Westminster Diary: Key amendments to tackle domestic abusers and protect migrants

Daisy Cooper MP.

Daisy Cooper MP. - Credit: HM Government

Welcome to my Westminster diary. Each week, I’ll be giving a behind-the-scenes take on what life is really like as a new MP. From jeering and bobbing, procedures and prayers, I’ll be lifting the lid on the mother of all Parliaments. Think ‘The Thick of It’ not ‘House of Cards’! - St Albans MP Daisy Cooper

This week’s headlines related to the Chancellor’s statement and the Government’s decision to give the green light to more businesses to re-open. Less reported but just as important was the Domestic Abuse Bill, which moved to the next stage of becoming law.

Measuring the instances or number of victims of domestic abuse is notoriously hard as it relies on people coming forward to report it, which they’re often reluctant to do. But an annual crime survey suggests it’s around 2.4 million people a year, a third of whom are men, two-thirds women.

Domestic abuse has also come into sharp focus during COVID. The Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline saw call numbers rise by 13 per cent in April, with the website seeing a 33 per cent increase in visits over the same period. Actual reports of domestic abuse – in Hertfordshire alone – have increased by around 15 per cent.

Ahead of the debate this week, my party succeeded in persuading the Government to ban alleged domestic abusers from cross-examining survivors in family courts and to properly recognise children as victims of domestic abuse.

Perpetrators of domestic abuse sometimes withhold child maintenance as a means of continuing a financial abuse on their ex partners. I’ve come across this at my constituency surgeries. My team and I worked up an amendment to require the Government to issue guidance on how to stop this. The amendment wasn’t selected but I will encourage Peers in the House of Lords to try and push it again.

Finally, my team had secured cross-party support for two amendments to protect migrants who experience domestic abuse. In the event, neither was put to a vote, because the Government agreed to introduce a pilot scheme to give more support to migrant survivors, and provided an assurance that it will put a stop to police sharing survivors’ data for immigration purposes. By working consensually across party lines, MPs of all parties made a good and important Bill even better.

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For support, call the the Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline on 08 088 088 088 for free confidential advice.