Today in my new role as Shadow Solicitor General I questioned the Solicitor General, Robert Buckland MP, on conviction rates for rape, sexual offences and domestic abuse.
I asked the Solicitor General whether the UK Government will legislate with a Violence against Women and Girls Bill similar to that passed by the Welsh Assembly in 2015.
The full text of the exchange was:
Jo Stevens MP: “Despite what the Solicitor General has said, that fact is that conviction rates for rape, other sexual offences and domestic abuse have all fallen – it’s clear that the Government needs to do far more to reduce instances of these offences, as well as doing more to support victims.
“We on this side made a manifesto commitment last year to legislate with a Violence against Women and Girls Bill – as the ground-breaking Welsh Labour Government have done. This bill would include provisions to appoint a Commissioner to set minimum standards to tackle domestic and sexual violence.
“Will the Government do the same?”
Robert Buckland MP, Solicitor General: “Can I, Mr Speaker, first of all warmly welcome the honourable lady to her position. It’s a pleasure to see her. Indeed we worked together in the South Wales legal fraternity for many years.
“Can I answer her question. This government is absolutely committed to first of all the funding and indeed the combat of violence again women and girls.
“There’s a cross-ministerial group that works regularly, of which I’m a member. We have introduced new legislation to criminalise coercive control. We have enhanced the tools that the police and the prosecution have at their disposal.
Which is why the numbers of prosecutions for domestic abuse and rape continue to rise.”
I welcome the Solicitor General’s comments and I’m glad that he shares my view on the seriousness of the issues of serious sexual assault and violence against women.
The fact, however, is that conviction rates have fallen over the last 5 years. I will continue to pressure this government to commit to a proper strategy for tackling these crimes and to ensure that victims are not forgotten.
I was proud to be able to question the Solicitor General from the despatch box, and will continue to work hard in my new role to hold the government to account.