Harriet Harman

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

Current News

 

The Government has no idea what they’re doing and they want to muddle through behind closed doors when actually it would be better for them to face up to the fact that Parliament’s involvement will make a perilous situation better.

It is a fact of life and often in politics that you wish you weren’t starting from where you are and that’s exactly how I feel about Brexit.

Despite the fact that there was a strong remain vote in my constituency and in Southwark, by a small majority the result of the Referendum was to leave. I remain bitterly disappointed that this was the result and I am very much concerned about the future.

In the lead up to the Referendum I knocked on doors in my constituency and all around the country, urging people to vote to stay in the EU. I felt so strongly about it I even went on a Remain campaign bus with the Tory Prime Minister David Cameron (which I never thought I would do!)

Our campaign was branded ‘project fear’ but as it turns out we weren’t exaggerating – the problems we are facing are far worse than even we predicted – labour shortages including in the NHS, food prices going up at a time when people’s wages have stagnated for years, trade being hit yet further when we’re still struggling following the global financial crisis and not to mention the cost of holidays in Europe rising sharply because of the fall in the value of the pound.

Theresa May was supposedly against leaving the EU (though she didn’t do very much for the Remain campaign that I or anyone else noticed) – and now she is leading a calamitous government that is talking about being happy to leave the EU without any deal in place whatsoever.

I and my Labour colleagues are deeply worried about the prospects for protecting jobs, workers’ rights, environmental protections and fairness for EU citizens living and working here who are so important to our NHS, construction industries and universities.

Now the Government want us to vote through a Bill which would give the Government the power to bypass Parliament. Despite all the rhetoric in the Referendum being about “taking back control” – the EU Bill would take power from Brussels, not to give it to our democratically elected House of Commons but to give it to Ministers without any accountability to Parliament. As Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has said this is “an unprecedented Government power grab” and that is why I and my Labour colleagues voted strongly against it.

The Government has no idea what they’re doing and they want to muddle through behind closed doors when actually it would be better for them to face up to the fact that Parliament’s involvement will make a perilous situation better.

This is all unprecedented – no country has left the EU before, no country has ever turned its back on its largest trading bloc.I together with fellow Labour MPs will be looking to protect the country as best we can David Cameron, who called the Referendum, has got a lot to answer for and will because of this probably go down in history as the worst Prime Minister this country has ever had.

Published by Southwark News on 15 September, 2017

 

EU Withdrawal Bill will give Government ‘power to bypass Parliament’

  The Government has no idea what they’re doing and they want to muddle through behind closed doors when actually it would be better for them to face up to...

During Business Questions, the Speaker announced his support for proposals for 'Baby Leave':

"I am bound to say to the Leader of the House, to the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) and to the House as a whole that, as Members can probably tell, my cup runneth over. I am in a state of overwhelming excitement. On a formal level, I should just tell the House that as chair of the Commons reference group on representation and inclusion, of which mention has been made, I can say that we are fully seized of the right hon. and learned Lady’s proposals relating to baby leave. Indeed, we discussed them fully on Tuesday afternoon. We are committed to vigorously pursuing them with a view to an effective motion being brought before the House for its decision."

Speaker Shows Support for 'Baby Leave' Proposal

During Business Questions, the Speaker announced his support for proposals for 'Baby Leave': "I am bound to say to the Leader of the House, to the right hon. and learned...

This morning, in Business Questions, I asked the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, to support my proposals for ‘Baby Leave’ for MPs.

You can find my speech below:

“I ask the Leader of the House to look at yesterday’s Westminster Hall debate on the representation of women. It was led by a truly excellent speech from the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mims Davies), which elicited a wide consensus across the parties. There are more women in the House than ever before, and that is not just welcome; it is a democratic imperative. There are more babies being born to women MPs, which is a fact of life. Since 2010, 17 babies have been born to women Members of this House, and there is no maternity leave or paternity leave.

At the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill debate on Monday, the only way for my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) to record her vote was to bring her lovely new baby—just a few weeks old—to the House, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (James Frith) had to leave his baby, who is just a few hours old. Will the Leader of the House join me in thanking Mr Speaker for setting up a reference group to consider the matter and in supporting his work? We can square the circle to ensure that we can be good parents and excellent MPs and that constituents can be properly represented, but we need change. Mr Speaker, although you arrived in this House as a man and as a Tory, since you have been in the Chair you have really proven yourself to be nothing less than an honorary sister.”

The Leader of the House’s response:

“I thank the right hon. and learned Lady for her point. I absolutely share her passion for resolving such issues. There are many barriers to women entering Parliament and, in the centenary year of women’s suffrage, it is important that we do all we can to help resolve the matter. Many colleagues across the House, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller), the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, are also working hard on these issues. I am sure that “Mr Sister”—otherwise known as Mr Speaker—will be keen to make some progress.”

Question to the Leader of the House on ‘Baby Leave’ for MPs

This morning, in Business Questions, I asked the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, to support my proposals for ‘Baby Leave’ for MPs. You can find my speech...

This afternoon, in a debate on barriers for women in running for parliament, I raised the issue of ‘Baby Leave’ for MPs.

You can find my speech below:

“I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mims Davies) on securing the debate and on everything she said. She told us that she dithered about filling in her application form to be the Member of Parliament for Eastleigh but, my goodness me, since she arrived here she has not dithered at all. I pay tribute to her. It is baffling to me when I hear Conservative women Members of Parliament making a speech that I myself might have made, but I guess that shows that daughters of the women’s movement are in all parts of the House. I warmly appreciate what the hon. Lady said.

The Minister for Women is now a woman; the first Minister for Women was a man, so that is progress. We have a Select Committee, a Women and Equalities Committee, which is ably chaired and pushing things forward. My goodness me, we even have women MPs from Scotland, and that is incredibly important. There used to be only two women MPs in the whole of the north, and I remember complaining to my Labour colleagues, who said, “Women in the north do not want to be MPs”—but oh yes, they did. One of my colleagues even said, “There are no women in the north,” which was obviously not true.

In particular, I support what the hon. Member for Eastleigh said about having baby leave for Members of Parliament; we are not doing women any favours by letting them be in the House of Commons. It is a democratic imperative that our Parliament is representative, which means of women as well as men, and it is a fact of life that women have babies. As she said, 17 babies have been born to women MPs since 2010, and more will be on the way. We set the rules for maternity and paternity leave outside this place, but we have none for ourselves. Although Whips are much more civilised than they used to be—not entirely civilised, but more civilised—what woman or man should be beholden or grateful to the Whip for letting them have time off? We need it to be on the table, transparent and as of right.

Also, the vote of such MPs should be recorded, which is why we should have proxy votes. The constituency is entitled to have its Member voting, even one who has just had a baby. That is why I suggest a system of proxy votes, so that when we go past our wonderful Clerks with their iPad, we give not only our own name but the name of someone on whose behalf we are casting a proxy vote. The constituency will then be represented.

I agree with what the hon. Lady said about IPSA. It is chaired by someone who formerly chaired the Maternity Alliance, and I hope that IPSA will look at maternity cover, so that we can have six months’ leave, as people do in the civil service. That should apply as much to men as women. Nowadays men aspire to be more involved with their children than they did in the past.

I will finish with an anecdote. I remember sitting in a Committee when one of my colleagues jumped up and said, “On a point of order, Mr Chair.” He looked at his pager and said, “My wife’s just had a baby.” Everybody said, “Hear, hear!” and I thought, “Why on earth are you here?” That is not a good example of fatherhood or motherhood. We expect fathers to be involved with their children; women need to be with their babies; babies need to be with their mothers for the early months; and the constituency needs to be represented, but we can square that circle, not least because everyone here supports it and because we have a Speaker who, despite having arrived in the House of Commons as a Tory and still being a man, is an honorary sister on these issues. I hope that this broad-ranging debate will bring about progress, and I thank the hon. Member for Eastleigh for securing it.

I ask the Leader of the House to look at yesterday’s Westminster Hall debate on the representation of women. It was led by a truly excellent speech from the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mims Davies), which elicited a wide consensus across the parties. There are more women in the House than ever before, and that is not just welcome; it is a democratic imperative. There are more babies being born to women MPs, which is a fact of life. Since 2010, 17 babies have been born to women Members of this House, and there is no maternity leave or paternity leave.

At the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill debate on Monday, the only way for my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) to record her vote was to bring her lovely new baby—just a few weeks old—to the House, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (James Frith) had to leave his baby, who is just a few hours old. Will the Leader of the House join me in thanking Mr Speaker for setting up a reference group to consider the matter and in supporting his work? We can square the circle to ensure that we can be good parents and excellent MPs and that constituents can be properly represented, but we need change. Mr Speaker, although you arrived in this House as a man and as a Tory, since you have been in the Chair you have really proven yourself to be nothing less than an honorary sister.”

You can read the full transcript of the debate here

The Speaker has encouraged the Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion to consider my proposals and will bring forward a motion to the House soon. Such necessary reforms will go a long way to making Parliament more representative and inclusive.

Making Parliament Fit for the 21st Century – Westminster Hall Debate

This afternoon, in a debate on barriers for women in running for parliament, I raised the issue of ‘Baby Leave’ for MPs. You can find my speech below: “I warmly...

Today I attended the inaugural session of the APPG on knife crime established by Sarah Jones MP for Croydon Central.

Knife crime is a problem in Southwark, and is getting worse. There were 840 reported incidents in the Borough of Southwark last year, up from 577 for the same March-to-February period in 2015-16.

The APPG aims to give a national platform to those working at a grassroots level and those experiencing the tragic consequences of knife crime. As well as working to find a cross-party consensus on new measures to combat the resurgence in knife crime. A particular focus will be on identifying the underlying causes of blade offences and the reasons why some young people decide to carry a knife.

Inaugural Meeting of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime

Today I attended the inaugural session of the APPG on knife crime established by Sarah Jones MP for Croydon Central. Knife crime is a problem in Southwark, and is getting worse....

This morning, I met with Borough Commander Simon Messinger to discuss the Southwark and Lambeth policing merger and the threatened closure of police front counters. Knife crime, gangs, sexual and domestic violence were also discussed at length.

Meeting with Borough Commander Simon Messinger

This morning, I met with Borough Commander Simon Messinger to discuss the Southwark and Lambeth policing merger and the threatened closure of police front counters. Knife crime, gangs, sexual and...

Today I along with a cross-party group of 157 MPs have written to the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to urge the UK Government to lead the international response to help end the violence against Rohingya Muslims. Full letter:

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Foreign Secretary must pressure Myanmar Govt and provide urgent humanitarian assistance to Rohingya Muslims

Today I along with a cross-party group of 157 MPs have written to the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to urge the UK Government to lead the international response to help end the violence against... Read more

Capture.JPGSpeaking to Labour women from across the North of England today at Newcastle Labour Women’s event on “The importance of women in politics”, Harriet Harman MP will say that the House of Commons must introduce a system of baby leave for MPs.

There are now more women MPs - 208 - and MPs are younger.  So this issue is now pressing. Since 2010, 17 babies have been born to women MPs yet there is no system of leave.

In a paper which she has submitted to The Speaker’s Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion which meets next week, Harman proposes a comprehensive system of leave and cover for women and men MPs who have a baby:

*6 months paid leave.  (Same as the Civil Service)

*That the MP should be able to nominate another MP to cast her vote when she is on leave.

*That the MP should be able to nominate a full time paid “maternity cover” representative for her work outside the Commons.

*And that baby leave should apply to babies born to MP fathers as well as mothers.  

Harriet Harman said: 

“Women have babies - that is a fact of life. Women are in Parliament - that’s a democratic imperative. The baby needs time with the mother, the mother needs time with the baby and the constituency needs to be properly represented at all times. We need a proper system of baby leave to square that circle. It’s long overdue.

“It is not right when we as MPs set the rules for employers that we ourselves remain in a “pre-maternity leave” era. When I was first an MP in 1982 there were only 3% woman MPs and most people thought maternity leave for MPs was irrelevant.   Now there are 208 women MPs - 32%.   And MPs are getting younger.  The reality is you cannot be on call for your constituency or voting when you are in labour.  And you should not have to be on duty when your baby is only a few weeks/months old.  But the constituency must have a representative at all times.  There needs to be a proper system of leave and cover. At the same time as the number of women in parliament has increased, the expectations of fatherhood have changed.  We have long argued that fathers need the opportunity to spend time with their new born baby.  Yet the parliamentary system itself makes no acknowledgement that men MPs are also fathering babies and indeed some male MPs carry on “business as usual” when they have a baby. That is not acceptable and Parliament needs to set a proper example on leave. During my 35 years as MP I’ve had 3 children. 18 months leave for 3 babies during 35 years work doesn’t seem too much to ask.”


ENDS


Notes to Editors:

 

  1. Harriet Harman is “Mother of the House” i.e. the longest continuously serving woman MP having been elected in 1982.
  2. Harriet Harman has submitted the attached paper to the Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion which is chaired by the Speaker and which will be meeting next on Tuesday 12th September.
  3. A system of ‘baby leave’ for MPs could be implemented by decision of the House of Commons.  It would not be an Act of Parliament.  It would be “House Business” and decided on a free vote of all MPs.   (Like, for example when the House of Commons changed the rules to allow “Deferred Divisions” and when the Commons decided to change the sitting hours.) It would not be government business and would not be whipped.  The lead minister would be Leader of the House of Commons - Andrea Leadsom.
  4. In the Northern Region there were very few women MPs but now 14 out of Labour’s 26 MPs are women, including Bridget Phillipson MP and Catherine McKinnell MP, who between them have had 3 babies as sitting MPs.

 

For more information contact Rachel.smethers@parliament.uk / 020 7219 2057

PARLIAMENT MUST INTRODUCE BABY LEAVE FOR MPs

Speaking to Labour women from across the North of England today at Newcastle Labour Women’s event on “The importance of women in politics”, Harriet Harman MP will say that the...

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In 2012 Desreen Brooks was walking in Hampstead with her husband Ben Brooks-Dutton and her 2 year old son Jackson when a driver mounted the pavement and killed her. The driver, aged 82, had mistaken the accelerator for the break and was driving at 54mph in a 20mph zone.

He was convicted of causing Desreen’s death by dangerous driving and in sentencing him the judge said “an elderly driver who knows, or should acknowledge, that he or she is losing his or her faculties is no less a danger than a drunken driver who knows the same.”

Desreen’s widower Ben and son Jackson now live in my constituency and Ben has asked me to take up the issue of making our roads safe from drivers who are unfit to drive through ageing. 

Currently there is no upper age limit for a driving licence. But once you reach the age of 70 you have to fill in a self-assessment form every 3 years in order to renew your licence. This means the responsibility is on the older person themselves to notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of any medical impairment which may affect their driving. If there’s only a gradual change you might not notice it yourself. And some people, even where they are aware of changes, don’t want to face up to them if it means giving up driving.  

With increasing numbers of drivers and a growing number of elderly and very elderly people, this is a road safety issue which must be addressed. According to the DVLA more than 1.2million people over 80 hold a UK driving licence and the number of people aged over 90 holding a driving licence is, for the first time, over 100,000.

I think there’s a simple way to deal with this. Already, when you are over 75 you have a named GP and are entitled to an annual health check. It would be simple and straightforward for anyone over the age of 75 to have to get their GP, at their annual health check, to certify whether they are still fit to drive. And without the annual recertification by the GP – who will have checked their eyesight as well – they would not be able to renew their driving licence.  

For many older people driving is an important way of maintaining independence so we mustn’t prevent people from driving on the basis of their age alone. It’s about their capabilities. 

I have asked the new Chair of Parliament’s Transport Select Committee Lilian Greenwood MP to conduct an inquiry into older drivers and have proposed a requirement for fitness certification of older drivers and I am urging the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP to do the same. 

No one wants to make life harder for older people. And in less than 10 years’ time I will be over 75 myself. But we have to recognise that ageing can impair faculties and we must keep our roads safe. And at the same time we should improve public transport in all areas and cut fares for older people.

Older drivers should have GP health check to certify they are safe to renew licence and drive

In 2012 Desreen Brooks was walking in Hampstead with her husband Ben Brooks-Dutton and her 2 year old son Jackson when a driver mounted the pavement and killed her. The...

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Government must give Southwark Council money to ensure Ledbury residents are safe - my letter to Sec of State

Sierra Leone has been hit by a dreadful mudslide which has left many dead, many injured, homes unsafe, transport and commerce disrupted. There is a vibrant Sierra Leonean community in Camberwell and Peckham and the UK has a longstanding relationship with Sierra Leone. Today I've written to the Secretary of State for International Development, Rt Hon Priti Patel MP to urge the government to do all it can to support Sierra Leone as they rebuild after this tragedy.

Full letter:

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Government must do all it can to help Sierra Leone following dreadful mudslide

Sierra Leone has been hit by a dreadful mudslide which has left many dead, many injured, homes unsafe, transport and commerce disrupted. There is a vibrant Sierra Leonean community in Camberwell and...

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This morning I visited the Ledbury Estate to talk to residents after the council was advised to turn off the gas supply in the four blocks. Along with Cllr Michael Situ, Ledbury Housing Officer Peter Bailey, Ledbury TRA Chair Jeanette Mason and caring council staff, I spoke to residents who are worried sick about what is going to happen. They are facing complete disruption to their lives and everyone is uncertain about whether they'll have to move, where to, for how long and how they'll cope.

It's an awful situation but the council are working hard to ensure that every individual resident is helped. They are sorting temporary accommodation, permanent accommodation and even hotels and compensation for the costs people are facing.

The council are doing their best but it's time the government stepped up and gave Southwark Council the money it needs to ensure the Ledbury costs do not take money away from other important major works projects for tenants in the borough.

I'd like to pay tribute to the work of Jeanette Mason and the Ledbury Tenants Association as well as council staff and local councillors who are all working hard for the local community.

You can read my full statement here.

 

 

Talking to residents on Ledbury Estate

This morning I visited the Ledbury Estate to talk to residents after the council was advised to turn off the gas supply in the four blocks. Along with Cllr Michael Situ, Ledbury...

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For immediate release
Friday 11th August 2017

After talking to worried residents on the Ledbury Estate in her constituency of Camberwell and Peckham this morning local MP Harriet Harman said:

“The residents of the tower blocks on the Ledbury are facing complete disruption to their lives and many of the residents I spoke to this morning are worried sick about what's going to happen.  Ledbury is a settled community where generations live together and help each other.  Elderly residents are looked after by their children and grandchildren, grandparents look after the grandchildren while the parents are out at work.  People work locally and their children are in local schools and everyone is now uncertain about whether they'll have to move, where to, for how long and how they'll cope.  People are taking time off work to deal with their rehousing and losing money.  One woman had planned to go on holiday tomorrow - a treat for her retirement - and now doesn't know whether she should go.

“It is an awful situation but the council are working hard to ensure that every individual resident is helped.  They are sorting temporary accommodation, permanent accommodation and even hotels and compensation for the costs people are facing.

“The council have assured me that they will refurbish the Ledbury Tower blocks and they will continue to be council flats.  They are not going to sell them off. 

“The council are doing their best and it’s time for the government to step up to the plate.  The government has cut Southwark Council’s grant by half in the last 7 years.  They must give them the cash they need to deal with this.  I and the other Southwark MPs Helen Hayes and Neil Coyle have been pressing the government to give the council the money they need.  So far it’s just been evasion and obfuscation and no commitment on cash.  The council will pay the cost for the Ledbury refurbishment and rehousing.  But they must not be forced to take the money away from other important major works projects.  Tenants and residents in other estates have been waiting for important improvements and Ledbury mustn’t mean that they have to wait still longer.  And nor should the burden fall on leaseholders who've already been faced with big charges.  I welcome that the council has told the Ledbury leaseholders that they won't have to pay for the major works that are now underway.

“I'd like to pay a big tribute to Jeanette Mason and the Ledbury Tenants Association.  Like so many tenants reps, Jeanette works tirelessly, unpaid, for her local community.

"I'd like to thank the local councillors, Richard Livingstone, Evelyn Akoto and Michael Situ and the council staff who are there on site and will be working over the weekend.  They are dedicated and caring and determined to do their best for the council's residents in such a dire situation.

“We will need to find out why, when the block has been subject to so many investigations and reports over the past decades, that it was not until the last few hours that the council was told that the blocks are not safe for their gas system.  Why has this not been the advice that the council received over the last decades”.

ENDS

For more information contact Rachel Smethers Rachel.smethers@parliament.uk / 020 72192057

Press release: Government must step up and give Southwark Council cash it needs for Ledbury

For immediate release Friday 11th August 2017 After talking to worried residents on the Ledbury Estate in her constituency of Camberwell and Peckham this morning local MP Harriet Harman said:...

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Harriet Harman: government should cover cost of fire safety improvements in council housing

News Desk (20 July, 2017) Columnists

I will continue to work with my Southwark Labour colleagues... to press the government to commit to providing Southwark Council with the money it needs to carry out all necessary inspections and do the work to ensure residents are safe.

There are 174 tower blocks in Southwark – 54 of which are in my constituency Camberwell and Peckham. I was very concerned by the BBC London report on 11 July which raised issues of cracks between flats and fire defects in the 4 blocks on the Ledbury Estate and I am in regular contact with Ledbury tenants’ association and Southwark Council. The council have assured me that they have taken expert advice and both they and the Fire Brigade are confident it is safe for residents to remain in their flats but it is clear urgent safety inspections must continue across the borough.

Since the Lakanal House fire in 2009 in which 6 people tragically lost their lives Southwark Council has prioritised fire safety and spent £62 million on fire risk assessment and fire safety works for council homes. But following the Grenfell Tower fire it is imperative that the council carries out further fire safety checks and improvements, assesses all cladding on buildings and fits sprinklers in tower blocks. These works could cost about £100 million.

Southwark Council has two key legal duties: one is ensuring people are safe, the other is balancing the books financially. They must be able to do the first without jeopardising the second. But since the Tories took over in 2010 Southwark Council’s budget has been cut by almost half.

The cost of additional fire safety work should not be done at the expense of much-needed improvement works to kitchens and bathrooms, which are eagerly awaited by tenants. As Southwark MPs Helen Hayes, Neil Coyle and I have written to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid to seek confirmation from the government that they will:

  • Cover the costs of any additional fire safety works in Southwark, including fitting sprinklers in tower blocks.
  • Not charge leaseholders for fire safety work – approximately 20% of people in Southwark Council blocks are leaseholders. Most leaseholders already face considerable charges for planned improvement works.
  • Carry out an urgent review of fire safety regulations, as proposed by the coroner in the 2013 Lakanal House fire inquest.
  • While the immediate concern is homes, other tall buildings including schools and hospitals in Southwark need to have urgent fire safety inspections too. The government must provide resources for their inspections and set out a specific timeframe.

I will continue to work with my Southwark Labour colleagues Helen Hayes MP and Neil Coyle MP to press the government to commit to providing Southwark Council with the money it needs to carry out all necessary inspections and do the work to ensure residents are safe.

Govt should cover cost of fire safety for tenants and leaseholders - Southwark News article

Harriet Harman: government should cover cost of fire safety improvements in council housing News Desk (20 July, 2017) Columnists I will continue to work with my Southwark Labour colleagues... to...

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Monthly Report May/June 2017

Read more

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Health checks should be compulsory for older drivers - letter to Transport Committee Chair

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Harriet Harman seeks political unity in fight to stop abuse of female MPs

By Political editor, Guardian Friday 14 July 2017

Harriet Harman has called on Labour women to speak out against any abuse and intimidation aimed at female Conservative MPs, warning that “a misogynistic attack on one woman is a misogynistic attack on all women”.

“I think that undeniably there is a problem and particularly focused on women, and particularly younger women or, in the case of Diane Abbott, a black woman, of abuse and harassment and threats. And that is an absolute fact,” she said in an interview on the Guardian’s Politics Weekly podcast.

Harman, who as the longest-serving female MP has the title Mother of the House, said voters must be given the right to choose a representative and for that person to be free from intimidation and harassment. “This sort of thing is an attack on democracy and we must treat it with absolute seriousness,” she said, a day after Theresa May ordered an investigation into intimidation experienced by candidates during the general election after a barrage of complaints about death threats and harassment.

Harman argued that the first response was for every party - including Labour – to commit to expelling anyone engaging in misogynistic abuse. “In the spirit of solidarity and a commitment to democracy, let alone the sisterliness of feminism, we must all stand together against this. And, as Labour women, we’ve got to be as vocal in protesting and demanding action to protect Conservative women and candidates as we are in our demands to protect our own Labour women.”

Harman’s intervention comes after a debate in parliament by MPs on the abuse they suffered in everyday life and on social media, with many revealing that they had taken action to improve their security after Labour’s Jo Cox was murdered by a rightwing extremist in 2016.

In her interview, Harman spoke of other challenges facing female MPs, as new figures from the House of Commons library reveal that women’s average length of service as MPs was about 33% shorter than for men – four to five years less, on average.

“Some might assume, because it is very difficult to combine being an MP – especially for an out-of-London constituency – with having family responsibilities, or it is difficult because there is a lot of abuse being a woman MP,” said Harman. “But actually what the facts show is that women are more likely to be selected in seats which are less safe – they are more likely to be selected in marginal seats.”

Despite warnings that only 23% of the candidates to chair select committees were women, Harman said that the elections on Wednesday represented a breakthrough. She highlighted Sarah Wollaston, who is chairing the health committee, Yvette Cooper (home affairs), Meg Hillier (public accounts committee), Rachel Reeves (business) and Nicky Morgan, who became the first female to chair the powerful Treasury select committee.

“With her as prime minister, there are a lot of people working in the public services who are crying their eyes out, and a lot of people who are needing public services crying their eyes out, and a lot of people feeling worried about having a job in future because under Theresa May they are worried of the economy going over a cliff,” she said.

Anyone engaging in misogynistic abuse should be expelled from party

Harriet Harman seeks political unity in fight to stop abuse of female MPs By Anushka Asthana Political editor, Guardian Friday 14 July 2017 06.00 BST Harriet Harman has called on Labour women...

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Government must provide councils with money for vital fire safety work

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Today I've written to the Attorney General, Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP, calling on him as the government's senior Law Officer to prevent Tory Ministers from attacking independent legal firms and undermining the rule of law. You can read the letter and the report in The Times - 13 July 2017 below:

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Ministers must not attack independent legal professionals - letter to the Attorney General

Today I've written to the Attorney General, Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP, calling on him as the government's senior Law Officer to prevent Tory Ministers from attacking independent legal firms and undermining... Read more

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7 July 2017 

We have all been appalled at the horrific death toll, injury and loss caused by the Grenfell Tower fire and are devastated for those who’ve lost loved ones and their homes. But it will be particularly chilling for people living in tower blocks, and I’ve heard from a number of constituents in the 54 high-rise blocks in my constituency, frightened about their safety.  

The Grenfell fire took us back to the terrible fire in Lakanal House in 2009 where 3 women and 3 children died.  It was awful to see history repeat itself, with an event greater loss of life which should never have happened.

Again, a block which had undergone refurbishments to improve it was not properly re-inspected after the work and a fire which should’ve been contained in one flat spread and the fire brigade told residents to “stay put” as the fire spread.

In 2013 the Coroner in the Lakanal inquest said those deaths had been avoidable and made recommendations for improving safety in high-rise blocks, greater supervision of maintenance contracts, fire inspections, fitting sprinklers and updating fire regulations. The Tories say they’ve followed the Coroner’s rulings but they haven’t.

While I welcome the announcement that there will be a public inquiry, the Government mustn't wait for the outcome of another inquiry to act.

After the fire I made sure that, even though the House of Commons hadn’t yet reconvened after the General Election, there was a ministerial briefing which took place in Parliament on 15 June 2017.  I spoke in it demanding that the Government: 

  • Award Legal Aid to the residents so their voice can be heard in the public inquiry.  The Fire Service and Kensington and Chelsea council will have QCs - at public expense.  It will be a travesty if the residents, who had to run for their lives, just have to sit in the public gallery.
  • Ensure that Grenfell Tower residents are rehoused in the area and that problems with their bank, insurance and ID documents are sorted out.
  • Make sure that hospitals and emergency services have enough resources to deal with survivors.
  • Provide the money to ensure survivors are rehoused in the area, not sent miles away.
  • Give all councils the resources they need to increase fire inspections, supervise contractors working on improvements and install sprinklers.
  • Review and update building regulations. 

Over three weeks have passed since the Grenfell tragedy and the Government have been too slow to act to ensure that tenants living in other tower blocks are safe. 

When the Prime Minister made a statement in the House of Commons on 22 June, I challenged her to get a grip on the tragedy personally and use Cobra to call together all local authorities to require them to check the cladding on every one of their tower blocks, and to give councils the resources they need to conduct these inspections, to replace cladding if found to be combustible and fit sprinklers – all within a specified timescale. As Southwark MPs, Helen Hayes MP, Neil Coyle MP and I have written to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to ask for a commitment that the council will not have to divert money away from other much needed improvements to pay for this and should be able to waive the charges to leaseholders.

The last Labour government invested billions of pounds improving council homes but the Tories have made deep cuts. Councils want to improve fire safety but since 2010 the Government has slashed their budgets by half, making it harder to supervise contractors and impossible to afford the unprecedented costs of urgent safety inspections and sprinklers in the wake of Grenfell.

The Government is responsible for the safety of people in social housing and cuts cost lives.  I will continue to press the Prime Minister to provide our council with the money it needs and work with Southwark Council to satisfy myself that all tenants in tower blocks in my constituency are safe. 

 

Govt must provide councils with money for fire safety work - South London Press article

7 July 2017  We have all been appalled at the horrific death toll, injury and loss caused by the Grenfell Tower fire and are devastated for those who’ve lost loved...

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