Amber Rudd is laughing. Which is a surprise, as it’s in response to how she reacted when she first heard Jacob Rees- Mogg’s views on abortion. ‘Listen, he does represent a certain view of some men and women,’ she says. ‘It’s just not my view or the view held by most people at the top, I don’t believe.’ For the uninitiated, Rees-Mogg, bookies’ favourite to be the next Conservative Prime Minister, said he thought it was ‘wrong’ for women to terminate a pregnancy, even after rape.
Isn’t Amber worried Rees-Mogg’s hardline views will be detrimental to a party trying to look progressive? ‘The party is made up of people with different views,’ she replies. ‘He’s a voice people do sometimes listen to, but he is nevertheless a backbench MP. No, it doesn’t worry me.’ It’s 8.55am and we’re in the Home Office, where Amber is already on to her second meeting of the day. She’s exclusively revealing to Grazia the details of a domestic abuse consultation that she’s launching on International Women’s Day. The Government wants to appoint a Domestic Abuse Commissioner, and give victims the same status in court as those who have suffered modern slavery or sex offences, such as giving evidence behind a screen or via video link. They also want to redefine the definition of domestic abuse in law to recognise harmful patterns of behaviour beyond violence, create a consolidated domestic abuse prevention and protection order regime, and make £20m in funding available to increase support.
This seems to jar with the Government’s October announcement that they would remove refuges and other short-term supported housing from the welfare system, meaning vulnerable women will be unable to pay for placements using housing benefit. Housing benefit is the last guaranteed source of income available to refuges and makes up about 50% of their revenue. Women’s Aid estimates this will lead to 39% of refuges having to close and another 13% having to reduce their number of beds.
‘There are no plans to reduce the number of beds available to women needing to have the refuge provided to them,’ she says. ‘I’ve had a number of meetings with the leading providers, Women’s Aid, Refuge and other stakeholders in the area, and I’ve reassured them that we are completely committed to making sure that there’s no reduction in the number of beds. We are looking at whether there is a better way of financing all sheltered housing, not just for women getting away from domestic abuse. The whole thing is being reviewed...’ She added, The important thing is that we get the right outcomes, which is making sure there are the same or larger number of beds available to women.’
After entering Parliament in 2010 as MP for Hastings and Rye, Amber shot up the ranks and was made Home Secretary after only six years. She added Minister for Women and Equalities to her portfolio in January 2018. Has she got her eye on the leadership prize? ‘It’s something I give very little thought to,’ she says. ‘Because Home Secretary is a pretty big job and now I have Women and Equalities too, there’s quite enough going on with my actual job.’
If anything keeps her awake at night, it’s not Brexit. She thinks Prime Minister Theresa May is doing ‘a very good job’ and is thankful to be left to her own devices. ‘Just as importantly perhaps, [is] allowing those of us who have really important domestic agendas like I do, to get on with not being consumed by Brexit, and getting on with doing our own things – which really impact on people’s lives.’