HC Deb 17 December 1975 vol 902 cc670-1W
Mrs. Millie Miller

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps have been taken to implement the recommendations of the Select Committee on Violence in Marriage.

Mr. Meacher

I welcome this report and I and my colleagues are sending copies of it to local authorities, health authorities, police and probation authorities and to the headquarters' organisations of interested voluntary bodies. Similar action is in train in Scotland.

Following inter-departmental discussions the views of the local authority associations are being sought on those recommendations in the report which concern local government and particularly those with resource implications. We are discussing with the associations, in the light of the Government's policy for a standstill in local government expenditure, the Committee's recommendations regarding conferences. Where local meetings are arranged, we shall offer to collaborate with them with a view to determining what it may be feasible to do generally in order to improve the co-ordination between those statutory and voluntary agencies whose services could help battered women who leave home, and what more could be done with available resources.

Among the matters to be considered are proposals for expanding the number of refuges. Many local authorities have already provided housing for groups running refuges. Such accommodation is, like other accommodation for the homeless, eligible for housing subsidy. A registered housing association providing a refuge for such women would be eligible for a housing association grant provided that it could show that its project was part of a comprehensive scheme for helping these women to settle back into the community.

My Department has written to several leading researchers to let them know of our wish to sponsor research on marital violence and has found several projects which it hopes to fund. Some will explore how services can best be deployed, and we are seeking a way of testing the concept of a 24-hour advisory centre, as recommended in the report.

I understand that the report of the Law Commission on matrimonial proceedings in the magistrates' courts in England and Wales takes account of the recommendations in the Select Committee's Report which call for reforms in the laws governing matrimonial proceedings. This report is expected early in the New Year, and the Government will be giving immediate attention to its recommendations. Consideration is also being given to a change in the rules of the Supreme Court to simplify the application for an injunction.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate are considering the recommendations on Scottish law and procedures.

I hope, as the Select Committee proposes, to report to the House in the light of further national and local consideration of the report and its recommendations.