HC Deb 19 November 2003 vol 413 cc760-1
5. Kali Mountford (Colne Valley)

If he will make a statement on the role of local government in tackling domestic violence. [139311]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Phil Hope)

The Government are wholly committed to tackling domestic violence. Such violence is first and foremost a crime, and stopping it and bringing perpetrators to justice are the overriding priority. Local government has a critical role in tackling domestic violence through the delivery of housing and social services, community safety and crime reduction partnerships.

Kali Mountford

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer, in which he pointed out the role of local government in partnership with other organisations. Will he do all that he can to encourage local authorities to invest more in security in the home so that families and children can stay safe in the communities and schools that they are used to, rather than having to be moved on, away from the violent perpetrator of a dreadful crime?

Phil Hope

I place on record our appreciation and recognition of my hon. Friend's tremendous work in championing the interests of victims of domestic violence. She is right that domestic violence can be a significant cause of homelessness, and we need better coordination between local agencies so that women can safely stay in their own homes if they undergo such experiences. This year, the Government published our strategy on domestic violence, which emphasises the importance of preventing such violence, supporting victims and bringing offenders to justice. I am pleased to say that a new telephone helpline, which the Prime Minister announced last year, is on track to become fully operational next month.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park)

The Minister may have seen a disturbing report on television late last night about children being forced by the courts to visit perpetrators of domestic violence after divorce has taken place. Will he assure the House that the Government will look into this problem and advise the family courts accordingly?

Phil Hope

The hon. Lady raises a difficult and sensitive issue in family relationships. We have a problem in that domestic violence affects not only women, the main victims, but children in those households. The Green Paper recently published by my right hon. Friend spells out a range of measures to provide greater protection for children to secure their safety inside and outside the home and to ensure that local agencies work together much more closely through new agencies such as children's trusts to make sure that children receive the support and help that they need if they ever experience such tragic events.

Ms Debra Shipley (Stourbridge)

May I invite my hon. Friend to the annual general meeting on domestic violence this afternoon? I impress on him the fact that several hundred people will be there. Will he explain more fully the support services provided for children in particular? I suggest to him that they are lacking for children in domestic violence situations either in the home or in hostels, where very little support is provided. The Green Paper also lacks a voice on that issue.

Phil Hope

My hon. Friend is well known in the House for championing the cause of children and giving them support. She is right to point out the physical, emotional and psychological impact on children of growing up and living in a family where there is domestic violence. I shall try to get to this afternoon's conference, diary permitting. What we need to do through the Green Paper is identify specific action that the Government and local agencies can take through the new children's trusts to ensure that children's needs are paramount and are put first when we make decisions on resources and needs.

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