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Violence against Women and Girls

Volume 723: debated on Wednesday 30 November 2022

Tackling violence against women and girls is a Government priority. We have made significant progress since publishing the cross-Government tackling violence against women and girls strategy and the tackling domestic abuse plan. That includes launching our national communications campaign “Enough”, resulting in tens of thousands of visits to the website, as well as £55 million of extra funding for CCTV and street lighting to prevent these crimes from happening, with £230 million committed cross-Government to tackling this heinous crime.

New statistics show that just one in 10 victims of partner abuse reported it to the police last year, which means thousands of victims are suffering in silence with no route to justice. The appalling Solihull murders showed just how important the police response to domestic abuse is; where it falls short, the impact can be fatal. Will the Minister listen to Labour and put a domestic abuse specialist in 999 control rooms so that victims who are most at risk can be identified and helped quickly?

I am very grateful to the hon. Member for raising this. I remind the House that it is this Government who have acted in the most robust way possible. The landmark Domestic Abuse Act 2021 was introduced in April last year, but this is about many things: prevention, education, supporting victims, pursuing perpetrators and doing good old-fashioned police work sensitively. I will take no lessons from the Opposition in relation to this sort of issue.

The levels of racist and sexist abuse uncovered in the London Fire Brigade are truly shocking. The independent review tells of women having to run a daily gauntlet of sexist abuse, and one woman even received video calls from a man exposing himself. Such incidents amount to nothing less than misogynistic hate crimes, so will this finally be the wake-up call that this Government need to class misogyny as a hate crime in law?

I look forward to Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, tackling this issue—he has been rather slow on it. This Government are fundamentally in support of proper education to protect people, including women and all other vulnerable people within the force. The Opposition really need to look at their own leaders first, and this Government will continue to work hard.

In one week it will be exactly a year since the Law Commission recommended that public sexual harassment be made a specific crime. Does my hon. Friend agree with Plan International, the Girl Guides, Soroptimist International, Our Streets Now, and many other organisations, and will she either back the Protection from Sex-based Harassment in Public Bill, or bring forward her own legislation?

I thank my right hon. Friend for her campaigning and work in this area. I am always impressed when organisations such as the Girl Guides say something, because it usually has merit. I ask her to be just slightly more patient, because I am hoping for some news in this space very soon.

Following White Ribbon day on Friday, we remember all victims and survivors of violence against women and girls. Last year, only 1.5% of reported rape and sexual violence offences resulted in a conviction. The Minister is right: tackling this issue requires multiple actions, but the Government refuse to take those actions and, sadly, in her responses she was instead seeking to pass the buck. May I ask a straight question? Why will the Government not introduce the following three measures: specialist rape courts, rape and domestic abuse specialists in every police force, and the domestic violence register that Labour has called for?

This Government have undertaken a committed review of that area. They have committed to the end-to-end rape review. For example, no adult rape crime victim should be left without a phone for more than 24 hours. We are on track to deliver many of those new initiatives, and that work goes across Departments. The hon. Lady asked about specialist rape courts, and as a practising barrister for 30 years I expect all courts to deal with rape properly. All these issues are serious and will be addressed.