New Clause 15 - Children as victims of domestic abuse

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:30 pm on 6th July 2020.

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Photo of Chris Clarkson Chris Clarkson Conservative, Heywood and Middleton 7:30 pm, 6th July 2020

I would like to start by saying this is a good Bill. I would particularly like to add my support to new clause 20, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Newbury (Laura Farris) and for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier) and to the Mother of the House, Ms Harman, for their work on this. I would also like to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken) for her work on new clause 15, which I think achieves a great deal of good.

I will briefly touch on new clauses 22, 25 and 26. I welcome the Government’s long-standing commitment to support all domestic abuse survivors, including migrants, and they should always be treated as victims, regardless of their immigration status. The introduction of the destitution domestic violence concession and the domestic violence indefinite leave to remain scheme in 2012 were important steps in supporting migrant women who are victims of domestic abuse. It is important to note that obtaining these visas means that those affected have set up their lives in the UK with the expectation of obtaining indefinite leave to remain here. Already, this concession permits them to receive welfare payments, support and safe accommodation, and the scheme enables them to apply for the indefinite leave to remain that they would have had had they not been victims of domestic abuse.

The concession and the scheme are not available to people who enter the country on other visas, such as visitor, student or work visas, or to those here illegally. As we have heard, this is because, to obtain such visas, they will have already confirmed that they are financially independent and therefore require no recourse to public funds and, as such, their stay will be for a defined time. They do not therefore have a legitimate expectation of securing indefinite leave to remain.

I welcome the fact that the Government have pledged £1.5 million towards a pilot later this year, which will be used to assess the level of need for migrant victims of domestic abuse and to inform decisions. I join my right hon. Friend Mrs May in hoping that this will identify the gaps in the current support available.

At this point, I was going to talk about amendments 40 to 43, but, as I understand from Jess Phillips that they will not be brought forward, I will not labour that point as time is short. None the less, I would like to put on the record how welcome are the appointment of Nicole Jacobs as the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and the establishment of her independent office, which rightly holds the Government to account to ensure that all areas are working better to protect victims. I have the utmost confidence that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will listen to her sage advice.

Abuse can come in myriad forms—not just physical control or coercion, but financial and mental. Having listened to my right hon. Friend Caroline Nokes, it is clear that we also have to consider the new forms that abuse can take as technology and society develop. I welcome the fact that the commissioner will be required to have specific focus on victims from minority groups, and I hope that she will include the LGBT+ community, who experience disproportionately high levels of domestic abuse and distinct barriers in accessing support.

Finally, I would like to thank the Ministers and Members from both sides of the House for all their work on this truly historic Bill, which puts the determination to protect victims and their families at the very heart of our law.