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Interpretation

Part of Stalking Protection Bill – in the House of Commons at 11:51 am on 23rd November 2018.

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Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women 11:51 am, 23rd November 2018

I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend Dr Wollaston on successfully steering this important Bill through the House. May I also take this moment to pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) and for Gloucester (Richard Graham), both of whom have done so much work over the past few years to ensure that those who are convicted of the terrible offence of stalking meet the justice they deserve? My thanks also go to Conservative colleagues, and to colleagues from across the House, many of whom speak to me quietly behind the scenes about cases that concern them and that their constituents have suffered. Those Members know who they are, and I thank each and every one of them for their help.

Stalking is a terrible crime that still affects literally millions of people and often makes their lives a misery. The title of last year’s inspection report, “Living in fear”, sums up well what it feels to be as a victim of stalking. I am proud of the actions that this Government and their predecessors have taken to reduce that fear, from the original Protection from Harassment Act 1997—we heard from Mr Sheerman about the role he played in that—to introducing the specific stalking offences in 2012 and the funding we have given to the excellent national stalking helpline.

At this point, may I just thank my hon. Friend Eddie Hughes for his speech, which was public service broadcasting at its best? He made the important point that there is help available, albeit we sometimes need to search for it, and that is something that I have very much taken away with me. That helpline has helped almost 14,000 callers since 2010, as the shadow Minister said, and 94% of those callers say that they feel better about their situation immediately after making contact with that helpline. There is clearly a need, and the helpline is playing a huge role in helping victims.

Other projects are going on across the country to deliver innovative solutions to tackle this terrible crime. The Metropolitan Police Service, in partnership with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, has received more than £4 million from the police transformation fund for a multi-agency stalking interventions programme to share best practice and learning on developing interventions to tackle stalking. Northumbria has received more than £600,000 under the violence against women and girls service transformation fund for the Northumbria Building Capability project, which includes a specific project on cyber-stalking. Several projects to tackle stalking are funded through the tampon tax fund, including the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which has received money to scale up its casework support service for women who are being stalked. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North mentioned Black Country Women’s Aid, which has received more than £200,000 to pilot the first specialist support service for victims of stalking across the Black country area and to conduct research on stalking.