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White Ribbon Campaign

Volume 816: debated on Thursday 25 November 2021


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have, if any, to support the White Ribbon campaign which seeks to end male violence against women.

Good morning, my Lords.

Along with other Home Office colleagues, I welcome and support this year’s white ribbon campaign by wearing a white ribbon and making the white ribbon promise to

“never commit, excuse or remain silent about male violence against women”.

Our tackling violence against women and girls strategy will radically change the response to these crimes with a whole-systems approach, focusing on prioritising prevention, supporting survivors and pursuing perpetrators.

My Lords, I thank the Minister, who is highly respected for her work in the area of ending violence against women. She will know that, since the terrible death of Sarah Everard, more than 80 more women have been killed by men. As well as awareness-raising among men and boys in schools, communities and the workplace that preventing such violence is in their hands, can she set out the investment the Government are making in this primary prevention work through their July document, Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy?

I am very grateful to answer that question. The Home Office has made a number of interventions. We have provided £300 million for victim and witness support services this year, an increase from around £200 million last year. The noble Baroness will know that, as part of the spending review, the Ministry of Justice has announced £185 million a year by 2024-25 to boost victim support services, and this will fund more than 1,000 independent sexual and domestic violence advisers and 24-hours-a-day crisis helplines. She will also know that we plan to run a communications campaign in support of the white ribbon aims. She gets to the heart of the problem: unless men own the problem, it will never end.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales undercounts violence against women and girls; it measures households but not institutions. Three of the most striking findings by the Femicide Census in the last decade on the killing of young women are the repetition of fatal errors by the authorities, the inadequate collection of data, such as on ethnicity, and the impact of campaigning mothers and fathers mourning their daughters and trying to improve the system. Will the Minister recommend the collection of data on the killing of women to be gathered in an accessible and central repository? Will she empower the domestic abuse and victims’ commissioners to ensure that recommendations to tackle femicide are implemented?

The collection of data is obviously crucial. It is something we talked about a lot during the passage of the Domestic Abuse Act. I go back to the original point that the noble Baroness makes about repeated offending. One of the things we have tried to do through the Act is to stop the cycle of offending through DAPOs and other interventions and, returning to the original point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, to make men own the problem of repeated violence against women.

I congratulate my noble friend on her bravura performance last night and during the whole of yesterday. Does she recognise the figures that, in the past year, one-third of women have suffered sexual harassment and that one in eight crimes involves domestic abuse? Against that background, does she believe that the current legislation is fit for purpose?

I certainly think the current legislation is fit for purpose because noble Lords and Members of the other place helped to take it through. It is a very good piece of legislation. We said at the time that it was the start, not the end, of the interventions that we had to make to prevent violence against women and girls, but I am very proud of what we have achieved.

My Lords, White Ribbon UK does not currently receive any government funding. The separate White Ribbon Scotland, which operates autonomously, runs a similar programme and receives some support from the Scottish Government. In future, will our Government follow the example of the Scottish Government and make a grant to White Ribbon in England?

I do not think it has requested funding from us, but I will check that point. We committed to launch a communications campaign this year that targets and challenges perpetrators of these types of crimes and ensures that victims can recognise abuse and receive the support they need.

My Lords, the commendable white ribbon initiative will clearly appeal to those appalled by violence against women, but it will do little to curb violent offenders. Does the Minister agree that to tackle violence against women we have to supplement the teachings of the three Rs at school with the other three Rs of right, wrong and responsibility so that children do not copy but challenge negative attitudes and irresponsible behaviour?

There is no doubt that what children see at home is quite often repeated throughout their life, so if their mother is a victim of domestic abuse quite often her children will grow up to be more likely to be victims of abuse. That cycle has to stop, and one of the ways in which we can do that is to teach our boys and girls at school what respectful relationships look like.

My Lords, quite coincidentally my question follows on from that of the noble Lord, Lord Singh. In the Newport City Council and Gwent Police area, residents, businesses, schools and community groups are being asked to sign up to the #30Challenge to raise awareness of the 30 children who every day in Gwent are affected by incidents of domestic abuse at home where the police are called. This allows the police to tell schools about any child or young person who has been involved in an incident of domestic violence at home, enabling the school to ensure that the appropriate help and support is available. Does the Minister agree that this innovative scheme could be replicated in other UK police forces?

I do. Throughout the passage of the current Bill and the Domestic Abuse Bill, we have all stressed the importance of information sharing. Multiagency work is the only way to identify and break some of these cycles of abuse.

My Lords, all of us, particularly men, need to say loud, clear and often that male violence against women is totally unacceptable. As well as teaching proper behaviour in schools, have the Government carried out any research into the effects of alcohol and other mood-changing drugs in cases of violence?

When certain events happen, it is very clear that domestic abuse increases. I am thinking of big football matches and other such things that may lead to excessive drinking. There is no doubt that there is a correlation.

My Lords, it is very nice to be able to congratulate the Minister on securing the distinguished legal services of Dame Elish Angiolini as chair of the Sarah Everard inquiry. I remain concerned that it is a non-statutory inquiry, given the lack of co-operation with the Daniel Morgan inquiry and the need to subpoena not just present police officers but former ones. Can the Minister confirm that the decision about whether it is converted into a full statutory inquiry will remain with Dame Elish, not with the department or the Home Secretary?

The noble Baroness will know that it is purely a Home Secretary decision. I think the other thing she will acknowledge is that in Dame Elish we have a highly respected, highly competent individual to lead the inquiry.

My Lords, I too congratulate the Minister on her performance last night; it was a long one. A start, perhaps, to putting in a complete package on this issue of male violence towards women might be to make misogyny a crime. Are the Government considering that?

I think the noble Baroness is aware that we are not currently considering misogyny as a hate crime, but we have asked the Law Commission to look into whether hate crimes based on sex or gender should be considered.