2 October 2019
Peter Aldous speaks in debate on the Domestic Abuse Bill

Peter Aldous supports the Second Reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill and cites the good work of the Waveney Domestic Violence Forum. He urges the Government to ensure adequate funding, proper support for victims, and the promotion of a cultural change in society and across the whole public sector.

Peter Aldous MP speaking in the House of Commons

Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con)

It is a privilege to follow the hon. Member for Bradford West (Naz Shah) and to take part in this landmark debate. We have heard so many memorable contributions from all around the Chamber. This Bill has been a long time in coming, and although there has been much prior scrutiny it is very welcome. It provides the framework for tackling a crime that has scarred people’s lives for generations. The personal cost is enormous and the impact upon society is devastating. Good work is already being done, whether by the Waveney Domestic Violence Forum or the police and crime commissioner for Suffolk, Tim Passmore, but in many ways they are working with one arm behind their back. We need to empower them. This Bill can do that, but to be fully successful it must be underpinned by adequate funding, proper support for victims, and the promotion of a cultural change in society and across the whole public sector.

The Lord Chancellor and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), must take great credit for doing an enormous amount of preparatory work on this Bill. They have done much of the heavy lifting, but, as he stated, this Bill must not be viewed as the sole responsibility of his Department; it must be owned across government. We need to take down those departmental silos.

Refuge draws attention to one of the unintended consequences of universal credit that must be addressed—the need to reform those aspects of UC that currently facilitate and exacerbate economic abuse. Those reforms would include paying universal credit separately by default and abolishing the five-week delay for survivors. Refuge is also seeking an amendment to protect survivors of domestic abuse from the trauma and intimidation of being directly cross-examined in court by their perpetrator, which is inappropriate and wholly unacceptable. SafeLives urges the need for reform in the court system, and highlights the need for specialist support for adult and child victims through the family courts. It also emphasises the need for better funding of a larger number of independent domestic abuse advisers.

Nowhere—no home, no workplace—is a guaranteed sanctuary from domestic abuse. No one can be sure that they will never be a victim, but there are those who are more at risk—women, rather than men; children, who will carry the devastating impact throughout their life; and, as our society ages, older people, as my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton) highlighted. That is a concern that Age UK has also highlighted. To age-proof the Bill, it has made four recommendations as to how it can be improved; I hope that the Government will take those on board.

The Bill has a great deal to commend it. It provides the framework in which we can eliminate a stain on society that has been there for too long. It must be a catalyst for change. This debate has provided an opportunity for the House to be seen at its best, led by the hon. Member for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield) and ably supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier) and the hon. Members for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith) and for Bradford West (Naz Shah). We need to put aside our differences, come together and put in place a new of doing things that can mean such a great deal to so many.