Opposition parties in the Assembly will today vote in favour of the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill after the Welsh Government gave assurances that provisions to provide a whole-scale change in the culture of schools to educate children and young people about tolerance, respect, equality and healthy relationships would be included in statutory guidance.
Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives had argued that without a guarantee from the Minister that the Bill would be accompanied by educational provisions, it would be unable to deliver meaningful change and it would have to be voted down.
Jocelyn Davies AM, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for women and children, said:
"Plaid Cymru wants to see an effective Bill that can bring about real change to end violence and abuse in our communities.
"The changes won will improve the Bill dramatically. These concessions would not have been achieved without Plaid Cymru, and the other opposition parties, taking a stand to force the Government’s hand. By demanding better from the Welsh Government, we have delivered a Bill that will make a real difference.
"After admitting in chamber last week that there is currently no requirement for healthy relationships education, I’m pleased that the Minister has listened and has acknowledged that teaching young people about healthy relationships is a vital part of protecting them from abuse. However the question remains that if he acknowledges that this is so important, why has the Minister chosen to leave it off the face of the Bill?"
For the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Peter Black added: "I am pleased that all the opposition parties have been able to work together to get significant improvements to this bill. In my amendment last week I argued that the Government needed to ensure that all schools mainstreamed healthy relationship teaching by ensuring that there are Governor and Teacher champions to drive forward this agenda. I was disappointed when the Minister rejected this amendment.
"However, following significant pressure he has now relented and given us detailed assurances about how this will be delivered once the bill becomes law. I am still concerned that the Welsh Government have not put this as a statutory requirement on the face of the bill, but I am now satisfied that the legislation is much more fit for purpose and will bring about real change in attitudes through the education system."
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Local Government, Janet Finch-Saunders AM said:
"Welsh Conservatives are committed to ending domestic violence and sexual abuse and we do not want to compromise the important measures in this Bill because of the Labour Minister’s intransigence in certain areas. Violence and aggression are best dealt with at a young age so we remain disappointed that the Labour Minister has not included in the Bill a requirement for healthy relationships education in schools. However, following the Minister’s provision of detailed assurances that what opposition parties have called for will be implemented we are content to support the Bill.
"The Minister’s concessions are an example of what can be achieved when political parties put their differences aside and work for the best deal for the people of Wales."