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Domestic Abuse Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:51 pm on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Angela Crawley Angela Crawley Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Disabilities), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Pensions), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Youth affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Children and Families), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Equalities) 2:51 pm, 2nd October 2019

I am grateful for the chance to follow Mrs May. May I take this opportunity to take a different approach from the one we very often take on the Opposition side of the House, which is to pay tribute to her both for her approach as the former Prime Minister of this country and for her commitment and genuine passion? As the former Prime Minister, she committed her life’s work in this Parliament to making sure that the agenda of women and girls was recognised. I am sure that the successful passage of this Bill will be a legacy that she can be proud of, and that it will rightly go down in history as the landmark legislation of the second female Prime Minister of this country. I pay tribute to the right hon. Lady for the work that she has done.

To return to the point of order made by Stella Creasy, may I also acknowledge her dedication and commitment to women’s rights? I think no Member across this House should have to receive the treatment she has received. I am sure—I know—that the right hon. Gentleman the Speaker of this House will do everything in his power, as a champion of Back Benchers, to ensure that all the House of Commons authorities provide her with the necessary support that she requires, because no one in this House should come under fire for ultimately doing what is right and proper and what should be done, which is protecting the rights of women.

I welcome this Bill, and I agree in essence with its main principles, because domestic abuse can ruin lives and it needs to be tackled strongly. I recognise that the primary basis of the Bill will apply only to England and Wales. However, there are some limited provisions in the Bill that will have an impact on Scotland, and it is on those grounds that I want to speak today.

As the Lord Chancellor said, 2 million people in the UK are affected. Most of them are women, but not all. This is only an estimated number. It is based on the recorded statistics we have of the number of women who have bravely come forward and undergone the process of speaking out loud and saying, “I will not accept this treatment any longer”. However, it is only an estimated number because too many more women will suffer in silence and receive this ongoing treatment day to day.

I of course have nothing but the utmost respect for the law and justice and for our ability as Members of this House to produce legislation that can make a difference, but everyone in the House knows that legislation alone will not tackle this problem. I congratulate the UK Government on going some way towards taking the approach of really driving home the point that domestic violence cannot be tolerated and cannot be accepted. It is something that we want to change so that future generations will not grow up to experience this kind of world.

On this particular occasion, I think Scotland has taken a leading stance and a really strong stance against domestic abuse. In Scotland, domestic abuse accounts for almost a quarter of all violent crimes. Again, this is only an estimated figure; we have no real idea of the true figure or of the true cost that it has on people’s lives. About one in four women has experienced or reported domestic abuse at some time in their lives. It is usually perpetrated by a spouse, partner or ex-partner. Domestic abuse often includes physical violence, mental or emotional damage, or undue control or power over another person.

The SNP in government has taken a lead and taken the issue of domestic abuse seriously. I am very proud that we have been able to do that in the Scottish Government. The multiple forms of abuse are tackled by the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, which for the first time introduced a “course of conduct” offence. This enables not just physical abuse, but psychological domestic abuse and controlling behaviours to be prosecuted at once. As many from a legal background will know, that in itself is really hard to pin down. How do we even begin to quantify undue influence or coercive control? How do we recognise that, and how do we prevent it in a criminal statute? The fact is that the Scottish legislation is designed to address the emotional abuse that Scottish Women’s Aid has said is, for most victims, the most traumatic and the hardest aspect of abuse to recover from. It is a really significant and important part of this legislation, and I hope that the Government will take that into consideration when they come forward with the Public Bill Committee.

In a similar vein, the Domestic Abuse Bill broadens the scope of domestic abuse legislation in England and Wales. This is the legislation we are here to speak about today, and it would be a great shame if the Bill were to be lost. Should this Parliament dissolve or prorogue again and we do not succeed in passing this legislation, it would ultimately be against all our better intentions. We want to see the Bill successfully brought through this Parliament during this term, regardless of when this term may cease.