Istanbul Convention and Northern Ireland Law on Domestic Abuse

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons on 3rd July 2019.

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Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Labour, Kingston upon Hull North

What discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on ensuring that the law in Northern Ireland is consistent with the Istanbul convention in relation to domestic abuse; and if she will make a statement.

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I am sorry to report that, while the UK has signed the Istanbul convention, we are one of only a handful of signatories that have not yet ratified it. So, in the absence of a Northern Ireland Executive, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice are working closely with the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland to establish how this can be progressed for Northern Ireland, perhaps in the upcoming Domestic Abuse Bill.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Labour, Kingston upon Hull North

The Minister is absolutely right. If it was the will of Government to include Northern Ireland in the jurisdiction covered by the Domestic Abuse Bill, that would allow the Istanbul convention to be ratified, so I ask the Government to do that, as did the prelegislative scrutiny Committee on the Domestic Abuse Bill in one of its recommendations.

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

The hon. Lady is absolutely right that the prelegislative scrutiny process by the Joint Committee made that recommendation. That has opened the door and it is certainly one of the things that is therefore being considered. Obviously, we need to work through the detail, but that door is certainly now open and we are considering it carefully.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire

Can the Minister confirm that the extraterritorial jurisdiction required under the convention will be included in the Domestic Abuse Bill and therefore enable us to ratify that?

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I cannot yet categorically confirm any of those measures to be in or out, but it is certainly one of the points that was addressed by the prelegislative scrutiny Committee. It was one of the things it recommended, so it is one of the things that is being considered very carefully.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

Does the Minister of State acknowledge that the fact that every two minutes there is a phone call to abuse charities regarding domestic abuse means that it must top the agenda when the Assembly reconvenes? Further, will he pledge to raise the matter with local parties and be assured of the DUP’s support to make that happen?

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

I am delighted to hear that there is broad support for the measures that we have just been discussing. I am sure that, when the Stormont Assembly reconvenes, it will be one of the most important issues. There are others, of course, but I am glad to hear the hon. Gentleman’s support.