The West Country Debate March: How is the Government protecting women?

  • Watch the March edition of The West Country Debate in full

Few things have knocked coronavirus and Brexit from the front pages in the past year, but the tragic death of a woman who was walking home in London has re-centred the national conversation.

33-year-old Sarah Everard went missing walking between Clapham and Brixton and was later found dead in Kent.

The 33-year-old's death has sparked a national movement, calling for more to be done to keep women safe.

The circumstances around Ms Everard's death have sparked a renewed awareness, both in public and in parliament, about the dangers faced by women and girls in the UK.

Labour's Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy shared the shocking assault she experienced in the city as a teenager, while East Devon Conservative MP Simon Jupp agreed a change in the law has been a long time coming.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which passed this week hopes to see more court hearings for cases of sexual assault and rape, and higher sentences for perpetrators - though it has been shrouded in controversy over protesting restrictions and higher sentences for damaging statues.

Justice Secretary and South Swindon MP Robert Buckland says the bill will bring more justice for victims and create more opportunity for the prevention of violent crime.

Also up for discussion on the programme is the landmark review into defence spending which has sparked concern for the future of Plymouth-based frigates, HMS Montrose and HMS Monmouth.

The Ministry of Defence says all talk of losing bases and staff is "speculation at this stage".

Simon Jupp says the Government will confirm any changes on Monday and speculation beforehand is 'dangerous', while Kerry McCarthy says people have a right to be concerned about the future of the frigates.

And it has been a year since the first lockdown of the pandemic, the Government's roadmap has this month put our pupils back in classrooms and limited outdoor socialising back in the calendar.

The Director of Public Health for South Gloucestershire says that although there is a delicate balance we need to keep there is "light at the end of the tunnel".

The milestone of 2.5 million adults vaccinated in the South West provided cause for cautious celebration, however Matt Hancock's 'lumpy' supply chain means those under 50 may need to wait longer than they'd like for their first jab.

The Health Secretary described the consistency of vaccine supplies as "lumpy". Credit: PA

Kerry McCarthy says it is 'disappointing' that the vaccine rollout has hit a bump in the road, while Simon Jupp insists the programme will still meet the initial target of vaccinating all adults by the end of July.

The Labour MP has also made clear that it is the opposition's opinion that a public inquiry into the Government's response to the pandemic is "essential" - while the member for East Devon representing the Government argues now is "not the time".