Below is the text of the speech made by Christian Wakeford, the Conservative MP for Bury South, in the House of Commons in 28 April 2020.
I start by paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Sara Britcliffe) on a truly moving maiden speech. It will go down in history as the first maiden speech to be delivered virtually. Having been a councillor with her father for the last seven years, I know that he will be immensely proud of her, if not a tad jealous.
I welcome the Bill as a step in the right direction, and I hope that it is just that—a step towards fully tackling domestic abuse in our society. Some 2.4 million adults were victims of domestic abuse in 2019. That is unacceptable, and it is important that we shine a light on that heinous crime. Domestic abuse is not just a heinous crime. If not stopped, it can, and often does, lead to further crime, such as sexual abuse or even murder. Far too many women have been lost as they were unable to access the support they needed or their cries for help were not heeded.
Since the lockdown began, domestic abuse agencies and refuges have reported a huge increase in demand, and are increasingly under pressure, with one charity reporting a 700% increase in calls to its helpline. Children are witnessing more abuse than previously, with no escape available because schools are also closed. It is, however, anticipated that there will be a further increase in demand once lockdown measures are relaxed and victims can more freely access the support they need. With that in mind, and while previously announced funding is appreciated by victims and agencies, can the Minister advise what plans are in place to help victims after the lockdown restrictions are relaxed and to ensure that the perpetrators of domestic abuse will face justice in a speedy manner?
As many hon. Members on both sides of the House have said, many aspects of the Bill are to be commended, including the introduction of the domestic abuse commissioner, along with civil protection for victims in the form of the domestic abuse protection notice and domestic abuse protection orders, but that needs to be coupled with adequate funding to ensure that no victims slip through the net. While the Bill is a step in the right direction, I trust the Minister will continue to review the issue and take further action where needed to support victims of this awful crime.