I am pleased to be opening this debate for the Liberal Democrats. Almost 11 years ago, in a debate on 27 October 1999, I first raised the issue of the need to debate the problem of domestic violence against men. The annual debates that we have had since then have focused on the issue of men's violence against women. Although that is important, until now—with the arrival in government of Alex Neil—this Parliament has been negligent in highlighting women's violence against men.
I do not like history being rewritten. During the period of the previous coalition Government, I was dumbfounded when the Executive repeatedly refused to entertain the idea that we should have a debate on this issue, let alone do anything practical to help the victims of women's violence against men. I had several meetings with Labour ministers to that end. I thought that any reasonable person would understand that the victims of domestic violence should be assisted. I could not believe it when the minister responsible—I will spare her from identification—told me that there was no need for a debate because it was not an issue, that it was a so-called gender issue and that resources would be wasted if they were misdirected to help a small number of male victims rather than a much larger number of female victims.
In responding to me in the debate in October 1999, Johann Lamont said:
"If there were significant evidence of women's violence against men, the first place it would be seen is in the development of self-help organisations."—[Official Report, 27 October 1999; c 38.]
She was in denial of the problem in that debate, and I note from today's debate that she is in denial of the problem now. I was disappointed to hear her say on the radio this morning that many of the male victims are perpetrators themselves.