Domestic Abuse Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:40 pm on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Draft Domestic Abuse Bill (Joint) Committee 3:40 pm, 2nd October 2019

It is a great pleasure to follow Ms Harman. I thank her for the evidence that she gave the Joint Committee, as it helped our deliberations. I also pay tribute to Rosie Duffield, who had enormous strength to come to the Chamber to share such a personal story. I am sure that she will take strength from the fact that those who have heard her will feel more empowered to act to put themselves into a safe position. She and I have campaigned a great deal for a number of years to get more women into the House, and I count myself lucky to have worked alongside her, given the strength and courage that she has shown today.

I commend my right hon. Friend Mrs May, because without her I am not sure that we would be here today. She had the vision to pull the Bill together and, along with Ministers on the Front Bench, to create an opportunity for a step change in the national response to this issue. I was privileged to chair the Joint Committee on the draft Bill, and I thank Members both here and in the other place who gave so much of their time, those who gave evidence and related their personal experiences and, above all, the staff of the House, who gave us the most extraordinary professional service.

This is an incredibly important Bill, but I would like to make a couple of points. First, the Government need to make clear what the Bill deals with. They have tabled some amendments and promised others, but I am not sure that the Bill is in its final format regarding what the Government want to do. The Minister might want to make sure that Members of both Houses are thoroughly briefed on the final Bill, including all amendments, before Report. This is an important Bill, but the Government introduced amendments midway through our deliberations with regard to the statutory duty on local authorities to provide refuge places. The consultation still needs to report, so perhaps the Minister will confirm that she will ensure that the House is fully briefed before Report.

Secondly, I make a plea not to Ministers but to colleagues. Members need to resist the temptation to use the Bill to remedy all the issues, concerns, and campaigns in recent years to do with domestic abuse. Some of them have been quite open about their wish to include abortion reform in the Bill, and while there is clearly a strong case for reform, with which I would agree, this is not the place to do it. I do not believe that we have the time in this Parliament to give that issue the attention that it demands. My plea is for a separate Bill, sponsored by a Back-Bench MP in the usual way, to deal with that, and to deal with it swiftly.