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Domestic Abuse

Volume 620: debated on Monday 23 January 2017

9. What steps she is taking to ensure that all forms of domestic abuse are recognised and investigated. (908286)

The Government are absolutely committed to tackling all forms of domestic abuse. This morning I chaired the domestic abuse national oversight group, which oversees the delivery of important recommendations from Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary. Victims who experience extreme psychological and emotional abuse can now bring their perpetrators to justice. The College of Policing has updated its guidance, and every police force now has a domestic abuse action plan.

I thank my right hon. Friend for her response; that is welcome news. In Bath, a charity called VOICES provides support to those who are victims or survivors of domestic violence, helping them to recover and thrive. What is she doing to ensure that, where there is violence against women and girls both at home and abroad, they can get similar support?

I welcome the work of VOICES in helping women and girls. We are a global leader in tackling violence against women and girls both at home and overseas. Since 2010 we have invested £184 million, and we have nearly doubled our violence against women and girls campaigns overseas from 64 programmes in 2012 to 127 in 2016. We have hosted various important international conferences, such as the global call to action on protecting women and girls in emergencies, the global summit to end sexual violence in conflict, and the groundbreaking Girl Summit.

May I add my thanks to my right hon. Friend for her answer?

Operation Encompass, which helps fight domestic violence through the school system, began in my constituency. Will my right hon. Friend join me in praising the retired sergeant David Carney-Haworth, who set up Operation Encompass, and will she ensure that it is spread to as many police forces across the country as possible?

I am of course delighted to join my hon. Friend in congratulating David Carney-Haworth on his work. My hon. Friend has brought to our attention a really good example of local practice, and it is local practice, local initiative and local momentum that will really help the women and girls we want to reach.

Will the Minister update the House on the violence against women and girls strategy, with particular reference to the promised £80 million of additional funding? How can that funding be accessed, and what are the criteria?

Yes, I am happy to update the hon. Lady on that. Some £40 million of that money is apportioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government, particularly for accommodation. We have access to most of the rest of it, and I particularly draw her attention to the £15 million that a combination of commissioners and local organisations are bidding for. She may like to access that money to support her constituents.

The SNP Scottish Government are strongly committed to ending gender-based violence, including through our proposed all-encompassing criminal offence of domestic abuse. They have also urged the ratification at the earliest opportunity of the Istanbul convention on ending violence against women and girls. Will the Secretary of State commit to a timetable for the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill—the private Member’s Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford)—and for that long-awaited ratification?

I am always delighted to work with the Scottish Government on this important subject. I know that they have put aside £20 million to work on the topic, and I welcome that initiative. If the hon. Gentleman would like to see me or one of my colleagues, we can discuss his proposal.

Any victim of domestic violence should receive equal support and respect, regardless of their heritage and faith. Does my right hon. Friend share my concern about the reports that the Crown Prosecution Service is dropping so-called honour cases for fear of offending Asian communities?

I share my hon. Friend’s commitment to ensuring that so-called honour-based violence is not neglected. The Government will not shy away from tackling any type of violence against women and girls, and I am certainly happy to work with her on this important matter.