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MPs back bid to tackle violence against women despite Tory 'filibuster attempt'

Proposals aiming to help end violence against women have cleared their first Commons hurdle, despite a Conservative MP opposing the move during a 77-minute speech.

Philip Davies (Shipley), who has campaigned for Parliament to recognise International Men's Day and previously criticised "militant feminists", w as accused of attempting to "filibuster" the SNP-sponsored draft law requiring the Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention.

He argued that it is "sexist" to say the focus should only be on violence against women, adding that he stands for "true equality" where all people are treated equally.

Mr Davies also said the SNP's Eilidh Whiteford had brought forward a Bill with a "worthy sentiment", adding that "morons on Twitter" would probably misinterpret opposition to it.

He was heckled by Labour MPs for the length of his speech, with Tory colleagues also questioning why he would not back the Bill.

After Mr Davies had finished, Labour's Thangam Debbonaire told the Commons: "That is 78 minutes that I believe I'm never going to get back."

But the SNP successfully moved a motion to curtail the debate before MPs gave the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill a second reading by 135 votes to two, majority 133.

Conservative MPs David Nuttall (Bury North) and Philip Hollobone (Kettering) voted against the Bill, with Mr Davies and Tory former minister Christopher Chope acting as tellers for the noes.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire was among the supporters of the Bill, with a total of 38 Conservatives voting in favour.

They were joined by 48 Labour MPs, including leader Jeremy Corbyn, 42 SNP MPs, three SDLP, two independents, Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney (Richmond Park) and Plaid Cymru's Liz Saville Roberts (Dwyfor Meirionnydd).

The Bill will now progress to committee stage and faces a race against time to become law before the end of the parliamentary session.

It would require the Government to take all reasonable steps to make the UK compliant with the convention and require ministers to set out a timetable for ratification.

The Istanbul Convention was adopted by the Council of Europe in 2011, and while the UK has signed the convention it has not yet ratified it.

The Government has said it intends to ratify the convention, but has faced growing criticism for the fact that it has yet to do so.

Mr Davies has developed a reputation for speaking at length against Private Members' Bills he disapproves of.

Some MPs believe they have a duty to oppose laws they view as poorly drafted even if they recognise the intention of them is worthy.

Opposition MPs and some Tories feared Mr Davies, who was recently selected to serve on the Commons Women and Equalities Committee, would contribute to the Bill's demise by his latest speech.

He labelled the Bill "pointless and wrong because not all victims are female and not all offenders are male".

Mr Davies said: "We should be bringing forward neutral legislation that seeks to help all victims of crime, men and women, and to punish all offenders, both men and women."

Earlier, the Tory backbencher also said: "I'm not aware of anybody who wants to argue that people should be violent towards women and girls, of course not.

"Because the title of the Bill has about 'combating violence against women' then it presumes as long as you support that premise you must support this particular Bill, and therefore if you oppose this Bill it means you must be in favour, as it follows, of violence against women and children.

"Now that's the kind of level of debate I'd expect from the morons on Twitter but I still live in hope that we might have better quality debate than that in this House, although my experience is it doesn't actually get much better normally."

Mr Davies said he has a "fundamental objection" to the premise that MPs only need to deal with violence against women.

Moving her Bill, Ms Whiteford (Banff and Buchan) said: "The Government needs to take the Istanbul Convention out of the bottom drawer where it has been filed for far too long in a pile marked 'too complicated, too difficult, too low a priority'."

Labour MP Jess Phillips said ratifying the convention would be the "greatest gift" MPs could offer to those people who fear the slightest thing could mean the "monster that lives in their home" erupts on Christmas Day.

For the Government, Home Office Minister Brandon Lewis said amendments are still required to domestic law relating to extra-territorial jurisdiction before the UK can ratify the convention.

He said: "We are absolutely committed to ratifying the convention but before we do that we must ensure that we are fully compliant with it."

However, he said the Government did support the thrust of the Bill.

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