Debates between Lord Harries of Pentregarth and Lord Blunkett during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 3rd Feb 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Domestic Abuse Bill

Debate between Lord Harries of Pentregarth and Lord Blunkett
Committee stage & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 3rd February 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 View all Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 124-V Fifth marshalled list for Committee - (3 Feb 2021)
Lord Blunkett Portrait Lord Blunkett (Lab)
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My Lords, the Committee has heard some extremely powerful and focused speeches this evening. I add my voice to those commending the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, and the signatories of these amendments, and give my support to Amendment 137. Given what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has just said, I hope that the online harms Bill will deal with social media outlets that perpetrate the kind of messages that he enunciated.

The noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, and all those who have spoken, have done so with clarity and unusual brevity for the hybrid House; I will try to emulate that. I have two things to say. First, women police officers who have spoken to me are crying out for this focused and clear piece of legislation, as enunciated in Amendment 137. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London said, they do not want a tick-box approach. They want to change the relevant form—124D—to be able to obtain the Crown Prosecution Service’s direction to take those who are perpetrating this crime through to a successful criminal prosecution. As has been said so often this evening, this is clearly about domestic abuse.

Secondly, why should this Bill be the vehicle to take this forward? There are two reasons. One is that it is self-evident from everything that has been said, the briefings that have been received and offline discussions, that everyone accepts that this legislation is needed and is needed now. There is no reason whatever to delay until another criminal justice or sentencing Bill which may take its turn after a forthcoming Queen’s Speech, somewhere down the line, where this amendment would have to be moved all over again. We would have to go through all the same campaigning, representations and speeches to gain something that the Government themselves have thankfully conceded is a necessary improvement to the law.

I have one plea for the Minister. He has taken to this House like a duck to water, but there is one lesson that those of us who have been around in politics know all too well: you do not ask your own colleagues in another House to vote down something that they know is eminently sensible and required, in some vain hope that they will forgive you for not having done it as quickly and effectively as possible because someone in the legislative committee of government—it changes its name from time to time—has decided that they do not want to have any further substantive amendments to the Bill. We all know that this would be arrant nonsense: the Minister knows it, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, who has been extremely helpful on this, knows it. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Marks, in his erudite speech, indicated that even the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, has changed his mind since Second Reading. I am glad if he has, because I was going to refer him to the excellent Second Reading speech by the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, about his experiences in 1975.

All of us can coalesce and praise the Government and applaud the campaigners, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, for what is tonight a unified approach to dealing with a horrendous crime, which has led to so many deaths and can be stopped from doing so in the future by a single agreement by government Ministers.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I speak briefly in support of Amendments 137 and 138, especially Amendment 137. It has been introduced extremely powerfully by the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove. I do not think that any of us would be here at this stage of the evening, late in the Bill, if we were not absolutely convinced of the importance of a stand-alone offence of non-fatal strangulation, and of course the Government also recognise this.

Perhaps we could pause briefly to pay tribute to, first, those victims of domestic violence—particularly those affected by non-fatal strangulation—and their bravery in coming forward, to the campaigning groups that have been willing to take up the issue on their behalf, and to the parliamentarians, both in the other House and in this place, who have been willing to respond to it. In a dark time, it is good to celebrate the fact that something is working in our democracy in this kind of way.

The key issue this evening for the Government to face is not whether there should be such a stand-alone offence—I think everyone is convinced of that now—but whether or not it should be in this Bill. It seems to me that the Minister has to face two real questions put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, and also very powerfully by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox of Newport, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and others. First, if 80% of non-fatal strangulations take place in the context of domestic violence, is there any reason at all why it should not be in this Bill? That is where it belongs. Secondly, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, and many others as well, the police are crying out for something clear and associated with this Bill, because it will both raise awareness of this terrible form of cruelty and ensure that there is appropriate training in order to help the police to recognise it.

I very much hope that, when the Minister comes to respond, he will be able to look at these two issues in particular and agree that there is a proper place for this in the Bill.