Harriet Harman

Labour Member of Parliament for Camberwell & Peckham

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I asked Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP (Attorney General) about the Governments position on the UK's membership of the European Convention on Human Rights:

Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP

The more the Attorney General and the Justice Secretary say that they have not ruled out the UK leaving the European convention on human rights, the more it sounds to me like exactly the direction of travel they intend to take, and I find that chilling. The Attorney General cited the proud tradition of this country in establishing this international system of guaranteeing human rights here and abroad, yet it is that very proud tradition that he appears to be about to kick into the gutter. Does he recognise that we cannot both be a signatory to the European convention and reject the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights? It is not just about having these substantive rights and paying lip service to them; it is about accepting the jurisdiction of the international court to enforce those rights. Does he recognise that every Government in this country needs to have that restraint? All Governments are tempted to abuse their power, and this international system is an important guarantee. Does he recognise, as Conservative Members have said, how important it is for those who are struggling for human rights in other countries to be part of a system that we play a part in guaranteeing? I hope that enough Members in this House and the other place will share that view, so that, if the Government drift towards a position of trying to leave the European convention, this Parliament will stop them.

Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP - Attorney General

I will start at the end of what the right hon. and learned Lady has said. She is quite right to say that the example that we set to other countries is something that should occupy our minds. Again, I make the point that the example we set comes from our actions—from what we do—and I do not think that there is any prospect of this Government or any other likely British Government moving away from a clear wish to protect human rights in this country and abroad. I have set out some of the ways in which the Government have done that.

I think that the right hon. and learned Lady attaches too much significance to the convention and the Human Rights Act. I understand why those who were in office in the Labour Government that introduced that Act feel very attached to it. She must also recognise that that Act and what it attempted to do—no doubt from the best of motives—have been tarnished by a number of cases that followed, which have led many of our constituents to believe that “human rights” is a term to be deprecated, not a term to be supported and celebrated. I am sure that she and I agree that we need to get back to a place where all our citizens are keen to support human rights and their protection.

My final point is this. In terms of restraint and what we are prevented from doing, as the right hon. and learned Lady would put it, by our membership of the convention on human rights, I am surprised that a former Law Officer overlooks the role of our own courts, which are robust in the way in which they hold Government to account and restrict the freedom of manoeuvre of Ministers—quite rightly so. I do not believe that we need to rely solely on the exercises of foreign jurisdictions to restrict our Government appropriately.

 

You can watch my question to the Minister and his answer here.

Urgent Question to the Attorney General on membership of the ECHR

I asked Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP (Attorney General) about the Governments position on the UK's membership of the European Convention on Human Rights: Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC...

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Many people say that prostitution - men paying for sex with women - has always been with us and always will be.  But I don't agree with that view.  Prostitution is bad for women, men and neighbourhoods and there is something we can and should do about it.

There are a number of contested propositions about prostitution.  Some argue that it is a choice women make and that they should be allowed to make that choice.  They say that just because I don't want to be a prostitute I shouldn't interfere with their choice, their right to sell their body for sex.  I think there are only a very small number of women for whom prostitution is genuinely a free, positive, strong choice.  Most women find themselves in prostitution because of mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction.  Many have had troubled or abused childhoods or have been brought up in the care system.  Many have been tricked into prostitution by human traffickers who have brought them from abroad and then forced them into the sex trade.  These women need protecting and help to lead a better, safer life. If that means interfering with the "right" of the very few women who choose to sell sex or the "right" of men to buy sex, then so be it.

Some argue that prostitutes are "sex workers" and that their "job" should be protected not eliminated.  But prostitution is not the sort of "work" that anyone would like to admit their mother does.  Who wants their daughter to grow up to be a prostitute? - No-one.  Surely we have higher ambitions for women than that they should sell their body for sex.

Some say that I should listen to the voice of organisations like "The English Collective of Prostitutes".  I have, and I don't agree with them because I have also listened to the voices of women who were victims of trafficking whose cases I dealt with when I was Solicitor General in charge of the Crown Prosecution Service.

Some say that it's a way for a woman to earn a lot of money.  Most money in prostitution doesn't go to the women but to pimps and criminal gangs.  

Some say that it's not just about women, there are male prostitutes too.  I think the arguments about protection of women apply in the same way to men who fall into prostitution.

What about a man's "right" to pay for sex, especially if he couldn't get sex anywhere else?  His right to pay does not justify his exploitation of women.  Some say "but if men can't pay for sex they'll resort to rape instead".  Men do not have a "right to sex" and if they commit rape they should be put in prison.

Some say that if you make it a criminal offence to pay for sex you will drive it underground and make women even more dangerous for women.

I think we should follow the example of the Nordic countries where the woman prostitute is treated as a victim and helped and men paying for sex are guilty of a criminal offence.  We should tackle the criminal gangs who deal in guns, drugs and women's bodies.  And I think we should ban the small ads in local newspapers which are advertising prostitution.

Southwark News Article - Prostitution

  Many people say that prostitution - men paying for sex with women - has always been with us and always will be.  But I don't agree with that view. ...

The proposed closure of ticket offices at Denmark Hill, Peckham Rye and Queens Road will hit local people who already get a raw deal on public transport. Passenger numbers are going up but not the frequency of train services.

Ticket offices provide reassurance to passengers and provide more services than those offered at a ticket machine. At a ticket office, passengers have access to a wider range of tickets both in terms of price and in terms of the type of ticket they are buying. Passengers, especially those who are vulnerable or disabled, feel reassured by a ticket office. Govia Thameslink must put passengers first.

In her letter today to Govia Thameslink CEO Charles Horton, Harriet Harman MP demanded answers:

Ticket offices provide a range of services to many of my constituents. Denmark Hill station services passengers from nearby hospitals, Kings College and Maudsley. Ticket offices provide reassurance to all passengers but especially those who are vulnerable and may struggle to use ticket machines due to mobility or sight issues.

I am very concerned that the above ticket offices are set to close in June of this year and would be grateful if you could answer the below questions:

  1. How many customer contacts does each of the ticket offices have each day
  2. If the ticket offices close, will the ticket machines on the platform be upgraded so passengers can purchase monthly, quarterly and yearly travel cards?
  3. If the ticket offices close, will more ticket machines be installed to prevent long waits?
  4. What provisions will be made for passengers with a disability who struggle to use ticket machines?

'Put passengers first' demands Harriet Harman MP

The proposed closure of ticket offices at Denmark Hill, Peckham Rye and Queens Road will hit local people who already get a raw deal on public transport. Passenger numbers are...


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