Government urged put domestic violence first ahead of DUP coalition partnership

The Government has drafted its Domestic Abuse Bill “not with the victims of domestic violence in mind but their (DUP) partners in the coalition”, a Labour MP has claimed.

Stella Creasy called on the Government to “Put DV (domestic violence), not the DUP, first”, arguing the Bill “shows the human consequences for women across the UK of the confidence-and-supply agreement”.

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said there had been “no change” in the territorial application of the Bill compared with the proposals in the Government’s consultation published last spring.

Ms Atkins told MPs in the Commons that the provisions of the draft Bill “expand to England and Wales only”, in line with existing criminal law.

Her comments came after Ms Creasy (Walthamstow) asked an urgent question on the territorial extent of the draft Bill and the consequences for victims of violence across the UK.

Ms Creasy (pictured) called on the minister to apologise and urged the Government to commit to going “back to the drawing board and coming up with a Bill that can protect every victim across the UK”.

She said: “Can she stop hiding behind devolution and say sorry to Sarah Ewart for making her relive the trauma of what has happened to her all over again just because the Government needs those 10 votes of the DUP to stay in power?

“We saw that last night and I’ve no doubt we’ll see it again. But this Bill shows the human consequences for women across the UK of the confidence-and-supply agreement.

“Minister, fight us fair and square on abortion rights in this place, not through backroom deals and bargaining, unless it will take a rape victim having to come to court to make this Government do the right thing and not block this change. Put DV (domestic violence), not the DUP, first.”

The High Court in Belfast has been urged to find that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws are incompatible with human rights legislation.

Ms Ewart’s case comes after the Supreme Court ruled last year that abortion laws in the region were in breach of human rights legislation.

Ms Atkins said the “landmark” Bill was aimed at supporting victims and their families and pursuing offenders to stop the cycle of violence.

She said: “The Bill will cement a statutory definition of domestic abuse that extends beyond violence to include emotional, psychological and economic abuse.”

The subject matter of the draft Bill, she said, was “devolved in Scotland and Northern Ireland”, adding: “We are currently in discussion with the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland department of justice about whether they wish to extend any of the provisions of the Bill to Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively.

“She (Ms Creasy) has quite rightly highlighted the fact it applies at the moment only to England and Wales and the reason for that is … that the underlying offences which would support prosecutions of domestic abuse are devolved.”

Conservative former minister Anna Soubry welcomed the draft Bill, but added: “I am gravely concerned that this is, in effect, a way of stopping what should be happening – which is a fundamental reform of the laws in Northern Ireland so women in Northern Ireland have exactly the same rights as women in my constituency.”

But Fiona Bruce, Tory MP for Congleton, said she wanted to “call out” an “orchestrated campaign” to change abortion laws in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, and replace them with “extreme proposals for which there is no public appetite whatsoever”.

She said: “It is highly inappropriate for such campaigners to hijack the Domestic Abuse Bill in this way.”

Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, said migrant women have been “left behind” by the Bill in its draft form.

She added: “If we extend it to have immigration law in it, of course the extent of the Bill will be expanded.”

DUP MP Jim Shannon (Strangford) said amending the Bill to change abortion law in Northern Ireland would “breach the devolution settlement”, adding devolved government needs to be restored.

Labour’s Liz Kendall (Leicester West) asked who decided to “exclude” Northern Ireland from the Bill and whether it was discussed with the DUP.

Ms Atkins said any Bill has to go through various committees of government, adding: “I do not know of any meetings she has talked about with the DUP.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Yui Mok / PA Wire.