Amendment 149

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill - Committee (5th Day) – in the House of Lords at 9:00 pm on 8th February 2021.

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Photo of Viscount Goschen Viscount Goschen Conservative 9:00 pm, 8th February 2021

My Lords, I, too, offer my support for Amendment 149 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. I also heard compelling arguments from the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, for their Amendment 157.

With regard to Amendment 149, we have heard some very compelling arguments this evening. Indeed, there has been unanimity thus far, and I expect that to continue. This proposal was the primary subject of my remarks at Second Reading. As we have heard, the protection afforded by Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act is limited by the residency requirement it contains. I completely agree with earlier speakers—indeed, it is self-evident—that victims can still be extremely vulnerable to abuse from their former partners even if they are not living together under the same roof. Research from bodies including the University of Sussex has reinforced the nature of this threat. They are concerned, quite rightly in my view, that this discrepancy creates a perverse disincentive for victims physically to leave their former partners.

Fortunately we have the solution to this problem staring at us from the Domestic Abuse Bill before us this evening. The enhanced definition of connected persons in Clause 2 does not have this residency requirement, as we have heard. Therefore, it seems entirely logical to harmonise the law between these two statutes. The clearer the law, the better, and there is no room for two competing definitions on the statute book. We need to choose the most effective one, and in my view that is the one contained in Clause 2. This is really extremely difficult to argue against, given that the Government have come forward with a new definition that is based on the lessons learned in the intervening five years. Why this should not be applied in these circumstances would be a difficult argument to make. So the issue is really as straightforward as that and, not surprisingly, the amendment has had a great deal of support to date both inside the House and externally, and I add my support.

The Bill has the potential to do so much good, and the Government should be warmly applauded for having brought it forward. Making the change proposed in this amendment would add further to those benefits. As I mentioned at Second Reading, we are fortunate enough to have a Minister with us this evening who is an expert in this field, and I very much look forward to my noble friend’s response after she has heard the arguments put forward this evening.