Children Act 1989 (Amendment) (Female Genital Mutilation) Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:09 pm on 11th March 2019.

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Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee 8:09 pm, 11th March 2019

The hon. Lady raises an important point about specialist provision and resources. I hope that the Ministers on the Front Bench will take that point away and consider how we can ensure that very specialist resources are available to local authorities, because it will be difficult for them to have that sort of expertise in-house. The hon. Lady makes an extremely valuable point, as somebody who has campaigned vigorously and with incredible compassion on these issues.

I want to underline the important role of the Department for International Development, which other Members have referred to in interventions. We should be proud that our country is the first country to have a dedicated anti-FGM programme, working across the globe. It is important for the House to underline that the Department has supported 8,000 communities to abandon, or campaign to abandon, FGM.

The Government have supported the Girl Generation programme—the largest ever global work on the issue, with over 900 organisations working to end FGM. The work that is happening outside the UK is not only important for women in those countries, although that would be justification enough to do the work; it is also invaluable in underlining the human rights of those women in their own countries. Last but by no means least, this work helps to change attitudes that can still influence communities in the UK. The importance of DFID’s work has to be acknowledged. Those who may be naysayers about our contribution to this global world should reflect a little on their views when they consider how this work can so enormously change the lives of millions of women across the world.

This is not a debate in which we will be thinking about internal processes too much, but it would not be right not to point out at least that the reason that we are here today is because of our private Members’ Bills system, whereby an individual Member—quite unrepresentative of the majority feeling of the House—can block a Bill. This is not just a Bill that will do something very small and day to day; it is so important to women’s lives. The whole House has to acknowledge that the need for reform of our private Members’ Bills system is long overdue, and we need to find a way of giving priority to that reform of this place. If we do not, we continue to run the risk of this House being brought into disrepute by individual Members exercising what might be a very principled point of view on the procedure of the place—although I am not sure that this particular objection was as principled as that. We need to acknowledge that this place can look prehistoric from the outside. If we are going to regain the trust of people in Parliament, this sort of reform has to be given priority at some point in the parliamentary calendar.