The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill was one of the many controversial Bills introuduced by the coalition government. You can read my contribution to the parliamentary debate below. The full debate is available on the parliamentary website.
I shall be brief. I pay tribute to the Government for the moves that they have made on the Bill and I welcome the progress on the definition of domestic violence. Although they have extended the range of evidence that will be required, there is still some way to go. I recall that last week the hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant) suggested that the time limits might be up to three years.
I am speaking on behalf of a constituent who came to see me a few weeks ago. She had been habitually abused—emotionally abused—over a number of years. The last straw for her was when her husband tried to set fire to her. She went to hospital. She has medical evidence but she did not want to press any charges. She is, understandably, so traumatised by the experience that she has been through that several months after the incident she can barely speak. She is years away from being able to take to a court or tribunal the levels of evidence that have been suggested. I support amendments 2B and 196B, particularly on her behalf.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Simon Danczuk), I welcome the amendment on mesothelioma and the moves towards a review, if there is to be one. Oldham is not far from Rochdale and many of my constituents worked in the industry. Once people are diagnosed with the disease, they are, unfortunately, likely to be dead within 18 months. It would be outrageous if 25% of the damages were taken from them. I support amendment 31, but I acknowledge the moves that the Government have made.