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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:35 pm on 11th March 2019.

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Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith Conservative, Richmond Park 7:35 pm, 11th March 2019

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Members will know that this is a private Member’s Bill, so I will start by putting on the record my thanks to the Government and the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. and learned Friend Lucy Frazer, for giving it Government time and for their broader efforts to help tackle the scourge of FGM and to protect those at risk of it. The Bill has passed through the other place and received cross-party support in its Second Reading Committee a fortnight ago and again last week in Committee, and I put on the record again my thanks to Gloria De Piero for her words in Committee and for the cross-party manner in which the issue was tackled.

The Bill was initiated by Cross-Bench peer Lord Berkeley, who became aware of an omission in existing child protection law whereby family courts do not have the power to compel the involvement of a local authority in an interim care order relating to FGM. He decided to act and piloted this simple, two-clause Bill through the other place with passion, clarity and decency, and I am grateful to him. It has been my pleasure to work with the Government to attempt to get the Bill through this place, notwithstanding one or two hurdles earlier on.

I also want to place on the record my thanks to the FGM survivor and extraordinarily effective campaigner, Nimco Ali, who will be known to many Members. She is probably this country’s best-known FGM campaigner, and using every opportunity at her disposal to push the issue right to the top of the political agenda. It was wonderful just three days ago to see on Twitter a picture of her standing in No. 10 next to the Prime Minister. Nimco has taken the issue literally to the heart of Government.

Nimco Ali’s work has extended well beyond what she has achieved in this country. She famously persuaded all three contenders in the 2017 Somaliland presidential election to commit to legislating against FGM, and I do not think that many people thought that she had the slightest chance of succeeding. The election was won by President Muse and, good to his word, he introduced the legislation as soon as he took office. Incidentally, the vote itself was a model election, the first in the world in which iris-recognition technology was used to avoid electoral fraud. In one of the most troubled parts of the planet, we had the extraordinary scene of the contenders shaking hands and accepting the result without any fuss whatsoever—something that we could perhaps learn as we discuss ongoing Brexit problems.