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Saturday, March 07, 2015

Why the fate of the Violence against Women Bill lies in the hands of the Minister #VAW

Social media has been full of content in the last few days posted by the Welsh Government-funded Independent sector demanding that the opposition parties support the Violence against Women Bill when it comes to be voted on during Tuesday's Assembly Plenary session.

The surprise is that they are not directing their efforts at the Labour Minister in whose hands the fate of the bill really lies.

His position and that of Labour loyalists is that he has amended the bill enough for it to pass. He clearly has not amended it sufficiently to satisfy opposition parties however and should not therefore expect our automatic support.

Government policy is that if we are to tackle domestic violence effectively then we need to mainstream healthy relationship education throughout the education system. To do that we need champions at school governor level and amongst teachers at every school to train colleagues and promote and mainstream the agenda.

That was in the Welsh Government white paper on which this bill is allegedly based. It is not in the bill. Without it the bill does nothing which cannot be implemented via executive action by Ministers. It is a toothless symbol of a worthwhile and important fight, but nothing more.

The Minister has been given two opportunities to amend the bill to make it a meaningful instrument of change. He refused to listen and would not accept our amendments.

The Minister does not need to take a final vote on Wednesday, instead he can table a motion to take the bill to a further stage where he could put down amendments to give the bill teeth. He is refusing to do so.

That is why the fate of this bill lies in the Minister's hands. He can change it to get our support if he wishes. The lobbying efforts of the Welsh Government funded Independent sector should be directed at getting that outcome if they really want to save this bill and make it meaningful. I wonder why they are not doing that.

In the meantime, the opposition parties are awaiting a further communication from the Minister on how he can use the existing bill to meet our objectives and fulfil Welsh Government policy. If he can demonstrate that this is possible we will reconsider our position. The ball is entirely in the Minister's court.
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