New Clause 15 - Children as victims of domestic abuse

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:15 pm on 6th July 2020.

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Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke 6:15 pm, 6th July 2020

We are dealing with extremely serious issues here, but I have to say that, at times, the passage of this Bill has been a little like the running of the grand national. Whether it is Brexit getting in the way, or general elections, or most recently covid-19, Ministers should get an award for resilience in taking the Bill forward, and we have to make sure that it does not fall at the last hurdle—Becher’s brook, perhaps. We must resist the temptation to make it a Christmas tree Bill—to put in so many things we feel strongly about that the Bill falls, perhaps not in this place but in the other place. My right hon. Friend Mrs May was right to say that we have to make sure the Bill is the best shape it can be.

I am pleased that the Minister listened carefully, not just to Labour Front Benchers, but to the Joint Committee I chaired that looked at the evidence submitted on the first draft of the Bill, and has agreed to make fundamental changes through new clause 15, about including the impact on children of domestic violence; new clauses 16 and 17, responding to recommendations we made about special measures in family court proceedings; and new clause 18, which reflects the Joint Committee’s recommendations on blocking cross-examination of victims by alleged perpetrators. That is important cross-party work, which shows that Joint Committees can add considerable value to the progress of Bills such as this one. I pay tribute to the Ministers for continuing to listen and for acting so swiftly on new clause 20, about rough sex, and to my hon. Friend Mark Garnier, Ms Harman, and my new hon. Friend Laura Farris for all their hard work in bringing this to fruition in such a short time.

In common with my right hon. Friend Caroline Nokes, I believe that, although there is room for changes such as the inclusion of new clause 20, this is not the time to address the issues—the very serious issues—that Dame Diana Johnson raises in new clause 28. The rushed nature of its drafting leaves us with a clause that is open to great misinterpretation and does not do justice to the hon. Lady’s entirely honourable intentions in raising the issue. I could not support the new clause if she pressed it to a vote, because without the amendments proposed by my hon. Friend Fiona Bruce, there would be a serious risk of exposing some of the most vulnerable members of our society—victims of domestic abuse—to what would be, to all intents and purposes, an unregulated abortion service, which I know is not the hon. Lady’s intention.