Robert's Weekly Swindon Advertiser Article - 7th October 2015

I’m delighted to be back in Manchester this week for the annual Conservative Party Conference alongside members, the press, and the public to hear about the Government’s ideas, policies and plans for the year ahead. This year, the conference is taking place at the Manchester Central and the Midland Hotel.

There’s already been lots of important announcements, particularly during the Chancellor’s speech on Monday. Mr Osborne has announced plans to revitalise Britain’s high streets by allowing councils to set their own business rates and keep all the money they raise. In what the Chancellor described as “the biggest transfer of power to our local government in living memory”, Mr Osborne said that all the income generated from business rates will be kept by councils.

As ever, I’ll be busy making speeches and attending debates and meetings with lots of different charities and organisations, as well as various fringe events.  

On Monday, I attended a discussion about a very serious issue in the UK: female genital mutilation (FGM). In particular, I’ll be discussing the legal aspects of FGM and why it is difficult to prosecute FGM cases and whether prosecution is a deterrent.

There is no justification for FGM; it is child abuse and it is illegal. Working as a Law Officer in Government, I am absolutely committed to ending this extremely harmful act of violence.

Ministers across Government understand better than ever before the prevalence and distribution of what is often a hidden crime, and I am encouraged that the Government is determined to see perpetrators brought to account in court. 

As Solicitor-General, I was actively involved in the formation of the Serious Crime Bill, which received Royal Assent on the 3rd March 2015. The Act contains clauses specifically related to FGM, and I will continue to work to ensure these new regulations are rigidly enforced.  

We believe that, together with the Government’s wider work to tackle FGM and alongside the introduction of statutory multi-agency guidelines on FGM, the new mandatory reporting duty will allow those changes to happen.

I am also a member of the inter-ministerial group VAWG, Violence Against Women and Girls, which played a key role at the first ‘Girl Summit’ in July last year, aimed at mobilising domestic and international efforts to end female genital mutilation (FGM) and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) within a generation. The EU-wide event was hosted by the Prime Minister and UNICEF, and launched a global movement against FGM and CEFM, with over 180 commitments from a range of governments and civil society actors worldwide towards ending the practices, and over 490 pledges for the ‘Girl Summit Charter’. 

In the past year there has been huge progress. Action taken by the UK Government, survivors, voluntary sector partners, and frontline professionals has put preventing and tackling FGM and CEFM firmly on the national agenda. The UK has taken bold action to meet the commitments made at the Summit, including work to safeguard children from harm, strengthen the law, improve the law enforcement response, support frontline professionals, and work with communities. 

Things are changing. Women and girls are increasingly speaking out, and more and more people are saying no these practices. Across the UK Government we seek to build on this momentum and continue to do all we can to protect girls and women and to end FGM and CEFM in our country within a generation. 

On the 10th October I shall be hosting another advice surgery at my constituency office on Wood Street. If you would like to arrange a meeting with me, please do not hesitate to get in touch via email (robert.buckland.mp@parliament.uk) or telephone (01793 533393). 

The Swindon half-marathon is now less than a week away, but it’s still not too late to donate. To everyone has already donated to my ‘JustGiving’ pages, my sincere thanks. It’s quick and easy to make a donation, and all of your money goes directly to the charities.

Please follow the links below for my ‘JustGiving’ pages, which also contain more information about the charities and the work that they do.

The CALM Trust: https://www.justgiving.com/SouthSwindonStrollersCalm/

Hop, Skip and Jump: https://www.justgiving.com/SouthSwindonStrollersHopSkipandJump/

Thank you for your support.