MPs back SNP bill to tackle violence against women despite filibuster attempt

Proposals spearheaded by an SNP MP aimed at helping end violence against women have cleared their first Commons hurdle, despite a Conservative MP opposing the move during a 77-minute speech.

A private member's bill in the name of SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford aims to force the government to ratify the Istanbul Convention

Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford successfully moved a motion to curtail the debate before MPs gave the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill a second reading by 135 votes to two, majority 133.

Philip Davies, who has campaigned for Parliament to recognise International Men’s Day and previously criticised “militant feminists”, was accused of attempting to “filibuster” the draft law requiring the Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention.

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The bill will now progress to committee stage and faces a race against time to become law before the end of the parliamentary session. It is the first SNP private member’s bill to progress to a second reading.

The legislation would require the Government to take all reasonable steps to make the UK compliant with the convention and require ministers to set out a timetable for ratification.

The Istanbul Convention was adopted by the Council of Europe in 2011, and while the UK has signed the convention it has not yet ratified it.

The government has said it intends to ratify the convention, but has faced growing criticism for the fact that it has yet to do so.

Moving the bill, Dr Whiteford said: “The Government needs to take the Istanbul Convention out of the bottom drawer where it has been filed for far too long in a pile marked ‘too complicated, too difficult, too low a priority’.”

Labour MP Jess Phillips said ratifying the convention would be the “greatest gift” MPs could offer to those people who fear the slightest thing could mean the “monster that lives in their home” erupts on Christmas Day.

For the government, Home Office Minister Brandon Lewis said amendments are still required to domestic law relating to extra-territorial jurisdiction before the UK can ratify the convention.

He said: “We are absolutely committed to ratifying the convention but before we do that we must ensure that we are fully compliant with it.”

However, he said the Government did support the thrust of the Bill.

During his hour-and-a-quarter filibuster, Mr Davies argued that it is “sexist” to say the focus should only be on violence against women, adding that he stands for “true equality” where all people are treated equally.

He was heckled by Labour MPs for the length of his speech, with Tory colleagues also questioning why he would not back the Bill.

After Mr Davies had finished, Labour’s Thangam Debbonaire told the Commons: “That is 78 minutes that I believe I’m never going to get back.”

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire was among the supporters of the Bill, with a total of 38 Conservatives voting in favour.

Opposition MPs and some Tories feared Mr Davies, who was recently selected to serve on the Commons Women and Equalities Committee, would contribute to the Bill’s demise by his latest speech.

He labelled the Bill “pointless and wrong because not all victims are female and not all offenders are male”. Mr Davies said he has a “fundamental objection” to the premise that MPs only need to deal with violence against women.