MP Sara Britcliffe has made history by being the first member of parliament to deliver a virtual maiden speech during a debate on tackling domestic abuse.

Miss Britcliffe was elected in the general election of December and customarily would expect to make her debut in person in the House of Commons.

However, the coronavirus lockdown has forced most MPs to conduct business from home, with the newly elected member for Hyndburn delivering her speech via Zoom during a debate on the 2020 Domestic Abuse Bill.

During her speech Miss Britcliffe said: “My virtual speech today is a first, but it won’t be the last norm that is challenged.

“We can also learn from how we have all utilised technology in this period to run even better and more efficient public services in the future, as well as remembering that the challenges people face can’t only be dealt with online.

“People need the sense of familiarity and humanity that shared space and face-to-face contact affords.”

The bill aims to raise awareness and understanding about the impact of domestic abuse on victims and their families as well as improving the effectiveness of the justice system in providing protection for victims of domestic abuse and bringing perpetrators to justice.

It also aims to strengthen the support for victims of abuse by statutory agencies.

The coronavirus crisis has given renewed impetus to tackle this issue as the rate of abuse has risen and professionals work to ensure that people in danger are protected and that safeguarding measures remain in place despite lockdown regulations.

It also comes as 78% of survivors say that the lockdown has made it harder to leave their abuser.

Ms Britcliffe said: “Organisations like Hyndburn and Ribble Valley domestic violence team in my consistency are working tirelessly to respond to this.

“We now more than ever, have to do right by those they help in such distressing and potentially life-threatening situations which is why I whole-heartedly support this bill.”

Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph after the debate, Miss Britcliffe said: “It was something that I needed to do because I needed to speak up for my constituents.

“I just feel that now more than ever when there will be so many people suffering it’s very important for me to represent my community.”

The bill has, however, come under criticism from opposition parties and from charity Women’s Aid for what they say is a lack of scope.

In a statement the charity said: “We are pleased the government has listened to our calls for a wider ban on cross-examination to protect all survivors who face this traumatising practice in the court system, but there remains a long way to go before the family courts will be truly safe for women and children.

“The bill does nothing to support migrant women experiencing domestic abuse.

“We do not need further government reviews; we need action to ensure migrant women can safely report to the police and other agencies and access support services.

“Until we have a bill that protects every woman and child, regardless of their immigration status, we will continue to see migrant women and children left with the impossible choice of returning to their perpetrator or sleeping rough.”