Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 8 December, presented by Alicia McCarthy.
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Hello and welcome to Thursday in Parliament.
Coming up, it's an emotional afternoon in the Commons as female
MPs speak of their experience of rape and sexual violence.
I didn't tell my mother, I didn't tell my father,
I didn't tell my friends, and I didn't tell the police.
Peers debate what Brexit will mean for our defence.
And there are calls for a complete ban on the trade
in ivory in an attempt to save the world's elephants.
It is estimated that some 30%, perhaps 144,000, have disappeared
in the past seven years.
But first, an MP has moved colleagues to tears,
after revealing she was raped at 14.
Michelle Thomson shared her personal story during
a Commons debate focused on the UN International Day
For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women.
Today, I am going to relay an event that happened to me many years ago
and I wanted to give a very personal perspective to help people in this
place and outside understand one element
of sexual violence against women.
When I was 14, I was raped.
As is common, it was by somebody who was known to me.
He had offered to walk me home from a youth event and,
in those days, everybody walked everywhere,
it was quite common to do that.
It was early evening, wasn't dark, I was wearing -
I'm imagining, I'm guessing - jeans and a sweatshirt.
I knew my way around where I lived.
I was very comfortable and we did go a slightly different way,
but I didn't think anything of it.
He asked me, he told me he wanted to show me
something in a wooded area and, at that point,
I must admit I was alarmed.
I did have a warning bell, but I overrode that warning bell,
because I knew him and therefore there was a level of trust in place.
And to be honest, looking back at that point, I don't think
I knew what rape was.
It was not something that was talked about.
My mother never talked to me about it.
I didn't hear other girls or other women talking about it.
It was mercifully quick and I remember first
of all feeling surprise, then fear, then horror,
as I realised I quite simply couldn't escape.
Because obviously, he was stronger than me.
And there was no sense, even initially, of any
sexual desire from him, which I suppose looking
back again I find odd.
My senses were absolutely numb
and, thinking about it now 37 years later, I remember...
I cannot remember hearing anything when I replay it in my mind.
Afterwards, I walked home alone, I was crying, I was cold
and I was shivering and I now realise of course that
was the shock response.
I didn't tell my mother, I didn't tell my father,
I didn't tell my friends, and I didn't tell the police.
I bottled it all up inside me.
I hoped, briefly and appallingly, that I might be pregnant,
so that that would force a situation to help you control it.
so that that would force a situation to help me control it.
And, of course, without support, the capacity and resources I had
within me to process it were a very limited.
I was very ashamed, I was ashamed that I had allowed this to happen
to me and I had a whole range of internal conversations
about "I should've known!" "Why did I go that way?"
"Why did I walk home with him?"
"Why didn't I understand the danger?"
I deserved it because I was too this, I was too that!
I felt that I was spoilt and impure.
And I really felt revulsion towards myself.
A rape happens when a man makes a decision to hurt someone
he feels he can control.
Rapes happen because of the rapist, not because of the victim.
WOMEN: Hear, hear.
And we women, and our society, have to stand up for each other.
We have to be courageous.
We have to call things out and say where things are wrong.
We have to support and nurture our sisters as we do with our sons.
Like many women of my age, I have on occasion encountered other
aggressive actions towards me, both in business and in fact
in politics, but one thing I realise now is that I'm not scared,
and he was. I'm not scared.
I'm not a victim. I'm a survivor.
ALL: Hear, hear!
I thank the honourable lady for what she has said and the way
in which she said it, which has left an indelible
impression upon us all.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Um, it's an unbelievable thing to follow on from the member
for Edinburgh West, after she's shared a horrific event
from 37 years ago, but as a mother of two daughters, um,
understanding the impact of being a 14-year-old affected
by that incident, it's, er...
And the explanation of the sense of blame and shame,
it's very hard to comprehend.
I was 20 and the worst thing that I could ever imagine happening to me
was about to take place.
I was going to be one of those very rare statistics of a woman
who is attacked by a stranger, not by someone she knows.
I was in my second year at university.
The man had seen me walk past his car and had waited ahead
for me to turn the corner.
As I came up against him, all those words of advice your mum gives you -
"Knee him where it hurts then run like hell!" -
well, they disappeared! I was frozen in fear.
As he shoved me to the ground, trying to rape me, I fought back,
but I was battered.
It was only the community-spirited Indian neighbour further down
the road that saved me from something much worse.
However, Madame Deputy Speaker,
I count myself as one of the lucky ones.
I had managed to memorise his car number plate
and he was caught an hour later. He went to court, not many do.
He pleaded guilty.
I didn't have to go through the horrors of a trial.
He was sentenced.
I didn't have to look over my shoulder,
checking if he was following me. He was a stranger.
I didn't have to wake up in the same bed as him,
go to work with him as my boss.
He didn't use a broken bottle to hurt me.
He was alone and not with a group of other men.
It was only once and not several times.
The point to this story is that, even though on the scale of violence
against women I was lucky, because justice was done,
the following few years were hard.
I got afraid walking alone, so I bought a bike.
I got scared in the night, I slept with a knife.
I was easily startled and cried at the drop of a hat.
But Madame Deputy Speaker, again, I was lucky.
I didn't have a job to keep down, children to care for,
elderly relatives to see to, I could work my way
through the impact of this violent assault at my own speed
and in my own space.
The debate had been opened by a Labour MP.
Worldwide, an estimated one in three women experience
physical or sexual violence. That is a staggering statistic!
The World Health Organisation highlights that, as well as being
a human rights issue, violence against women is
a major public health issue, with women who have experienced
violence more likely to have babies with low birth weight
and experience depression.
Each year in the UK, up to 3 million women
experience violence and, on average, one woman dies
in Britain at the hands of a man every three days.
The Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee called
for compulsory sex and relationship education in schools.
We mustn't continue just attacking the symptoms of this problem
of violence against women, we also have to tackle
the root causes as well.
The sort of behaviour that some of us had to experience,
perhaps in the workplace 30 years ago, is now something
we would not tolerate, yet we are insisting that young
people keep quiet, don't speak out and don't get the support
that they need when they experience that sort of behaviour at schools.
I want to start by paying my heartfelt thanks to the member
from Edinburgh West.
You know, to hear her talking about her rape
when she was 14 years old, and breaking that taboo by talking
about it in this place, was truly remarkable.
She said the government had launched a new strategy in March and provided
?80 million in funding, alongside strengthening the law.
And she turned to education.
We must do more to educate children about healthy relationships,
including sexual relationships.
Indeed that no must mean no in every circumstance.
There is a huge amount of determination
and ongoing work to deliver this.
Now, she's absolutely right to say we all need to talk about it and,
as a mother of three children, I can see it can be a bit
embarrassing, not least for my children, to have to sit down
and talk about this. SOME LAUGHTER
I think my son has just about recovered from having to talk
to his mum about online porn!
But she made no promises on compulsory sex and relationship
education in schools in England.
Now, on Wednesday night, a clear majority of MPs backed
the government's timetable for beginning the UK's
exit from the EU.
A motion tabled by Labour, but amended by the government,
explicitly stated that Article 50, initiating Brexit, would be invoked
by the end of March.
It was supported by 461 MPs.
75 voted against.
When the Commons gathered on Thursday, there were very
different interpretations of what had happened.
The Shadow Leader of the Commons thought it was the Prime Minister
who'd shifted position, by accepting elements of labour's
original motion demanding the government publish a plan
for its negotiations before Article 50 was triggered.
Yesterday, Mr Speaker, the government finally
accepted they needed a plan, a strategy, a framework.
SOME: Hear, hear!
The Leader of the House may have said that the opposition
were quarrelling, like Mutiny on the Bounty
as reshot by the Carry On team!
A genre I'm sure the British Film Institute are rapidly thinking,
"Where does this fall?"
And can I remind the Leader of the House that it was
40 government MPs who were going to vote on the opposition motion...
..which then resulted in the Prime Minister, from Bahrain,
to concede to the Labour motion.
I think what was very striking about the vote
last night was that, for the first time, the opposition
front bench and most but not all Labour members of Parliament
accepted the Prime Minister's timetable to trigger Article 50
by the end of March 2017 and, given that the Shadow Foreign
Secretary had said as recently as September that we ought to go
back to the people before taking a final decision to leave the EU,
that suggests a possibly welcome change of heart
on the part of the opposition.
I hope that it is genuine and sustained.
"It is a tragedy that, when problems are global,
politics has gone local."
That's the view of Lord Robertson,
who was once Secretary General of Nato.
He was speaking in a debate about the impact of Brexit
on the UK's defences.
Several peers said that, with the UK outside the EU,
it should raise its game in Nato and forge alliances
with France and Germany.
The government insisted it was not turning its back on the world.
The post-war settlement is unravelling.
The referendum result, the disobliging comments about Nato
from President-elect Trump and the rise of the far right
populism in Europe all make that abundantly clear.
If Nato and the EU are now in danger of crumbling away,
we do need an urgent rethink of our domestic policies
Lord Robertson said leaving the EU would have a huge impact
on the UK's defence forces.
It will certainly affect our Armed Forces and diplomatic service
and not for the better.
Leaving will damage the UK and its reputation and influence,
leaving will damage the EU and its partnership with Nato,
tackling the myriad of problems and challenges and perils
which will face us in the world today.
And by opting out as a key player in the EU side of that partnership
that was re-forged this week, it will weaken Nato at a time
when the alliance has never been historically more needed.
I think it is a tragedy at the moment that just
as the problems that we face - of migration, of terrorism,
of a resurgent Russia, of pandemics, proliferation and much,
much more, the issues have gone global and the politics have gone
local and far too parochial for the safety of our people.
One thing seems to me to be crystal clear,
having taken the decision to Brexit, Britain is now much,
much, much more alone and our defence choices are far,
far starker than they were in the hours before
President Trump was elected, one month and one week ago.
Before, during the Brexit debate, we argued that we didn't need
the European Union because we had Nato.
We now have an isolationist American President who has made it
perfectly clear in his speeches that he doesn't much believe in Nato
and doesn't even mind seeing it being unstitched.
I have a suspicion that what will happen in the next few
weeks is that words will be dragged out of President Trump's mouth that
says he didn't really mean that and he does believe in Nato,
but Nato and alliances do not depend as much on words as they do
on will and no one can doubt that the will of an isolationist
American President, who admires President Putin,
is not going to be the same as the will we have experienced
before from our partners across the Atlantic by any measure.
There is one thing that will not change and that is the relationship
between our security in these islands and the security
of the rest of Europe.
We cannot change our geography by referendum.
The safety of Europe is our safety.
We long ago gave up the idea of national defence in favour
of collective security and nothing that has happened over the past
months has changed that.
We may be looking to renationalise aspects of our economic
and legal structures but re-nationalising our defence
is simply not practical.
The government has made it clear that as we leave the EU,
we will not be turning our back on the world.
The UK remains a permanent member of the UN Security Council,
the second-largest contributor to Nato and a leading
member of the G7, the G20 and the Commonwealth.
We take these responsibilities seriously and we will continue to be
a strong and influential European voice on the world stage,
promoting and defending global peace and security
and promoting our trade interests.
And he said the UK had strong relations with other EU countries.
Our defence relationship with France is growing
all the time and is building on the Lancaster House
agreement that underpins it.
Germany is now a Tier 1 country with United States and France
in the SDSR 2015 and we have growing relationships with
many other countries.
You are watching Thursday in Parliament with me, Alicia McCarthy.
On Wednesday, a man was found guilty of the racially aggravated
harassment of the Labour MP Luciana Berger after posting
a series of anti-Semitic rants.
Joshua Bonehill-Paine wrote five hate-filled blogs harassing
the Liverpool Wavertree MP.
Speaking after the verdict, Ms Berger insisted racist abuse
and harassment over the internet is an horrific crime.
In the Commons, MPs wanted to know what the government was doing
to tackle all sorts of hate crimes.
Like many others in this chamber, I was very concerned about the spike
in the number of racial and religious aggravated
offences after the referendum.
Can my honourable and learned friend please tell the house
whether that trend has continued in recent months?
My honourable friend is right to raise this issue because I think
we were all concerned with the spike that clearly occurred
after the referendum.
The total number of racial and religiously aggravated offences
being reported in July this year was 41% higher than
the previous year.
But I am happy to report the number of that type of reported offence has
now declined and are at similar levels to before the referendum.
Sir David Amess.
Would my honourable friend look very carefully at the law
relating to abusive and offensive online posts?
Often when I look at these remarks, particularly when someone has died,
it is quite incredible that newspapers seem to host these posts
when I think these cowards should have their names and addresses
printed along with the offensive post.
My honourable friend raises a proper point of increasing concern.
Can I assure him that anonymity perceived or real is not an escape
route for perpetrators.
The use of false online profiles and websites still mean
they are traceable and these people can and will be pursued just
like the appalling individual who only this week was convicted
of offences arising from a racist campaign against the honourable
member for Liverpool Wavertree.
On the ground in north Wales, the number of prosecutions
generally is falling.
And for that reason, how can we ensure that public
perceptions are reflected in prosecuting policy so that more
individuals who commit crime get taken to court and dealt
with by magistrates who tell me that their courts are empty?
I am obviously following the position very carefully
in all parts of England and Wales and he is right to say
there are some areas like his where there has not been
the rise we have seen in others.
I think what we have to do is further encourage consistency,
the training that has been rolled out in recent months
to all the CPS areas, I think needs to bed in.
And I think with that approach, we will see a rise across the board
in not just the prosecution of these offences but the confidence
of victims to come forward.
Would the Attorney General agree that the prosecution of hate crimes
has helped when the victim feels supported enough to give evidence
and that more training must be provided by the teams that deal
with hate crimes UK wide to ensure that all possible support
is afforded to victims and their families?
The honourable gentleman knows from his experience
in Northern Ireland that the Leonard Cheshire Disability
organisation have an excellent scheme in place to support victims.
And it really echoes the point I was making earlier about the need
for such best practice to be spread to give better support.
Now, let's go back to the Lords where a Peer raised a report that
showed more than 300 police officers have been accused of
using their position to sexually exploit people,
including victims of crime.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary said that abuse
of authority for sexual gain is now the most serious form of corruption
facing police in England and Wales.
In the Lords, a Peer raised this and the latest
figures from Women's Aid on violence against women.
76% of women killed by their ex-partner or ex-spouse
were killed in the first year of separation.
But today, we hear, on top of this, that hundreds of police officers
have abused their position of trust to sexually exploit
Could the noble lady and the Minister say
what the government is doing to protect and help women
at dangerous and vulnerable times and particularly those who manage
to leave abusive relationships to start a new life?
The figures that are released today are absolutely stark and we welcome
the work that Women's Aid has done on the femicide census
and we are committed to working in partnership with them
to help to improve the response to domestic homicide.
It turned to the revelations about the police.
It is important to remember that HMRC findings relate to a very small
number of police officers of staff and the vast majority of over
200,000 police personnel are dedicated and passionate
about protecting the public.
The College of Policing will be releasing updated guidance on police
and media relationships in the New Year but also the College
of Policing has been asked to consider further the feasibility
of developing a new supplementary addendum on the Code of Ethics
but that is to take nothing away from the shocking findings of today.
A Conservative MP has called for emergency action
to save the African elephant.
Currently, tens of thousands of elephants are killed by poachers
every single year to steal and sell their tusks.
While there is an international ban on buying and selling
ivory to other countries, it is still possible to buy
and sell certain kinds of ivory within countries.
The UK Government recently announced it is to spend an extra ?13 million
on new ways to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.
Jeremy Lefroy said that the elephant population in sub-Saharan Africa had
declined dramatically over the past decade.
It is estimated that some 30%, perhaps 144,000 have disappeared
in the past seven years, substantially as a
result of poaching.
Estimates of the remaining population vary but perhaps there
are as few as 400,000 to 450,000.
This is an emergency and it requires emergency action.
But the President of the British Antique Dealers Association spoke
out against a total ban.
The purchaser of a carved ivory medieval Christian diptych is not
the same buyer because it is them wanting the ivory because it is
a beautifully worked piece which is culturally and historically
significant, that happens to be made of ivory.
It is not the same as modern-day trinkets.
To ban the sale of 18th-century cabinets inlaid with small pieces
of ivory or an 18th-century portrait miniature painted on a sliver
of ivory, in order to stop Far Eastern buyers from purchasing
contemporary carved Buddhas or trinkets, makes no sense.
I did find the Member for Kensington's remarks
In fact calling it a beautiful worked piece -
it was a beautiful elephant once.
Calling it artworks - what is artistic about murder?
And therefore, what I would say is, whilst these pieces may be
in existence, they should no longer be traded and therefore,
we would bring a total ban from these benches across all ivory.
The Minister said a poacher could earn more than in one night
than in five years in other jobs.
We do need to raise awareness to Asian consumers
about the devastating impact they are having on
And we need to inform, engage with and ultimately change
behaviour and I think we saw leadership as was referred
to by His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge when he visited Hanoi
recently alongside my right honourable friend, the Secretary
of State and that kind of engagement I think is a key part
of what the UK leadership can do.
To achieve this, we need to change the dynamics of the market,
we need to reduce not just the availability but also
the acceptability of trade and ivory and that is why in the UK we're
looking at our own market.
Other countries such as the US have taken action and we want see
concerted international action and most importantly,
we want to see action from China to follow through on the commitments
they have made to close their market.
And that is it for me for now but do join me on Friday night at 11pm
for a round-up of the week here at Westminster.
When among other things, we will be talking to Lord Cormack
about the size of the House of Lords and hearing from two of Parliament's
newest MPs about what it is like to join the Commons.
But from now from me, Alicia McCarthy, goodbye.