It is a pleasure to speak in this debate having sat on the Bill Committee. It was indeed a privilege that my very first Bill Committee was on such a ground-breaking piece of legislation and so ably led by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Victoria Atkins, who is a dedicated Minister.
I have met numerous victims of domestic abuse, each with a moving personal story of their sadly continuing ordeal. All too often, the abuse continues and, sadly, escalates after a relationship ends. I believe that this Bill addresses that. Although the majority of victims of domestic abuse are women, we know that men are victims, too. I draw upon the family experience of a relative of mine who was attacked by his wife, who attempted to stab him, who attempted to poison him and who inflicted broken bones. She repeatedly harassed him with abusive telephone calls at work. The harassment continued even after a traumatic divorce. Abuse and manipulation of their children continue, too. The scars on my relative and his children are long lasting. It is my belief that this Bill would have curtailed that abuse at a much earlier stage and saved much trauma to the victim and his children and saved many wasted resources. I welcome new clause 15.
Family Help in Darlington was one of the UK’s first women’s refuges. It has been doing amazing work in my constituency since 1976. I thank its staff for all that they do and for the help and understanding that they have given me in respect of this important issue. Although they welcome all that this Bill does, they have asked that I urge Ministers to ensure that funding streams will enable them to plan into the future.
Rydal Academy, a primary school in my constituency, is undertaking fantastic work with its higher than average concentration of children from homes where abuse takes place. The key safeguarding leads at the school are keen to see perpetrator programmes put in place locally, and to end the generational cycle of abuse that is all too familiar. Again, I welcome the provisions in the Bill that will address that.
Domestic abuse is not confined to heterosexual relationships alone, and I welcome the fact that this Bill provides the same protections to those victims who are sadly suffering in same-sex relationships. I echo the plea of my hon. Friend Chris Clarkson on this point.
This Bill has had a long passage, having undergone many stages in this House and in the previous Parliament, but we can be proud of the protections that we are bringing to the statute book, building on the protections listed by my hon. Friend Nickie Aiken. However, this Bill is not the place to make changes to our abortion laws. I will therefore be opposing new clause 28.