Tory MP tries and fails to block anti-domestic violence bill with 91-minute speech

A group of Tory backbenchers also filed more than 50 'wrecking' amendments 

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Friday 24 February 2017 15:09 GMT
Conservative MP Philip Davies has a reputation for filibustering bills he doesn't like
Conservative MP Philip Davies has a reputation for filibustering bills he doesn't like

A backbench Conservative MP has been accused of trying to block a parliamentary bill that would force the Government to sign up to the international Istanbul Convention on preventing domestic violence.

Philip Davies, a veteran of long so-called “filibusters”, gave a 91-minute long speech, using up a large chunk of the time allocated to debate backbench laws on Friday.

Mr Davies and his allies on the Tory backbenches also​ tabled more than 50 “wrecking” amendments to the legislation, which was proposed by the SNP with cross-party support, with the aim of obliging the Government to tackle sexual violence and domestic abuse.

“We’ve actually got quite a large group of new clauses and amendments to go through this morning,” the MP said, beginning his elongated speech.

The bill passed its third reading after MPs turned out en masse to force a vote on it, an unusual occurrence on a Friday because most work from their constituencies at the end of the week and are not available for votes.

The Commons rejected Mr Davis’s amendments but accepted a number put forward by the Government; the bill was ultimately passed by 138 votes to 1. Mr Davies was the only MP present to ultimately vote against the bill.

The Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill is the latest bill apparently targeted by Mr Davies. He has previously made a name for himself blocking free hospital car parking for carers, a law to make homes fit for human habitation, mandatory first aid training in schools, and the use of wild animals in circuses.

The MP spoke from 9.42 am until 11.13am, after which the proposer of the bill SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford gave her speech. She said that MPs from nine parties had backed the bill.

“Grown-up politics is about compromise. Frankly, if there was less grandstanding on our hind legs in this place and more constructive discussion and real work I think we’d all be much better off,” she said.

Addressing Mr Davies directly she said the MP was letting down his own constituents who had experienced “horrific” domestic violence.

“I do need to respond to some of what we’ve heard this morning. I’m aware that the member opposite enjoys being the pantomime villain in this very public theatre and that he genuinely opposes the principles of the Bill,” she said.

“But I have to say that the way that he’s gone about tabling wrecking amendments and talking about them at length this morning does nothing to enhance his reputation or the reputation of the democratic process.”

Mr Davies said the proposals would not make a “blind bit of difference” and that they were “discriminatory” against men.

The bill was proposed by SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford
The bill was proposed by SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford (House of Commons)

“It seems to me that the last thing we need here is another group from a super-national body set up to make it look like they are doing something on issues but just becomes a talking shop when actually its not the implementation of the Istanbul Convention that will actually make any real difference to levels of violence generally, and certainly to levels of violence against women,” he said

“It's harsher sentencing of perpetrators that will make a big difference. The idea that having this group of experts pontificating about how well or badly something has been implemented will make any material difference to the levels of violence in the UK is for the birds.”

The Government has previously signed the Istanbul Convention but has not ratified it, despite its adoption by the Council of Europe in 2011.

Home Office minister Sarah Newton said the Government supported the Bill, telling MPs: “As the Prime Minister made absolutely clear at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, [Ms Whiteford’s] commitment to ensuring the UK ratifies the Istanbul Convention is one which this Government shares.”

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