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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:44 pm on 11th March 2019.

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Photo of Matt Warman Matt Warman Conservative, Boston and Skegness 9:44 pm, 11th March 2019

I rise briefly to support this excellent Bill and to make two very simple points.

First, as many hon. Members have said, there is no excuse—be it cultural, religious or medical—for any of the practices that are labelled under the broad-brush bracket of female genital mutilation. However, as my hon. Friend Helen Whately said, these are often things that are done to young girls by those who love them most. There is an enormous challenge in that, because we should not claim that the people who do this do not love their own children, but they are committing acts of child abuse.

I hope that this law sends out a very clear message that, in this country and hopefully in many others that will follow the lead set by my hon. Friend Zac Goldsmith, FGM is not an acceptable practice in the 21st century, and nor should we have allowed it to persist for as long as it has. That is a profoundly important cultural point in a landscape where there is no cultural excuse for a practice that many have quite rightly described as barbaric. I know that this point is not within the Minister’s purview at the Ministry of Justice, but I hope that we can tackle this aspect of FGM in the strongest possible terms, as part of this Government’s and other Governments’ good work on FGM; we need to address an issue that goes beyond simply the legally prosecutable, into a wider set of complex international and cultural dynamics on which we have a duty to lead the way.

My second point is only just within the scope of the Bill, and that is to say that we could have addressed this issue some time earlier were it not for the arcane procedures of this House. It shames us all that this issue had to be taken on in this way. I know that the Minister has stepped into the breach with great enthusiasm because, as both sides of the House have agreed, it is absolutely the right thing for this Government to be doing, but it is not right that the procedures of this House allow us to be in this position. When times are perhaps a little calmer and we are not starting statements at 10 o’clock at night, rather than finishing the business then, I hope that we may be able to address that issue because doing so will allow us not only to deal with such matters with greater speed, but to take on many other issues. I hope that this Parliament can be just as modern as this Government have been in getting with the 21st century.