HC Deb 22 July 1996 vol 282 cc95-6

Lords amendment: No. 187, in page 94, line 11, leave out from ("that") to end of line 13 and insert

("this will lead to domestic violence against him, or against—

  1. (a) a person who normally resides with him as a member of his family, or
  2. (b) any other person who might reasonably be expected to reside with him.

For this purpose "domestic violence", in relation to a person, means violence from a person with whom he is associated, or threats of violence from such a person which are likely to be carried out.")

Mr. Curry

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 188 and 210.

Mr. Curry

The amendments are concerned with the serious issue of domestic violence. During the Bill's passage, hon. Members from both sides of the House expressed their concerns about that issue. In particular, they wanted to ensure that the Bill deals with cases in which violence could be threatened from people who were no longer living with a partner, but with whom there had been a relationship, and that a tenancy could be terminated on those grounds. We have now extended the Bill's scope to encompass a broader definition of domestic violence.

The hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) was particularly concerned about this issue, as were many of our colleagues who worked on the Bill. I hope that the amendments will address their concerns, and I commend them to the House.

Mr. Raynsford

This is one of the few cases in which an amendment to the Rent Act 1977 was necessary, because the original definition of domestic violence was restricted to violence from some other person living in the property. As the Minister said in his remarks on the amendments, there are circumstances in which people can be subject to domestic violence from a former partner who is no longer resident in the property, or from other people who are not resident there.

Therefore, the changed definition covers violence that might be threatened or perpetrated by a person's associates, who are defined in Lords amendment No. 188. That is a welcome addition to the legislative framework and provides a better basis on which to bring relief to people who are the victims of domestic violence.

The problem is that, once people have been defined as being in a category of those who should be helped, they will not receive the same degree of help that they would have received under the 1977 Act. They may well find that the improvement worked by this group of amendments is entirely illusory because, despite being included in the categories of those to whom assistance should be given, the other changes to the 1977 legislation will nullify that benefit, and they will find that they are consequently no better off.

The amendments are one reason to be happy about changes in the legislation, but it is against a background of negative and destructive changes to the framework for assisting homeless people. If implemented, the changes will cause a great deal of hardship and many problems to homeless people across Britain.

Mrs. Maddock

As a result of the amendments, important clarification of those who will be protected from all forms of domestic violence will be provided. I hope that the Minister will consider the way in which the clauses operate and whether they do what we hope they will. All those who work with women—but also with men—who suffer from domestic violence will welcome the clarification. However, they will be concerned whether, ultimately, there will be accommodation to enable such people to escape the violence.

I hope that the Minister will examine how the provision will work in practice. As with some of the other amendments that we have considered today, he is giving with one hand in one part of the Bill and taking away with another hand in another part of the Bill. I am quite sure that those who work with people fleeing domestic violence will be watching carefully to see whether the provisions accomplish what we want them to, and I hope that the Minister will also be watching.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 188 to 197 agreed to.

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