It is an honour to follow Jackie Doyle-Price. I wholeheartedly support the sensible and necessary amendments to this Bill brought forward by several of my courageous and learned colleagues. I particularly wish to mention my hon. Friend Rosie Duffield, who has spoken courageously on domestic abuse, and my excellent colleague my hon. Friend Stella Creasy, because of her ongoing work to have misogyny treated as a hate crime. I am proud to represent Nottingham East, the birthplace of the movement to recognise misogyny as a hate crime, and I pay tribute to pioneers at Nottingham Women’s Centre, as well as Juno Women’s Aid, and, in particular, to Mel Jeffs.
No recourse to public funds renders many of the most at-risk individuals completely powerless and increases their chances of being preyed upon by abusers or falling into destitution. The choice presented to Members today is whether this Bill progresses with or without leaving migrant women behind. Many migrant women are, in effect, excluded from the protective measures in this Bill as they have no recourse to public funds. What advice has the Minister sought as to whether the Bill, in its current form, is compliant with paragraph 3 of article 4 of the Istanbul convention? We know that migrant women face additional barriers to safety, because abusers commonly weaponise fears of immigration enforcement and separation from their children to control them. The draft statutory guidance to accompany this Bill clearly recognises that migrant women face these additional obstacles to safety and are afraid of reporting. Does the Minister accept that the Government’s current policies in this area, in effect, encode and entrench the abuser-victim dynamic into the system? Will she acknowledge that the legislation, as it currently stands, does not match the facts recognised in the statutory guidance?
It is promising that some key amendments have made the cut, including the recognition that children are victims of domestic abuse in their own right, as well as the expansion of the ban on abusers cross-examining the victims in court. However, as Pragna Patel, the director of Southall Black Sisters, has said:
“The decision to leave migrant women out of this bill sends the message that their lives are not valued, they are disposable, they are second-class people, they are invisible”.
This invisibility is exacerbated through clause 53, which neglects the commissioning of specialist support for BAME women in the community. There are only 30 specialist by and for black and minoritised women’s refuges for the whole of the UK, with 50% of BAME specialist refuges having been forced to close or been taken over by a larger provider because of Government funding cuts in the past decade. I wish to close with words from the End Violence Against Women Coalition, which has stressed that
“Amending the Bill is the only route to guarantee a fair system to all victims” and ensure compliance with the Istanbul convention, which this Bill seeks to ratify.