Skip to main content

Violence against Women and Girls

Volume 634: debated on Monday 8 January 2018

In March 2016 we published the cross-Government violence against women and girls strategy, which sets out an ambitious programme of reform and is supported by increased funding of £100 million. We will also introduce a draft domestic abuse Bill to transform our approach to domestic abuse, to support victims better, and to bring perpetrators to justice.

What action are the Government taking to support refuges for women fleeing domestic violence in Walsall and throughout the Black country, whose excellent staff do so much to protect the safety of women and children?

My hon. Friend is right: excellent work is being done in the Black country to support women and children. When I visited a Women’s Aid Black country refuge, it was impressive to see the excellent work that was being done there. I can reassure my hon. Friend that Walsall Council received a share of £639,000 of funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government—it is £40 million in all—in partnership with local authorities across the Black country. In addition, Wolverhampton and Birmingham received £1.1 million between them from the Department for early intervention projects.

Women in custody in our prisons are experiencing psychological abuse as they struggle to gain access to sanitary products, which is a potential breach of their human rights. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is essential that women in custody have access to those products?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that important point. I completely agree that it would be outrageous if detained women were not given access to sanitary products. I have seen the report that the Home Office commissioned. We will act immediately to ensure that where that is not on a statutory footing, it will be put on a statutory footing, so that nothing like this happens in the future.

The Home Secretary will be aware of the deep public concern about the Parole Board’s decision to release the serial sex offender and rapist John Worboys after only eight years. I am sure that she will also be shocked to learn that some of the victims have still not been contacted by either probation or victim liaison officers. I realise that the issues surrounding the Parole Board’s decision are matters for the Ministry of Justice, but can she say whether she has had any contact with the police to establish whether they are able to pursue further the cases of 19 women who came forward after the conviction, and whether those cases can be prosecuted so that justice can be done and women can be kept safe?

I share the right hon. Lady’s views on this matter, and I am sure she will have seen today’s comments from the Secretary of State for Justice, my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), about ensuring that there is more transparency in the Parole Board. I am aware that certain victims are talking about possible judicial reviews and talking to the police, but I cannot say any more than that at this point because these matters are subject to potential legal proceedings.

Further to the answer that the Home Secretary gave to the hon. Member from Sussex—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield); I do apologise. Lewes is close to Sussex, I am sure.

I want to clarify a point with the Home Secretary. We would not find it acceptable to deny someone access to loo roll, so why do we think it is acceptable to deny someone access to tampons? She has said that she is committed to putting these matters on to a statutory footing. Does that include amending code C of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and meeting the Independent Custody Visitors Association which has been working on this issue?

We commissioned the Independent Custody Visitors Association to produce the report. I share the hon. Lady’s view, but I respectfully say that I do not need reminding about this. I completely agree that of course women should have access to sanitary products, just as anyone should have access to loo roll, and yes I will put this on to a statutory footing if it is confirmed that the current guidance is inadequate. It looks likely that that is the case, but I just need to confirm it for myself.

Further to the Home Secretary’s response to the question about the John Worboys case, can she explain why her Department is still pursuing two of John Worboys’ victims, knowns as DSD and NBV, all the way to the Supreme Court in an apparent effort to avoid paying compensation? She will be aware that those victims are women whose cases the lower courts have already found not to have been investigated properly. How will pursuing them through the courts reassure the public that the Government are serious about keeping women and girls safe?

The Government are committed to keeping women and girls safe, and I hope that some of the points I have set out today will reassure the House that that is the case. I recognise the point that the right hon. Lady raises, but because this matter is sub judice, I cannot comment on it at the moment.