Domestic Abuse Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:37 pm on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Peter Kyle Peter Kyle Labour, Hove 4:37 pm, 2nd October 2019

My hon. Friend raises an incredibly important point. The Home Affairs Committee, after much deliberation, wanted the commissioner to be independent of Government and to report directly to Parliament, and I agree. The Joint Committee on the draft Bill suggested that there be Cabinet Office involvement to avoid conflicts of interest in the Home Office reporting line. It is important to stress that the Children’s Commissioner is independent of Government and Parliament. The Information Commissioner’s Office is independent, even though it is supported and sponsored by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The independence of those organisations, even though they report every year to Parliament, is absolutely essential. That kind of independence would give a credible, powerful, unignorable voice to victims of domestic violence.

We hope that Brexit is in its endgame, but even if Parliament passes a deal, we will then enter years of negotiation and turmoil in this House. We need to make sure that we never lose our voice on domestic issues such as this, and particularly on support for victims of violent crime such as domestic violence. As the Bill moves into Committee, I urge a detailed re-examination of the reporting line to the commissioner, to ensure maximum independence for them, the greatest voice for abuse survivors, and maximum benefit to our body politic from the commissioner’s role. The commissioner-elect is here; I say to her and others observing the debate that I am not criticising her role but making sure that she has all the powers she needs. If she uncovers something that needs to be voiced and that needs to change, and we are too busy, or the media are too occupied, to listen to her voice, and if that is buried in the normal Home Office reporting line, that will be to her detriment.