Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): By the time the House returns on 25 February, it will have been a month since British troops were first committed to assist France’s activities in Mali. We have heard that there is to be a considerable deployment of troops all across north Africa. I cannot understand why, despite repeated requests, neither the Prime Minister, nor the Defence Secretary or the Foreign Secretary has made a statement since then, and there has been no vote in the House on our significant involvement in another foreign

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policy adventure. Will the Leader of the House please tell us when a Minister will make a statement and give us a proper opportunity to debate this matter fully?

Mr Lansley: As the hon. Gentleman knows from previous business questions, including last week’s, I made it clear that a full written ministerial statement would be made before the House rose. That, of course, was made yesterday. Included in that was not only the support we are giving at the request of the French Government, but the question of when the extent of the European training mission and our support for it would be determined. Ministers will keep the House fully updated, but I reiterate the point I have made previously to the hon. Gentleman: we will continually look at and ensure that we fully comply with the convention of securing a debate in the House if our troops are committed other than on an emergency basis to any continuing conflict. Our intention is for our support to be logistical and training support, rather than in the form of combat operations.

Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): The House will know that the Government of Israel now refuse to co-operate with the United Nations Human Rights Council. Despite that, the European football authorities are going to stage the under-21 finals in Israel later this year, and the English FA, despite its “Let’s Kick Racism out of Football” campaign in this country, will be sending a team. May we therefore have a general debate on Israel and its dependence on economic, cultural and sporting associations with the EU, and particularly the UK, when it manifestly is not geographically in Europe?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend invites me to enter tricky territory. What is Europe is often interpreted differently in different contexts, as he will remember from the Eurovision song contest, no less. I encourage him to raise this, particularly the human rights issues, with colleagues at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office when they answer questions here on 5 March. I will also check with colleagues at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to see whether they have anything further to add on the footballing issues.

Sandra Osborne (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) (Lab): May we have a statement on the adequacy of the discretionary payment, which exists to support the most vulnerable people who will suffer as a result of the bedroom tax? East Ayrshire council has sent letters to people saying that they might be entitled to a discretionary payment for a short period of time, after which they will have to find the money themselves. This is a matter of serious concern to some of my most vulnerable constituents, and I would welcome the Government looking at the matter again.

Mr Lansley: The hon. Lady will be aware that this Government allocated an additional £30 million to the discretionary housing payment budget, taking it to £195 million. This is specifically aimed at helping disabled people who live in significantly adapted accommodation, and foster carers.

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): Given that an in/out referendum and cutting the EU budget are both now mainstream Conservative policies, may we

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have a debate in Government time on redefining the term “rebels” as people who are usually only a couple of weeks ahead of their time?

Mr Lansley: In the spirit of remembering Harold Wilson —oh, the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) has left the Chamber—who said that a week was a long time in politics, I suggest that in rebellions, a fortnight is an eternity.

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): There are currently only six working mothers in the Government, and only one at the Cabinet table. That might go some way towards explaining the confusion and chaos in the Government’s child care policy. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate in Government time—as it involves Government business—to discuss this matter, so that the Government can take on board the expertise of other Members from their own constituencies and their own experience?

Mr Lansley: I am surprised that the hon. Lady does not recognise the considerable benefits associated with the recent announcements made by the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss) on child care policy. We are reducing the costs and burdens of child care, and creating greater flexibility. The number of women, and of women with families, in the Government has increased and will no doubt continue to do so, but I would put it gently to the hon. Lady that we men who have families understand the need for good quality child care as well.

Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater and West Somerset) (Con): The Leader of the House is well aware that a lot of unitary authority and county council areas throughout the country have suffered substantial infrastructure damage as a result of flooding. Money is being made available for bolstering flood defences, but none is being made directly available for the restoration of roads, drains and hedges and for the repair of all the other damage that has been caused. Is it possible to have a debate on this matter—in Government time, as it affects the whole of the United Kingdom—to discuss whether money could be made available to repair that damage?

Mr Lansley: I understand the point that my hon. Friend is making. This is similar to what happens after severe winter weather, when potholes and other problems need to be dealt with. Last winter and the winter before that, some additional resources were found for local authorities to do that. He makes a good point, and I will raise the matter with the Department for Communities and Local Government, not least in order to see when it will be able to say something about those impacts. I hope that that will be helpful to my hon. Friend.

Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab): I am getting an increasing number of letters from disabled constituents who are terrified of the impact of the bedroom tax. There is a storm coming the Government’s way on the issue of benefit cuts. May I repeat my request to the Leader of the House for an urgent debate, with the Prime Minister present, so that we can hear about the horrendous impact of the bedroom tax on my constituents and on tens of thousands of other people around the country?

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Mr Lansley: I am sorry to have to say to the hon. Gentleman that the simple fact that he and his colleagues keep repeating this does not make it so. Under the Labour Government, under-occupancy deductions were made in exactly the same way in relation to those in receipt of housing benefit in the private sector. Opposition Members have to understand two simple propositions. First, we have to save money. Secondly, there is under-occupancy in the social housing sector, as there was in the private rented sector. In order to gain the maximum benefit from the available social housing, we have to have incentives for the space to be best used.

Mr Aidan Burley (Cannock Chase) (Con): The findings of the Francis report were especially disturbing for my constituents, many of whom received terrible care at Stafford hospital, but the jobs merry-go-round is equally disturbing. For example, Helen Moss, the former director of nursing, who was in charge when care reached appalling standards, now works for Ernst and Young as a consultant. Her company has since won a contract to look at the financial viability of the Mid Staffs trust. May we have a debate on ending this shameful roundabout, where people get on, fail and then are moved somewhere else?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend will understand that I cannot comment directly on individuals, other than to say that—I think this is a matter of public record—although Helen Moss is working in a consultancy role, she is not working directly in relation to the Mid Staffs trust. I completely understand the general point, however. The Francis inquiry is continuing, and the Government will respond in due course, but while its report has clearly set out many of the central issues for the system as a whole, it was not asked to draw conclusions about the behaviour of individuals, and it did not do so. That is principally a matter for the professional regulatory bodies, of course, but this issue does raise the question of the place of managers in particular in a professional regulatory structure of that kind.

Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab): May I draw the Leader of the House’s attention to early-day motion 773? It has attracted the signatures of over 95 Members from seven political parties, including the coalition parties.

[That this House notes that the most significant development that has followed from the Government's healthcare reforms has been the 7 billion worth of new contracts being made available to the private health sector; further notes that at least five former advisers to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer are now working for lobbying firms with private healthcare clients; recalls the Prime Minister's own reported remarks prior to the general election when he described lobbying as ‘the next big scandal waiting to happen'; recognises the growing scandal of the procurement model that favours the private health sector over the NHS, by allowing private companies to hide behind commercial confidentiality and which compromises the best practice aspirations of the public sector; condemns the practice of revolving doors, whereby Government health advisers move to lucrative contracts in the private healthcare sector, especially at a time when the privatisation of the NHS is proceeding by stealth; is deeply concerned at the unfair advantages being handed to private healthcare companies; and demands that in future all private healthcare companies be subject

14 Feb 2013 : Column 1068 to freedom of information requests under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in the same way as existing NHS public sector organisations.]

Given that £7 billion of NHS contracts is currently being tendered for, or has been awarded to, private sector health companies, may we have a debate on whether freedom of information requests should apply to private health companies bidding for NHS contracts that currently hide behind a cloak of commercial confidentiality?

Mr Lansley: Health questions will take place on the next sitting Tuesday. On public procurement and the need to audit public money, the Freedom of Information Act cannot at present reach wherever public money goes, but the transparency requirements set out in contracts enable there to be absolute clarity about the propriety and purposes of public funds used in procurement.

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on food labelling for processed food? The horse scandal has shown that the labels on processed food throw mystery on where that food comes from, rather than provide enlightenment. We have an opportunity to get something positive from this scandal, by making sure that people recognise where their food comes from.

Mr Lansley: I understand the point my hon. Friend makes, and he will have heard the Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr Heath), who has responsibility for food and farming, say precisely that. The Minister agrees that we must make sure food labelling delivers to consumers the information they need. As I know from my experience, we are making good progress in respect of the nutritional content of food and helping people to construct a good diet, but the provenance, origin and composition of foods must also be made very clear. My ministerial colleagues have reported to the House on that, and I know they will find further opportunities to do so.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. As the House will know, I almost invariably call everyone at business questions, and I would like to do so again today, but it is a day of Backbench Business Committee debates, which are well subscribed, so we are under heavy time pressure. I therefore appeal to colleagues to ask single short questions, and to Leader of the House to give pithy replies.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): Unpaid carers provide vital care to frail, ill and disabled people, but thousands of them are being hit by the benefits cap and the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill. Many will also be hit by the bedroom tax and the loss of council tax benefit, and we now find from the updated impact assessment for personal independence payments that 10,000 carers will lose their carers allowance and 5,000 fewer will qualify. May we have a debate on why this Government are hitting unpaid carers with their reforms, rather than exempting them?

Mr Lansley: The hon. Lady has to recognise, for example, that we specifically excluded carers from the constraint on the uprating of welfare benefit—recognising

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their role. The draft Care and Support Bill puts into statute for the first time specific support for carers, not least in respect of supporting their health.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): The shadow Leader of the House made a very wise suggestion earlier today—for Conservative Members to date a Liberal Democrat Member tonight. I pick the Deputy Prime Minister; who would my right hon. Friend choose?

Mr Lansley: I think I may have detected a somewhat different sense to the remarks of the shadow Leader of the House than my hon. Friend has in his interpretation. I think that the Leader of the House and the deputy Leader of the House make a perfectly good team; that is how we regard ourselves for these purposes.

Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): The Leader of the House will have heard the Chair of the Health Select Committee on the “Today” programme earlier today talking about gagging orders and the way in which they have been used in the health service. Will the right hon. Gentleman make time for a debate so that we can discuss making it a criminal offence to put a gagging order into a contract that is guaranteed to be against public safety?

Mr Lansley: It would be relevant to consider that matter when the House has an opportunity to debate the Francis inquiry. I did not hear the Chair of the Select Committee today, but when I was Secretary of State for Health, I made it very clear—and the chief executive of the NHS made it very clear—that gagging clauses would not be put into NHS contracts. We set that out. If I recall correctly—I will, of course, make sure it is corrected if I am wrong—the particular case that gave rise to this report related to a contract of employment and a gagging clause that was applied before the last election.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): May we have a debate on how Telford and Wrekin council consult local people on residential and retail development? In particular, we need to debate how the council is ignoring the concerns of Newport residents about the speed and size of applications both for housing and retail supermarket development in that ancient market town.

Mr Lansley: Local development framework consultation should explicitly allow for a response from local communities. In my experience, it can be buttressed by our new statutory provision for neighbourhood plans. I encourage my hon. Friend and his constituents to get together in Newport and look to providing a neighbourhood plan, which could entrench local views into the local planning framework.

Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): Over the last two days, many of my constituents have been caught up in the extensive disruption on the Thameslink railway route. Could time be made available to discuss the problems on that line, particularly given that, in the light of the west coast main line debacle, the operator has been awarded a two and a half year contract to continue to run the franchise when it would otherwise have finished earlier?

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Mr Lansley: The hon. Gentleman might care to raise that matter at Transport questions, which I believe are on the Thursday of the week the House next sits. He will have seen the announcement on the Thameslink northern franchise, to which he referred. If I may, I will ask the Department for Transport whether there are any further issues arising out of recent problems and ask it to correspond with the hon. Gentleman and let me know the outcome.

Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan) (Con): Unemployment in the Vale of Glamorgan has fallen consistently over the last 12 months, and now stands at a rate of a little over 5%. For those people who remain unemployed, experience is an important attribute as they need it to try to get back into work. May we have a debate on the Government’s Work programme to clarify what was said in court this week, but also to underline the principle that for people who receive these sorts of benefits, experience can help them back into work?

Mr Lansley: I do not know whether a debate will be possible in the near future, but I certainly think it is important for us to continue to support the principle, which I think the court did not contest, that it is right and proper for the Government, and in the interests of the unemployed, to ensure that people get back in the workplace, get that experience and do not lose contact with work. That is at the heart of the Work programme.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): May we have a debate on the management of special advisers? The Education Secretary has taken the unusual step of writing to the Education Committee in response to an invitation that he has not yet received, asking him why he did not know that one of his special advisers, Dominic Cummings, was one of those who were involved in a grievance procedure initiated by a member of staff which resulted in a £25,000 payout. Should the Secretary of State not know about such things going on in his Department, and does he not have a responsibility, under the Ministerial Code, to know what his spads are up to?

Mr Lansley: I have seen the letter that my right hon. Friend sent to the Committee, and I think it perfectly reasonable for him to ensure that Select Committees are always given the relevant information at the earliest possible moment.

Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con): This is national heart month, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend has seen Members wearing badges in recognition and support of it. Please may we have a debate about what is being done to support long-term funding of research on heart and circulatory diseases, and what is being done to help people take care of their own hearts?

Mr Lansley: Yes, I have seen the badges. Indeed, there was a specific day on which I wore a British Heart Foundation badge myself.

Because the Government recognised its importance, we maintained the research budget, including the budget for the National Institute for Health Research. I believe

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that, in the last full year, the institute spent some £54 million on research on cardiovascular disease and strokes.

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): My constituents and I continue to be frustrated by the continuing saga of the roadworks and speed restrictions on the M62 between Huddersfield and Leeds. This has been going on for many months. Will my right hon. Friend raise it urgently with the Secretary of State for Transport, and also find time for an urgent debate? The ever-increasing number of accidents and the ever-increasing congestion are affecting the whole west Yorkshire economy.

Mr Lansley: I have driven along that piece of road, and I know exactly what my hon. Friend is referring to. The matter is very important to his constituents and to others, and I will of course raise it with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I know that efforts are being made to complete the work this year, and to do it as fast as possible, but I will encourage my right hon. Friend to say what can be done to ensure the best possible flow of traffic and maximum safety.

Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): On 28 January, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Kris Hopkins), I was delighted to welcome the Secretary of State for Health to the excellent Airedale general hospital. Many Pendle residents use the hospital and the outside services that it provides. For example, telemedicine is used in a number of Pendle GP surgeries and in our nursing homes. May we have a debate on the potential benefits of telemedicine to the NHS, to ensure that they can be realised and that proper joined-up working can take place between doctors, the ambulance service and our local hospitals?

Mr Lansley: I am pleased to hear that my hon. Friends enjoyed my right hon. Friend’s visit to Airedale general hospital. I recall visiting the hospital myself and being very impressed with the work it was doing. When I was in Kirklees, I was also very impressed by a demonstration of what telehealth and telecare can achieve. A trial was completed which led to the launch of the “3 million lives” programme just over a year ago, which achieved a 45% reduction in mortality rates among those who were enrolled in the programme.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): May I reiterate the calls for a debate about Harold Wilson, and ask whether, in the event of such a debate, we would be allowed to refer to the fact that he smoked a pipe? It seems that the politically correct brigade at the BBC have decided to block out that fact, Soviet-style, for the purposes of the programme that they are making about him. Perhaps we could combine a debate about Harold Wilson with a debate about politically correct idiocy at the BBC.

Mr Lansley: I find it difficult to conceive of the possibility of a programme about Harold Wilson without his pipe. How would it explain how he gave himself time to think? I must say that I am not sure how he managed not to use his pipe at the Dispatch Box, given that it was such an integral part of his make-up.

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Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Against the background of falling crime levels, a recent sharp increase in the number of burglaries in Kettering is cause for local concern. The Leader of the House will know that most burglars are already known to the police, and that most burglaries are carried out by burglars who are released too early from prison having not completed their sentences. May we have a joint statement by Ministers from the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice about what Her Majesty’s Government are doing to tackle this most pernicious of crimes?

Mr Lansley: I have listened to what my hon. Friend says and, to be helpful, I will, of course, ask my colleagues at the Home Office to reply, particularly on his local situation. If I recall correctly, they were saying that although there has been a reduction in crime, they have had a particular focus on the clear-up rates in relation to burglary. It is very important that they do that.

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): May we have a statement on the approach to care in the Staffordshire NHS cluster? My 22-year-old constituent, Thomas Berry, suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, which means that he cannot do very much for himself, but the cluster wants to change his care plan, against his wishes, the wishes of his carers and the advice of his doctor. That could have a material impact on his health, yet the cluster is not even able to tell me whether it thinks it might have an impact on his health. May we have a statement so that we can question Staffordshire’s approach to care, including the apparent refusal of the chief executive and the head of continuing care to answer MPs’ questions adequately?

Mr Lansley: I know that the chief executive of the Staffordshire primary care trust cluster would be very willing to meet my hon. Friend to discuss this matter, if it would be helpful. Obviously I cannot enter into a discussion about his constituent, but the general point he makes is that the whole object of care plans is for them to be agreed between the patient, their family and their clinicians.

Kris Hopkins (Keighley) (Con): We are approaching the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, a conflict that saw the loss of many British service personnel and more than half a million Iraqis killed. There are still unanswered questions about the legality of the war, so will my right hon. Friend facilitate a debate on this important issue?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend raises a point that I know has been raised with the Backbench Business Committee. I think we should particularly commemorate this anniversary and remember the loss of life, particularly our own dead and injured. I think that the Government should look to the Chilcot inquiry as the basis on which this House should then consider the lessons to be learned.

Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): May we have a debate about the merits of introducing financial incentives to UK whistleblowing legislation? Such incentives are in place in the United States, where its Treasury makes a fortune as a result. If we had them here, be they

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in respect of health, banking or other sectors of our economy, more people would step forward and indicate where malpractice is taking place.

Mr Lansley: Of course, I am familiar, to some extent, with the fact that there are incentives for whistleblowers in financial services in America, but I did not know that they extended any further than that. In a number of contexts, we want to ensure, in particular, that there are no disincentives, but we also want to ensure that there are clear incentives for people to be whistleblowers, where that is appropriate.

John Glen (Salisbury) (Con): My constituents from the Wilton community land trust were delighted to have the opportunity, finally, to bid for the Ministry of Defence site at the Erskine barracks. However, they were somewhat dismayed by the lack of provision in the tendering document for communities’ views to be taken into account. May I reiterate the call by my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes) for the MOD to make a statement on how it is going to listen to community groups when disposing of its assets?

Mr Lansley: I will not repeat what I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Southampton North earlier, but it is important, in any set of circumstances where disposal is being taken forward, for the local councils and the partners to engage fully with the local community. I hope that that is the practice in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (John Glen), too.

Mr Marcus Jones (Nuneaton) (Con): Many of my constituents will welcome the fact that this week the Government have taken an important step forward by committing to support people with their care costs where they have assets of up to £123,000, as opposed to the current limit of £23,000. Will my right hon. Friend schedule a debate on this issue, which is extremely important in respect of fairness, particularly for those who have saved hard and done the right thing for their retirement?

Mr Lansley: I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health was able to make a

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statement at the beginning of the week on the response to Andrew Dilnot’s commission, which I had the privilege of establishing. The relevant provisions are the subject of a further representation to the Joint Committee considering the draft Care and Support Bill and I hope that that will enable the House in due course to see the measures taken forward as rapidly as possible.

Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): Does the Lord Privy Seal agree that one of the successes of the coalition Government has been the provision of a proper framework for post offices so that they can feel secure, modernise and serve their rural communities? In my constituency, many post offices have felt a huge benefit from that support, in complete contrast to the closure programme under the previous Labour Government.

Mr Lansley: I can tell my hon. Friend that the Lord Privy Seal is very much in agreement with him. There will not be any repeat of the closure programme that we saw under the previous Government, which I experienced in my constituency and he no doubt did in his. We are committed to maintaining a network of 11,500 branches, with £1.3 billion of funding to support that during the spending review period. By 2015, at least half of those branches will have been modernised as he describes.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): There are concerns in my constituency about the mortality rates at the local hospital, which will now be investigated by the NHS Commissioning Board. Will the Leader of the House allow an urgent debate on how we can improve such hospitals?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend will recall that I visited Medway hospital. It is very important that we recognise that when there is a significant deviation from the standardised mortality data and too high a level of apparent mortality is recorded that is an indicator that should be acted upon and is not in itself evidence of poor care. From the point of view of the Department and the Care Quality Commission, one of the lessons from Mid Staffs was that indicators, alarm bells, smoke alarms or whatever we might call them should never be ignored. I hope that we will see determination to act on any evidence but not to jump to any conclusions.

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Point of Order

12.2 pm

Claire Perry (Devizes) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This morning, I had the great pleasure of appearing on a radio programme with the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) to discuss the fact that his book is the most borrowed publication in the House of Commons Library. In preparing for that programme, I was minded to go back around the Library and it made me realise what an extraordinarily fantastically great asset we have in the Library and the Library staff. I would be grateful for your advice on how we as MPs might express our appreciation for the staff and management, who, I suspect, are not thanked often enough.

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order and my answer to her is twofold. First, she has already done so most eloquently on behalf of Members in all parts of the House. Secondly, she will be no stranger to the mechanism of an early-day motion. If she feels moved on the back of her point of order and the warm reception of it to table such a motion, she might well find a significant number of signatories. I note in passing that I, too, am familiar with the book entitled, “How to be a Backbencher”, penned by the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), and it is a much-thumbed tome in the Bercow household.

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Backbench Business

Mr Speaker: Before I call the Chair of the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to move the first motion, it might be for the convenience of the House if I mention now that the next debate, on protecting future generations from violence against women and girls, is very heavily subscribed. I am therefore minded to impose at this stage a six-minute limit on Back-Bench contributions that will take effect after the mover of that motion sits down.

Contamination of Beef Products

12.4 pm

Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): I beg to move,

That this House has considered the matter of the publication of the Eighth Report of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Contamination of Beef Products, HC 946.

It gives me great pleasure to take this opportunity, for which the Select Committee is extremely grateful, to launch our report on the contamination of beef products, our eighth report. I am particularly grateful for all the support of colleagues on the Committee and for the swift turnaround in taking the initial evidence and receiving it in written form. We are grateful to those who gave evidence, as we are to those on the Committee secretariat who helped us to prepare the report.

This is a matter of huge public interest. Our earlier report in July last year dealt with desinewed meat, and I want to refer to the conclusion drawn by a former director of the Food Standards Agency that there is a direct correlation between the Commission’s unilateral ban on desinewed meats in this country and the entry of suspicious filler products in March last year. We conclude that the scale of contamination is breathtaking. This is a European crisis requiring a European solution. One month on, we are still no clearer as to where the suspicious substance enters the food chain. Today we heard from the Farming Minister of doubts being cast on the effectiveness of the European horse passport system.

Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): I thank the Chairman of the Select Committee for giving way and congratulate her on the report. She makes a valid point: we do not know where the horsemeat entered the food chain. Does she agree that not knowing that means that we do not know where it originated or what premises the horses were slaughtered at? They could be unlicensed premises.

Miss McIntosh: That is probably one of the most worrying aspects. What we do know is that since our evidence session on 30 January, horse and pig DNA contamination was found in more beef products. Samples of Findus lasagne contained more than 60% horsemeat, Aldi lasagne and spaghetti bolognese contained between 30% and 100% horsemeat, and beef products certified as halal supplied to prisons in England and Wales were found to contain pork DNA. Today we learn that bute has been identified in eight samples of beef products.

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Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): I thank the hon. Lady for chairing the Committee and bringing us the report. Does she agree that it is now more important then ever for people to know exactly where the processed product has been made, exactly what the ingredients are and exactly where they have come from, so that we can have confidence and use the Red Tractor and farm assured schemes to ensure that people know where their food has come from?

Miss McIntosh: I shall come to that very point. I am grateful to my hon. Friend and fellow member of the Committee.

The Food Standards Agency is an independent, arm’s length, non-ministerial body. The question we ask is: to whom is the FSA accountable? It was found on this occasion to be flatfooted. We note that the Food Safety Authority of Ireland informed of its testing in November, but the FSA UK started testing only when those results were known, on 15 January. We draw the conclusion that no statutory powers are given to require testing. We also note a need for the FSA to co-operate more with its European counterparts across the European Union.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): The hon. Lady will know from the front of The Times today and from her own Select Committee that the former Agriculture Minister, the right hon. Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Sir James Paice), spoke to her Committee last summer and warned that unlawful meat would be imported from Europe as manufacturers sought cheap sources to make up for banned British supplies. She said the FSA was flatfooted. Does she think the Government should have been more ready for that possibility, given that one of their former Ministers had warned of that very thing in front of her Committee last summer?

Miss McIntosh: I am grateful that the hon. Gentleman has referred to conclusion 8 in our report, which is entirely relevant. I note with some sadness, as I represent one of the largest meat-producing areas in the country, that that one decision led to the loss of 30 jobs in my constituency. No other ban has been imposed on any other member state, and we are importing that so-called Baader meat, a similarly produced meat, and substandard —I would say—filler meat as well.

The one welcome aspect, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) referred, is that there appears to have been a change in shopping habits over the past month. The one shining light is that we can have absolute confidence in home-produced beef and other British meats. We are now buying more British beef, more local meat from butchers and farm shops and more meat marked with the Red Tractor logo at the supermarket. The Red Tractor signifies that the entire food chain has been traced from farm to plate. It shows that the highest animal welfare and hygiene standards have been met. The farmers pay for the inspections. I believe that that is the flagship that should be used for good traceability for all imports. They should meet the same high standards and be as transparent for processed and frozen meats as they are for fresh, whether the meat comes from home, Europe or third countries.

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Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): I pay tribute to the hon. Lady for the way in which she courteously and expeditiously steered the Committee to the report. Does she share my astonishment that companies such as Tesco, which conducts minute product checks on our farmers’ fruit and vegetables, often causing them huge financial loss for misshapen produce, seem to have failed to do any checks on processed meat products? Might that be because they believed such checks could reveal some very inconvenient truths?

Miss McIntosh: I say to my fellow Committee member—dare I say my hon. Friend?—that that is worrying, and I will refer to those checks later. The Committee was astonished to learn that the cost of the checks—he will correct me if I am wrong—is in the region of £1 million to £2 million for one product line. Following the urgent question earlier today, we should be under no illusion that the cost of food will regrettably go up, but this is a wake-up call and an invitation to source more British meat going into frozen and processed foods, in particular. I believe that that will swiftly restore consumer confidence in those products.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Did the Committee consider whether a temporary ban on imports from the European Union would benefit everyone? Surely the processed meat industry in this country must be devastated, because no one will be keen to buy while there is a danger that there might be something wrong with the meat. If the processed products were made using only British meat, there would be no problem.

Miss McIntosh: We have yet to conclude all our evidence and have not had the opportunity to consider that point, but I am sure that we will.

There are insufficient controls in the food chain to protect consumers from contaminated and potentially unsafe food. We think that this is an opportunity to examine the whole food supply chain. Consumers have been let down by retailers who took on trust the assurances of their suppliers—that addresses the point made by my friend the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner). Many consumers rely on supermarkets for their weekly shop and take it on trust that labels are accurate. This situation is worrying precisely because Tesco and other retailers were trying to produce economy products at low cost. The drive to lower costs increases the likelihood of fraud, and that is the point of view of the National Farmers Union. Meat processors also have procedures to check and document sources of raw material, but they do not include DNA testing.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on her excellent report and on her Committee’s endeavours. On the point about consumer confidence, one of the things that is traceable now is the customer. With their loyalty cards, the big supermarkets know who their customers are and what they are buying. Will she and her Committee encourage the big super- markets, at a time of crisis like this, to communicate directly with their customers to offer them the reassurance they seek?

Miss McIntosh: I believe that that will be an inevitable consequence of the exercise, and I hope that they will respond positively to that invitation.

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Obviously, substituting horsemeat for beef, which is what has been discovered, is described as criminal activity and will be investigated. We are obviously delighted that the perpetrators will face the full force of the law. However, the potential shortcomings are particularly worrying, because the food industry currently appears unable to account for ingredients in all its foodstuffs. We conclude that it is improbable that those who are prepared to pass horsemeat off as beef illegally will apply the high hygiene standards that we require and that consumers expect in food production. With regard to lessons to be learnt, we strongly believe that the FSA has to be more fleet of foot. It must be given the tools to do the job. It currently has no statutory power to require testing by producers, taking into account the level of risk.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): The hon. Lady rightly says that the FSA needs greater powers, but does she agree that the increasing length and complexity of supply chains inevitably make such risks more likely and that, therefore, as well as strengthening the FSA, we need a far more radical look at re-localising our food supplies?

Miss McIntosh: Absolutely. As I said, consumers have responded to the challenge by buying more locally, and I hope that they will continue to do so. For example, if we buy meat for a Sunday roast or stew and then freeze what is left over to serve in other ways over the week, we are basically processing the food ourselves, and that will lead to a much better understanding of what we are eating. I entirely take the hon. Lady’s point.

The Committee’s view is that the FSA has been reduced to a food safety body. We believe that its powers were weakened in 2010. It told us that labelling policy was “not really for us” because that is not a food safety issue.

Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con): With regard to the EU regulation that would allow certain national derogations, which the Government are consulting on at the moment, does my hon. Friend agree that when responding we should consider very carefully the implications that we have now seen?

Miss McIntosh: I am delighted that we do conclude that that approach should be taken, as I will mention in my closing remarks. It was very much the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) who proposed that, and the Committee was absolutely at one with him in that view.

Although policy is rightly the responsibility of Ministers, we are firmly of the view that the FSA’s diminished role has led to a lack of clarity about where responsibility lies, which has weakened the UK’s ability to identify and respond to food health concerns. Furthermore, the current contamination crisis has caught the FSA and the Government flat-footed and unable to respond effectively within structures that were designed primarily to respond to threats to human health. I believe that this is a firm wake-up call. Having had the BSE and foot and mouth crisis, we have perhaps been a little slack in our food inspections. We conclude that the FSA’s testing

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regime is weak. It was Ireland’s FSA that identified the contamination, using tests not currently used in the UK, which leads us to question whether the UK’s FSA is at the forefront of scientific analysis.

In our conclusions and recommendations, we state that the Government and the FSA have called for a wide range of tests to be undertaken, which we welcome. I am sure that the whole Committee would welcome the European tests that have been announced. I firmly believe that we need a European solution. We need to examine the whole supply chain. In the urgent question earlier today, an hon. Friend said that the miles and the number of countries that these ingredients have travelled through before ending up on our plates in processed and frozen foods is staggering.

The FSA should be responsible for food safety. It should be given the statutory power to require those in the food industry to undertake tests to determine that their products comply with food standards regulations. That process should be risk-based and proportionate, and the results of all tests, whether mandated by the FSA or carried out independently by the retailers themselves, should be reported to the FSA. As regards the European testing that was announced yesterday, we must ask to whom the results will be reported and whether they will be shared across the piece with all the responsible national authorities.

We want strengthened testing regimes in the UK meat industry. We want to know what the Government are doing to improve the operation of the European horse passport system, given that the Minister said earlier that it is not as effective as we would wish. The Government must also explore how best to avoid future contamination and to achieve the correct balance between affordable food prices and regulations to ensure transparency and quality.

In my constituency, we face a deep crisis in the sheep sector. Across the north of England, and I am sure in many other parts of the country, there is a real fear of sheep producers going to the wall. Most farmers have used their winter storage but are unable to allow sheep to forage because the grass is under snow or deep under water. I personally believe that this is a very worrying development. Farm gate prices have gone down and the costs of farm production have gone up. The cost of foodstuffs is going up, the cost of fuel to take animals to market has gone up, and farm gate prices are going down.

We have seen the constant drive by supermarkets to store on their shelves low-value, low-cost, and, we now know, very suspicious adulterated food. We are worried that the consumer will be caught in a Catch-22 situation between paying the costs of higher traceability, labelling and testing standards and having to accept that they will not be provided with comprehensive information about the provenance and composition of the food they eat. There are strong indications that people with criminal intent have intentionally substituted horsemeat for beef. That leads us to conclude that British consumers have been cynically and systematically duped in pursuit of profit by certain elements within the food industry. As my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Sheryll Murray) and the hon. Member for Brent North said, this is not the time, given the current crisis of labelling and traceability, for the Government to be seeking through their consultation a derogation to reduce the labelling requirements for beef or other meat products,

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We are calling for more testing of food safety and composition across the European food industry because the current arrangements for testing and control have failed UK consumers. The Food Standards Agency needs clear powers and responsibilities to back up what Ministers are demanding that it do, and what consumers expect from it, so that it can respond more effectively to any future food adulteration scandal. It gives me great pleasure to commend the Committee’s eighth report to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

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Violence against Women and Girls

12.24 pm

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): I beg to move,

That this House notes the One Billion Rising Campaign, and the call to end violence against women and girls; and calls on the Government to support this by introducing statutory provisions to make personal, social and health education, including a zero tolerance approach to violence and abuse in relationships, a requirement in schools.

I rise to speak to the motion on the Order Paper in my name and in the names of many Members across parties. Before I do so, I should like to say some thank yous. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for allowing us this debate. I thank the Leader of the House for tipping us the wink a few weeks earlier that we would probably secure a debate on this day, which is significant because of my other thank you—to the One Billion Rising campaign, a coalition of women around the world rising against violence against women. Many of us who are in the Chamber have been in Parliament square with them today, dancing, shouting and protesting. The movement was prompted by the 15th anniversary of “The Vagina Monologues” by Eve Ensler. Any of us who have heard her speak about how rape is used as a weapon of war will recognise that we are having absolutely the correct pair of debates today—the debate that I am initiating and the debate on sexual violence in conflict that the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Nicola Blackwood) will introduce later.

I chose this subject for debate because activists in the One Billion Rising campaign around the country have been running workshops about what would make the most difference in addressing domestic violence. Over the course of history, quite a lot of things have been done in that regard. We have better prosecution rates, IDVAs—independent domestic violence advisers—and refuges to help victims of domestic violence. However, the workshops concluded that the most important thing to do is make the next generation safe, and that the shortfall in our response to such violence is caused by a lack of education to prevent it. That has led to a situation where one in three women will experience violence in her lifetime, and that is unacceptable.

Others have reached the same view. Although the recent cross-party inquiry into unwanted pregnancies focused on preventing teenage pregnancy, it also argued the importance of teaching young people in school to make informed choices and to resist being coerced through peer pressure into sex or risky sexual behaviour. The Schools Safe 4 Girls campaign, which was launched by the End Violence Against Women Coalition last autumn, echoes that message. Almost every Select Committee report that has looked into domestic violence concluded that the Government’s weakest response is in education.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend regret as much I do the fact that putting personal, social and health education, including sex and relationships education, on to a statutory basis was blocked just before the last general election? That could already have been in place.

Fiona Mactaggart: It is a real pity that that did not proceed. It is also a pity that the Government-initiated inquiry into sex and relationships education, which was

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launched in 2011, has yet to report. The Government have a lack of urgency and a lack of adequate commitment on this matter.

Dame Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that many people will say that this education is the responsibility of parents and families and that it should not be done in schools? Many of its opponents—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] We can hear some such opponents on the Government Benches. I would say to them—I hope that my hon. Friend agrees—that many families do not have the capacity to educate their children, and many families, unfortunately, have violent relationships within them, and that is not appropriate to the education of children.

Fiona Mactaggart: The responsibility of families does not get rid of the responsibility of the education service.

Mary Macleod (Brentford and Isleworth) (Con): Does the hon. Lady agree that some schools are already taking a lead on this issue and teaching it, and that that, along with partnership working with the police, is incredibly important? That is what I find in my London borough of Hounslow.

Fiona Mactaggart: Yes, of course there are schools that are doing this well. The problem is that we do not have a comprehensive system—I will go into the details later—that guarantees excellent sex and relationships education. It is unsafe not to have such a system in schools, and that is my argument.

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Fiona Mactaggart: I am trying to make progress, but I will give way.

Mrs Moon: I thank my hon. Friend for giving way and for being so patient, because I know she wants to make progress. The Office for National Statistics estimates that more than 500,000 people will be victims of sexual crimes in an average year, with only up to 10,000 prosecutions. Does that not show that there needs to be wider education so that people can protect themselves, as the state, through the police force, is clearly failing to protect them?

Fiona Mactaggart: Let us be honest: the police response to this issue has improved over the past decade. It is better than it used to be, but it is not good enough. My hon. Friend is right that the police usually detect only about 2% or 3% of crimes and that there are even fewer prosecutions. The situation, therefore, is not completely unusual. The best response to crime is to prevent it in the first place. My argument is that taking on the challenge of teaching against violence is one way of preventing it.

I am an MP now, but I used to be an educator. I used to teach children in the last years of primary school and then I taught adults to be teachers. I know that good-quality education can transform lives, but I also know that, too often, this subject is an afterthought in too many

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schools. Let us look at the issue from first principles: is it necessary to act; will the motion’s proposed action make a difference; and what will happen if it does not?

The British crime survey shows that one in 14 women and one in 20 men interviewed in 2011-12 had experienced domestic abuse by a partner or family member in the past year. According to the same interviews, nearly one in three women and almost one in five men said that they had experienced such abuse since the age of 16. A freedom of information request made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) suggested that a third of 999 calls about domestic violence are from people who have been previous victims. Every week, two women are murdered in domestic violence murders. Around the world, women aged 15 to 44 are more likely to die or be disabled because of violence than as a result of cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.

This is an issue in schools. A YouGov poll found that nearly one in three 16 to 18-year-old girls has experienced groping or unwanted sexual touching. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children found that a third of girls aged 13 to 17 in relationships had experienced physical or sexual violence, with 12% of them reporting rape. We know how often girls who are victims of rape do not report it, because they are not taught in schools about relationships and the importance of consent. The interim findings of the exploitation inquiry undertaken by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and the university of Bedfordshire uncovered worrying trends of increased sexual exploitation of young people by their peers. Violence and sexual aggression in relationships has become too common for British young people. To overcome that, they need to be able to make positive choices for their own future.

The work on young people’s understanding is really important. This crime is almost unlike any other, because the victim tends to feel responsible or, indeed, is sometimes deemed responsible by society as a result of their actions. We do not tell burglary victims, “It’s your fault, because you haven’t got a burglar alarm,” yet society too often tells victims of rape and sexual violence, “It’s your fault. You were drunk and wearing sexually provocative clothing.” Those attitudes are absorbed by young women so that they think it is their fault.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): My hon. Friend is making a compelling case for statutory education. On teaching girls about consent, is it not just as important that boys also learn that no always means no?

Fiona Mactaggart: My hon. Friend is right. In preparing for this debate, I have been looking at research about whether sex and relationships education actually works. One of the things that that has shown is that there is further to go with boys than girls. We should take that very seriously, because we need to address the level of tolerance that young boys seem to have towards violence, seeing it as relatively normal. We do not know why that is.

Sandra Osborne (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend give way?

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Fiona Mactaggart: If I keep giving way I will take up too much of the debate, so I will try to resist, but if any Members are really assertive I will give way. How about that for a deal?

Research shows that young men have a higher tolerance of sexual violence than young women. Although both are changed by good-quality sex and relationships education, the sad thing is that a lot of research studies show that the young men move from a very bad set of attitudes to about where the young women’s attitudes start. The young women get more confidence and change their attitudes a lot by understanding that it is not tolerable to put up with physical violence, sexting, sexual bullying or being barged about.

As I have said, I used to be a teacher and a teacher educator in the days when things were much worse. I remember a teacher education resource about computers in education. In those days, computers were rather new in the classroom and the resource stated how the boys would be really excited about them and how the girls’ ribs would be bruised as the boys pushed past them to get to the computers because they enjoyed the lesson so much. That was a resource for people learning to teach. It indicated a tolerance of violence in the classroom that is utterly unacceptable, and that is the reason why I think the motion will do more to prevent the violence that too many women and men in our society face.

I have discussed successful sex and relationships education and how it can change things. Some of it is successful and some of it is very bad. Ofsted’s report says that about three quarters of the lessons observed were good and about a quarter were poor. Of the good lessons, Ofsted noticed that the bit that was not so good was relationships education. I think that we have created an education system that focuses far too much on the mechanics of sex and not sufficiently on autonomy, the right to say no, positive relationships and empowering young women in that way.

I commend the evidence sent by the PSHE Association, which provides teachers with assistance on personal, social, health and economic education. It notes that about 40% of 16 to 18-year-old students have not received or cannot remember lessons or information on sexual consent. Only 6% of respondents said that they got the information on relationships that they needed in PSHE. It points out that good quality PSHE teaching not only helps to raise young people’s awareness of abuse, but supports those who experience abuse to develop practical strategies and skills to stop it, and that it challenges prevailing negative attitudes towards women and girls. We know that this can work and prevent the appalling problem of young girls thinking that violent, abusive relationships are normal and that the controlling way in which their so-called boyfriends manage their behaviour is acceptable.

In view of the cases in Oxford, I asked my local police commander whether there was the same problem in my area of the exploitation of young girls by organised gangs which seduce them with violence, bullying, presents and threats. He said that he did not think that there was an organised gang in Slough, but that he had identified about 12 young women who are very vulnerable, but who think that they just have boyfriends and are not at risk.

That is why we need this education. We need it to enable girls to be safe. We need it to enable boys to know that such behaviour is absolutely unacceptable

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throughout society, even if it happens behind closed doors. We need it to ensure that people who have been victims of violence know that it is not their fault. We must make a society in which all those things are real. I believe that excellent sex and relationships education based on zero tolerance to violence will deliver that. We are still miles behind according to the evidence that has been sent to us by groups such as the National Union of Students, which reports that many students still face sexual bullying and violence as the norm in colleges and universities.

This motion, if implemented, could really make the difference. I urge the Minister in his summing up to tell us that he will talk to his colleagues in the Department for Education, which in my view has done less than his Department to deal with this issue, and remind them that this is not something for the future; this is urgent.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): There is a six-minute limit on speeches. We may have to reduce that towards the end of the debate.

12.41 pm

Claire Perry (Devizes) (Con): I congratulate hon. Members from all parts of the House on securing this important debate on the day of One Billion Rising. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) on leading a fantastic cross-party group in Parliament square. It is a shame that the Metropolitan police tried to move us on. [Laughter.] They did not succeed, I might add.

I am pleased to speak in this debate for a couple of reasons. First, like many Members, I am a parent. I have two teenage daughters and was lucky enough to bring one of them to the event today. I find it impossible to disagree with the heart of the motion and what it is trying to do.

When I look at the UK, I think how lucky and privileged we are in many ways. I returned recently from a trip to Afghanistan. The sorts of rights, freedoms and protections that are afforded to us and our children are still wishful thinking for an enormous proportion of the women in that country.

There are some chilling points that we are right to discuss in this debate. I was interested to read an attitude to violence survey conducted among young people in Wiltshire in 2009—the latest research that I could find—in which a quarter of the children surveyed said that they thought that violence was okay in some or all cases. They thought that it was particularly okay in relationships, for example if somebody found out that their partner was cheating on them. I find that shocking. I find it particularly shocking that one in five young girls agreed with that statement. I also noted that 56% of the young people questioned said that they had witnessed domestic violence. Although some of the methodology was a little suspect—the categories included “parents checking up on my movements”—the survey provides food for thought.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Given that violence is such a big problem, is my hon. Friend not also concerned that only 34% of men and 17% of women who are sentenced for violence against the person are sent to prison? Does that not send out a very bad message about how seriously we take violence against the person in this country?

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Claire Perry: My hon. Friend raises an interesting point, particularly with regard to violence by women that is directed towards men, but that is not the purpose of this debate. There are wrinkles in that matter that I do not want to go into. However, it is important that we hear male voices in this debate and I welcome the Minister to his position.

I want to talk about what we have done already. I am very proud of the Home Secretary. That statement might not receive wide cross-party support, but we have taken some important steps, as did the previous Government. We have provided stable funding for those who counsel and support victims of violence. I know from the domestic violence support centre in Devizes that the stability of that funding is very welcome. We have put new funding into a number of initiatives. We have trialled domestic violence protection orders. I am proud that those have been trialled in my constituency. It would be wonderful if the Minister could tell us when we might hear the results of those pilots and whether the orders will be adopted nationally.

We have also introduced Clare’s law, which has been campaigned for so effectively by many Members across the House. We have started to criminalise the serious offences of forced marriage and female genital mutilation —problems that have bedevilled us for many years. We have introduced a campaign that focuses on the problem of teenage rape, which tells young girls that it is wrong. Importantly, we have reformed stalking law to help those who are stalked.

A special subject for me is online violence, abuse and bullying, particularly against women and girls. Again, there has been extraordinary cross-party support in this area, for which we are all grateful. I do not mean to scaremonger, but it seems to me that we are conducting a long-term experiment with our children, particularly our girls and young women, by exposing them so freely to the violent, degrading and sexualised content of the online world.

There are two buckets of problems that we are trying to deal with. The first is children looking at third-party content on websites. I may be classified as the Mary Whitehouse 2.0 of my generation, but I do not mind what people call me. With the support of Members from across the House, we have made extraordinarily good progress in bringing the internet service providers to a point where they will all introduce filters that provide protection on all devices in the home by the end of the year. The fundamental problem is that only four in 10 families with children currently use filters. That means that six out of 10 children live in a filter-free environment. By the end of this year, public wi-fi will not allow adult content by default. Mobile phone operators are also making tremendous progress in refreshing their adult content bars. That is a tribute to the energies of Members from all parts of the House, in particular the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) who has worked tirelessly on this matter.

Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con): I recognise the excellent work that my hon. Friend has being doing. As well as the online issues, is she concerned about the violence that is often depicted in games for computer consoles?

Claire Perry: My hon. Friend raises a very good point. Work is going on to put age ratings on games and also on online music videos. Perhaps I am prudish, but

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some of the stuff that one sees in the gym these days is not what I want my children to be watching. It is fine as long as it is age rated and parents know that it is available.

On third-party content, Britain will be leading the world in the way that we protect our families. That is a tribute to the energy of this Parliament.

The second bucket of problems is often referred to as “sexting”. That is not a term that children use and it is rather an inflammatory one. It refers to user-generated content that we would all recognise if we saw it. The problem is children and young people exchanging inappropriate images, content and messages. That is a huge, growing and endemic problem and we have no idea how big it is. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children published qualitative research last year that suggested that it is almost the norm in schools for children to receive and exchange this sort of information.

There have been some extraordinarily tragic cases. Chevonea Kendall-Bryan, a constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Jane Ellison), committed suicide after being forced to perform a sex act on a boy and then pleading with him to remove the image. Records show that she had sent him a text message saying:

“How much can I handle? HONESTLY. I beg you, delete that.”

He did not delete the image and she fell to her death from a window. That is a tragic case.

Only yesterday, another colleague gave me an e-mail from a woman saying that her 12-year-old daughter had been seriously sexually assaulted in class at a very good independent school. This issue cuts across all boundaries and affects all parts of the country. The mother said that when she talked to her daughter about why alarm bells did not go off when the boy sent a text requesting sexual acts, her daughter looked at her as if she was mad and said, “Mum, All the boys send texts like that.” Boys as young as 11 and 12 are sending highly inappropriate photographs of their genitalia around networks via social media.

Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): Does the hon. Lady share the concern of many Members that seemingly mainstream companies such as Facebook have introduced applications that facilitate such behaviour through short-term images appearing and then being deleted after a number of seconds?

Claire Perry: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point, and that is part of the work that the UK Council for Child Internet Safety is doing with companies that want to be responsible.

Fundamentally, this is a behavioural point, and what we need is education. Right now, there is no technology that can protect our children against this sort of thing. Parental education and the education of children are both part of the mix. I look with interest at today’s motion as a consultation is under way, and we need to see the results before finally deciding what should be in the curriculum.

12.50 pm

Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab): It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Devizes (Claire Perry), who has done some fantastic work in the area of improving online protection for children.

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Last week, I visited the St Mary’s sexual assault referral centre, which was the first of its kind to be established in the UK. There are now 41 across England and Wales. St Mary’s sees women, men and children, the youngest being three weeks old and the eldest 93 years old, and has more than 1,000 cases a year, of which just under half are children. The centre provides a range of services, including forensic medical examinations to collect evidence and document injuries; counselling, including pre-trial therapy; child advocates to support children and families; a young person’s advocate aimed at identifying those at risk of being sexually exploited; and independent sexual violence advisers, who offer practical support through the process.

The recent tragic suicide of Frances Andrade demonstrates the extent of the psychological damage suffered as a result of sexual assault, its enduring nature and the risk to victims of court proceedings. St Mary’s provides a holistic service to meet individual needs so that victims do not have to fight their way through various referral criteria and thresholds to get help. It is a valuable and important resource with a committed and experienced team.

Greater Manchester police have predominantly funded the sexual assault referral centre, including follow-on psychosocial support, in the belief, supported by evidence, that if victims feel supported they are more likely to have confidence and therefore continue with the criminal justice process. There are concerns, however, that changes as part of the restructuring of the NHS in April 2013, and changes in police funding in 2015, will result in deficit funding and the fragmentation of services that are currently offered at St Mary’s. Without those services, an 80-year-old woman would not be able to talk about the abuse that she has kept secret for years, and children who have been sexually exploited would not get the support that they need to feel confident enough to be a witness against their abuser in court. I would be grateful if the Minister looked into that for me.

Of course it would be better if children never had to be referred to St Mary’s, as the team there would agree, but that means that we need much earlier intervention in children’s lives. I have talked to the team working with sexually exploited children referred by the police as the result of an investigation, and they told me that children were sometimes reluctant to talk to them as they did not initially see themselves as sexually exploited. It is horrifying that many sexually exploited children are subjected to intimidation, coercion, blackmail and threats of violence, but it is equally shocking that others think their abuser cares about them.

To understand what we need to put in place to prevent violence and the abuse of children, we need to understand the long, sad journey of some children to becoming victims of sexual exploitation. They are often the type of neglected children about whom Action for Children talked in its recent report—children who feel so alone and so lacking in self-esteem that they welcome any attention, and who have no understanding of what a caring relationship is about because they have never seen one. Often, such children never reach the threshold for intervention by any services, so their neglect goes undetected. We can see why they are vulnerable to sexual grooming and how important it is to identify vulnerable children in their early childhood.

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That is why I am impressed by Stockport’s supporting families pathway, which enables referrals to all council and other local services to be recorded on a single shared database. That means that a complete picture of a child’s life can be built up, and there can be early detection of children who are struggling. At the moment, the model that we have means that children have to reach a certain threshold to be referred to services, and that threshold is often reached far too late in a child’s life. The sharing of data across all agencies would enable a vulnerable child to be identified much earlier. The question would then be not whether their need was great enough to access services but what would be the most appropriate intervention that we could make to help them.

Of course, schools have an important role in safeguarding children. I believe that compulsory sex and relationship education in schools would give children and young people the confidence to reject inappropriate relationships.

Claire Perry: Does the hon. Lady agree that the consultation on computing content is an encouraging part of the consideration of the new curriculum? That includes communicating safely and respectfully online, keeping personal information private and general common sense in the internet space. That would go some way towards dealing with some of the problems that she has addressed.

Ann Coffey: I do agree, and I was interested to hear the hon. Lady talk about that yesterday.

Sex and relationships education in schools is very important, because it can help children to understand when they are being groomed by older men for sexual exploitation or involved in sexually coercive relationships by their peers. Both the Director of Public Prosecutions and the deputy Children’s Commissioner have spoken recently about the impact of pornography on young men who commit sexual and relationship violence. I was also concerned to read in a report by the chief inspector of probation, out last week, that some professionals fail to combat sexual offending by children because they miss warning signs. That report, conducted by probation inspectors, studied 24 teenage boys with convictions ranging from indecent assault to rape and found that opportunities to intervene when the offender was young had been missed in nearly every case.

Fiona Mactaggart: Action is needed not just when the offender is young but when the victim is young. It seems clear from the reports that we read of the case in Oxford that the police did not act fast enough when young women first disclosed that they were unhappy about how their controllers were treating them.

Ann Coffey: I agree, of course, and as I have just said, it is important to identify child sex offenders as well as children who are sexually offended against.

Sex and relationship education has an important role in challenging at an early age attitudes in boys that result in sexually offending behaviour. With better inter-agency working, data collecting, early intervention and compulsory sex and relationship education in schools, we can make a start on preventing harm from coming to our children, but I fear that centres such as St Mary’s will be needed for some time. I believe that without

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St Mary’s, there would be more tragic deaths among victims of sexual abuse. We want a better world in which victims are not afraid to speak out and perpetrators cannot rely on the silence of their victims. It is really good to see support from all parties for the excellent motion that my hon. Friend has tabled, because each of us is trying to make a difference in our own different ways. After all, 1 billion voices cannot be wrong.

12.57 pm

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): It is traditional on these occasions for me to be a lone voice—in fact, that is customary in most debates. I intend to continue that tradition today.

Of course, we are all united in our opposition to any violence against women and girls. I would be astounded if any of us were not. I pride myself on being renowned as one of the most hard-line Members when it comes to matters of law and order and sentencing. I always find it rather strange that those who speak passionately about how we should have zero tolerance of any violence against people, which I agree with, are often the same people who then argue that the perpetrators of violence should do anything but be sent to prison. As I made clear in an intervention, we are in the ridiculous situation whereby, of people convicted of violence against the person in this country, only 35% of men and, shockingly, only 17% of women are sent to prison. If we really want to send out a message of zero tolerance towards violence against people, the first thing we ought to do is press for much tougher sentences for people guilty of it. That would be a better way of deterring crime than the education route that the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) thinks will solve these problems.

Mrs Moon: Is the hon. Gentleman saying that we should never try to prevent crime, that we should never intervene and try to educate and divert people from crime, and that we should always wait until they commit a crime and then lock them up for as long as possible? Is that not nonsense?

Philip Davies: The hon. Lady seems to forget that for many people, respite from violence comes when the perpetrator of that violence is sent to prison. That is one of our best deterrents against violence. When people are prosecuted and not sent to prison, the violence continues. Sending people to prison is one of the best things we can do. It seems that Opposition Members are less keen on a zero tolerance approach to violence than their rhetoric suggests.

Given the title of the motion, we could be forgiven for thinking that the only—or main—victims of violent crime are women and girls, and that it does not apply to men or boys. In a debate that I secured in Westminster Hall last year on female offenders, I pointed out to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities (Mrs Grant) that the reality of these matters sometimes differs from the rhetoric. After the debate I asked her in a parliamentary question whether she accepted that the figures I had quoted were correct. I received a reply which seemed to indicate that she did

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believe those figures were correct, and given that they are the Ministry of Justice’s own figures, I will continue to use them.

Sandra Osborne: Does the hon. Gentleman understand that the vast majority of incidents of violence against women and girls never get anywhere near the criminal justice system?

Philip Davies: The hon. Lady may well be right and we certainly need to do something about that. I do not disagree with that point.

I want to quote the most recent biennial statistics—from November 2012—from the Ministry of Justice on the representation of females and males in the criminal justice system. They confirm that men are twice as likely to be the victim of violent crime as women. Some 2% of women interviewed for the crime survey for England and Wales reported being victims of violence, compared with 4% of men. The statistics also confirm that of all incidents of violence reported in the 2011-12 crime survey, 62% of victims were male, and 38% were female.

Several hon. Members rose

Philip Davies: I cannot give way because time is limited and I have already accepted two interventions. There will be plenty of opportunity for people to make their points. My point also applies to children. Again, according to the Ministry of Justice biennial statistics and the British crime survey, a smaller proportion of girls than boys reported being victims of violence—5% of girls versus 11% of boys.

It is not just violence generally where men do worse than women. Women accounted for between 27% to 32% of recorded homicide victims between 2006-07 and 2010-11, while men were victims in between 68% and 73% of cases. We all agree that women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence. In the past, the Minister has stated that 7% of women are victims of domestic violence, but so are 5% of men. It is not just an issue for women.

Claire Perry: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Philip Davies: I have already explained that I cannot give way.

Those figures do not tell the full story because they relate to all abuse and all violence in households. In partner abuse, 4.2% of women are victims and 3% are men. Men and women are both victims of domestic violence and partner abuse. We must also bear in mind that the definition of domestic violence includes non-violent components.

Mrs Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) (Con): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Philip Davies: I have not got time to give way; there is a short time limit and there will be plenty of time for other cases to be made during the rest of the debate.

I also want to talk about the perpetrators of violent crime[Interruption.]

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Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. There are too many private conversations and it is difficult to hear Mr Davies. I am sure we all want to hear what he has to say—[Interruption.] Perhaps not, but at least he can enjoy it.

Philip Davies: That is part of the problem, Mr Deputy Speaker. They do not want to hear anyone who does not agree with them. One could be forgiven for thinking that the perpetrators of all these crimes were men and not often women, but again, that is not true. There are many female perpetrators of violence against both women and men, and according to official Ministry of Justice figures, the most common offence group for which both males and females were arrested during a five-year period was violence against the person—34% of females and 31% of males arrested in 2010-11 were arrested for violence against the person. Again, that is not restricted to women but applies also to girls. In 2010-11, violence against the person was the most common offence group for which juvenile females were arrested.

I am afraid that time does not allow me to go through those figures in more detail, which I would like to do.

Claire Perry rose

Philip Davies: I will take a quick intervention from my hon. Friend.

Claire Perry: May I offer my hon. Friend a slight lifeline? Does he at least agree with the first part of the motion, which is a call to end violence against women and girls?

Philip Davies: Absolutely. As I said at the start, we all want to end violence against women and girls, but—unlike some others, it seems—I want to end all violence. I do not take the view that violence against women and girls is somehow worse than violence against men and boys. As far as I am concerned, all violence is unacceptable and all violence against the person should be punished by law. We should not try to segregate men and women in the criminal justice system. Both men and women are victims, and both are perpetrators of crime. I believe in true equality and want people to be treated equally when they are a victim of crime and when they are a perpetrator of crime. At the moment, whether people like it or not, men are treated more harshly than women in the criminal justice system, certainly when it comes to sentencing. That is an inconvenient truth for many people.

1.6 pm

Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab): It is traditional to say that it is a pleasure to follow the previous speaker, in this case the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), even if I do not subscribe to the views expressed. Hopefully the hon. Gentleman will now hear the other side of the argument.

I thank the Backbench Business Committee for agreeing to this debate and my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) for leading our request to the Committee. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) who encouraged us all to get involved and has been absolutely committed. Unfortunately, she could not speak in the Backbench

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Business Committee debate, but she is a perfect example of a woman’s place being not only in Parliament, but on the Front Bench. This has been a cross-party issue—I was going to say cross-gender, but that has a completely different meaning. I should also mention my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner), who attended the Backbench Business Committee debate with us.

Today, in London, we are debating violence against women and girls, but people are responding to this call from the shores of Brazil, from Australia with the Girlpower Goddess and White Ribbon event, and from India, where there was a flash mob in Parliament square and the song, “Jago Delhi Jago”—Rise Delhi, Rise. We know that two months’ ago in Delhi, five men were accused of the rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical student who did nothing but sit on a bus. People in Delhi have risen up, and we are saying yes to this day of action to end violence against women. The movement was started by Eve Ensler, but the tsunami has been pushed forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow.

I pay tribute to a friend of mine, the late Malcolm Richards. He used to be a journalist on the Brentford and Chiswick Times, which was part of the Richmond and Twickenham Times that I worked for as part of the Dimbleby newspaper group. He brought to the world’s attention the first woman’s refuge in Chiswick, started by Erin Pizzey. Both Malcolm and Erin were able to say to women, “We hear your silent scream and there is a safe place for you.” There is now a network of 45 safe houses that provide emergency accommodation for women and children.

This debate shows that around the world today there are still practices that victimise women and treat us as second class. We want to end the practice of the badly named “honour” killings, where women are killed for alleged behaviour and for bringing shame on their family although the behaviour of men is tolerated. There are 5,000 of those killings worldwide. We want to put an end to the dowry system where the payment of a sum effectively buys a female, a girl, for marriage. We need to end the terrible practice of female genital mutilation, which has no base in culture or religion. I applaud the bravery of midwives such as Alison Byrne in that respect, and draw the House’s attention to a conference in the Liverpool women’s hospital on 6 March, which will educate and inform women to try to end the practice.

What about modern-day slavery? Eighty per cent. of people who are trafficked are women. War rages in trouble spots throughout the world—rape is used as a weapon of war. The UN says that the roots of violence against women lie in the unequal power relationship between men and women, and persistent discrimination against women.

The debate is not about women and girls as victims, but about empowerment. Malala Yousef stood up and was almost killed because she wanted every girl to go to school. Women have been empowered by microfinance, although they might still be exploited. Those who stand up for no more page 3 say that women do not want to be objects in a newspaper. The first woman doctor had to pretend for 46 years that she was a man called James Barry so that she could qualify, but women now make up 50% of entrants. Carrie Morrison, who was the first woman to qualify as a solicitor, stood up. The women

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who gave us the vote stood up. The women MPs from Tanzania, Pakistan and Afghanistan, whom I have met, are trying to increase the quota of women MPs from 30% to 50%. Thirty per cent. is not enough in Tanzania. Parliament has celebrated Aung San Suu Kyi, who must daily stand up to those who try to take away human rights and progress made by democracy. We must highlight and support those women.

I have mentioned action around the world, but more importantly, what about the action through the generations, from our mothers, who sometimes did two jobs—working in the home and outside—to the suffragettes and suffragists, who gave us the vote, and the women in the peace camps at Greenham Common. All those women here and around the world have stood up. On this day, we recognise and celebrate their courage.

1.11 pm

Heather Wheeler (South Derbyshire) (Con): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I appreciate being called now, because—unfortunately—I have to go to the Westminster Hall debate at 1.25 pm. I want to talk about protecting future generations of women and girls from violence and forced marriage.

Worldwide, 10 million girls are married each year before they are 18, which is equivalent to more than 27,000 girls per day, or 19 every minute. In the developing world, one in three girls will be married before they are 18. In October last year on the first international day of the girl, the United Nations population fund released new data that predict that, by 2020, if child marriage prevalence trends continue, 142 million girls will be married before they are adults and, because of the rising global population, that means an increase in child marriage to around 14 million girls per year.

In most cases, laws and international conventions are in place to protect children from being forced into marriage, yet Governments fail to implement those protections. We do not know exactly how many British girls face forced marriage, but evidence shows that they are being taken out of the country to be married against their will. Here in the UK, families are also getting children married off in the community or in religious ceremonies. Some take advantage of the fact that the law in Britain allows the marriage of 16 and 17-year-olds with parental consent.

Understanding the causes and consequences of early and forced marriage is paramount in preventing girls from losing their childhood, their dreams and the opportunities to make their own choices about their lives and relationships. Causes and practices vary according to context, yet there are common themes. In some areas, child marriage has been practised for many centuries, while in others it emerges as a response to conditions of crisis, including political instability, natural disaster and civil unrest.

Poverty and gender inequality are common drivers of child marriage. Many parents marry their daughters off young to protect them from poverty, sexual harassment, the stigma of extramarital sex, and sexually transmitted infections. They also marry daughters off to reduce their own economic burdens, and yet child marriage entrenches those problems and does little to protect girls or boys.

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In the developing world, a lack of access to education is both a symptom and a cause of child marriage, especially for girls, many of whom get very little formal education because they are valued more for their future roles as wives and mothers. As a result, they miss out on opportunities to learn, to build financial independence and to make autonomous decisions about their futures. Those effects are passed on to successive generations.

Child marriage is a shocking infringement of human rights and the rights of the child. It has many significant and worrying consequences. It leads to higher rates of maternal mortality and morbidities; it contributes to infant mortality and poor child development; it is associated with violence, rape and sexual abuse, resulting in emotional and psychological problems, desertion and divorce; and it increases population growth and hinders sustainable development.

Mary Macleod: In Bangladesh, an eight-year-old child ran away from her 60-year-old husband whom she had been forced to marry, and had acid poured over her. She has no life at all and is not supported or protected in the least. We must protect against such things.

Heather Wheeler: I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s intervention. The stories one hears from around the world are shocking.

Child marriage takes away opportunities for education and training, and removes autonomy. It removes economic independence, undermines self-confidence and reaffirms gender stereotypes. It is associated with, and helps to perpetuate, harmful traditional practices, including female genital mutilation. It is a severe threat to combating poverty and the achievement of the millennium development goals.

As the vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on population, development and reproductive health, I want to highlight child marriage and maternal and reproductive health, in response to “A Childhood Lost”, the group’s report, which was published last year following parliamentary hearings. The consequences of child marriage for maternal and reproductive health are grave. Child brides are unable to negotiate protected sex with their husbands, and are often under pressure to start bearing children immediately, which leads to a prolonged period of reproduction and larger numbers of children.

Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s, and also face much higher chances than older women of experiencing pregnancy-related injuries such as fistulas, and of contracting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The children of child brides are 60% more likely to die before the age of one than children whose mothers are aged 19 or over. Those problems are compounded by the fact that child brides are often unable to access life-saving health care for themselves and their children, including contraception, family planning advice and maternal health care.

The British Government have demonstrated a strong political will to tackle forced marriage in the UK and abroad, and a Bill to criminalise the offence in the UK is being drafted. As I said at the beginning, legislation is not enough to combat child marriage. Governments need to revise laws and policies on related important issues such as divorce, inheritance and property ownership to protect girls. Improved co-operation is needed across

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Government Departments and embassies, including in the UK. Other harmful practices such as female genital mutilation need to be tackled, and access to sexual and reproductive health services, improved registration systems, and professional support and shelters, are essential.

I am interested to know whether the Government will consider including child marriage in the personal, social, health and economic education curriculum; whether they will make registration of religious marriages compulsory in the UK; and whether they will increase the minimum legal age for marriage to 18 when criminalising child marriage. I urge the Department for International Development and other donors to evaluate existing interventions so that aid is spent effectively, and to scale up programmes to prevent child marriage and support survivors. The Department for International Development has shown great leadership in family planning via the June 2012 family planning summit. We need to work to meet the needs of family planning, and sexual, reproductive and maternal health care of girls and women of all ages, whatever their marital status.

We parliamentarians must work with colleagues in other countries, particularly in the developing world, to galvanise political will and to share best practice in tackling child marriage through programmes and services, and legislative reform and implementation. We urgently need to do something for women worldwide whose cries are not heard.

1.18 pm

Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab): I am grateful to have been called to speak in this important and timely debate. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Heather Wheeler), who has been a strong voice for women and girls since her election.

It is estimated that, in Hull, almost 25,000 women and more than 18,000 children will experience domestic violence each year. To put that in real terms, three or four children in every classroom experience domestic violence. Humberside police respond to some 55 incidents of domestic violence every month, and 81% of victims are female. Children who live with domestic violence have an increased risk of behavioural problems and emotional trauma. Mental health difficulties will definitely arise in their adult lives as a result of their experiences.

Hull has been working hard to address the problem. The local primary care trust, working with Hull city council, has implemented the Strength to Change programme. This is a voluntary scheme aimed at men who are often the perpetrators of domestic violence. It is a groundbreaking project that makes a real difference to victims of violence. There is an excellent women’s centre in my constituency, Purple House, which provides support for hundreds of women victims. However, cuts are affecting these projects, and there is currently a review to decide whether these vital services are necessary—they definitely are.

The total cost of domestic abuse to the criminal justice system, health, social services and housing amounts to approximately £3.8 billion a year. It is clear that to prevent violence against women and girls, we need to do more to ensure both young men and young women are educated to develop positive and equal relationships with their peers. That education and support must start in schools. Statutory personal relationship education

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and early intervention in schools will help to change attitudes and behaviour towards domestic violence. Schools need to play a key role in educating boys and girls to realise that violence and abuse in relationships are completely unacceptable. I therefore urge the Government to make sex and relationships education statutory and standardised.

In the time left, I want to speak to an issue that is an absolute catastrophe and a scandal: female genital mutilation. The Government estimate that approximately 20,000 under-15-year-olds are at risk from this practice every year—more than 50 young female victims every day. It is important to make the point that such mutilation is motivated only by the need to control women. It is bullying, and the most grotesque abuse towards women. Female genital mutilation has been a criminal offence since 1985. It is shocking that we have not yet seen a single prosecution. We have seen some positive steps in recent weeks and months, with the Crown Prosecution Service refocusing on this area, and I welcome the publication of its action plan. However, to eradicate this practice we need cross-departmental work involving the Home Office, Department for Education, Department of Health and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and proper funding. We need to secure justice for victims and prosecution will prevent future victims of this despicable criminality. We must remember that this is a crime and that people should face the law when they carry out this vile and abusive violence.

Jane Ellison (Battersea) (Con): I welcome the speech that the hon. Gentleman is making, and I also welcome the Westminster Hall debate he secured recently on this topic. I am sure he welcomes, as I do, the commitment the Home Secretary made on Monday to look closely at bringing forward a prevalence study in the UK to update our data, and, in particular, to make sure that the NHS records female genital mutilation.

Karl Turner: I agree entirely with the hon. Lady, who has done a great deal of work on this issue as the chair of the all-party group on female genital mutilation.

I will make one final point. The Metropolitan police set up Project Azure to tackle the problem of female genital mutilation across the country. However, a freedom of information request showed that the team consists of just one full-time police officer and one part-time police officer. It is simply ridiculous to suggest that this is sufficient policing. I welcome the Home Secretary’s work, but we need more resources to police this most disgusting violence against women and young girls.

Michael Ellis: I support what the hon. Gentleman has said, and I agree that the issue of female genital mutilation is important. I appreciate the difficulty in detecting and prosecuting cases, but it is important that prosecutions follow as this is an horrific crime. On the subject of statistics, does he agree that the reason why most statistics show men as the victims of crime is that men are mostly the perpetrators of crime?

Karl Turner: I am not necessarily sure that the hon. Gentleman’s latter point is entirely correct. What I will say is that his initial point was absolutely correct. I know that other hon. Members wish to speak, so I will end my remarks now.

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1.26 pm

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con): As a former police victim examiner and doctor, I have seen deeply traumatised women in the middle of the night in the immediate aftermath of horrific sexual violence. I have also, as a doctor, met women in their 80s and 90s who are still suffering a lifetime of consequences. There is nothing new about sexual violence, but what has changed is the normalisation and acceptance of sexual violence within our society, and that is something that we really have to address. I am proud to be a patron of Devon Rape Crisis, and I welcome the £40 million that has gone towards setting up a network of rape crisis centres around the country. When I was a victim examiner, that was not available.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): I am shocked that my hon. Friend suggests that there is a normalisation of violence. Will she define exactly what she means?

Dr Wollaston: That is an important point, but before I come to it, I would like to pay tribute to the 27 remarkable, talented and skilled volunteer women who work for Devon Rape Crisis in my area.

I will address my hon. Friend’s point. What do I mean by “normalisation”? Well, for example, 80% of 15 to 17-year-old boys are now regularly accessing hardcore pornography. To my mind, that constitutes normalisation, as does the issue of sexting, which my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Claire Perry) mentioned, and the extent to which it goes unchallenged. One might say that this is a milder example, but when I go into the Tea Rooms in the House of Commons and see colleagues reading newspapers with images that objectify women, I find that offensive. I find it a normalisation that across the country young girls are sitting in households where they see such sexualisation of women as a normal portrayal of women. People may find me prudish, but I assure hon. Members that there is nothing that makes me blush. These are not blushes, but anger. That is what I would term as normalisation, and I hope I have answered the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart).

Bob Stewart: I thank my hon. Friend for her explanation.

Dr Wollaston: That is wonderful.

It is crucial that we challenge through education the normalisation of sexualisation and violence towards women, but it has to be the right education. We need to make better use of peer educators. It is no use having an embarrassed teacher who blushes when talking about sex and sexual violence. Often, the best educators are peer educators, particularly those who have been victims and are prepared to talk about the impact that has had on their lives. We want the right people delivering that education, and of course “the right people” includes families. As my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes pointed out, parents should be aware of what their children are accessing and not be embarrassed to talk to them and challenge attitudes as they develop.

We also need to do something about prosecution and the number of people being brought to book for such crimes. Partly, that is about encouraging women to report crimes. From having spoke to women, I know how incredibly challenging that can be and how brave

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women have to be to come forward and go through the criminal justice system, so it is disappointing that there seems to be a perception in some quarters that women should not be encouraged to report these crimes. In my opinion, that amounts to collusion in a process that says, “Don’t report!” We need to challenge those attitudes and provide the kind of support given by Rape Crisis and the professionals in sexual assault referral centres across the country.

In conclusion, we need to challenge attitudes, encourage reporting, put an end to normalisation and see an improvement in the support provided through our criminal justice system in order to ensure that perpetrators of sexual crimes against women know that they will pay for their crimes.

1.31 pm

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op): On the day when we celebrate love and romance, I am glad to take part in a debate that seeks to ensure that no one should ever be subject to a mentally or physically abusive relationship. I congratulate the Backbench Business Committee on securing the debate and my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) on her work in raising the profile of the incredible One Billion Rising campaign.

Despite Liverpool being the second safest city, victims of domestic violence make more than one in five of all 999 calls to Merseyside police—the highest rate in the country. That amounts to 43,995 calls. The increase in the incidence of domestic violence across Merseyside is staggering, with 32,511 incidents having been reported in the last year—an increase of 36% from 2003. This situation cannot continue. It is a terrible indictment that in 2013 in the UK one in six children aged 11 to 17 experience sexual abuse and that 109 women and girls lost their lives last year at the hands of a partner or former partner.

At least 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence. Although that affects both girls and boys—I note the point made by the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies)—80% of calls to ChildLine on abuse were from girls. The statistics on that are many. Even if the Government do not accept the enduring physical, psychological, emotional and social consequences experienced by too many women across our country because of this terrible crime, it must surely be in their interest, given that according to the Home Office violence against women and girls costs the public purse £36.7 billion a year, to address these heinous crimes and do more about this stain on our national conscience.

We have a serious problem in our society when findings from the crime survey in England and Wales show that one in 12 people think that a victim is completely or mostly responsible for someone sexually assaulting them when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or when they are sexually assaulted by someone they were flirting with heavily beforehand. No one in the country should ever blame a victim for the crimes perpetrated against them.

Is this any wonder when too many abusers are glorified? Perhaps one of the most famous cases of domestic violence was in March 2009, when the music artist Chris Brown was charged for, and pleaded guilty to, assaulting Rihanna. Members will remember the shocking photos of Rihanna in our press—her lip was split and she had a bloody nose and major contusions on either

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side of her face—yet two years later Chris Brown was given an international platform at the Grammies. This is the man who subsequently got a tattoo on his neck showing a woman bearing a striking similarity to Rihanna and the scars of a serious beating.

We heard the other week that some of our major supermarkets are stocking an energy drink called Black Energy promoted by the convicted rapist Mike Tyson. It uses the slogan “Sex energy” and includes a series of adverts in which he is surrounded by scantily clad women in bikinis and calls himself “an animal”. I remind the House that this is a man who spent three years in jail for his heinous crimes. We also heard last year about the tragic story of a girl from Battersea who did not report a rape at the age of 11 because of a storyline in “Eastenders” that made her so worried about the court process that she thought she would not be supported.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I understand that a television advertising campaign beginning today or tomorrow will highlight the fact that 30% of young girls are sexually assaulted and that 25% are physically abused. Does the hon. Lady believe that such a campaign will help to reduce those figures?

Luciana Berger: We know that there has been a massive reduction, if not a complete moratorium, on the Government spending money on public information adverts. I think, however, that money spent in this area would be welcome, so I hope that the Minister will think seriously about allocating some of the budget to informing and educating the public about domestic violence and abuse, particularly at a time when this crime is on the increase.

There are people committed to tackling violence against women and girls. In Merseyside, our recently elected police and crime commissioner, my predecessor, Jane Kennedy, signed up to a dedicated series of pledges to tackle violence against women and girls that included maintaining specialist domestic violence and public protection units within the police service, which are at risk across the country owing to police cuts; delivering specialist training in domestic and sexual violence; and developing the roll-out of an integrated local action plan to tackle violence against women and girls. In December, we also saw the launch of the Draw A Line campaign, specifically aimed at combating domestic violence.

The reason for today’s debate, however, is that we need to do even more. We need our schools to do everything they can to educate the next generation. We recently saw the One Billion Rising sessions that took place across the country—we had one in Liverpool, at which women called for the statutory introduction of sex and relationships education in all our schools. We also need urgently to challenge the stereotypes in the press and media and to teach both girls and boys about how to respect each other in relationships. We need these statutory provisions to make personal, social and health education, including a zero-tolerance approach to violence and abuse in relationships, a requirement in every school in our land.

Just before this debate, as has been mentioned, we came together in Parliament square in support of the One Billion Rising campaign and heard the names of

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the 109 women murdered last year by a present or former partner. It was tragic. The reason for the debate is that we need to do everything we can to ensure that we never have to read out the names of 109 women again.

1.38 pm

Mary Macleod (Brentford and Isleworth) (Con): On 16 December last year, a 23-year-old medical student in Delhi was gang-raped, and 13 days later she died. If this debate today could be in her memory, showing the world that this sort of abuse cannot be tolerated, some good may come from it.

We have already heard plenty of examples today. A girl of nine has given birth in one of Mexico’s western states. She was just eight when she became pregnant. My hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Heather Wheeler) has already spoken about forced marriage. Only 25 years ago in the UK, it was not considered an offence to rape within marriage, and 603 million women currently live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime.

One of my first cases at my weekly constituency surgery involved a girl who came to see me with her mother. She was absolutely convinced that her sister had died as a result of domestic violence but that it had not been recognised by the police. A second girl who came to see me had been raped twice by a man who was about to leave prison after serving a sentence for a separate offence. She was absolutely petrified, and the following weekend she ended up in hospital after having tried to take her own life. All this is happening right on our doorstep. We do not need to look at what is going on internationally; it is happening right in front of us.

I was pleased to hear the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) mention Chiswick, where the world’s first women’s refuge was started. I am proud to represent Chiswick today, and I believe that it is part of my remit as a Member of Parliament to stand up for all victims of domestic violence and abuse, locally and elsewhere in the country. In London, especially, we have issues. Speaking at the Tackling Britain’s Gang Culture conference last month, Chief Superintendent John Sutherland of the Metropolitan police said:

“I regard domestic violence as the single greatest cause of harm in society.”

He said that it was having devastating effects, and he is so right. Thankfully, the issue is at the top of the agenda in my borough of Hounslow. London has an issue with teenage girl rape, and that is something that we have to resolve.

Now is the time to act, and I was glad to see Members from both sides of the House at the One Billion Rising rally today. Those from my side of the House included my hon. Friends the Members for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom), for Battersea (Jane Ellison), for Devizes (Claire Perry), for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) and for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin). We were there in Parliament square to say that enough is enough, and that now is the time to act.

Globally, we should exert pressure through the United Nations, which is looking at the matter. UN Women was set up in 2010 to focus efforts on gender equality and the empowerment of women, and I will be going next month to the UN Commission on the Status of Women to talk about this issue.

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Here in the UK, we have made progress in some areas, including the £40 million of stable, ring-fenced funding for specialist domestic and sexual violence support services. We have increased the number of rape centres in London to four, but we need more. Stalking has been mentioned already, as has female genital mutilation, on which my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea has done a great deal of work. Still more needs to be done. Internationally, we also need to put the pressure on and work together on conflicts, and I am glad that there will be a further debate in the Chamber today to discuss sexual violence in conflicts, because that should not be tolerated either.

Locally, in my constituency and my borough, we have taken various kinds of action. We have the Hounslow one-stop shop, which is run by the Metropolitan police, the Hounslow community safety unit and the Hounslow domestic violence outreach service. In December last year, Operation Athena, a London-wide crackdown on domestic violence, led to 22 arrests in my borough. The JAN Trust is visiting schools in Hounslow to deliver its Mujboor—meaning “forced” in Urdu—workshops on forced marriages and to educate young girls on their rights.

There is still much to be done, however, with regard to global awareness as well as to what we are doing right here in our own constituencies. That is where we all have a part to play. Every Member of the House can play their part by going to each of their schools—especially their secondary schools, but perhaps schools with younger children as well—and spreading the word that we can all take action on this issue. If we can encourage our colleagues to talk to young girls and boys about the issue, we will have played a part in changing the environment of violence that we see around us. There should be a zero-tolerance approach to violence and abuse in relationships, and I would like the Minister to consider whether Ofsted could measure what schools are doing to educate children in this area.

Let us join together and say with one voice that enough is enough, that violence against women and girls will not be tolerated, and that we will make this country a much better place.

1.44 pm

Mr Elfyn Llwyd (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC): It is a pleasure to follow such a fine speech from the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mary Macleod), and I also commend to others a reading of what the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) said earlier in her moving, sensible and informative speech.

Last year, I had the privilege of chairing the parliamentary inquiry into stalking law reform, which resulted in the creation of a new law a new law on stalking. I declare an interest, as I am a practising barrister, having practised for many years in the fields of crime and domestic violence. I have seen many lives ruined by domestic violence.

Early in 2011, I became aware of the limitations of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, which eventually gave rise to the parliamentary inquiry. The panel drew its membership from both Houses of Parliament and from across the political spectrum. We considered the adequacy of the existing law and, over the course of

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six months, took written evidence and held five oral evidence sessions during which we sought the views of practitioners, legal experts, campaign groups and victims of stalking.

The panel concluded that the existing law was not fit for purpose and, in February last year, we published a report with recommendations on how legislation and practices should be improved. Within a month of our report’s publication, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would be implementing our main recommendations, and new clauses to that effect were passed by both Houses within a staggering 11 days. I only wish that changing the law were routinely so easy.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): The right hon. Gentleman has an honourable record on these issues. What does he think about the Welsh Government’s proposals to introduce a Bill on domestic abuse and violence against women? Does he agree that such a Bill would provide an opportunity to take concrete action on this issue?

Mr Llwyd: I am delighted to agree with the hon. Gentleman. I know that the Welsh Government are proactive on these issues, and I am delighted to hear that they are taking action, because this problem is as prevalent in Wales as anywhere else. I am grateful to him for making that point.

As of November last year, stalking is a named offence in the law of England and Wales. The new law is split into two sections, which have been added to the Protection from Harassment Act—namely, a section 2A offence, punishable by up to 51 weeks in prison or a fine, as well as the section 4A offence, which involves stalking that prompts fear of violence or serious alarm or distress. This latter offence is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment or a fine, and is triable by either a Crown court or a magistrates court.

We felt that it was of utmost importance for the new law to take note of the fact that threats to the safety of those suffering stalking are not always physical. I do not want to enter into a debate about etymology, but I would argue that violence is not always physical. The “Oxford English Dictionary” defines violence as

“treatment or usage tending to cause bodily injury or forcibly interfering with personal freedom.”

It is in relation to that last part of the definition—forcibly interfering with personal freedom—that stalking can be considered an example of violence. Last year, the Association of Chief Police Officers also reviewed its definition of domestic abuse and, thankfully, it now takes account of controlling and coercive behaviour as well as of more immediate and obvious bodily harm.

Some forms of violence against women, such as stalking, are unfortunately more subtle than others, since they involve a pattern of behaviours which, taken alone, might seem innocent, but which take on a terrible significance when viewed over a period of time. Taken out of context, sending someone flowers or always being at the same events might not seem like threatening behaviour, but for a victim of stalking, every such incident can induce feelings of anxiety, panic and acute distress.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the survivors of stalking, and their families, who gave evidence to our inquiry and also acted as ambassadors

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for our campaign. Tracey Morgan, Claire Waxman and Sam Taylor gave us an insight into the sheer horror that stalking can wreak on people’s lives. Tricia Bernal and Carol Faruqui spoke bravely about the murder of their daughters, Clare and Rana, by their stalkers. John and Penny, the parents of Jane Clough, also gave evidence to our inquiry. Jane was murdered by her former partner, but only after he had raped her on nine separate occasions. When the man who was to go on to murder her was charged with those nine counts of rape, and four counts of common assault, the court made the disastrous decision to grant him bail, during which time he followed Jane and killed her.

That is why we recommended that there should be a presumption that anybody charged with a serious violent or sexual offence should not be bailed except in the most exceptional circumstances. We also recommended that judges and magistrates should take account of previous offences as serious acts of aggravation. Raping, like stalking, is characteristic of obsessive behaviour that is likely to escalate if it is not stopped and treated. That is why it is essential that criminal justice professionals are made aware through mandatory training about the patterns of behaviour that make up these crimes.

This motion focuses on educating the generations to come about the realities of violence against women, so as to prevent it from happening in the future. That is to be applauded, of course, but we must also tackle the prevailing attitudes. In earlier debates, we highlighted the need for a domestic abuse, stalking and harassment risk assessment—or DASH—tool. I understand that the Association of Chief Police Officers has been running a trial in Hampshire for officers, but it is not sufficiently widespread.

I would welcome any information on how many individuals have been convicted under the new stalking offences. I would also welcome an update on the Government’s intentions in respect of improving victims’ advocacy. Some of the campaigners I met over the course of our inquiry have written to me expressing concern that not enough is being done. I know the Minister will pass these questions and concerns on to his colleagues. I repeat again that training must be rolled out for all police officers, to hammer home the message that the psychological impact of these crimes is considerable.

This law will be a step in the right direction towards ensuring that women are not subjected to violence without the perpetrators being punished. We must protect women and give them redress. This is urgently needed.

1.51 pm

Jane Ellison (Battersea) (Con): It is a pleasure to contribute to this important debate. I congratulate its sponsors, and especially the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), who opened the debate.

First, I will discuss female genital mutilation, as I have done in previous debates, but I will not talk exclusively about that subject. We have made great progress over the past few years and as a result many more Members are now talking about FGM. We have brought it into the mainstream of our political discourse, which will assist us in making further progress. FGM is a terrible thing that affects hundreds of thousands of girls around the world and here in the UK.

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I want to thank some of the people and organisations who are helping to make progress. The recent Crown Prosecution Service action plan is not just words on a piece of paper; it has genuine heart and intent behind it, and I hope it will lead to real progress. The all-party group on female genital mutilation has had some very productive meetings with Ofsted over the past year or so. It has seized on this subject, and has agreed to ask specific safeguarding questions around FGM when visiting schools that have girls from identified at-risk communities. That will also drive change.

The hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) has very passionately brought to our attention the One Billion Rising campaign. She and I have debated that campaign, because as a result of my experiences in addressing FGM, I have become a little jaundiced about the possibility of changing things solely through education. Over the almost 25 years that FGM has been illegal in this country, there have been almost no referrals through the education system. In fact, it is quite difficult to get people working in education to talk about FGM issues. At the recent Home Office roundtable, a senior local government leader in London admitted that when she trained the teachers in her local authority about how to deal with FGM in schools, many of them point-blank refused to teach that it was a crime, saying that that would infringe on some people’s cultural values. That is absolutely not on. As a result, particularly in respect of FGM, I am cautious as to whether we can rely solely on education. We must instead have a multi-agency approach and massive cultural education.

I will support the motion, of course, but we must not give the message to the people who are listening so intently to this debate that we think the One Billion Rising campaign is the only answer, because we know there is so much more to do. It might be part of the answer, but I know the Minister will talk about some of the other things that are going on, too, and we must make it clear that it is not a silver bullet and that there are lots of other steps we need to take—many of which colleagues have alluded to in the debate.

I want to thank the Home Office, too. In November 2011, I spoke about the Dutch health passport on FGM and in less than a year—this must be record time for any Government Department to put something into action— it has brought our own version of that passport, the statement against FGM, into use in the UK. I have spoken to FGM campaigner Sister Fa, who wants to get the German Government to adopt the idea. I therefore hope that there will be a ripple effect across Europe.

People have asked, “Is it really a passport?” I always answer, “No, it’s an empowerment document.” I hope it will empower some of the girls who have been through FGM to help their little sisters when they go back to their country of origin, so that they say to extended family members, “You’re not going to do to my little sister what you did to me, and here’s something that will tell you what the consequences are if you do.” The document will empower girls to help protect other girls.

My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Claire Perry) referred to cases involving two of my constituents. One was the tragic case of Chevonea Kendall-Bryan. She died in terrible circumstances, with lots of dreadful sexting and other things circulating about her. It was a dreadful incident. The other incident my hon. Friend mentioned involved a little girl who, for obvious reasons,

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I will not name. I spoke to her mother this morning. She re-emphasised that the problem of sexual texting and imagery going around in schools is horrendously widespread. I return to an earlier point: what do we do if we cannot stop it happening even in school, and right under the nose of teachers? This little 12-year-old girl was physically penetrated by a 12-year-old boy with his fingers in class under the nose of the teacher. We have got to get a grip on what is happening right now. It is not just about education; it is about stopping crimes being committed in class.

Most—although perhaps not all—of us in this Chamber went to school before mobile phones were invented, let alone widespread. We do not know all the answers, therefore, and there will be girls listening to and reading this debate who might know more about what we can do. The mother of that 12-year-old girl said to me that some of the other girls in class were jealous of her daughter because they thought she had been singled out for sexual attention. If I were to send just one message out to these girls, it would be this: “Please stand together. It is not cool. It is absolutely dreadful. Make sure you don’t speak to those boys or have anything to do with them if they do this to your classmates.” We have to stand together on this issue.