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Domestic Abuse Commissioner

Home Department – in the House of Commons on 28th October 2019.

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Photo of Preet Kaur Gill Preet Kaur Gill Shadow Minister (International Development)

What assessment she has made of the potential merits of making the role of domestic abuse commissioner a full-time position.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

We were delighted to announce Nicole Jacobs as our designate domestic abuse commissioner. The role was advertised as part time because we understood from advice from recruitment advisers that that would ensure the widest range of candidates. However, we have said in our response to the Joint Committee on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, and in the House on Second Reading, that we have an open mind on whether the role requires a full-time position. The Bill Committee will start its deliberations tomorrow, and no doubt we will look into that question in detail.

Photo of Preet Kaur Gill Preet Kaur Gill Shadow Minister (International Development)

I welcome the appointment of Nicole Jacobs to the role of championing the needs of survivors of domestic abuse. As a social worker, I know that children are at serious risk of long-term physical and mental health problems as a result of witnessing domestic violence, so what steps is the Minister taking to ensure that the commissioner is given the necessary powers and resources to properly support the one in seven children and young people under the age of 18 who have lived with domestic abuse at some point?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Lady for raising this matter. We know that domestic abuse is one of the primary adverse childhood experiences that can have such a terrible knock-on effect on a young person’s future life as well as on their own relationships. That is one of the many reasons why we are giving the commissioner powers to require information from public authorities and to oblige public authorities and central Government to respond to her recommendations within 56 days of her making them.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Labour, Kingston upon Hull North

I like the Minister a great deal, but what she has just said about being advised by the recruitment agency that she would get the widest range of candidates only if the position were part time is hogwash. We know that abusers and those who exercise coercive control do not do that on a part-time basis. This needs to be a full-time position, and I hope that when this is discussed in Committee, the Minister will see sense and the position will become full time.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I thank the hon. Lady; the feeling is mutual, and I look forward to working with her on the Bill Committee. The decision was made in the best of faith, and the joy of appointing the designate commissioner ahead of the House’s scrutiny of the Bill is that these issues can be teased out. As I say, we are approaching this with an open mind, and we will see what the evidence says.