HC Deb 11 December 1974 vol 883 cc499-500
11. Mr. McElhone

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will investigate as a matter of urgency the problem of battered wives in Scotland in general, and in Glasgow in particular.

Mr. Robert Hughes

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister indicated in reply to a Question on 23rd July by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton)—[Vol. 877, c. 1293–4]— a Select Committee is to be set up to look into the problem of violence in marriage.

Mr. McElhone

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that Scottish local authorities do not make provision for battered wives? Does he also agree that the situation in Glasgow is critical, with perhaps one three-apartment flat housing as many as 30 women and children? In spite of the promise of a Select Committee, will my hon. Friend urge local authorities to take urgent action on this deep and growing social problem?

Mr. Hughes

Some local authorities do provide refuge for wives exposed to violence. Glasgow Corporation has made a start on this, but other authorities are involved.

Local authorities are expected to provide housing or temporary accommodation for wives and children who leave home as a result of violence. Housing does not come within my responsibility, but we shall see whether we can encourage more local authorities to look into the problem.

Dr. M. S. Miller

Will my hon. Friend impress upon our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that there is some urgency in this matter? East Kilbride local authority makes a certain amount of provision but it is looking for a lead from the Government in what is a national problem that should receive national assistance.

Mr. Hughes

The provision of accommodation for battered wives is the responsibility of local authorities. If my hon. Friend is referring to the appointment of a Select Committee, I must tell him that that is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, and I shall bring this problem to his attention.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this is a much wider and more serious problem than many of us realise? That being so, would it not be a good thing if his Department were actively to press all local authorities to provide temporary accommodation, the shortage of which is often critical, particularly if children are involved, until the Select Committee reports?

Mr. Hughes

I shall take every opportunity to stress to local authorities their responsibilities in this matter. But it is not the case that no investigations are being carried out. With financial assistance from my Department, Stirling University is undertaking a study into the causes of violence in marriage, and we are asking the Royal Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children to see whether there are avenues of joint research or other action that might be helpful to explore.