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Female Genital Mutilation

Volume 579: debated on Monday 28 April 2014

9. What discussions she has had with her ministerial colleagues on implementing the recommendations of the joint royal colleges’ report “Tackling FGM in the UK” published in November 2013. (903692)

10. What discussions she has had with her ministerial colleagues on implementing the recommendations of the joint royal colleges’ report “Tackling FGM in the UK” published in November 2013. (903693)

The coalition welcomed the joint royal colleges’ report published last November. The Government is committed to eradicating female genital mutilation and is taking action in each of the areas recommended in the report. As part of our strategy, eight Departments have signed a cross-government declaration reaffirming our commitment to protecting current and future generations of girls from this abuse, and each Department is doing what it can to eradicate the practice in the UK.

Given that the Minister accepts that both strong political leadership and joint working are essential to tackle the problem, will he give me an assurance that he has met the Secretary of State for Education to discuss the matter?

I have certainly been in correspondence with the Education Secretary, and I have met on more than one occasion the relevant Education Minister. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Education Secretary has now written to schools, which is a very helpful development.

I am a little concerned to hear that answer, given that the Minister talked about good co-operation across all Departments. Given that the survey quoted by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children reports that one in six teachers is unaware that FGM is a crime and that 68% are unaware of any guidance from the Government on what to do if they suspect a pupil is at risk, can the Minister assure the House that he will meet the Secretary of State for Education, discuss this very important issue and report back to the House on what agreements they make on how to tackle this despicable crime?

I agree with the hon. Lady that it is a despicable crime. That is why we take it so seriously not just in the Home Office but across Government. I refer her to the cross-government agreement I mentioned in my original answer, which has been signed by eight Departments, including by the Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mr Timpson), on behalf of the Department for Education. We are in regular contact on these matters across Departments and will continue to be so.

I welcome my hon. Friend’s commitment to interdepartmental working and a multi-agency approach, but does he not agree that until more perpetrators are brought before our courts and convicted, the elders and parents in the communities in which these atrocities take place will not take the law seriously?

It is a matter of some regret, in my view, that there have been no successful prosecutions since the practice was outlawed in 1985. I am delighted that there are now two cases pending, although obviously I cannot comment on matters before the courts. What I can say is that in my view there is certainly a willingness on the part of police forces, the Director of Public Prosecutions and others to ensure that where the crime is perpetrated, those responsible are brought to justice. The DPP wrote to me and the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims earlier this year with a suggestion for a particular change that might be enacted to try to make prosecutions more likely and more successful. We are looking at that suggestion now.