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Domestic Abuse Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:33 pm on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Labour, Hornsey and Wood Green 6:33 pm, 2nd October 2019

It is a pleasure to be the final contributor from the Back Benches in this amazing debate. It has been a fantastic debate in which we have heard the personal stories of my hon. Friends the Members for Bradford West (Naz Shah) and for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield)—and how moving were their accounts.

I want briefly to pay tribute to three of my constituents who are experts in this field. The first is Harriet Wistrich, a barrister from the Centre for Women’s Justice, who led the work on the Sally Challen case. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford West will appreciate the work that Harriet has done in driving forward legal change so that other women who have been forced into a situation in which they have killed their husbands or partners receive a fair trial and access to the law.

The second person I briefly wish to mention is the outgoing chief executive of Solace Women’s Aid, Mary Mason, a constituent of mine and an expert in her field. Her life has been dedicated to improving the situation for women, and I am sure everyone in this House would like to thank her for the years and years she has given to women who have been facing violence.

The final person I wish to mention is a woman who has tragically passed away but who also did an amazing amount of work. I understand that she worked closely with Mrs May in developing not only the beginnings of this Bill but the Modern Slavery Act 2015. I refer to Denise Marshall, who tragically passed away due to cancer a couple of years ago but who did an incredible amount for Eaves, a fantastic charity that works closely with government to promote better services for women.

Each of us will have a domestic violence charity or statutory sector service in our constituency, and mine is Hearthstone. What is wonderful about it is that it is based in the local authority but it has its hands on the allocation of housing. Before, when best practice was considered to be in the voluntary sector or civic society, it could be an advocate, but being based within the council allows Hearthstone to keep a close eye on allocations. It is therefore in a great position to assist women who are escaping domestic violence.

I wish to make two quick points that we have to consider when we finalise the Bill. The first relates to women and families who have no recourse to public funds and the second relates to women on different spousal visas. A number of Members have mentioned that today, and I want to mention it so that we can be assured that it is looked at once again before Third Reading. I would be grateful if the Minister clarified what view she is taking on different immigration arrangements, as there are women who are trapped in violent relationships because of their spousal visa arrangements. We desperately need that element of the Bill to be sharpened up before it goes to Third Reading.