Harriet Harman

Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham. Mother of the House of Commons

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On 1st August 23 year old Siddique Kamara was stabbed to death just yards from his home on the Brandon Estate. His family are devastated.  And this is the second murder in the same street within the last 3 months.  Rhyhiem Barton, aged only 17 years, was shot dead there on 5th May.

The Police have worked quickly to arrest and charge a man with Siddique’s murder and it is vital that anyone who has any information that can help the police with either crime should come forward. If you do not want to contact them directly you can pass information entirely anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.   

The local community are, justifiably, shocked at this second killing.  As I did after Rhyhiem’s death, the day after Siddique’s murder I held a meeting on the Brandon Estate, attended by Southwark Council Leader, Peter John, local councillors for Camberwell Green and Newington, senior members of Southwark Police, the hardworking Brandon Estate tenants' representatives Joy Allan-Baker, June Lewis and Eileen Piper and local residents.   

At both meetings the same concerns were raised.  With the recent killings, parents are worried about having to leave their children and go to work when schools are on summer holidays.  Holiday play schemes are either full or too expensive.  So it was important that Peter John immediately pledged £10,000 from Southwark Council to support the summer youth programme in Rachel Leigh Hall.  They need to be able to pay youth workers and pay for extra sports activities and with the extra funds they can now do that. This isn’t just a problem on the Brandon.  Across all estates there’s a lack of facilities for young people.  It’s bad enough after school and at weekends, but it becomes even more of an issue during the long schools summer holiday.  With all the government cuts, there just isn’t enough money to provide the services that are so badly needed to keep the children of working parents safe and happy when school’s out.

The community also raised concerns about the lack of CCTV particularly around the low-rise homes where the elderly live. I am supporting their application for CCTV and the Council are acting on it, including lopping some of the trees which provide shady spots where criminals can lurk and where they would not be able to be seen by CCTV.   

In both meetings the community and the families have highlighted the role of social media in gang violence.  They believe that the internet is being used both to plan and to incite violence and they’re calling for action.  

Everyone agrees that the internet is crucial for exchanging ideas and sharing art forms. But the local community believe that much of the drill music and videos cross over a line and are used for criminal purposes.

Siddique Kamara was himself a drill rapper, under the name of 'Incognito'. In an interview earlier this year, he spoke about its effect on crime in London - "You see with the crime that's happening right now, music does influence it. You've got to put your hands up and say drill music does influence it." 

The lyrics often glorify gang warfare and include threats against rival gangs or individuals. For example in one track on YouTube, Moscow17 tell rival gang Zone 2 to "check the scoreboard". Another video asks "how you gonna make it even?" Zone 2 then posted a song in response telling their rivals that they would “roll up and burst them”.

I’ve called on Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee to conduct an inquiry into whether the police have enough resources to deal with surveillance of the use of drill music for crime, whether internet providers are quick enough in responding to requests to take down material which is inciting crime and whether more powers are needed to stop the internet being used for gang crime. I’m also liaising with the Youth Violence Commission and am a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime.

Government cuts both to police budgets and youth services are having a significant effect on the rise of youth violence. Southwark alone has lost a quarter of its police officers since 2010. My Labour colleagues and I are intensifying our demands to government to increase officers on the beat and to restore police and youth service funding. It is time the Government stepped up to treat this crisis with the urgency required to help stop any more young lives being lost to violence and prevent other families and communities going through this heartbreak.  

 

Southwark News Column - Government must tackle rising youth violence with urgency required

On 1st August 23 year old Siddique Kamara was stabbed to death just yards from his home on the Brandon Estate. His family are devastated.  And this is the second murder...

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As we mark the NHS turning 70 this month it’s impossible to look back and overstate just how much its creation by the then Labour government meant to people’s lives in Britain in 1948, and still means today.

Before its introduction only people who earned enough could see a doctor or get treatment. For the first time in 1948 the NHS meant people who couldn’t afford to take their sick children or elderly relatives to the GP suddenly found that they could get the treatment they needed and women who hadn’t been able to afford to have their babies in hospital safely could now do so.

70 years on the NHS has grown to 1 million dedicated and compassionate staff, it is a beacon of equality around the world and remains our most cherished national institution. The NHS represents that sense that we all have a duty to each other, we pay in collectively and it is there for us whenever we need it. 

But after 8 years of Tory government all around us now we see the effect of the cuts. For example at King’s College Hospital, which is a fantastic and important hospital for people locally, A & E waiting times are missed, cancer treatment targets are missed, there’s been an increase in cancelled operations, and the chair, Sir Bob Kerslake, resigned in December because he said it was impossible to cut the amount government are asking them to cut without affecting patient care.

We see cuts at the Maudsley Hospital pushing down the pay and conditions of those contracted to work there and large numbers of vacancies in nursing staff. Particularly worrying is that when I visited psychiatrists at the hospital they told me that when they have someone who is psychotic and paranoid who needs to be sectioned because they’re at risk to themselves or others in the community, cuts to policing mean there are a shortage of police to go with doctors to safely take the person to the Maudsley and sometimes they have to wait weeks before they get the treatment they so desperately need. During that time that person and their family suffer terribly and sometimes are at risk of violence. The Maudsley team only decide to section someone if they have tried everything else and that person is in crisis.  They can’t wait. I have written to the Minister to demand that she tackle these unacceptable delays and am liaising with the police as well. 

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, claims the Government is spending more than ever on the NHS. But in reality they have cut £20 billion since 2010 and spend 3% less a year than was spent by the last Labour government. When Labour got back into Government in 1997 we made one of our key 5 pledges cutting waiting times and we trebled investment in the NHS. Soon waiting times were coming down and people were no longer coming to my advice surgery asking for help with cancelled operations or unable to get on a GP’s list. More was invested in community services, mental health and GP practices, crumbling hospitals were rebuilt and staffing was massively increased.

That’s why there’s such a need for Labour to get back into government. To not only protect, but advance the NHS.

The 70th anniversary of the NHS is a time to reflect and recognise that, though healthcare has completely changed, the principles at its foundation are as important as ever. I have made the NHS my constituency priority for 2018 and am working with Labour Southwark MPs Helen Hayes and Neil Coyle and Southwark Council to use this anniversary year to intensify our support for our local NHS and our demands to the Government to give the NHS the money it needs.

Southwark News Column: NHS at 70

As we mark the NHS turning 70 this month it’s impossible to look back and overstate just how much its creation by the then Labour government meant to people’s lives...

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Monthly report - June/July 2018


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