SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford’s bill on violence against women passed at Westminster
Once ratified by the Queen, the SNP MP’s bill will be the party’s first to become UK law
Eilidh Whiteford MP - Image credit: UK Parliament
The SNP is set to have its first bill passed into UK law at Westminster after Banff and Buchan’s MP Eilidh Whiteford’s private member’s bill on violence against women was passed by the House of Lords yesterday.
Whiteford’s bill calls for the UK Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention on violence against women and girls passed its third reading in the House of Lords yesterday.
The bill received cross-party support in the House of Commons, with Theresa May responding to a question by SNP MP Angus Robertson on support for the bill during Prime Minister’s Questions in February, saying: “The right honourable gentleman raises an important subject.
“As he says, I take it particularly seriously – I worked hard on it as home secretary and I continue to do so as prime minister.
“There were still an estimated 1.3 million female victims of domestic abuse in the last year and more than 400,000 victims of sexual violence.
“He is right that we signed up to the Istanbul Convention, and we are fully committed to ratifying it, which was why we supported in principle the private member’s bill of the honourable member for Banff and Buchan on second reading and in committee.
“In many ways, the measures we have in place actually go further than the convention, but I am clear that we need to maintain momentum, which is why I am setting up a ministerial working group to look at the legislation and at how we can provide good support to victims, and to consider the possibility of a domestic violence act.
The bill also had the support of charities such as Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland, End Violence Against Women, Scottish Women’s Convention, NUS, Girlguiding, and the Fawcett Society.
The UK signed the Istanbul Convention, under which countries agree to take action to prevent violence against women and girls in all its forms – domestic abuse, stalking, harassment, sexual assault and rape, forced marriage, forced abortion or sterilisation and female genital mutilation – in 2012, but it has yet to be ratified to become UK law.
Now that the bill has cleared all stages in both the House of Commons and the Lords, it is expected to receive royal assent from the Queen before officially becoming law.
Whiteford said: "I'm delighted to be the first ever SNP MP to have a private member’s bill reach the statute book.
"I brought forward this bill because the Istanbul Convention has the potential to change the lives of women in my own constituency of Banff and Buchan, across the whole of the UK and also globally.
“The convention is the gold standard for legislation to prevent and combat violence against women and girls, and domestic violence.
"Since I started the process of bringing forward this bill in June 2016, the Government have moved quite significantly – with the PM committing to overseeing new legislation on domestic violence.
“This could be, if the Government want it to be, the legislative vehicle to bring the UK into full compliance with the convention, paving the way for ratification.
"I'm very pleased to have been able to steer through legislation, but it's only the beginning.
“Now we'll be holding the Government to account on their report and timetable for ratification. I won't stop this work until the UK ratifies the Istanbul Convention."
The Scottish Government launched a new domestic abuse bill in the Scottish Parliament last month with stronger powers to tackle psychological abuse.
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