Rachael Maskell MP, opened Prime Minister’s Questions today to highlight the risks women and girls experience in all walks of life and to call on the Prime Minister to act. Acutely aware that both Claudia Lawrence and Sarah Everard were from York, she highlighted how many women from across the city had approached her and are not feeling safe. The advice from the authorities have also sought to blame women, including the abhorrent words of the former Conservative Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire.
York’s MP set out that women were determined to change things and ensure that women and girls were safe at home, at school or work, on-line and on our streets, recognising that everyday women face harassment and misogyny and tragically for some, violence or death.
In putting her question to the Prime Minister, she was clear that she wanted to end the culture where men tell women what they have to do, but women lead the change, and men and boys learn to respect women.
Rachael Maskell, opened her question by paying tribute to the MPs who had tragically died since Parliament last met, offering heartfelt prayers and love to their families, and calling for a new kind of politics built out of “Kindness and Love”.
The exchange is as follows:
Rachael Maskell MP:
“David Amess, James Brokenshire – both tragically taken in different ways. Both served their constituents and in this place with integrity.
As we offer our heartfelt love and prayers to their families; they have offered us a path to a new kind of politics built out of Kindness and Love.
Sarah Everard and Claudia Lawrence were both from York
And right now many women are feeling unsafe; are unsafe
The very people who should be protecting us, are saying we are to engage with potential perpetrators, flag down a bus or know the laws of arrest, to protect us.
Confidence in our police has been broken.
But as women we are confident and determined to change this – so every girl and every woman can live at home without fear, can go to work or school without harassment, can go online without being objectified and can walk our streets safely again.
So what steps will the Prime Minister take to ensure that women with lived experience lead this work and by when.”
“I thank her very much for her question and she raises a most important issue, Mr Speaker. One of the most important that this country faces and I want all people in this country, particularly women to feel confidence in our Police Force and I believe they can and that they should and what we are doing now to make sure that women, in particular, feel safe at night is we’re investing in safer streets, in better street lighting, in more CCTV.
But what we also have to do, Mr Speaker and I think the whole House understands is ensure we deal with the systemic problems in the Criminal Justice System to ensure that men, and I am afraid it is nearly always men get prosecuted for rape and for crimes of serious sexual domestic violence in the way they should and that we secure the convictions that we should, Mr Speaker and when we secure those convictions those individuals get the tough sentencing that they deserve Mr Speaker and that’s what this side of the House believes in.”
Afterwards Rachael Maskell MP commented:
“I was very disappointed with the response. I hoped the Prime Minister would listen and accept that women need to play a leading role in determining their safety. Instead he prescribed a solution of more street lighting and CCTV. He turned to his Conservative colleagues and talked about stronger sentencing for those convicted. But this should not be about Party Politics this is about women’s safety. He should be talking with women’ s groups and experts who understand the issues. It is not enough to talk about increasing sentencing for people convicted of violence and rape when last year rape charges rose by almost five per cent and yet there were 330 fewer convictions than the previous year.”