing, and I am pleased to see that in clause 55. As many hon. Members have mentioned, one of the issues with domestic violence is that it is often the victim who ends up homeless. I welcome in the Bill the suggestion of new secure lifetime tenancies in England, which is a step forward.
I return, though, to the issue of cross-examination in the family courts. It has been the case for some time in the criminal courts that perpetrators of domestic abuse could not cross-examine their victims in person. It is high time that that protection was extended to the family courts. However, as I think the Joint Committee picked up, it does not seem to be mandatory; it still seems to be at the discretion of the court. The last thing we would need is for that to be inconsistently applied; it should be consistently applied across the system. That point that has been picked up already.
There are other issues, of course, that are not a part of the Bill as it currently stands. There is, for example, no statutory duty to fund refuges, but we all know that refuges are in dire need of more funds. There also needs to be a whole look across Government at other policies that have a huge impact in this area, including, for example, to whom universal credit is paid and the five-week wait, just to mention two particular issues that clearly have an enormous impact on domestic violence that the Government need to consider.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq), in an intervention, mentioned migrant women, which is a very important issue. They are too often denied the chance to apply for indefinite leave to remain and prevented from accessing the public funds and the services they require. I urge the Government once again to go away and look at that situation.
This Bill before us today clearly contains a series of measures that will be welcomed across the House, but I urge the Government to keep an open mind in Committee about various issues that will arise in the course of this Bill. If the Government are willing to be constructive, we can, together, make it a much better Bill. I do pay tribute to those on the Government Front Bench and, indeed, to my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) for the work that they have done so far. I urge them to continue working together to make this a truly historic Bill of which we can all be proud.
Thank you. What an excellent, thoughtful, constructive, calm debate. I sincerely hope that those who observe our proceedings will see just how well Members of this House behaved when we were bringing about an important piece of legislation that actually affects the lives of millions of people.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time.
Domestic Abuse Bill (Programme)
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),
That the following provisions shall apply to the Domestic Abuse Bill:
(1) The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.
Proceedings in Public Bill Committee
(2) Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 21 November 2019.
(3) The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.
Proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading
(4) Proceedings on Consideration and any proceedings in legislative grand committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which proceedings on Consideration are commenced.
(5) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.
(6) Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading.
(7) Any other proceedings on the Bill may be programmed.— (Mr Marcus Jones.)
Question agreed to.
Domestic Abuse Bill (Money)
Queen’s recommendation signified.
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Domestic Abuse Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of:
(a) any expenditure incurred by virtue of the Act by a Minister of the Crown; and
(b) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable by virtue of any other Act out of money so provide.—(Mr Marcus Jones.)
Question agreed to.