HC Deb 08 June 1998 vol 313 cc703-4
15. Mr. John Heppell (Nottingham, East)

If she will make a statement on the guidance issued by her Department to local authorities in respect of violence against women. [42942]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Ms Joan Ruddock)

The Ministers for Women are working across all Government Departments to ensure that best practice is followed in tackling all forms of violence against women. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security recently issued guidance to local authorities, reminding them of the help available from the housing benefit scheme to victims of domestic violence. However, we are aware that women are not always offered the full range of support services that they need, so we are developing a national strategy to prevent violence, to protect women and to deliver justice for women.

Mr. Heppell

I am well aware of some of those initiatives. Indeed, £94,000 of lottery funds will be given to Nottinghamshire domestic violence forum and more than £280,000 will be used to set up a network of child contact centres to allow parents access that they would not otherwise have to their children. Will the Minister tell me how those local initiatives will be developed into a national Government strategy to deal with violence against women?

Ms Ruddock

I congratulate the people in my hon. Friend's area who are running such vital services, which we would like other areas to provide. In trying to find out where the best practice exists, the Ministers for Women have recently written to all local authorities and chief constables asking them to tell us precisely what they are doing, and 102 local authorities have already responded, as have 41 of the 43 chief constables. I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that in his area the police and the local council have responded. The police there tell me that they have a strong policy of intervention in domestic violence cases with the expectation of arresting perpetrators, which is precisely what should be done. We shall make the survey results available to hon. Members. I hope that in the meantime, all hon. Members will take the trouble to find out what local provision there is to tackle this most pernicious of crimes.