Clause 15 - Guidance about independent domestic violence and sexual violence advisors

Part of Victims and Prisoners Bill – in the House of Commons at 11:15 am on 24 May 2024.

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Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Victims and Sentencing) 11:15, 24 May 2024

The hon. Gentleman is right, as he often is. I completely endorse his remarks. I thank him for the £50 he will pay to charity after losing a bet with me that there would be a referendum on Scottish independence by the end of this Parliament. I put that on record, not because I do not trust him but because I said that I would send him the name of the charity after today’s debate. He is a man of honour and a man of his word, so I know he will pay up.

On a serious point, I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution on this important issue. His background in the trade union movement means that he will always be thoughtful about the essential job of helping the weak against the strong, which is what we are trying to do in this place.

I should also pay proper tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North. A few months ago, her amendment to hold the Government’s feet to the fire on this issue caused them to suffer possibly their only defeat in this House during this Parliament, which is quite an achievement.

To echo Sir Brian Langstaff, we must tackle the lack of “openness, transparency and candour” that has left victims suffering for decades. We welcome the movement towards this important milestone, and we look forward to seeing victims get the financial redress they deserve sooner rather than later.

I should say that Les, the husband of my constituent Sue Sparkes, died in 1990 as a result of receiving infected blood.

There has been a lot of discussion and work, involving colleagues from all parties, to recognise the considerable concern surrounding sentences of imprisonment for public protection. IPPs are and were a stain on our nation’s criminal justice system, and we have acknowledged our role in the past. It is right that IPP sentences were abolished, and we share the concerns that lie behind many of the proposals suggested by colleagues, both here and in the other place, in relation to these sentences and prisoners.

We have continually sought to work on this issue constructively and on a cross-party basis, wherever possible, which is why we are pleased to support multiple Government concessions on this matter, including Lords amendments 103 and 107, agreeing to a new annual report and provisions for those sentenced to detention for public protection. I pay tribute to our colleague Lord Blunkett, who has done a great deal of work, perhaps to underdo some of the things he might have been responsible for many years ago.

Progress for those remaining on IPP sentences and on licence in the community is pivotal. We want to ensure that any solutions proposed are robust and assessed with public safety properly in mind, as the Minister rightly said. In government, Labour will work at pace to make progress and will consult widely to ensure that our actions for those on IPP sentences are effective, in their interest and based on the evidence in front of us.

On the MAPPA issues in the Bill, we are glad to have agreed on an overdue and important change in the arrangements in place to protect victims and the public from the terrible blight on our society that is domestic abuse. When the Bill passes, offenders sentenced to more than 12 months for the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour will now be automatically included in the multi-agency regime that exists for violent and sexual offenders. That follows strong support in the other place for more rigorous safeguards in such cases, where too often we see women in particular left to face repeating and escalating patterns of abuse within the relationships where they should be most safe. Labour has big ambitions in government to tackle violence against women and girls in particular—far beyond the commitments in the Bill—but we are nevertheless proud to have put this marker down and to support this measure.

Labour’s commitment to reforming the criminal justice system to ensure that victims are more than just bit players is unwavering. We are pleased to have supported and helped to improve the Bill. Our essential additions, from empowering the Victims’ Commissioner to introducing a duty of candour for public bodies, have highlighted our commitment to the rightful place of victims at the centre of the justice process.

We welcome the Government’s movements in the right direction on pivotal issues such as IPPs and on the Infected Blood Compensation Authority, notwithstanding the remarks I made about the slowness of movement to get compensation out to victims. I thank the Minister for his openness in accepting some of these changes. I look forward to the Bill’s conclusion—very shortly, I hope—and hope that the Act will be a step towards a new era of transparency and advocacy for all victims of crime.