Violence against Women

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 16th October 2014.

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Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Conservative, Waveney 9:30 am, 16th October 2014

What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for the Home Department on tackling violence against women.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Conservative, Chelmsford

What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for the Home Department on tackling violence against women.

Photo of Mary Macleod Mary Macleod Conservative, Brentford and Isleworth

What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for the Home Department on tackling violence against women.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for the Home Department on tackling violence against women.

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education

I have regular meetings on this important issue with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the latest as recently as yesterday. The Ministers for Women and Equalities also attend the quarterly Home Office inter-ministerial group on violence against women and girls. The group will meet later this month to discuss progress against the action plan to end violence against women and girls.

Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Conservative, Waveney

On Tuesday, I raised with the Attorney-General my concern that support for two victims of domestic violence in my constituency had not been properly co-ordinated by the various services, leading to two very vulnerable women feeling extremely isolated and in turmoil. He has agreed to look into the cases and I would be grateful if the Minister did likewise so as to ensure that we have a seamless and co-ordinated support service for victims of violence.

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education

I agree with my hon. Friend on the need for a seamless support service for victims. We want victims to be absolutely at the heart of any cases that are brought. I cannot comment on individual cases, but, as my hon. Friend has said, he has raised the issue with my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and I hope he will supply him with details. I am happy to have a conversation with the Attorney-General about any points that can be raised and learned from such cases.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Conservative, Chelmsford

Will my right hon. Friend join me in praising the excellent work done by the three rape crisis centres in Essex? What further support do the Government plan to give to those who are the victims of sexual assault or rape in the UK?

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education

The new rape action plan will aid the Government’s drive to ensure that every report of rape is treated seriously and every victim given the help they deserve. I recently announced two new support centres, which will open in Grantham and Crawley, offering victims access to expert advice, support and counselling. That means that this Government have met their commitment to open 15 new support facilities across the country in this Parliament.

Photo of Mary Macleod Mary Macleod Conservative, Brentford and Isleworth

I recently held a London domestic abuse summit in Chiswick with the Home Secretary, and among the attendees were pupils from my local schools. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we have to involve schools in this message against domestic abuse?

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Education is at the heart of this Government’s approach to preventing violence against women and girls. It is a topic that schools may include in personal, social, health and economic education. To further support teachers we have set up an expert group on PSHE and we are also extending funding to the PSHE Association to provide specific guidance on consent. Our prevention campaign, “This is Abuse”, encourages teenagers to rethink views about rape, consent and violence in relationships.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

I welcome the Government’s consultation on widening the definition of domestic abuse. May I highlight in that context the creation of the Hollie Gazzard Trust, named after a young hairdresser murdered in Gloucester by her ex-boyfriend? The trust’s goal is to help save lives by stopping domestic abuse before it is too late. It now funds awareness sessions in secondary schools by the Gloucestershire Domestic Abuse Support Service. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Nick Gazzard on that and other trust initiatives, which might be cloned elsewhere in the country and spread a powerful message of hope out of tragedy?

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education

I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting the important work of the Hollie Gazzard Trust and congratulate Nick Gazzard on the work he and others have done to support it. I am aware of that tragic case and the devastating impact of coercive and controlling behaviour on its victims. In recognition of that, the Government definition of domestic abuse has been expanded to capture non-violent behaviour. We are now consulting on whether the law needs to be strengthened to keep pace with those developments and provide the best possible protection to victims.

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Equalities)

The Minister spoke a lot over the conference season about the benefits of good quality sex and relationships education, which would go a long way towards tackling violence against women and girls. I agree with her: in SRE lessons at school all young people should be taught about healthy relationships, consent and respect for others. Unlike her, however, I am not the Education Secretary with the power to make that happen—not yet, anyway. Could we therefore see a little less conversation and a lot more action from the Minister on this topic?

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education

I am pleased that the hon. Lady has been listening to what I have said. She will, I hope, know from my previous track record that I am all in favour of action, not just words. I think that PSHE is very important, and that sex and relationships education is also very important. SRE is already required to be taught in maintained schools, and many academies already do it. As I have said, the important thing is to emphasise particularly the relationships aspect, which is why I support the Government’s “This is Abuse” campaign. I intend to continue to look at these areas further.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I am very intrigued by the answer that the Minister has just given. Is she or is she not in favour of compulsory sex and relationships education? That is what I am really interested to know.

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education

I am very pleased that the hon. Lady is so interested in what I say. I think that sex and relationships education is extremely important. Many schools already do it well, and we can do more to help schools teach it even better.