Oral Answers to Questions Debate

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Department: Cabinet Office

Oral Answers to Questions

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Wednesday 7th February 2024

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nicola Richards Portrait Nicola Richards (West Bromwich East) (Con)
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6. What recent steps she has taken with Cabinet colleagues to help tackle violence against women and girls.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Minister for Women and Equalities (Kemi Badenoch)
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Tackling violence against women and girls is one of the Government’s key priorities. We are making progress in delivering various cross-Government workstreams, including the tackling violence against women and girls strategy and the rape review action plan.

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith
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Three quarters of police-recorded domestic abuse cases are closed due to evidential difficulties or because the victim does not support further action. Does the Minister agree that Labour’s proposal to put rape and domestic abuse specialists in every police force in England and Wales will give women the confidence to come forward and secure more convictions?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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We will have 2,000 rape specialists across all police forces by April. In the autumn statement, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would provide £2 million of additional funding for a flexible fund that trials one-off payments to victims of domestic abuse. That fund was made available to victims on 31 January.

Nicola Richards Portrait Nicola Richards
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Last week, I co-hosted an event here in Parliament with a delegation from Israel who have first-hand experience of the aftermath of 7 October. They described innocent women, dead or alive, who had been raped by terrorists. Hamas desecrated their bodies and even booby-trapped them. Those acts of sexual violence must be condemned by every institution and individual who cares about women’s rights.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank my hon. Friend and her co-chair for organising what was for attendees an extremely difficult meeting. We heard the harrowing accounts of witnesses and family members of young girls who were kidnapped on 7 October, and we heard from the first responders who found the bodies of women and girls of all ages with obvious signs of sexual violence. Female soldiers were found naked with nails and sharp objects shoved into their vaginas. One told of a mother he found with her hands tied behind her back, naked and bleeding from the waist down, shot in the back of the head, and with a live grenade left in her hand for whoever found her body.

We must support the courage of those witnesses in giving that harrowing testimony about Hamas’s mass-scale perpetration of sexual violence on 7 October. We cannot be silent about these atrocities. We must ensure that the world does not forget that sexual violence shatters lives and devastates communities. The UK stands in solidarity with survivors and continues to call for the release of the remaining hostages.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD)
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I appreciate that the Government have been trying to tackle violence against women and girls, specifically with the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. Unfortunately, amendments that would have gone further to protect migrant women, who too often still feel unable to come forward and report abuse for fear of their data being shared and their being detained or deported, were not accepted. Will the Minister commit to reassessing the merits of preventing survivors’ personal data from being shared with the Home Office for immigration purposes?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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That is a matter for the Home Office. I support all the work that Home Office Ministers are doing to tackle domestic abuse, and I know there would have been good reasons for not accepting those amendments to the Act. We will continue to do all we can. I have just heard from the Minister for safeguarding—the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Laura Farris)—that concessions are being made. We will continue to work with her and others to tackle domestic violence in all its forms.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee.

Caroline Nokes Portrait Caroline Nokes (Romsey and Southampton North) (Con)
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In some instances, there are good reasons why immigration control should be able to work with forces of law enforcement when it comes to domestic abuse. My constituent Emma has been serially abused, harassed and stalked by a US national, who crosses the border with no visa—he does not need one—to continue his campaign of harassment. Will my right hon. Friend please work closely with the Home Office to ensure that British women are protected from foreign abusers who have found ways around our immigration system?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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My right hon. Friend is right to raise that. I ask her to let her constituent know that the Government are doing all they can. The safeguarding Minister has said that she will write to my right hon. Friend so that this specific case can be further investigated.

Vicky Foxcroft Portrait Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab)
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2. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the time taken to process claims to the Windrush compensation scheme.

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Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (SNP)
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T1. If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Minister for Women and Equalities (Kemi Badenoch)
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In the light of some of the commentary about the employment tribunal’s judgment in the case of Professor Miller and Bristol University, I want to clarify the fact that antisemitism must continue to be challenged wherever it arises. We have seen people in this country use their views on Israel as an excuse to display antisemitism. We have seen that in protests on our streets, and also in our universities. It is therefore important to stress that this ruling does not change the fact that while academics have the right to express views, they cannot behave in a way that amounts to harassment of Jewish students. Disguising that as discourse about Israel would be no more lawful than any other form of antisemitism. The Government will consider the ruling carefully, and we will continue to do all in our power to protect Jewish people throughout our country.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
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On Monday, my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Hannah Bardell) hosted a very positive event marking the start of the Football v. Homophobia month of action. Will Ministers join me in thanking all those involved in the campaign—which includes LEAP sports and the TIE campaign in Scotland—and offer their wholehearted support for making football a safe and welcoming sport for LGBT people?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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Of course we join the hon. Gentleman in that. I pay tribute to the work of the Minister for Equalities, who has been very supportive of the campaign—as are all of us in the ministerial team.

Marco Longhi Portrait Marco Longhi (Dudley North) (Con)
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T3. I hear more frequent use of the word “microaggression”. As an engineer, I know that “micro” means something extremely small. It is tiny. In fact, it is one millionth of whatever a standard aggression might be. Has the Minister a view on this, and does she recognise it as a new phenomenon? How big a priority might it be?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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As my hon. Friend will know, I too am an engineer by training, and we engineers have to stick together. We are very sceptical when people introduce to the lexicon terms that are not helpful to the real work of tackling serious criminal behaviour. I am not a fan of that term, and my hon. Friend will be pleased to know that microaggressions training was removed from the Government Campus prospectus in November 2022.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Ashley Dalton Portrait Ashley Dalton (West Lancashire) (Lab)
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Under the Conservatives, police-recorded rapes have soared to record highs while convictions have fallen to record lows. It emerged last week that the Conservative police and crime commissioner in Cheshire victim-blamed girls wearing short skirts for this epidemic. Why are these attitudes still tolerated in the Conservative party?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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Those attitudes are not tolerated in the Conservative party. I have not seen the remarks the hon. Lady refers to, but I am sure that we can investigate. However, I will push back on what she said about rape statistics. The fact is that, for the year ending March 2023, the crime survey for England and Wales shows a 5.1% reduction in the number of adults experienced domestic abuse—a statistically significant decrease—compared with the year ending March 2020.

Anna Firth Portrait Anna Firth (Southend West)  (Con)
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T5. Last month I received a letter from my local NHS trust regarding children’s services at Southend Hospital. It referred to women and “birthing people” going into labour. Can my right hon. Friend clarify whether the term “birthing people” is required language under the Equality Act 2010? If not, does she agree that it should not be used, because it is dehumanising, confusing and insulting to many women?

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Caroline Dinenage Portrait Dame Caroline Dinenage (Gosport) (Con)
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At 5 pm today, women’s groups and other community groups in Gosport will be staging a peaceful protest about the Lib Dem council’s decision to completely end all live CCTV monitoring. They are worried about the impact on people’s safety. Does the Minister agree with them?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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It is important that people understand that CCTV and street lighting are important in helping women to feel safe on the streets. I fully understand the campaign and I am glad that my hon. Friend is supporting it. We are doing everything we can in Government to reduce violence against women and girls.

Mohammad Yasin Portrait Mohammad Yasin (Bedford) (Lab)
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T4. Will the UK Government redouble their efforts to ensure that the humanitarian needs of women and girls in Gaza are being addressed, in line with the UK’s commitments under the international women and girls strategy, the women, peace and security national action plan, and the international development White Paper?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I am working closely with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on this issue. We are very concerned about the events taking place in both Israel and Gaza and we want to see the violence end. The hon. Gentleman will know about all the work we have been doing on preventing sexual violence in conflict, for example, and we will continue to do everything we can to minimise any impact on women and girls.

David Evennett Portrait Sir David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con)
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What steps is my right hon. Friend taking with Cabinet colleagues to help increase the number of female-led businesses?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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Female-led businesses often face particular challenges, and in the Department for Business and Trade we work with the British Business Bank to ensure that those businesses continue to have access to finance. We have the Investing in Women code and a taskforce for women-led entrepreneurs. We hope that all these actions together will help improve the lives of women in business.

Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab)
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T6. Will the Minister make a statement about today’s report by the Patient Safety Commissioner addressing redress for victims of sodium valproate and mesh?