Violence against women
Ahead of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the End Violence against Women Coalition's publication of a report which highlights the fact that 3 million women in England and Wales suffer violence every year, John Bercow calls for a House of Commons debate on violence against women.
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): May we please have a debate in Government time and on the Floor of the House about violence against women? The Equality and Human Rights Commission and the End Violence against Women Coalition will tomorrow publish a seminal report highlighting the fact that 3 million women suffer this terrible scourge every year in England and Wales, at an estimated cost to the country of £40,000 million, so is it not high time that this House debated its approach to some of the most vulnerable people in our society to whom we owe a particular duty of care?
Ms Harman: I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that issue. The British crime survey showed a fall in the number of women reporting that they had suffered domestic violence, and that is a welcome trend, but it remains a massive problem. He mentions the report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission—I have had a chance to see it already. It shows that although statutory agencies are making progress with the support they provide—such as health authorities providing sexual assault referral centres—the map of gaps last year showed that one in three local authorities were providing no support services to women under threat of domestic violence. That has now fallen to one in four, so progress has been made, but it is still too few. Local authorities need to recognise that they must play their part in the battle against domestic violence. We should not wring our hands and say that nothing can be done, because action can be taken. There will be a debate on international women’s day, so the hon. Gentleman will be able to raise the issue then.