MPs and charities demand fresh commitment to Abuse Bill after Boris Johnson suspends Commons

Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley Louise Haigh
Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley Louise Haigh
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MPs and charities have raised fears that a landmark piece of legislation aimed at protecting victims of domestic abuse will be shelved, after parliamentary time was slashed by Boris Johnson to make way for a Queen’s speech.

The Prime Minister announced earlier this week that the Commons would be suspended from mid-September through to 14 October, sparking concerns that the Domestic Abuse Bill may not be called for its second reading.

The Bill would bring in new measures to protect victims and their families, including the introduction of a wide-ranging definition of abuse, including economic and emotional control and manipulation.

It would also ban the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in family courts, introduce new powers to allow police to intervene earlier, and establish a domestic abuse commissioner.

Sheffield MP and Shadow Policing Minister Louise Haigh - who has long-campaigned to bring the changes into law - told The Yorkshire Post: “The Domestic Abuse Bill represents a landmark opportunity to protect victims of domestic abuse, especially those who are going through hell in the family courts.

“Its publication had already been delayed by many months and now, with Boris Johnson attempting to shut down Parliament, there is every chance all the work that has gone into it will be for nothing.

“If Boris Johnson fails to commit to this legislation he will be sending a clear signal to survivors and victims of domestic abuse that he simply couldn't care less.”

Nicki Norman, of leading charity Women’s Aid, said: “We’re deeply concerned that months of hard work on vital legislation to protect survivors of domestic abuse could now be thrown out as a result of this sudden parliamentary shutdown.

“This Bill has been delayed at every turn since 2017. Survivors cannot wait any longer for critical legal protections.”

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of national domestic abuse charity Refuge added: “Legislation introduced in the last parliamentary session can be very simply 'carried over’.

“We hope that the Prime Minister will make an urgent and unequivocal commitment to ensure the Domestic Abuse Bill is carried over. While parliament is currently dominated by Brexit, we must not let this crucial piece of legislation, years in the making, be pushed into the long grass.”

In the wake of the Government’s decision to reduce the number of days that the Commons will be sitting over the next two months, opposition MPs also demanded a fresh commitment from ministers to bring forward the legislation.

Rotherham MP and former shadow minister for preventing abuse, Sarah Champion, said: "I am extremely concerned that Boris Johnson is forgetting the needs of domestic abuse survivors in his obsession to prorogue Parliament.

"The Bill provides a rare opportunity for MPs to improve the support and protections offered to victims and survivors of domestic abuse. The bill was Theresa May's flagship project.

"It would be utterly immoral if Boris Johnson casts aside the safety of women in his rush to be seen as a new broom.

“The Prime Minister and Home Secretary must commit to carrying over the domestic abuse bill so that it can progress in the next parliamentary session.

"Anything less wastes years of cross-party working and will be a serious setback for victims safety and survivors trying to rebuild their lives."

A Government source said that the forthcoming Queen’s Speech will set out the new administration’s legislative agenda on 14 October, adding that ministers are determined to continue with the work done so far on legislating to support the victims of domestic abuse.