Harriet Harman

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

Current News

Dozens of local people have been getting in touch with me, desperately worried about how they’re going to pay their rent or buy food because of severe delays getting their Universal Credit payment. One woman, the full-time carer for her ill mother, told me she had waited over 2 months for her money, was struggling to pay her rent and was frightened about being evicted. Another woman told me that almost 8 weeks after applying for UC she was still without any payment, couldn’t pay her bills, had mounting debts and was struggling to provide for her 4 children on just £247 a month. Every time she rang the Department for Work and Pensions she had to wait 2 days for a response. But waiting 2 days is not an option when you have 4 children to feed.

These experiences are by no means the exception. 5,198 households in Camberwell and Peckham have been moved onto the Government’s shambolic UC scheme. 

UC was intended to simplify the system – turning benefits into a single monthly payment, replacing the multiple benefits people receive, including Housing Benefit, Income Support, Working Tax Credit and Jobseeker’s Allowance. But far from simplifying the system the Tories’ poorly designed scheme has included an in-built 6 week wait for money. No one receives full payment before this - one in four people wait longer than 6 weeks and one in 6 claimants have not been paid anything at all even 6 weeks after the payment is due. 

Going 6 weeks without money has forced many families in Southwark into crisis, with many having to turn to foodbanks. Pecan, a Peckham-based foodbank, reports a 94% increase in the number of people referred to them between January and March 2017 compared with the same period last year and tell me the main reason for this is UC.

For all the rhetoric of Theresa May’s first speech on the steps of Downing Street about supporting families who are ‘just about managing’, Universal Credit is the latest in a long line of Tory benefit changes making families in Southwark worse off – including the continuation of the cruel Bedroom Tax, cuts to Child Tax Credits for families with 3 children and changes to disability support. In fact her government continues to hit the most vulnerable families hardest - research by the charity Child Poverty Action Group shows that single parents are disproportionately hit by UC. Working single parents in Southwark will lose £800 a year by 2020 and some are expected to be over £2,000 worse off.

Southwark was one of 6 pilot areas for UC and serious warnings were raised from the outset.  As far back as 2013 Council Cabinet member, Cllr Richard Livingstone, warned “the DWP needs to go back to the drawing board or it will have devastating consequences for vulnerable tenants and landlords alike”. The Government refused to listen and now Southwark are once again warning that people are facing extremely long waits for rent and are falling into arrears. The council tell me they don’t know why it’s taking so long for housing costs to be paid, “as a landlord we are very much in the dark”.

At Tory Conference last week Ministers said they would ensure more people are given advances but this will be nowhere near enough to address the problems with UC and Labour are calling for an urgent halt to the rollout.

Even the former Tory Prime Minister John Major and 20 Tory backbench MPs are backing our call. It’s time for Theresa May to stand by her words, show she is listening to those affected, charities and colleagues and end this disastrous UC rollout to protect yet more vulnerable families from slipping into crisis. 

Government Must Halt the Rollout of Universal Credit

Dozens of local people have been getting in touch with me, desperately worried about how they’re going to pay their rent or buy food because of severe delays getting their...

This morning I visited Lewisham and Southwark College (LeSoCo) at their campus at The Cut in Southwark and met with Principal and Chief Executive Officer Carole Kitching – who along with her team is doing great work in taking the college forward.

We discussed the increase in the number of Southwark students enrolling, LeSoCo’s merger with the Newcastle Colleges Group (NCG), one of the largest education and training groups in the UK in August 2017 and the threat to progress from Tory cuts to 16-19 year old education funding.

It was great to meet Carole to discuss the college’s vital work with local young people and I look forward to our next meeting. 

Visit to Lewisham and Southwark College

This morning I visited Lewisham and Southwark College (LeSoCo) at their campus at The Cut in Southwark and met with Principal and Chief Executive Officer Carole Kitching – who along...

CCG.PNGThis morning I met with Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to discuss local health services in Camberwell and Peckham. I met with the Chair, Dr. Jonty Heaversedge; Managing Director Ross Graves and Interim Director of Quality and Chief Nurse, Kate Moriarty-Baker.

We talked about:

  • The impact of NHS cuts on A&E waiting times.

  • The CCG’s work to successfully increase the number of GP appointments available in the borough this year.

  • Primary care at King’s College Hospital and the 27 new beds that will be available by November.

  • The CCG’s work with Southwark Council to improve mental health provision in the borough and the threat to this from the Government cutting the council’s grant by almost half since 2010.

Southwark CCG are doing all they can to improve care despite deep NHS cuts. I will continue to liaise closely with the CCG on local health issues and urge the Government to provide them with the money needed to meet the care needs of people living in Camberwell and Peckham.

Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group Meeting

This morning I met with Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to discuss local health services in Camberwell and Peckham. I met with the Chair, Dr. Jonty Heaversedge; Managing Director Ross...

Britain’s energy market is broken. Energy prices have risen by 90% in real terms in the last 15 years. The Competition and Markets Authority estimates that collectively customers are overpaying for their energy to the tune of £1.4 billion.

The market is not competitive - 85% of households buy their energy from one of the ‘Big Six’ and Ofgem, the energy regulator, revealed in a report in March 2017 that over 3 million people are not on the cheapest available tariff – which was 22% cheaper than the average person’s bill.

Most families, are on a Standard Variable Tariff (SVT), one of the most expensive of all the energy tariffs available. SVTs leave families additionally exposed to unjustifiable price increases. Npower raised its prices by 14% last month alone! A price increase ruled as “unfounded” by Ofgem.

I’ve written to the Prime Minister Theresa May and Business Secretary Greg Clark with 216 colleagues from all parties urging the Government to take immediate action to help consumers. Copies of these letters can be found below.

Last week, the Prime Minister announced in her speech at Conservative Party Conference that the Government will introduce a cap on the price of Standard Variable Tariff deals and it is expected that a draft bill will be presented in the next few days. I will continue to work with my Labour colleague to put pressure on the Government to make sure that any final bill matches up to the Conservative’s promises at the last election.

Government Must Act to Tackle Extortionate Energy Prices

Britain’s energy market is broken. Energy prices have risen by 90% in real terms in the last 15 years. The Competition and Markets Authority estimates that collectively customers are overpaying...

This morning I was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about the unacceptable abuse of Laura Kuenssberg women MPs and journalist face and the requirement for Laura Kuenssberg to have a bodyguard at Labour Party Conference.

You can listen to the interview here.

Full interview transcript:

JG: Let’s talk to long serving Labour MP and former acting leader of the Labour Party Harriet Harman. Harriet Harman you feel very strongly about this don’t you?

HH: I do, and I think it’s a real moment where we need to really analyse what the issue is and take action. Because, there are a number of fundamental things here. One is, we should value, absolutely as a fundamental part of our democracy, that we have independent political reporting and I don’t want any reporter, man or woman, to be looking over their shoulder and fearing what they are going to be broadcasting in their commentary on the evening’s television, because somehow there might be a backlash of abuse or even threatened violence against them.

JG: I’d imagine actually that it’s just impractical for somebody like Laura to operate with a bodyguard with her the whole time.

HH: Well I think so, it is a particular issue for women, high profile women, in the public domain and in journalism. I think that Cathy Newman had problems as well with harassment and people taking against her view. And of course, if Cathy or Laura were only to stay at home and look after the children then they wouldn’t have this problem but their temerity of being out in the public domain, doing what has been hitherto a men-only job and being opinionated and out there, I think it attracts, and this really should be tackled, people trying to shut them down, silence them and push them out. And I think it is a chilling idea that at Labour’s conference the BBC’s political editor feels that she needs to have protection and this has now been highlighted. I mean it might be that she is going to feel the same at the Tory Conference and other conferences, but this is our conference they’re happening at and we’ve all got to take action together.

JG: Is it simply that some current member of the Labour Party, specifically male, are so thin skinned that they can’t live with any form of objective reporting?

HH: Well I think that it is a red herring for political parties to be deciding that the BBC is their enemy. The BBC is independent, it is highly regulated, as are the other broadcaster, and our task is to get our argument out, not to actually criticise the broadcasters. We should be supporting them in doing their jobs. Now I don’t know how much it is a problem of men in the Labour Party doing this, or whether its cross-party. We do know that Labour women MPs have been subject to vile harassment and abuse and even criminal acts, as in deed have Tory women MPs. I think that it’s a cross-party issue, but it’s a gender issue and it relates to women in politics whether they are like Laura or Cathy and are journalist and reporters or whether they be women politicians. You know in other countries we send observers, if there is an election in Africa we send observers to see whether or not there is a free press; see whether or not candidates are able to go about their business and then we report back. Well what would people make of situation where the BBC’s Political Editor has to have protection at a party conference.

JG: Can I just quote, you mentioned this on Twitter yesterday and some of the tweets in reaction to your original tweet do tell a story? Urm. Here is one… ‘What evidence is there whatsoever that Laura Kuenssberg needs protection at the Labour Conference. Is it just another example of fake news?’. Somebody else: ‘Laura is a mouthpiece for the Tories. She has no shame and is quite happy to give out misinformation to smear Momentum’. And maybe, Harriet Harman, John McDonnell didn’t help out much, he was really appearing to make light of the issue. I think he suggested that ‘anyone who harassed Laura Kuenssberg should be told that John McDonnell will sort them’. That’s not brilliant either is it?

HH: Well I think that people need to think about and you know people make those sort of remarks on twitter, but actually this is fundamentally very serious, because everyone should value a free press, fearless political reporting and a democracy where women are able to play their part on equal terms. And this is fundamental. This is about more than just Laura as an individual, it’s actually about whether we are going to have independent political reporting and whether women can work alongside men in politics, whether as reporters or as politicians. And all parties should play their part in this. And the idea that that we pick up one individual and say it’s her fault because she is a Tory, which she obviously isn’t, she’s an independent reporter, or this is a problem only of right-wing extremism or this is a problem only within the Labour Party. I mean were not going to get anywhere if we like, you know, picket it like that. We’ve got to recognise that this is an overall problem, and there are a number of organisations which need to step forward and pay their part in this, and I would say that the political parties should all sit down with the BBC and say ‘what is going on here?’, they can have a meeting with the BBC and say ‘what is going on?’, ‘what has Laura been subjected to?’ and then discuss how they themselves can address it with each of the political parties. I think Ofcom, who actually regulates broadcasting, they should be looking at women in broadcasting, why do we deal with it Cathy Newman one day, Laura Kuenssberg the next. This is across the media. We need to look at it and I think that Yvette Copper’s select committee, the Home Affairs Select Committee is looking at this and that ought to be fed in and also Maria Miller, who is the chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee. But I think that this is very fundamental and you know I hate it when people say ‘oh we don’t what party political points scoring’ because I a very party animal and very partisan, but the truth is that this is something which is cross-parties but which is very, very specifically about gender. And we’ve got to make sure that we don’t turn a blind eye and we don’t retreat into our party identity.

JG: No one is accusing you of doing that Harriet. Thank you very much for talking to us.

 

BBC R4: Woman’s Hour – Tackling Abuse of Women in Public Life

This morning I was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about the unacceptable abuse of Laura Kuenssberg women MPs and journalist face and the requirement for Laura Kuenssberg to...

Over 1000 women attended this year’s Labour’s National Women’s Conference in Brighton. We heard from Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities Dawn Butler MP,  Rosie Duffield MP, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry MP and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

There were policy debates on the NHS and Social Care, Housing, Economic and Business Policy, Foreign Policy and Brexit.

Labour National Women's Conference 2017

Over 1000 women attended this year’s Labour’s National Women’s Conference in Brighton. We heard from Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities Dawn Butler MP,  Rosie Duffield MP, Shadow Foreign...

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Monthly Report August/September 2017

Read more

Harriet addresses Southwark Lour Conference

Over 100 Labour members came to the Southwark Borough Conference to plan for the 2018 Council elections. I urged everyone to leave behind "anti-Blairism and anti-Corbyinsm" and all work together to strengthen Labour in Southwark as people face hard times under the Tory government.

Southwark Labour Borough Conference 2017

Over 100 Labour members came to the Southwark Borough Conference to plan for the 2018 Council elections. I urged everyone to leave behind "anti-Blairism and anti-Corbyinsm" and all work together...

 

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:

Letter_to_Foreign_Sec_re_Burma_(002)-page-001.jpg

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...

This is a problem which is getting worse. Last year there was a 24% rise in knife across London but the increase is even worse in locally in Southwark where knife offences rose by almost 50% in the last year.  

Many complex issues lie behind this rise in knife crime but what is of undeniable importance is the role of the police in prevention and in assuring that when such a crime is committed the perpetrators do not get away with it but face justice.  

So it is particularly worrying that against a background of persistent and distressing knife crime that the work of the police is being cut back.

Police numbers are vital to community policing. Police who walk the streets get to know families and communities. Yet the numbers of police on the beat are being cut back – there are 24% less police officers and community support officers in Southwark than there were in 2010. On top of that the accessibility of the police to the public is under threat as front desks at police stations are facing closure across London and the understanding and leading role of a borough commander on behalf of the local community is being weakened – cutbacks mean Southwark may no longer have our own police commander but will share one with Lambeth.  

This is not what local people want. The working relationship that’s built up between Southwark Police and their team with communities in Southwark is of huge importance and needs yet further work, not diluting across boroughs. While coordination between boroughs on issues like knife crime is important, these measures are driven not by the needs of people living in Southwark, or the police, but by cuts.

This is a worry for many MPs across London, particularly in south London and that’s why it’s so important that Sarah Jones, the new MP for Croydon, has set up a new all-party parliamentary group on knife crime, which I have joined. We will be working together to back the action of police, schools, parents and youth services to try to tackle this growing problem and end the tragedy of these young deaths.

It is so distressing that more families are having to suffer the loss of a son, brother or partner. More needs to be done to protect our young people and keep them safe. I will continue to work with local councillors, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and my Labour colleagues in Parliament to oppose these Tory cuts to police, the cuts to education budgets which mean schools are no longer able to afford after-school clubs and pastoral support and the cuts to local councils which mean youth services are being cut back.   

Urgent Action Needed to Combat Rise in Knife Crime

This is a problem which is getting worse. Last year there was a 24% rise in knife across London but the increase is even worse in locally in Southwark where...

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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

I wrote to the Minster of State for Housing and Planning Alok Sharma MP calling on the government to take action to improve regulation and protect existing and future leaseholders from extortionate rises in ground rents by developments or management companies. I also wrote to Sir Peter Bottomley MP, Chair of the APPG for Leasehold and Commonhold Reform, to ask him to keep me informed of the Group’s vital work.

Both letters can be found below:

Government Must Take Action On Escalating Ground Rents

I wrote to the Minster of State for Housing and Planning Alok Sharma MP calling on the government to take action to improve regulation and protect existing and future leaseholders from extortionate...

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