My Lords, we have heard excellent speeches this evening, so I do not want to cover what has already been so excellently spoken to in the Chamber. I support Amendment 149 and I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, for bringing this to the Committee. As the Victims’ Commissioner for over seven years, I met many survivors and victims of economic abuse. To sit side by side with someone and listen to their experience of abuse or, if not an abusive relationship, the use of coercive control to persecute them financially is a heart-breaking situation when your hands are tied.
I am very grateful, as many noble Lords have said, for lots of briefing but especially to Surviving Economic Abuse. Its briefing was outstanding, and I would like to highlight just some points as I know it is going to be a long night. One in four women reports experiencing economic abuse after leaving the abuser. In fact, given that economic abuse does not require physical proximity, as we have heard, it commonly continues, escalates and in some cases may begin after separation. This creates a significant barrier to the victim rebuilding their life. This is an horrendous attitude—the way that abusers absolutely pincer their victims.
To help people fully understand, I will quote a case study from Surviving Economic Abuse in support of this amendment. It says:
“Layla was married for over 20 years and has three children. Her husband was controlling and coercive throughout the marriage both economically and emotionally, pressurising her to transfer money to his bank account and forcing her to let him use the credit card she had in her sole name. He ran up debt on her credit card and, after separation, forced her to release hundreds of thousands of pounds of equity from the mortgage. Layla continues to pay debts he has put in her name, including bank loans of £70,000.”
We are not talking pocket money here. These are huge amounts that prevent victims repairing their lives.
It is so important that this amendment is made to the Domestic Abuse Bill as other Peers have covered other sections of the Serious Crime Act. More importantly, this would send a message to other abusers in relationships where a divorce is sought and coercive control carries on and on through the financial settlement while, to the victim’s cost, the debt escalates and escalates. I know this from the personal experience of friends, victims and survivors. We have to ensure that we make this amendment to the Bill to send a message that this is taken seriously, and to empower victims by ensuring that they know that we support them, listen to them and will help protect them from the people who cause them to go into debt.