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Theresa May urges MPs to back Whiteford bill and stamp out violence against women

MP Eilidh Whiteford is concerned about the auction
MP Eilidh Whiteford is concerned about the auction

Theresa May has urged her backbenchers to support a north-east MP’s fight to help stamp out violence against women.

The prime minister appealed to Conservatives not to block Eilidh Whiteford’s private member’s bill tomorrow.

If passed, the legislation will provide the UK Government with a vehicle for ratifying the Istanbul Convention.

This is the Council of Europe agreement, signed in 2012, on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. The UK played a prominent role in developing it, but the process subsequently stalled.

SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson challenged Mrs May to “discourage any attempt to use parliamentary wrecking tactics to stop it” at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday.

During the second reading stage, Tory MP Philip Davies was accused of trying to kill off the bill with a 77-minute speech, in which he argued it was sexist to say the focus should only be on violence against women.

He has previously campaigned for parliament to recognise International Men’s Day and criticised “militant feminists”.

But the prime minister insisted yesterday that her government was “fully committed” to ratifying the convention and that she was “very happy” to join Mr Robertson in encouraging MPs to back the legislation.

She added: “The government has tabled some mutually agreed amendments which the government will be voting for this Friday.

“And I hope that all honourable friends who will be here on Friday will be supporting those measures.

“This is an important bill, the government has been supporting it and I hope it will see support across all parts of this House.”

Mrs May described the issue as close to her heart and one she takes “particularly seriously”.

It was announced last week that she will directly oversee the creation of new laws to deal with domestic abuse in England and Wales.

Ms Whiteford, who represents Banff and Buchan, welcomed Mrs May’s support.

But she added: “I hope that a number of amendments to the bill that have the sole purpose to enable filibustering are withdrawn ahead of the debate.

“The Istanbul Convention is the most far reaching piece of violence against women legislation that has ever been developed. Yet the UK has been waiting over four and a half years to ratify.

“We have now seen that this bill has given impetus and urgency to the ratification process.”

Earlier this week, actress Emma Watson threw her support behind the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill.

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