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Volume 649: debated on Thursday 15 November 2018

We are committed to tackling misogyny and gender inequality, and have pledged £100 million over four years to support our strategy to combat violence against women and girls. We will soon publish our plans to tackle sexual harassment, and we have asked the Law Commission to consider whether sex and gender should be included under current hate crime legislation.

Actions may be criminal, but will the Minister ensure that we do not stray any further into the realms of thought crime?

Of course not: hate crimes are crimes that already exist as crimes in themselves, such as assault and criminal damage, but for which the hatred of a protected characteristic is the aggravating feature that enables judges to reflect that in their sentencing, and we have asked the Law Commission to consider whether sex and gender should be added to those protected characteristics. There will be no legislation for thought crime from this Government.

Recent work done in women’s prisons shows that 48% of women prisoners have had a major brain injury before going to prison, the vast majority due to domestic violence. Could we not solve some of the problems of crime if we dealt more robustly with domestic violence?

I am so pleased the hon. Gentleman raises this point. As he knows, the Government are committed to a domestic abuse Bill. The draft Bill will be published by the end of this Session and there will be a whole range of non-legislative measures with that proposed legislation as well. I hope the whole House will join me in fighting this terrible crime, because it has such enormous impacts not just on the immediate victims themselves but on wider society.

I hope the Minister will agree with me when I say that language is extremely important in terms of misogyny and the way that men, in particular, behave in politics at all levels across the United Kingdom. Will she consider formal training not just for MPs but those in devolved institutions and councils across the country, because misogyny is never acceptable?

I think that this is where we, as a society, need to make it very clear that we do not expect women to be shouted at in the street or have very unpleasant things said to them. I know there are Members of this House who suffer such abuse on a daily basis on social media. That is simply unacceptable, so I join the hon. Gentleman in saying to everyone in this House that how we use our language really matters and that we must ensure our young people grow up with that clear message, too.