Domestic Abuse Bill

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2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 5th January 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 View all Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Consideration of Bill Amendments as at 6 July 2020 - (6 Jul 2020)
Moved by
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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Relevant documents: 21st and 28th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I am pleased to be moving the Bill for two reasons: first, it is at last here in your Lordships’ House and, secondly, from my point of view it is not often that I bring Bills to this House that are universally welcomed. For those reasons, it is a particular pleasure to be introducing this Second Reading.

I want to dedicate everything that we will achieve through the Bill to all victims and survivors of domestic abuse; to all those courageous people who have spoken out about their experiences, whether in Parliament or outside it; and to those who do not lack courage but are still too traumatised to speak about their experience, maybe even decades after it first happened. We should be their voice. It is important that we see the Bill as a start. Other Bills will follow, but the Bill today is a great start in dealing with this most awful of crimes. I say to noble Lords, and I know they understand, that we should not let the best be the enemy of the good.

A person’s home should be a place of safety and security, and a person’s relationship with their partner or other family member should be based on love, mutual respect and understanding, but for some 2.3 million people a year that is not the case. Many such people have to face physical or psychological abuse on a daily basis, which can make their lives insufferable. Some pay the ultimate price: on average, two people are killed each week at the hands of their current or former partner. It is only fitting that I pay tribute to Claire Throssell, who received an MBE in the New Year’s honours list for her tireless work campaigning for children experiencing domestic abuse. She lost her own two sons, Jack and Paul, who were killed by her ex-partner.

We have seen that the Covid-19 pandemic has served to exacerbate the problem as victims have been trapped in their home with their abuser. Police-recorded crime data shows that incidents of domestic abuse increased 7% in the period of April to June last year compared with the same period in 2019. These are horrendous statistics and they mask many individual personal tragedies, lives ruined and children traumatised, many of them for life. If there was ever an issue deserving of our attention and needing decisive action, this is it.

Of course, legislation alone cannot solve society’s ills, but it can play an important role in driving change and empowering those who need help, and I firmly believe that is the case with this Bill. I welcome the fact that the Bill comes before your Lordships’ House having already been the subject of extensive scrutiny, a point well made by the Constitution Committee in its report on the Bill. A draft Bill, published in January 2019, underwent pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of both Houses, and I pay tribute to the significant contributions to that process by my noble friends Lady Bertin, Lord Farmer, Lady Sanderson and Lady Chisholm—they are all sitting behind me, which is great—the noble Baronesses, Lady Armstrong and Lady Burt, and the noble Lords, Lord Ponsonby and Lord Blair. As a result of that invaluable pre-legislative scrutiny and the consideration given to the Bill in the House of Commons, I hope that I present to your Lordships’ House today a much-strengthened Bill.

Let me turn to the detail of the Bill. The measures in it are best described around four objectives. They are: to promote awareness, putting domestic abuse at the top of everyone’s agenda; to better protect and support victims of domestic abuse and their children; to transform the response of the criminal, civil and family justice systems to domestic abuse; and to improve performance across local and national agencies.

We cannot tackle domestic abuse effectively without first having a shared understanding of the nature of domestic abuse and its impact on victims. The new, all-purpose statutory definition of domestic abuse in Part 1 is directed to this end. Historically, domestic abuse has been associated with physical or sexual violence only, but such a narrow view is to misunderstand the very nature of this type of abuse. Domestic abuse can take many forms, including threatening, controlling or coercive behaviour, economic abuse and psychological or emotional abuse.

The statutory guidance provided for in Clause 73 will, among other things, expand further on the different types of abuse and the forms they can take. This will include types of abuse which are experienced by specific communities or groups, such as migrant victims or ethnic minorities. The guidance, which we have already printed in draft, will also recognise the disproportionate impact of domestic abuse on women.

The statutory definition of domestic abuse includes a minimum age of 16 years so that we do not confuse domestic abuse and child abuse. We fully recognise, however, that children growing up in a household where one adult is abusive towards another are as much victims of domestic abuse as the person being directly abused. Children affected by domestic abuse can live with those consequences for the rest of their lives; Clause 3 expressly recognises this and will help to ensure that such children receive the support they need.

The second aim of the Bill is to better protect and support victims of domestic abuse and their children. In affording protection, civil orders can play an important role. There is already a variety of such orders, principally domestic violence protection notices and orders, occupation orders, non-molestation orders and restraining orders. The fact that there are so many of these orders can be confusing to victims, and none of them is arguably fully up to the task.

In providing for a new domestic abuse protection notice and domestic abuse protection order in Part 3, we have adopted and built upon the strongest elements of the existing orders. The domestic abuse protection notice will provide immediate protection following a domestic abuse incident, while the domestic abuse protection order—or DAPO—will provide flexible, long-term protection for victims. The DAPO is designed to provide more comprehensive protection to victims than the existing civil orders. It will be available in the criminal, civil and family courts, and will give courts the flexibility to determine which prohibitions and positive requirements are required in each case. This might include, for example, prohibiting the perpetrator from going within a specified distance of the victim’s home, or conditions compelling the perpetrator to attend a perpetrator programme or requiring them to wear an electronic tag.

Breach of a DAPO will be a criminal offence subject to a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment or a fine, or both. We want to ensure that we get these new domestic abuse protection orders right so that they work for victims, the police, the courts and others who will have to operate them. We will therefore pilot DAPOs in a small number of areas before rolling them out nationally.

It is far preferable if we can prevent abuse happening in the first place rather than having to respond after the event. One important preventive tool which already exists is the domestic violence disclosure scheme, also known as Clare’s law. There are two elements to the scheme: one is the “right to ask” and the other is the “right to know”. Under the right to ask, someone can ask the police to check whether a current or ex-partner has a violent or abusive past. If records show that an individual may be at risk of domestic abuse from a partner or ex-partner, the police will consider disclosing the information. The right to know enables the police proactively to make that disclosure if they receive information about the violent or abusive behaviour of a person that might impact on the safety of that person’s current or ex-partner. We know that Clare’s law has not always operated as effectively and consistently as it should across the country, so the Bill puts on to a statutory footing the guidance to the police underpinning the scheme to help improve its operation and thereby better protect potential victims of abuse.

Victims of domestic abuse and their children also need the right support at the right time. For those in refuges or other safe accommodation, this means having access to, for example, counselling services and advocacy support to help them access NHS services, schooling or welfare benefits. This also includes tailored support for victims with disabilities, those with more complex needs, LGBTQ+ or black and minority ethnic victims. Part 4 introduces a new duty on tier 1 local authorities in England to ensure that such support is available in their area for victims of domestic abuse and their children within safe accommodation. Noble Lords will have seen that following the spending review, the Government have committed £125 million to fund this new duty in 2021 and 2022.

Those who are forced to flee their own home as a result of domestic abuse will also benefit from Clause 71, which will require local authorities to give priority need status to all victims who are homeless and eligible for assistance. Victims will therefore no longer need to prove they are vulnerable as a result of their abuse in order to access accommodation secured by the local authority.

Where victims of domestic abuse look to the justice system for protection, including for their children, to seek civil redress or to secure justice for criminal wrongdoing, we need to ensure that the criminal, civil and family courts deliver for them. All too often, victims have found the experience of giving evidence in court traumatising and an occasion for their abuser to perpetuate the abuse all over again. To help to address this, Part 5 includes two important reforms.

First is the prohibition on cross-examination in person, which already applies in the criminal courts. This will be extended to the family and civil courts. In cases where this prohibition applies the courts will, where necessary, be able to appoint a publicly funded advocate to conduct the prohibited cross-examination. Secondly, Part 5 streamlines the rules governing eligibility for special measures for domestic abuse victims giving evidence in the criminal, civil and family courts. Victims of domestic abuse will no longer have to demonstrate that they are vulnerable. This will give victims the option of giving their evidence, for example, from behind a screen or via a video live-link. As now, it will be for the court to determine whether to make a special measures direction in any particular case, taking into account whether such a direction would improve the quality of the victim’s evidence.

In criminal proceedings relating to domestic abuse it is imperative that justice is done, with perpetrators being appropriately convicted and punished for their crimes. As this Bill was going through the House of Commons the Government listened to concerns, voiced by Harriet Harman and Mark Garnier among others, that in too many cases domestic abuse perpetrators were arguing that their victim’s death was the result of consensual “rough sex gone wrong”. In the case of R v Brown, the former Appellate Committee of this House established in 1993 the principle that consent to serious harm for sexual gratification is not a defence and that, by extension, nor would consent apply where such sexual activity resulted in the victim’s death. The Bill clarifies the law by enshrining this principle in statute.

Finally, Part 2 of the Bill, providing for the office of a domestic abuse commissioner in law, will help to level up the response to domestic abuse across local and national agencies. The designate commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, is already providing very strong leadership on domestic abuse issues and acting as a powerful voice for victims. The commissioner will play a key role in overseeing and monitoring the provision of domestic abuse services in England and Wales. To facilitate this work, the Bill will arm the commissioner with appropriate powers; in particular, they will have the power to publish reports and lay them before Parliament. These reports will hold local commissioners of domestic abuse services, statutory agencies and government departments to account and make recommendations on how they can improve their responses. Specified public bodies will be under a duty to co-operate with the commissioner. They and government Ministers will be required to respond to each recommendation made to them within 56 days.

Domestic abuse gives rise to some of the gravest and most challenging crimes, including coercive control, serious assaults, rape and murder. We owe it to victims and survivors to treat domestic abuse with the seriousness it deserves and to help these people rebuild their lives. Protecting and supporting victims and their children and bringing perpetrators to justice lies at the heart of our approach. The measures in the Bill are directed to these ends and I commend it to the House.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for what I think has been one of the most thoughtful debates I have ever heard in your Lordships’ House. No age group has been left out of the debate, including the unborn child and the foetus.

From the young to the old, the disabled, LGBTQ+ people and BME people—all strata of society are affected by this horrific crime. Of course, it does not respect social niceties either. Just because you are middle class does not mean that you will escape it. The problems of poverty exacerbate it, but nobody is safe from its clutches where the perpetrator wishes to strike.

I begin by welcoming the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, to the Labour Front Bench. I thought that was a storming first Front-Bench effort.

At this early stage in my remarks, I also want to refer to my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham. His talents, experience and expertise know no bounds. It seems that he can speak with great authority on so many things. I have in my mind a picture of him and the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Bolton, in 1975, not knowing that what they had started then would be advanced all these years later, moving from the comment of “I’m not sure there’s anything the committee can do about it”—from a Home Office Minister, of all people—to the statutory duty on local authorities now being fulfilled 50 years later. I do not know whether I am proud or downright ashamed of that, but thank goodness we are at the point that we are now.

I also join other noble Lords in paying tribute to my right honourable friend Theresa May for her efforts to begin to get this Bill going. I also thank the PM for particularly noting in his remarks yesterday that people who need to flee abuse are absolutely not subject to some of the lockdown restrictions that others are.

I welcome the overwhelming cross-party support for the provisions in the Bill. Noble Lords supported the introduction of the statutory definition of domestic abuse, including the express recognition that children are victims in their own right. There was support, too, for enshrining in law the office of the domestic abuse commissioner; for the new domestic abuse protection notice and the domestic abuse protection order; for the new duty on tier 1 local authorities in England to provide support to victims and their children within safe accommodation; for the prohibition on cross-examination in person in the civil and family courts; for automatic eligibility for special measures; and for the clarification of the law in respect of the so-called “rough sex” defence.

This is not to say that all noble Lords regard every one of the provisions in the Bill as perfect. A number of noble Lords raised points of detail and substance, and I will respond to some of those in a moment. I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I do not name-check everyone who spoke, else I will lose my entire 20 minutes in doing so.

Before responding, I acknowledge that the general welcome for the provisions in the Bill was accompanied by calls for it to be extended into new areas. There were three in particular, but the first two raised were the provision of community-based support for all victims and access to safe accommodation by migrant victims who have no recourse to public funds. A number of noble Lords, including my noble friends Lady Chisholm and Lady Bertin, the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Polak, the noble Baronesses, Lady Burt, Lady Armstrong, Lady Lister, Lady Hussein-Ece and Lady Wilcox of Newport, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester, talked about this, as did other noble Lords. In fact, almost every noble Lord talked about it, and we recognise that more needs to be done to ensure adequate provision of community-based support, but it would not be right to impose new duties on public authorities in this Bill without first understanding the gaps in existing provision and consulting with local authorities, police and crime commissioners and others who would be subject to any new duty.

To this end, the domestic abuse commissioner is undertaking an in-depth exploration of the current community-based support landscape. The commissioner is due to complete this work towards the end of the year. Alongside this, we are also developing a victim funding strategy to deliver sustainable provision to all victims. I understand the point that my noble friend Lady Sanderson made, but we do not think the duty on first-tier local authorities for community-based service in some way overrides that provision. That is the point that she was trying to make. On completion of the projects, the Government will work with the commissioner to understand the needs identified and develop options for how best to support victims, wherever they reside.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Wilcox, Lady Burt, Lady Lister, Lady Gale, Lady Crawley and Lady Meacher, the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Woolley, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester and my noble friend Lady Helic—practically the whole House—talked about the needs of migrant victims. We are clear, first and foremost, that all victims of domestic abuse must be treated as victims first. Noble Lords will have heard me say that before and I say it again. We committed in our response to the pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill to review the Government’s response to migrant victims of domestic abuse, and we published our findings last July. This highlighted that, although we have received some evidence, there is currently a lack of robust data to demonstrate which cohorts of migrant victims are likely to be in most need of support.

To address the evidence gap, on 15 December we launched a £1.5 million support for migrant victims pilot scheme, which will start next month and run to March 2022. This will enable us to take well-grounded and evidence-based decisions on how best to protect these victims in the long term. Both the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, and my noble friend Lady Helic talked about engagement with Southall Black Sisters. I have engaged with them previously in a round table, and my honourable friends Vicky Atkins and Alex Chalk have also engaged with them extensively. We have engaged with many groups across the sector and certainly with them.

The noble Lord, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, talked about co-operation across borders. It is absolutely essential, both to fulfil the provision and to make sure that people do not abscond from their obligations of facing justice.

I will address some of the points raised in the debate. We have heard from more than 90 speakers; I cannot respond to all the points, but I will attempt to. If I do not address all the points, I will certainly write to noble Lords.

The point I will mention first is GPs charging for letters, because it was one of the last points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. I know that, as she said, it has been troubling him for some time. While GPs can levy a fee for this service, due to it being classified as private work that sits outside the core GP contract, the BMA has now advised GPs not to charge for such letters. Back in January 2018 we made changes to legislation that aimed to make it easier for victims or those at risk of domestic abuse to obtain and provide the evidence required to access legal aid. We continue to work with the GPs committee to improve the process for GPs and victims in relation to evidence of domestic abuse.

Another issue that came up a lot was the crime survey upper age limit. My noble friend Lord Davies of Gower took the wind out of my sails by answering the question for me, but I shall answer it again. I first got the answer from my noble friend Lady Sanderson. Last month the Office for National Statistics announced that it would remove the upper age limit from the Crime Survey for England and Wales. I know this announcement will be welcomed by noble Lords and organisations such as Age UK that have campaigned for this change.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, among others, argued for the introduction of a data-sharing firewall so that migrant victims can approach the police safe in the knowledge that their details will not be passed to Immigration Enforcement. I understand the national policing lead on domestic abuse is clear that there will be circumstances in which information sharing between police and immigration authorities is in the interests of safeguarding the victim of abuse. We are committed to considering existing data-sharing procedures in the light of the policing inspectorate’s findings of a police super-complaint that relates to current police practice in this area.

Probably the biggest issue of the day was non-fatal strangulation. Many plaudits were paid to my noble friend Lady Newlove; I will join with them. She was supported by practically every Member who spoke, arguing for the new offence of non-fatal strangulation. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, made the interesting point that we should take time to interrogate whether a generic offence would be better. I will not answer yes or no to that, but there are several existing offences that relate to non-fatal strangulation. They cover a range of seriousness, from attempted murder to common assault and battery. In addition, non-fatal strangulation could be part of a course of action under the controlling or coercive behaviour offence or be covered by the specific offence under Section 21 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861.

Even though we are currently of the view that this range of offences already covers the diverse circumstances and levels of seriousness that may be involved in non-fatal strangulation, we are certainly willing to listen, and this debate has had quite a lot of evidence given to it on what might be needed. The Government will keep this matter under review and assess any evidence that emerges. Noble Lords have talked about New Zealand; the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, talked about Brazil. We will look at other practices around the world and consider whether a new specific offence is required. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, wisely said that we need to reflect on this and make sure that we come up with good law in this area.

The other big issue raised by noble Lords was revenge porn and, specifically, threats to disclose. My noble friend Lady Morgan asked about the steps that the Government are taking to protect victims from threats to disclose private sexual images without consent—known as “revenge porn”. Threats to disclose, regardless of the connection between the offender and the victim, are in many circumstances already captured by a range of existing offences. However, we acknowledge that there are concerns about the effectiveness of the current criminal law in this area. That is why the Law Commission is conducting a review of the law relating to the non-consensual taking and sharing of intimate images, including, but not limited to, the “revenge porn” offence in Section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. I understand that the Law Commission will launch a consultation shortly. I encourage noble Lords and others to contribute their views.

The controlling or coercive behaviour offence—the post-separation abuse that goes on—was widely mentioned as well. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, the noble Baronesses, Lady Burt, Lady Lister, Lady Andrews and Lady Hayman, my noble friends Lady Sanderson and Lord Goschen, and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, argued for the controlling or coercive behaviour offence to be extended to cover post-separation abuse issues. This offence was created in 2015 to fill a gap in existing legislation around patterns of controlling or coercive behaviour occurring during a relationship. Cases of controlling or coercive behaviour that occur outside the parameters of the offence are captured by the separate stalking and harassment offences. That said, we are finalising a review into the effectiveness of the controlling or coercive behaviour offence to ensure that it is fit for purpose and adequately protects victims from abuse. The review has unfortunately been delayed by the pandemic—one noble Lord mentioned that—but we aim to publish the outcome in time for Report stage.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester called for the Government to introduce a statutory defence for victims whose offending is driven by their experience of domestic abuse. We recognise the harm suffered by victims of domestic abuse, which is why a number of defences are potentially available in law to those who commit offences in circumstances connected with their involvement in an abusive relationship. These include the full defences of duress and self-defence as well as, in homicide cases, the partial defences of loss of control or diminished responsibility. In light of these existing defences, we are not persuaded in this case that a statutory defence is necessary, but we will continue to monitor the position.

My noble friends Lady Bertin and Lord Farmer, the noble Lords, Lord Rosser, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe and Lord Strasburger, the noble Baronesses, Lady Watkins and Lady Royall, and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, called for a perpetrator strategy, the expansion of perpetrator programmes and the better management of perpetrators. We continue to work with local areas to support effective commissioning of domestic abuse services, including high-quality, safe perpetrator programmes. Indeed, in this financial year, we are investing more than £7 million into direct perpetrator-focused interventions through police and crime commissioners to prevent abuse. Our forthcoming domestic abuse strategy provides an opportunity for us to build on the foundations of the Bill in order to transform the response to domestic abuse. The strategy will include specific work to tackle perpetrators and to prevent offending.

The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, called for the creation of a new Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements category for serial domestic abuse and stalking perpetrators. At this point, I pay tribute to her work and that of John Clough on this. She knows that we do not have plans to introduce a new MAPPA category, but I certainly commend her for raising it. Our focus is on ensuring that we make better use of the existing MAPPA framework and related police systems, such as VISOR, rather than creating new categories.

Noble Lords, particularly the noble Baronesses, Lady Wilcox, Lady Burt and Lady Jones, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and my noble friends Lady Gardner of Parkes, Lady Altmann and Lady Helic, expressed concerns about the handling of child contact cases in the family courts and the issue of parental alienation. My noble friend Lord Moylan also stressed something really important: the importance of ensuring that justice is upheld. We must never lose sight of that.

Last June we published the findings of the expert panel established to examine how effectively the family courts respond to allegations of domestic abuse and other serious offences in private law proceedings. While the current law is clear that the welfare of the child is paramount in making decisions about contact, the panel concluded that in some cases involving domestic abuse the courts are not striking the right balance between the child’s right to a relationship with both parents and the well-being of both the child and the parent victim.

That is why we have committed to undertake a review of the presumption of parental involvement as it currently stands. The review will consider how the presumption is currently applied by the courts, as well as reviewing the existing body of research in this area. However, while we fully recognise the need for swift action in the light of the panel’s findings, we also need to ensure that the full spectrum of issues and potential impacts can be considered in the round. The presumption of parental involvement is wide-ranging and we must be certain that any changes are fully considered.

Most noble Lords talked about support for children through the Bill. My noble friends Lady Chisholm, Lord Polak, Lady Stroud, Lady Verma and Lady Jenkin, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Benjamin and Lady Watkins, rightly drew attention to the devastating impact that domestic abuse can have on children and young people. I talked about the foetus earlier—those adverse impacts start when that child is in the womb.

Growing up in a household of fear and intimidation can impact children’s health, well-being and development, with lasting effects into adulthood—in fact, all their lives. That is why we amended the Bill in the Commons expressly to recognise that children who see, hear or experience domestic abuse are victims in their own right. The Bill includes a number of other measures to better protect and support child victims of domestic abuse. One of the domestic abuse commissioner’s key functions will be to encourage good practice in the identification of children affected by domestic abuse and the provision of protection and support to people, including children, affected by domestic abuse.

Another issue raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Warwick and Lady Donaghy, and my noble friend Lady Eaton was accommodation-based support, and how we had costed the new duty on tier 1 local authorities provided for in Part 4. MHCLG engaged with local authorities and service providers in estimating the cost of the new duty to ensure that it is funded appropriately.

The funding covers the estimated cost of providing unmet need for support in safe accommodation for victims and their children, as well as needs previously supported through MHCLG short-term challenge funds. The Women’s Aid estimate included costs of all services, including those with existing funding. On the basis of evidence, MHCLG estimated the cost at £125 million for 2021-22. It will undertake a post-implementation review, two years following the commencement of the duty, to assess its delivery, including the level of funding and the allocation method.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Burt and Lady Donaghy, and my noble friend Lord Bourne all raised the role of employers. We all expect employers to be particularly sensitive when dealing with a colleague who is experiencing domestic abuse. On 9 June 2020, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced a review of support in the workplace for victims of domestic abuse, including a call for written evidence, which closed on 9 September and received 126 responses. BEIS is currently considering the evidence gathered and the appropriate next steps, and will publish a response and action plan shortly.

I wonder whether I have more time. I usually go well over time, but not on this occasion. The noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Marks, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Royall, raised the issue of legal aid. We are currently conducting a review of the means test, as part of which we are specifically considering the experience of victims of domestic abuse. As part of this, we have made a public commitment to look at the capital thresholds for victims of domestic abuse, where these apply. At the moment, the legal aid agency can apply an eligibility waiver for victims of domestic abuse applying for an injunction or other orders for protection, which means that an applicant for a protective injunction may be eligible for legal aid, even if they have income or capital above the thresholds in the means test, although they may have to make a financial contribution towards their legal costs.

We have already—in April 2020—widened the evidence requirements for domestic abuse victims, making it easier for them to obtain and provide the evidence they need to access legal aid. It will also reduce the risk of genuine victims being unable to obtain the required evidence.

There are a few issues that I have not addressed, including the commencement of Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act. I may have to refer to other government departments, but I will write to noble Lords whose points I have not addressed.

I think we have made an excellent start to a Bill that I hope will become an excellent Act.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.