I confess that I feel saddened and ashamed nearly every year when we come to International Women’s Day, because we have to listen, again, to a litany of the number of women who have been killed by their partner, nearly always in cases of domestic abuse, and sometimes with their child. That has been my experience as an MP in the Rhondda, as nearly all the murders that have happened in my patch over 20 years have been of that exact same situation. What makes me ashamed is that the situation does not seem to improve year on year.
Perhaps three or four times in my life have I worried for my safety on my way home, and last week I felt ashamed to know so many female friends and constituents who say that that is their experience every time they go home. The Rhondda is remarkably safe. We have a very low level of crime. It is a safe place, yet a poll—not a scientific poll but one done by a local firm—showed that 84% of women in the Rhondda felt that they had been sexually harassed or been in danger on their way home. We must do a lot more, and we men must walk in women’s shoes—if you don’t mind the pun—a few more times. If that is uncomfortable, all the better. We need to learn the discomfort that many women go through.
I am delighted that the Bill changes the legislation on emergency workers, which I introduced as a private Member’s Bill. We had to fight tooth and nail against the Conservative Government of the day to get it in place, but
“more joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth”— and all the rest, and I am delighted that the sinner repenteth and is now sitting on the Front Bench. Of course it is right to have tough laws against an assault on emergency workers, because an assault on an emergency worker is an attack on us all. However, we cannot just change the law; we have to ensure that the police implement that law, that the Crown Prosecution Service pursues it, and that magistrates feel it is important. I am afraid the Government have done nothing on that front since 2018.
Section 25 is about religion and sport and people in a position of trust, and of course we must deal with that. From my experience, I think we must also consider those who coach people in the arts. My worry is about personal freedom, because this is a woolly jumper that snags easily, and once snagged can readily unravel. We must be very careful about the noise provision. I have been on miners’ marches where we sang so loudly that the walls rocked. I have often been on Pride marches, when I wondered who on earth gave a gay man a whistle in the first place. Noise is part of a protest and part of our freedom.