Gagan Mohindra – 2022 Speech on the Protection from Sex-based Harassment in Public Bill

The speech made by Gagan Mohindra, the Conservative MP for South West Hertfordshire, in the House of Commons on 9 December 2022.

It is an honour to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Laura Farris), and I commend my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) for bringing this Bill before the House. Listening to the speeches this morning has been a real eye-opener. We have heard some powerful arguments from Members across the House for why this legislation is unfortunately still necessary.

I repeat the plea of my right hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes): hopefully this legislation will never have to be used. What I am hearing from across the House is that lived experience needs to be more widely shared. I became an uncle again last week to a beautiful little girl who we have nicknamed Jingles while her parents think of a more appropriate long-term name, and I want to be able to say to her and my other nieces, as well as to my sisters-in-law, my parents and all my female friends and family that we are on a journey to making sure that this is stamped out.

I was brought up in the Greater London area, and I remember walking the streets of east London and how I was intimidated back then. If I could speak to an equivalent of myself at that age now, I am pretty sure their life would be a lot easier, but that journey has not been as quick for women in this country. As a House, we recognise that, which is part of the reason we are debating this today, but there is much more that can be done. As someone who has spent a bit of time in the Home Office, I know that the Government are doing a lot on this. My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) spoke about the terminology used in a particular report, and I hope that those on the Front Bench listened to that.

We need to continue to make men a bit more self-aware. My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock spoke about a colleague being a bit self-conscious in the lift; that is absolutely the right type of attitude that we want to instil. We need to be conscious that when men walk down the local street or home from the tube station, we generally do not bat an eyelid in respect of our safety. When I was at university—I remember this shocking me at the time—each and every one of my female friends at the time had a story about feeling scared. If I repeated that exercise today, the likelihood is that unfortunately each person would have the same answer.

We have spoken about some stats; I would argue that a lot of those stats are probably hiding a lot of the issues. Although the stats show that 75% of females feel intimidated, I am pretty sure it is closer to 100%, but the other 25% do not yet feel confident enough to start to say, “Actually, I may have been a victim of harassment or other issues.”

We need to be more socially and culturally aware. As someone who thinks about doing the right things even when no one is watching, I know that there will have been instances when I was with a bunch of predominantly male friends, especially in my younger days, when we may have ended up with a herd mentality. We need to nip that in the bud.

I compliment British Transport police: on my commute in recent weeks and months I have seen advertising hoardings that tell people to call out bad behaviour and explain how to intervene safely and securely if they see a potential domestic violence issue on the London underground. Part of what we need to do today—I hope to take this away afterwards—is encourage further education for us all on how to nip things in the bud at an early stage. We spoke earlier about the pyramid model, and I do think that is correct. If we do not deal with bad behaviour early in someone’s trajectory, they could go on to bigger and worse offences that none of us wants to see.

I am conscious that I have probably spoken for longer than I intended, but I am grateful for being allowed to contribute.