Domestic Abuse

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons on 25th February 2019.

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Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

Ending domestic abuse is an absolute priority for this Government. On 21 January, we launched a landmark draft Bill that includes the determination to introduce a definition of domestic abuse that includes not only physical but economic and emotional abuse. The draft Bill also includes 120 non-legislative measures to ensure that our response to domestic abuse is absolute in its determination to support victims and tackle the perpetrators of this terrible crime.

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Chair, International Development Sub-Committee on the Work of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact

Much of the support for domestic abuse is aimed at victims escaping from a physically abusive partner. Violence and extreme abuse in a domestic setting always start with small, often subtle entry-level acts of control, manipulation and deceit. What are the Government doing to help people to recognise those red flags and to raise awareness of the dangers posed by people with narcissistic personality disorder, given that NPD is a key driver of such abuse?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend, who brings with him his experience of working with his local women’s centre, the Sutton women’s centre, to help the victims of domestic abuse. He is correct in identifying the early signals of an abusive relationship, and this is precisely why the draft Bill includes proposals for a statutory definition that ensures that all forms of domestic abuse are recognised, understood and challenged, both by those who can help the victims and by those who can tackle the perpetrators of these crimes.

Photo of Nick Smith Nick Smith Opposition Whip (Commons)

Domestic violence protection orders give essential support to the victims of domestic abuse. Effective training for police officers on these orders is key, so will the Minister review the funding of the “Domestic Abuse Matters” training course, which is unclear for next year, in order to support the victims of domestic abuse in the future?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I am so pleased that the hon. Gentleman has raised the very good “Domestic Abuse Matters” project, which is run by SafeLives, the domestic abuse charity. This is being rolled out by the College of Policing, and some 14 police forces have already signed up to it, but there are a number of other training and change programmes available to the police. Part of the important message of the non-legislative measures in the draft Bill is that we need to train police officers and a whole range of other frontline workers, which could include that one person who can reach the person who needs help.

Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities)

Diolch, Mr Speaker. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] Now that we have seen how narrow the draft domestic abuse Bill is, will the Minister confirm that there is scope to expand it? We have concerns about many areas of the Bill, not least about housing. A joint tenancy can be ended by just one partner, which means that the perpetrators of domestic violence are able to oppress their victims by ending the tenancy and leaving them homeless. We must legislate to stop that.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Lady. I feel as though I am in the middle of a Welsh appreciation society. I am afraid I do not agree with her analysis that the Bill is narrow in its breadth. The legislation and the raft of non-legislative measures are very broad. We have always been clear that this is not just about changing the law; it is also about changing society’s attitude to and understanding of domestic abuse. She will know that we have quite deliberately published it as a draft Bill because we want it to be open to scrutiny by both Houses, and we very much look forward to the Joint Committee looking at it and coming forward with recommendations.