Domestic Abuse Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:14 pm on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union) 4:14 pm, 2nd October 2019

There have been many days recently when I have not been particularly proud to be a Member of this House, but today I am intensely proud, particularly following that wonderful speech, which I will find it difficult to follow, and the contributions from my hon. Friends the Members for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield) and for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) and from the Mother of the House and the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee. Each and every one of them has made us feel something.

There have been too many times in this place when we have had to be hardened and stoical or put on a brave face. Today I am not going to put on a brave face. Today we have a huge opportunity to make a difference for victims of domestic abuse in our constituencies. We all know them and care for them, and I do not think there is a woman alive in this country who has not experienced some of that behaviour or who knows somebody well who has. Now we have a chance to do something about it. This is a good day.

I will be resisting, though, those who say that we should show some restraint and not try to widen the Bill. This could be a rare opportunity. We might not get another such Bill for some time. We need to look to Departments other than the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office, such as the Department for Education, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Department of Health and Social Care, to find out what we can do more broadly to support victims of domestic abuse.

I have seen the journey in my constituency that this field and the women’s organisations that support victims have been on. In 1976 in Darlington, we first had what was then called a refuge for battered wives. Thank God we have come a long way since then. It is now a safe haven for survivors. I want to take the opportunity to celebrate those who worked together to provide that vital service. They were the Rev. John Wright, Harry Cass, Val Portass, Louie Hutchinson, Isobel Hartley, Dot Long and Lillian Elliott. They are heroes, because if they had not done what they did then, my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) and for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire) would not have had the opportunity to make the impact that they have. Those people were pioneers and they deserve that recognition and to be celebrated.

I am very worried that the Bill is limited to abuse experienced by people over the age of 16. I would accept that as appropriate if Ministers could show us where abuse under the age of 16 is sufficiently dealt with in other legislation. If it is dealt with adequately in other Acts of Parliament, fine. I just do not believe that it is at the moment.