Parliament has seen a series of debates, questions and select committee evidence sessions on subjects ranging from children’s services and council finances, to buses and violent crime.
Alongside this, the LGA presented at a range of events, including a film screening and panel discussion for MPs on the subject of eradicating female genital mutilation (FGM).
Cllr Anita Lower, Deputy Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, and Leethen Bartholomew, the Head of the National FGM Centre, participated in a panel discussion on how to eradicate FGM in the UK.
The discussion formed part of an event held in Parliament during Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week hosted by Sarah Champion, the MP for Rotherham. The campaigners and parliamentarians who attended were also shown one of the new BBC Storyfile documentaries on tackling FGM in Tanzania, titled ‘Defying the cutting season’, which is due to have been broadcast just before first went to press.
This event and the invitation to participate in the panel came as a result of our increased engagement with Parliament on the work of the National FGM Centre. In light of recent confirmation from government that there are no further plans to fund the centre’s work beyond 2020, this engagement work is becoming increasingly important.
In the discussion on 7 February, Cllr Lower emphasised the uniqueness of the centre and the challenge that it currently faces regarding funding.
Addressing a room full of anti-FGM campaigners, Cllr Lower said the recent first conviction for FGM in the UK was a “wake-up call for many that this crime is happening here and now in the UK… Sustainable funding is needed to safeguard children from this practice”.
Much of the discussion in the ensuing debate focused on achieving a cultural shift in mindset towards the practice of FGM. There was consensus in the room that the work of the National FGM Centre, the health service and local partners will have a key role to play in delivering this.
The following week, LGA Vice-President Wera Hobhouse MP (Lib Dem, Bath), tabled an Urgent Question about the need for legislation to tackle the problem. During the debate, Ms Hobhouse argued that “we need greater protection for girls at risk of female genital mutilation”.
Responding to the debate, Lucy Frazer MP, Minister for Justice, confirmed that an amendment to the Children Act 2004 to improve the powers of the courts to protect children will be brought forward in government time.