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Women, Peace and Security Bill [HL]

Volume 831: debated on Friday 14 July 2023

Third Reading


Moved by

My Lords, I begin by saying a few words of thanks. First, I thank all noble Lords who spoke up and supported the Bill at Second Reading. It had support from all around the House, and I was so grateful to everybody for all the backing and encouragement that I received. I would also like to thank Theo Pembroke in the Public Bill Office, who did an amazing job in preparing the Bill. I thank too all those outside the House who have helped with advice and assistance.

In his statement to the UN Security Council in 2020, the Foreign Secretary said:

“As proud champions of the Women, Peace and Security agenda we will not accept any roll-back of the progress made on women’s rights over the last 20 years”.

I very much hope that the Government will support the Bill, which simply puts into law the commitments they have already signed up to under UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the subsequent 10 UN Security Council resolutions on the women, peace and security agenda. I beg to move.

My Lords, I rise briefly to wholeheartedly support the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, in her persistence in getting this far with a highly desirable Bill. However, I lament the fact that it is in a different category from the previous three Bills whose Third Readings we have heard today, all of which were Commons starters and are now passing into legislation, whereas this Bill is a Lords starter, as we know. I hate to rain on the parade, but the chance of Lords starters passing into legislation is close to nil.

The figures are as follows. Since 2014, 363 Private Members’ Bills have started in the Lords, of which three obtained Royal Assent at the end of the process. That is 363 attempts, and three successes. I suppose I ought to declare an interest, in that my Bill has been one of the persistent failures. I simply make this point as it is an ideal opportunity to do so. We have four highly desirable Bills, three of which are becoming law and one of which I hope will, but the odds are stacked against it. The Lords Senior Deputy Speaker and the Commons Chairman of Ways and Means have given me some of these statistics. Discussions should now take place between the usual channels of the two Houses to try and establish why so many worthy, highly desirable Lords starters do not reach their conclusion, whereas in comparison, significant numbers of Commons starters do.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, for pushing this Bill, which I certainly welcomed at Second Reading. What we are talking about is cross-party support for the same policy. UN Security Council Resolution 1325 was a breakthrough, ensuring that women are at the table and involved in finding solutions to conflict throughout the world. Since the adoption of that resolution, we have seen real progress. Like her, we want to ensure that that cultural change is embedded in the future, and one way of doing that is through this Bill.

I know that, sadly, the Bill does not have the support of the Government—but things do change and Governments change. Hopefully, the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, and I can work together to ensure that the sort of changes she is advocating become law. I hear the comments of my noble friend Lord Grocott, but with a change of government we can make rapid progress. Beat that!

My Lords, I always like to hear comments from the noble Lord, Lord Collins. In all seriousness, I pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Hodgson for her inspiring passion and commitment to the women, peace and security agenda. I say from the outset that the Government fully support the ethos of the Bill and we are firmly committed to protecting and progressing WPS. The UK is a global leader on women, peace and security: we led the first UN Security Council resolution on WPS in 2000, and we continue to use our standing in the UN to champion the inclusion of women and girls in the work of the organisation and UN resolutions.

In February the Government launched our new women, peace and security national action plan, our most ambitious WPS strategy yet. It sets out how we will continue to put women and girls at the centre of our work on conflict and security, and it reflects the new global context, adding Ukraine, Ethiopia and Yemen to our list of focus countries and retaining Afghanistan as a priority. The national action plan forms part of the wider work of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to challenge the global rollback of women’s rights around the world, as articulated by the Foreign Secretary in his speech in March.

This Government are fully committed to the WPS agenda. However, we have reservations about some of the proposals in the Bill, something that the Minister responsible for WPS, the honourable Leo Docherty MP, has discussed with my noble friend. We support some of the key principles of the Bill, particularly on increasing the meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention and resolution, and we are delivering on that aim through our diplomatic and development work. However, we do not believe that the Bill in its current form allows for the wide scope of policies that we are seeking to deliver. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office continues to engage with my noble friend to further strengthen our approach in this area.

To conclude, the Government are committed to progressing the women, peace and security agenda on the global stage. Our new national action plan, along with our international women and girls strategy, ensures that we will continue to put women and girls at the heart of everything we do. I look forward to further constructive dialogue with noble Lords as we advance our goals of gender equality and the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all areas of the women, peace and security agenda. I also note what the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, had to say.

My Lords, once again, I express how grateful I am to all noble Lords who supported this Bill. I thank the Minister for his remarks, but I have to confess that I am somewhat disappointed that the Government cannot at this stage support the Bill. I am not sure I understand their reservations in the slightest. At a time when rights for women and girls globally are rolling back, passing the Bill would send a strong message of commitment around the world and clearly demonstrate that the UK is leading on the women, peace and security agenda. Not supporting the Bill sends a somewhat different message. I very much hope that the Bill will be given some time in the Commons. I understand that at this stage it is very unlikely that there will be sufficient time, but I again thank everybody very much for their support.

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.