It is a pleasure to follow Tim Loughton, and to participate in the debate. I want to take this opportunity to remind Members that figures published this week indicate that, in Northern Ireland in the past three months during the pandemic, there has been a 15% rise in 999 emergency calls relating to domestic abuse compared with the corresponding three months of last year. There is therefore a pertinence to today’s debate. I know the sincerity with which Members have approached these issues, given the contributions to the Bill’s different stages over the past number of months, not least those of the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Victoria Atkins. I praise her again for her efforts.
It will come as no surprise that in previous contributions I have recognised the importance of devolved government in Northern Ireland. I have also acknowledged that there is a separate and corresponding Bill in our devolved legislature, but I have lamented the fact that the Bill in Northern Ireland tries only to close the gap in domestic abuse legislation prior to this Bill. The progress of this Bill will leave further glaring omissions in our legislative protection for abuse victims in Northern Ireland. There will be no statutory gender definition in our legislation, no provision for a domestic abuse commissioner or office in Northern Ireland, and no reforms to our family courts or review of child contact. No changes outlined in this Bill on housing, homelessness and refuges will have corresponding changes in the Northern Ireland legislation. No additional welfare policies in this Bill will apply in Northern Ireland to protect women and children, and there will be no protection for migrant services either.
I hope that in the contributions today and during the passage of this Bill, legislators in Northern Ireland will take appropriate account of the progress and changes that we are attaining here in the House of Commons and recognise that they are appropriate for further legislative consideration in Northern Ireland. There is no provision on stalking in our legislation, and no change on the non-fatal strangulation or rough sex issues. I commend the Minister for the work she has done and those who have campaigned on the rough sex defence, because today’s provision is an important step forward. I know I am going to be followed by Philip Davies, and I think that our amendments are important; I hope he will take the time to outline the rationale behind providing legislative protection on parental alienation and recognising that those are important issues. I hope that they will receive support this afternoon.
On new clause 28, I agree with the comments made by Caroline Nokes and Sir Robert Neill. We are not normally in the same place on issues such as this, but the rationale they have outlined at this time, on this Bill, is an important consideration.