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International Women’s Day

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:49 pm on 5th March 2020.

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Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Women), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Equalities) 12:49 pm, 5th March 2020

I could not possibly disagree with that. Yes, I absolutely do agree with that. There was a lot of talk about how the country will tackle HIV/AIDS.

There is a big focus, funded largely by ourselves, on ending violence against women and girls. My ask of the Government is: what has happened to the Istanbul convention? Many will remember former SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford, who served in this House for many years. Her private Member’s Bill was passed by this House, yet here we are almost three years later and nothing has been done. This week the Domestic Abuse Bill was reintroduced, but, I think I am right in saying, without provisions for ratification. Why is that? What is the delay?

I started my speech with these words: Amuna anga andig wiririria usiku watha. I was attempting to speak in Chichewa, one of the official languages of Malawi. The point that I am making is that I have a lot of constituents, mainly women, who cannot speak English, or if they can, it is limited, and when people are in distress, it becomes even more limited. If I were a Member of the Scottish Parliament, I could pick up the phone to the Scottish Parliament interpretation service, put my constituent on the phone and someone would establish what language they were speaking and an interpreter would be made available. Westminster offers no such service that I know of. Often, the issues are Home Office-related. That is further complicated by the fact that the Home Office point-blank refuses to communicate with Members of the Scottish Parliament. If anyone needs that service, it is MPs. Right now, if I need interpretation, I fall back on the fantastic national organisation, Saheliya, led by another inspirational woman, Alison Davis, but that service is by appointment only. May I appeal to the Minister and the Government, to look at setting up that initial telephone service so that people—mainly women, often women in danger—can access support from their Member of Parliament in the same way that any other women can expect to?