PMQs: Cameron blasts sexist Tweets, but will he protect women’s refuges?

Jess Phillips begs prime minister for a change of heart


When David Cameron was asked at today’s PMQs about sexist online abuse of the BBC’s Laura Kuennsberg, he knew exactly where he stood:

‘Well, we must be able to speak freely, and we must be able to have a robust, lively democracy, but some of the things people say on Twitter, knowing that they are in some way anonymous, are frankly appalling and people should be ashamed of the sort of sexism bullying that often takes place.’

The answer was in stark contrast to his reply to Labour’s Jess Phillips, who earlier asked about exempting women’s refuges from the changes to housing benefits outlined in the autumn spending review:

‘Already in 2016 at least 46 women have been murdered in the UK. This number would be much higher if it wasn’t for specialised refuges.

I am standing to beg the prime minister to exempt refuge accommodation from the changes to housing benefit beyond 2017. This would certainly close service.

I don’t want a stock answer about the £40 million over the next four years.

He knows and I know that won’t stop refuges shutting.

Will he exempt refuges? Will he choose to save lives? Please?’

David Cameron’s reply was rather meek, saying only:

‘The honourable lady raises an important point, and that’s why we delayed introduction of this change, so we could look at all of the possible consequences and make sure we get it right, so that we help vulnerable people’.

What happened to being ‘ashamed about sexism’?

Most women’s refuges are funded by residents’ housing benefits, at the shared accommodation rate, cuts to which have been announced. There has been some speculation that Cameron’s answer could presage a government u-turn on the policy, which Philips and other Labour MPs are lobbying for.

Either way, it would be nice if the prime minister’s actions on sexism and women’s rights matched his rhetoric.


This article has been amended to reflect that the cuts to housing benefits were not introduced through the Housing Bill, as previously stated.

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