Harriet Harman

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

Current News

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Letter to Southwark Council - Possible Closure of Nag's Head Pub

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January/February Monthly Report

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Challenging Funding Cuts to Southwark Schools

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This is about 3m people and their families - EU citizens whose future here has been thrown in to doubt by the decision in June that the UK should leave the EU.

There's nothing about the cloud of uncertainty that they now live under which is their own fault and we can if we agree this new clause, put their minds at rest and let them look to the future.

Hon members on all sides of the House will know the people whose lives we are talking about here.  Some, like those from France and Spain have been here for decades.  They have children and grandchildren living here.   They work and are part of their local community.  It is unthinkable that they would be deported, families divided, because we've decided to leave the EU.  So let’s put their minds at rest and assure them, and their families, that our decision to leave the EU won't change their right to be here.  Their anxiety is palpable, like the Italian woman, my constituent who came to see me

Some, like those from the countries that came more recently into the EU like Poland, Romania and Bulgaria are working in sectors that couldn't manage without them, in agriculture, in care homes and in our tourist industry.

This ongoing uncertainly around the status of EU workers is already causing greater exploitation of vulnerable EU workers.  Last week, in appearing before the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Margaret Beels, Chair of the Gangmaster's Licensing Authority said that evidence is coming in to them that gangmasters are telling fearful EU workers that they can't complain about not being paid or being subjected to unsafe conditions because if they do they'll be deported as they no longer have the right to be here. 

It’s no good the government issuing warm words.  They need certainty.   They work in every part of our private sector, they contribute to our creative industries, they are artists and musicians.  They work in our public services.  If you've been in hospital recently you will very likely woken to find a Spanish or a Portuguese nurse at your bedside.  If you've got an older relative in a care home you'll very likely seen them being cared for by someone from Eastern Europe.

It’s not just they and their families that are worried about the uncertainty that is hanging over them.  So are employers for whom they are working.  How will our NHS find the nurses we need if they are not allowed to stay.  It’s not as if we're training them ourselves.  This year, with the cuts in bursaries, nursing student numbers have fallen by 23%.

This new clause is quite simple.  It says that if you were a lawful resident here before the referendum decision on June 23rd, then your rights of residence will remain unchanged.

We need this clause in the Bill because the government has been sending out mixed messages.  On the one hand they say no-one who's lawfully here has anything to worry about.  On the other hand they say that they can't commit to giving them residency rights because their future must be part of the negotiations.    I just cannot feel that it is any way right to use the lives of 3m people and their families as a negotiating chip.  They and their families are not pawns in a game of poker with the EU.  They cannot be used as a human shield as we battle it out in Europe. We must decide what is fair and right for them and then do it.  If the government rejects this new clause then EU citizens will be right to draw the conclusion that their right to continue to live here will be snatched away if our government doesn't get what we want for our UK citizens living in each of the other countries of Europe.  

This new clause is not only the right thing to do as a matter of principle, its legally necessary.  The government cannot bargain away people's human rights. The right to family life is guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.   If the government tried to bargain them away, EU citizens living here would be able to go to our courts and seek to establish their rights to remain under Article 8.  If even 10% of those here did that, that would be 300,000 court challenges.  There is no way our court system could begin to cope with that.

This new clause arises out of the inquiry of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.  I hope that the government will accept it.  But if not I urge members of all parties to support it

Speech on guaranteeing EU citizens' residence rights - Article 50 Bill

  *** Check against delivery *** This is about 3m people and their families - EU citizens whose future here has been thrown in to doubt by the decision in...

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My amendment to the Government's Article 50 Bill with the Fawcett Society regarding rights of women has been picked for debate on Wednesday 8 February 2017. Thanks to all the MPs who backed it.

Text of the amendment:

Before issuing any notification under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union the Prime Minister shall give an undertaking to have regard to the public interest during negotiations in:

  1. Maintaining employment rights and protections derived from EU legislation,

  2. Ensuring EU co-operation to end violence against women and girls, tackle female genital mutilation and end human trafficking will continue unaffected,

  3. The desirability of continuing to recognise restraining orders placed on abusive partners in EU Member States in the UK and restraining orders placed on abusive partners in the UK across the EU.

  4. establishing a cross-departmental working group to assess and make recommendations for developing legislation on equality and access to justice. 

This is an amendment designed to secured additional assurances from Government on a number of important issues for women and for women’s rights. 

Fawcett Society Briefing on Article 50 Bill Amendment

The Fawcett Society is the leading UK charity campaigning for Gender equality and women’s rights.  In 2016 we launched the #FaceHerFuture campaign to defend women’s rights and set out a progressive agenda post-Brexit.  The campaign is supported by over 20 women’s and equalities organisations.

Employment Rights

We welcome the fact the Government has already committed to maintaining employment rights from the debates on worker’s rights in the EU on the 7th of November when the Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark MP stated:

“This Government place a great deal of importance on the fundamental protections that workers in the UK have. Whether protection from discrimination or unfair dismissal, equal treatment—working full time or part time— or the right to a minimum wage or to paid holiday, the Government are committed to safeguarding those rights…

“No one listening to this debate should think that we have any intention of eroding the rights that we enjoy in this country through our process of leaving the European Union. In fact, the opposite is true. We will be using the legislation before this House to entrench all existing workers’ rights in British law, whatever future relationship the UK has with the EU…

“The intention is that all workers’ rights that derive from the EU will be brought into British law

And David Davis MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union stated:

“The Prime Minister has made it clear that the Government will not, as a consequence of our withdrawal, allow any erosion of rights in the workplace, whether those rights derive from EU or UK law. She has further made it clear that the Government are determined to deliver an economy that works for everyone, and fundamental to that is the preservation of existing workers’ rights.”

In her speech on 17th January 2017 the Prime Minister herself said:

“under my leadership, not only will the Government protect the rights of workers set out in European Legislation, we will build on them.”

However, concern remains that these commitment will become difficult to honour through the Brexit negotiation process and beyond.  This is because there will be political pressure on the Government to use the opportunity to deregulate the economy, pressure which may be hard to resist. The Prime Minister has also indicated she would if necessary make Britain a low tax low regulation economy.  We do not believe that this is compatible with safeguarding women’s rights.

While it is possible for any legislation to be repealed at a future date, we are concerned about the use of ‘Henry the VIII clauses’ in the Great Repeal Bill which will give powers to the Secretary of State to repeal legislation at a future date without further debate. 

We are seeking early assurances that Henry VIII clauses will not be used for any equality and employment rights legislation.  Can the minister give that assurance?

What are the particular rights that we are concerned about?

Part-time workers’ rights – will part-time workers’ rights remain unaffected by Brexit. In particular access to pay and leave entitlements, pensions.

Pregnant workers’ rights – 54,000 mothers at work each year are made redundant or feel they have to leave their jobs as a result of pregnancy discrimination. We welcome the Government’s recent response to the Women and Equalities Select Committee inquiry in to pregnancy discrimination where a commitment was given to introduce additional protections from redundancy, but we also need assurances that comprehensive protection for pregnant women at work will continue unaffected by Brexit.

Health and safety at work, time off for ante-natal appointments, maternity leave and pay are all important entitlements for pregnant women at work.

Will the minister guarantee that no protections for pregnant or part-time workers will be repealed, and in particular will not be repealed using using Henry VIII clauses when they bring the Great Repeal Bill to the House.

Equal pay for work of equal value– this is an important aspect of our equal pay legislation that derives from European law.  It enables women, often on low incomes, to challenge pay inequality where they can identify a male comparator in a role which they can argue is of equal value to theirs. Two important live equal value cases at the moment:

Reading Council – women cooks and care workers challenging unequal pay.

https://www.unison.org.uk/news/press-release/2016/10/women-drag-last-equal-pay-claim-council-to-court-says-unison/

ASDA – Leigh Day case representing women shop floor workers vs male warehouse staff

https://www.leighday.co.uk/News/News-2016/October-2016/Major-victory-in-battle-over-ASDA-equal-pay

Will the Minister guarantee that equal value will remain an intrinsic part of our equal pay legislation going forward? 

EU co-operation to end VAWG 

Policing and justice       

The EU leads cooperation between Member States in the area of freedom, security and justice (AFSJ) – what is termed ‘law and order’ in the UK. The Treaty of Lisbon incorporated 135 police and criminal justice cooperation measures – previously agreed between 1995-2009 – into the main body of EU law. The Lisbon Treaty has introduced shared criminal law provisions and aims to harmonise and improve the effectiveness of AFSJ measures in the EU.

In 2013 the UK Government chose to ‘opt-out’ of these measures – including the European Arrest Warrant, an arrest warrant valid in all member states – and subsequently ‘opted-back in’ to a number of measures, mainly to enable cross-border police cooperation and data sharing. The UK may remain able to cooperate in these measures after Brexit, and it will be vital to ensure that victims’ rights and needs are put first during any negotiations on the future of the UK’s involvement in the AFSJ with the EU.

  • Following the UK’s exist from the EU we would want to ensure the UK maintains strong police cooperation, data sharing in tackling crime – including VAWG. 

Victims

The EU sets policy priorities for AFSJ through multi-annual programmes. Most recently, the Stockholm Programme 2010-2014 included requirements to develop criminal legislation and measures that support victims and has resulted in the following:

  • The EU Victims’ Directive (2012/29/EU) establishes minimum standards for the rights, support, and protections for victims of crime in the EU, which were expected to be implemented into national laws by November 2015. The Directive establishes clear rights for victims and obligations for Member States – including specifically for victims of violence. It includes new and strengthened measures for:

      • Victim support: including referrals to victim support organisations.

      • Specialist support services: such as minimum provision of shelters, and targeted and integrated support for victims with specific needs – including victims of domestic violence.

      • Individual assessments for victims: to identify vulnerability and special protection measures required by women and children.

      • Protection of victims: contact with offenders must be avoided (e.g. all new court buildings must have separate waiting areas). 

  • Obviously the Great Repeal Bill will mean all existing victims’ legislation will be replaced – but we will want to ensure that this is fully safeguarded in domestic, primary legislation. 

     

Protection Orders

 

  • The EU Protection Order (2011/99/EU):

    The EPO protects victims against perpetrators by enabling a person who is protected against a perpetrator in one EU country – such as with a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) in England and Wales – to retain that protection when they travel or move to another Member State.

    The EPO means that restraining, protection and barring orders issued in one Member State are quickly and easily recognisable across the EU through simple certification, and guarantees the rights of the victims of violence outside their own country too, wherever they are in Europe. Previously, survivors would have to go through complex procedures to get their protection recognised in other EU Member States – and enter a different procedure for certification in each country. The EPO means that survivors are able to travel, or live, in other EU member states more safely.

  • The EPO ensures that women who have suffered domestic violence are protected from the perpetrators if they travel or move anywhere in the EU. Predictions about the consequences of Brexit for policing measures are speculative and will depend on the outcome of negotiations.

  • It is generally accepted that the UK will want to continue with certain parts of EU policing and justice cooperation – and we would argue that it is essential that the UK continues to opt-in to the EPO agreement following Brexit. 

    After we have left the European Union, will the Minister be able to confirm that the EU protection order states will be in effect in the UK to protect British citizens and European migrants from abusers, and vice versa, that British courts will be able to issue restraining orders that can protect British citizens and legal residents when they travel to the European Union?

     

Gaps in equality legislation and access to justice

Concerns remain that eg Section 14 (dual discrimination) and Section 106 (information about diversity in range of candidates) of the Equality Act 2010 have not been commenced. 

In the absence of section 14 a disabled woman, an older woman or a Muslim women cannot bring a discrimination claim based on their actual identity, only one aspect of their identity. Our legislation does not provide appropriate protection.

Additionally, many people who experience discrimination are also prevented from having access to justice by time limits and employment tribunal fees of £1200.  When ET fees were introduced discrimination claims initially fell by 80%.  Recent data shows ET applications are 43% down since the introduction of fees. The number of successful sex discrimination claims is also down.

https://www.harpermacleod.co.uk/hm-insights/2016/october/employment-tribunal-statistics-update-what-do-the-new-figures-tell-employers-about-claims-and-awards/

The Fawcett Society has launched a review of our Sex Discrimination legislation.  Will the minister give an assurance that they will establish a cross-departmental working group to work with the Fawcett Society and others to ensure that gaps in our existing legislation are addressed and women’s rights are safeguarded going forward in order to seize the opportunity to make the UK the best place to be a woman.

Amendment on rights of women will be debated

My amendment to the Government's Article 50 Bill with the Fawcett Society regarding rights of women has been picked for debate on Wednesday 8 February 2017. Thanks to all the...

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Today I tabled a cross-party amendment to the Government's Article 50 Bill with the support of Joint Committee on Human Rights members Karen Buck MP and Jeremy Lefroy MP to ensure human rights clauses feature in all of the UK's future trade agreements with the EU Member States.

Full text of the amendment:

New Clause 165

"Trade agreements and human rights

Before issuing any notification under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union the Prime Minister shall give an undertaking that the Government will seek to ensure that the human rights standards included in future trade agreements with the EU and any other States with which the United Kingdom enters into trade negotiations are at least as high as those in current trade agreements".

Trade agreements and human rights - amendment to Article 50 Bill

Today I tabled a cross-party amendment to the Government's Article 50 Bill with the support of Joint Committee on Human Rights members Karen Buck MP and Jeremy Lefroy MP to ensure human...

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New funding formula "will take funds from areas like Southwark which have the greatest need".

Schools are rightly one of the most important issues for people living in Southwark.

The teachers and support staff in our primary and secondary schools are working hard but there is still a long way to go.  Parents, pupils, teachers and the local community all want our schools to continue to improve but now the progress that has been made is under threat.  As happened with the Tory governments of the 1980s and early 90s, once again the Tory government is cutting back funding for schools.

They are harming every area of education for our children and young people, from closing 107 childcare centres across London since 2010, to slashing over £800m from university budgets.  And now they are cutting school funding.

The Tories are about to make the first real-terms cut in the schools budget for over two decades, the steepest our schools have faced since the 1970s. The National Audit Office reports that there will be an 8% cut in funding per pupil in mainstream schools.  This is in stark contrast to when Labour was last in government – we increased school funding, especially for students from the poorest backgrounds and in the 10 years from 2000 to 2010 funding went up 5.1% every year.

Over half of schools up and down the country are facing Tory cuts and it is unlikely any area of the country will be spared. But the cuts are particularly bad for schools and families across Southwark.

The National Union of Teachers has calculated that students in my constituency of Camberwell and Peckham will be the second worst hit in the country – schools are going to lose around £1,006 for every pupil, falling from £6,601 to £5,596.  And Camberwell and Peckham is second only to Bermondsey and Old Southwark – who are the worst hit with estimated cuts of £1,051 per pupil.

Cllr Peter John, Leader of Southwark warns “headteachers will be forced to make difficult decisions, including increasing class sizes, reducing curriculum choice and cutting down on extra support for all pupils.” The NUT are anticipating losses to school staff. Southwark schools already have problems recruiting teachers, particularly heads and deputy heads.

The Government say they are addressing unfairness in school funding between different parts of the country. But the result will be to take funds from areas like Southwark which have the greatest need.

The Council and our schools need more support from central government. As a country we should be enabling all children to learn and fulfil their potential. That requires investment.

Cutting funding for Southwark schools will be a huge backwards step, undoing the good progress they have made in recent years. That’s why I along with Southwark Council will be writing to the Secretary of State to urge her to reconsider and to request a meeting to discuss the impact of the cuts. Labour will oppose these cuts all the way.

Southwark News Column - Government Cuts to School Funding

New funding formula "will take funds from areas like Southwark which have the greatest need". Schools are rightly one of the most important issues for people living in Southwark. The...

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Today I tabled an amendment to the Government's Article 50 Bill with The Fawcett Society to protect women's rights regarding the workplace, domestic violence, female genital mutilation and trafficking post-Brexit:

Text of the amendment:

Before issuing any notification under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union the Prime Minister shall give an undertaking to have regard to the public interest during negotiations in:

  1. Maintaining employment rights and protections derived from EU legislation,
  2. Ensuring EU co-operation to end violence against women and girls, tackle female genital mutilation and end human trafficking will continue unaffected,
  3. The desirability of continuing to recognise restraining orders placed on abusive partners in EU Member States in the UK and restraining orders placed on abusive partners in the UK across the EU.
  4. To assess and make recommendations for developing legislation on equality and access to justice.


We're encouraging all MPs to sign. For more information contact Rachel Smethers - Rachel.smethers@parliament.uk 0207 219 2057.

Full list of signatories:

Yvette Cooper MP

Jess Phillips MP

Stella Creasy MP

Caroline Lucas MP

Rushanara Ali MP

Luciana Berger MP

Roberta BLACKMAN-WOODS MP

Tracy Brabin MP

Sarah Champion MP

Vernon Coaker MP

Mary CREAGH MP

Gloria De Piero MP

Stephen Doughty MP

Angela Eagle MP

Julie Elliott MP

Helen Goodman MP

Kate Green MP

Lillian Greenwood MP

Margaret Greenwood MP

Helen Hayes MP

Margaret Hodge MP

Kelvin Hopkins MP

Rupa Huq MP

Diana Johnson MP

Mike Kane MP

Barbara Keeley MP

David Lammy MP

Rt Hon Fiona MACTAGGART MP

Seema Malhotra MP

Gordon Marsden MP

Stephen McCabe MP

Alison McGovern MP

Lisa Nandy MP

Yasmin Qureshi MP

Naz Shah MP

Virendra Sharma MP

Andrew Smith MP

Stephen Twigg MP

Valerie Vaz MP

 

Equality and rights of women amendment to Article 50 Bill

Today I tabled an amendment to the Government's Article 50 Bill with The Fawcett Society to protect women's rights regarding the workplace, domestic violence, female genital mutilation and trafficking post-Brexit:...

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Dear Member of Camberwell and Peckham Labour Party,

I'm writing to you to set out why I will be voting for the triggering of Article 50 to begin the process of the UK leaving the EU.  As I write these words I can hardly believe that it has come to this and the magnitude of the implications of the UK leaving the EU.

I have always been a strong supporter of our membership of the EU.  We have, for decades, come to take for granted the many benefits of our membership, from the macro-economic to family holiday travel, from protection of the environment to rights at work and so much more.

There are many reasons that we have come to where we are, many having their origins many years ago.  But we would not be in this situation if we had won the general election in 2015.  It's always a disaster to lose an election (look at the NHS whenever there's a Tory Government) but this election saw the Tories elected with a manifesto commitment for an IN/OUT referendum.

I campaigned for Remain not only in our own constituency but also around the country.  As I met people who were Labour supporters but thought we were for OUT I even went on the IN campaign bus with the Tory Prime Minister to show that Labour was for IN.

But, by the narrowest of margins, we lost.  Camberwell and Peckham voted overwhelmingly for IN.  As did the majority of Labour voters across the country.  But two thirds of Labour MPs now represent constituencies that voted for OUT and the message from those Labour colleagues is we must acknowledge the strong feelings of their constituents.

Now the Government is bringing the Article 50 Bill to the House of Commons tomorrow and there is no "right" answer, only a series of bad ones.  When you are in Opposition it is invariably the case that the Government shapes the context, and in this we can only be reactive to an agenda we didn't set.  That's why we need to be in government again.

Though we lost the referendum, how the Government go about the business of leaving still matters hugely.  If we abandon our economic ties with the EU by leaving the single market/customs union at the very time Trump is retreating into protectionism, we will lose our markets for our exports.  The jobs that will be lost and the people who will suffer most will, as always, be the least well off.  As tax revenues fall the Tories will have the excuse they want to cut public services. If we continue a fight which is lost (Article 50) we will not be able to fight on the important issues which are still at stake.

The Labour front bench will table amendments to protect jobs and rights at work.  As chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights I've tabled an amendment to protect the residence rights of EU citizens (of which there are many in our constituency). And with the support of the Women's PLP I'm tabling an amendment The Fawcett society have drafted to protect the rights of women.

I know that my Southwark colleagues, Neil Coyle and Helen Hayes, will be voting against triggering Article 50 and that many of you who have already written to me passionately believe that I should do the same.  I understand your views - our principles are shared.  So I hope that no one will leave our Party as a result of the front bench position to support Article 50 and my decision to support it.

This is not where I would have wanted us to be.  It is the price of losing.  Now we need to fight for the least worst Brexit and then, crucially, let’s make sure we do everything we can to win next time.

Best wishes,

Harriet

 

My Position on Article 50

  Dear Member of Camberwell and Peckham Labour Party, I'm writing to you to set out why I will be voting for the triggering of Article 50 to begin the...

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Today along with other members of the Joint Committee on Human Rights Chair I tabled an amendment to the Article 50 Bill to protect the residence rights of EU nationals in the UK. 

This follows the Joint Committee on Human Rights report The human rights implications of Brexit (PDF 577KB) (December 2016), which stated:

"We recommend that the Government address the issue of residence rights urgently.  This could be done by providing an undertaking to the effect that all of those legally resident at a reasonable cut-off date would be guaranteed permanent residence rights". (para 53)"

Text of the amendment

New Clause

Effect of notification of withdrawal

"Nothing in this Act shall affect the continuation of those residence rights enjoyed by EU citizens lawfully resident in the United Kingdom on 23 June 2016, under or by virtue of Directive 2004/38/EC, after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union."

The amendment would not grant any new rights, but would simply seek to preserve the current residence rights of those EU citizens lawfully in the UK at the time of the referendum vote on 23 June 2016.

It links to the triggering of Article 50, since the loss of residence rights based on EU citizenship is a natural consequence of Brexit. The amendment is designed to avoid any potential legal claims under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (which could occur if EU nationals in the UK were not permitted stay in the UK post-Brexit).

Government urged to safeguard EU citizenship rights

In its separate report, Brexit: acquired rights (PDF 634KB) (Dec 2016) the House of Lords EU Committee recommended:

"We urge the Government to change its stance and to give a unilateral guarantee now that it will safeguard the EU citizenship rights of all EU nationals in the UK when the UK withdraws from the EU. The overwhelming weight of the evidence we received points to this as morally the right thing to do. It would also have the advantage of striking a positive note for the start of the negotiations, which will be much needed. (Paragraph 147)"

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

Article 50 amendment - we must protect rights of EU citizens in UK

Today along with other members of the Joint Committee on Human Rights Chair I tabled an amendment to the Article 50 Bill to protect the residence rights of EU nationals in the...

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NHS National Campaign Day - Faraday Ward

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Today I visited Old Kent Road Fire Station to discuss fire safety, support for victims of domestic violence and fire brigade funding cuts with the Southwark Borough Commander for Fire Richard Welch. Thanks to all at Southwark Fire Brigade for the vital work they do.

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Meeting Southwark Borough Commander for Fire Richard Welch

Today I visited Old Kent Road Fire Station to discuss fire safety, support for victims of domestic violence and fire brigade funding cuts with the Southwark Borough Commander for Fire Richard Welch....

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December 2016/January 2017 monthly report

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Camberwell & Peckham people have had a raw deal on transport services for years. Today I met SE5 Forum & Helen Hayes MP to campaign to re-open Camberwell Station. This is important especially following the disappointment of the decision for the Bakerloo Line extension. I’m writing to the Transport Minister to demand a meeting to call for the re-opening of the station.

 

 

 

Campaign to Re-open Camberwell Station

Camberwell & Peckham people have had a raw deal on transport services for years. Today I met SE5 Forum & Helen Hayes MP to campaign to re-open Camberwell Station. This is important... Read more

BP_USE.jpg This morning I joined Brunswick Park Ward Councillors Mark Williams and Ian Wingfield, and the local campaign team in Brunswick Park to talk to residents in Benhill and Samson Road.

Lots of issues were raised including the NHS, housing, aircraft noise & Brexit.

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Brunswick Park ward campaigning

 This morning I joined Brunswick Park Ward Councillors Mark Williams and Ian Wingfield, and the local campaign team in Brunswick Park to talk to residents in Benhill and Samson Road. Lots of issues were raised including...

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As people go back to work after Christmas, they will be thinking they can’t face another year of Southern Rail travel chaos like the last one.

Throughout 2016 I have been inundated with emails from constituents who are desperately worried about the Southern Rail disruption and the effect this is having on their working & family lives, their childcare arrangements, their finances and safety from overcrowding. One woman told me she’d missed hospital appointments as a result, others tell me they’re constantly worried about how late they will be to pick up their children from school and nursery, or that they miss out on putting their kids to bed on weeknights.

Anyone who lives and works in South London will be well aware that Southern’s problems started well before the recent industrial action. Trains have been cancelled, late or dangerously overcrowded every week for the best part of two years, whether there are strikes scheduled or not.

It is typical that the Government blames the unions, but that won’t get people into work on time. The truth is that ministers are defending a failed franchise for political reasons when they should be sticking up for taxpayers and commuters.

It is bitterly disappointing that so far the Government has refused the proposed settlement to solve the problem and hand the franchise to Transport for London. It makes sense to have Southern Rail as part of London’s integrated transport system. TfL has a proven track record – on rail services that TfL has already taken over, delays are down and customer satisfaction – independently measured – is up. But the Government have put narrow partisanship ahead of commuters’ interests.

The ongoing chaos on Southern Rail services is a disgrace and fails commuters who just want to get into work and home to their families. It is not acceptable for Southern to say they ‘strongly advise people not to travel’ on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday in a working week. For many that simply isn’t possible.

Passengers can’t continue to suffer like this.  That’s why I’ve urged the Government to strip Govia Thameslink of the franchise, written to the CEO of Govia about their inability to provide a reliable service, and on 13 July 2016 I spoke in the Govia Thameslink Rail service debate in the House of Commons.

I’ve also asked the Government to meet the unions urgently without any preconditions and before further strike action to explore how Govia Thameslink Rail can settle the dispute with the unions.

I will continue to work closely with my Labour colleagues Helen Hayes MP, Neil Coyle MP, Cllr Peter John and Florence Eshalomi AM to hold the Government to account on the Southern Rail misery and to push for an accelerated transfer of Govia Thameslink Greater London services to Transport for London.

Southwark News column - Southern Rail

As people go back to work after Christmas, they will be thinking they can’t face another year of Southern Rail travel chaos like the last one. Throughout 2016 I have...

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More than 27,000 London children missed out on their first choice of school.

 

It’s been another year of parents and children missing out on the schools of their choice. Almost a third of parents in London missed out on their first choice secondary school again this year – leaving 27,042 children unable to attend their first choice school. And this is a problem which only seems to be getting worse.

 

My report out today shows that 41% of parents in Southwark are not getting their children into their first choice secondary school.

 

This year only 59% of parents in Southwark got their first preference secondary school compared to a national average of 84.1%. This is the sixth lowest of all the local authorities in England and means 1,157 children in Southwark were left without their first choice of school.

 

I have written to the Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Justine Greening MP with a copy of this report to raise this continuing problem and to press her to back Southwark Council up in their action to improve secondary schools in the borough. The Government must ensure the right steps are being taken to make sure every school is a good school that parents want to choose.

 

I have received lots of emails from my constituents – including many teachers - who are very concerned about the Government pressing ahead with academisation and about the £3bn in savings the Government is expecting schools to find by 2020. 

 

Notes to Editors:             

1.            Harriet Harman MP today publishes her annual school choice report ‘Are parents in Camberwell & Peckham getting the choice of secondary school they want for their child?’

 

2.            In 2016 only 59% of parents in Southwark got their first preference secondary school, compared to the national average of 84.1%. That is the sixth lowest of all the local authorities in the country and means 1,157 children in Southwark were left without their first choice school. In comparison 98.7% of parents in Northumberland got their first preference.

 

3.            In London as a whole almost a third of parents now miss out on their first choice - only 68.8% of parents got their child into their first-choice secondary school this year, leaving 27,042 children without their first choice. In inner London boroughs the situation is even worse - just 65.6% of parents received their first preference and 10,000 children were left without their first choice school.

 

4.            In 2015, 25,931 children in London missed out on their first choice secondary school.

 

 

School Choice Report 2016 - Are parents in Camberwell & Peckham getting the choice of secondary school they want for their child?

More than 27,000 London children missed out on their first choice of school.   It’s been another year of parents and children missing out on the schools of their choice....

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Southern Rail passengers can't suffer another year of travel chaos like the last one. That's why I'm backing Tim Loughton MP's Rail Ombudsman Bill for automatic rail compensation and penalties for late trains. The Bill aims to make claiming compensation for late trains easier and would set up a new Rail Ombudsman to rule on complaints.

The proposals would mean that every time a train is late or cancelled the train operator would be charged an automatic penalty. This money would go into a compensation pot for passengers to claim. Any money left over would go towards funding the ombudsman and to set against fare increases.

Rail Ombudsman Bill

Southern Rail passengers can't suffer another year of travel chaos like the last one. That's why I'm backing Tim Loughton MP's Rail Ombudsman Bill for automatic rail compensation and penalties...

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November/December Monthly Report

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The Joint Committee on Human Rights today releases its report on the human rights implications of Brexit. The Committee calls on the Government to give an undertaking to protect the residency rights of EU nationals in the UK. 

While many fundamental rights are underpinned by EU law, the Committee says that it is not clear whether the Government intends to remove any rights which UK citizens currently possess under EU law - and, if so, which rights are under threat. The Committee demands that any future legislation should include safeguards and Parliament should have the opportunity to debate, amend and vote on any proposed changes to fundamental rights.

Residence rights

It is estimated that there are currently 2.9 million EU nationals resident in the UK.

The Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox has reportedly described EU nationals in the UK as one of the "main cards" in Brexit negotiations and Minister for Human Rights Sir Oliver Heald told the Committee that the Prime Minister was seeking an "early agreement" on the status of UK nationals in Europe and EU nationals in the UK. He confirmed that the Government’s view was that to agree a unilateral position on the issue would not be helpful.

JCHR Chair Harriet Harman said:

"The Government must not use human rights as a bargaining chip. Moreover, the Government will continue to have obligations under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as we set out in our Report. The UK Government could not deport the large numbers of EU nationals currently in the UK.

"In the unlikely and unwelcome event that the Government sought to deport EU nationals there could be the potential for significant, expensive and lengthy litigation leading to considerable legal uncertainty for a prolonged period of time. These cases would have the potential to clog up and overwhelm the court system."

The actual position of such individuals is underpinned by the Human Rights Act and will depend on length of residence and other factors, but Government intentions for both UK and EU citizens remain far from clear.

Under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), individuals are entitled to respect for their private and family life and home. However, these rights are not absolute and do not provide the same protections as offered by EU law, and restrictions on them can be justified in certain circumstances where they would not be under current EU law.

However, even with restrictions it would not be possible for the Government to establish a rule that would allow the deportation of EU nationals merely on the grounds that they had only been resident for a fixed period of time. Other factors such as family connections and the residence rights of children would be relevant and each case would need to be considered on its own facts.

How to protect fundamental rights in the future

The Committee recommends that the Government should set out a full and detailed list of fundamental rights currently guaranteed by virtue of the UK’s EU membership and what approach it intends to take towards them.

It further recommends that:

  • There should be no opportunity for the Government to repeal fundamental rights by secondary legislation for reasons of expediency: if rights are to be changed there should be parliamentary accountability, with an opportunity for both Houses to debate, amend and vote on such changes;
  • The Government should issue detailed statutory guidance on the status of existing case law. It will also have to determine how it will approach the status of future EU law and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decisions to ensure that it is not isolated from developments emanating from the EU.  

The question of how fundamental rights will be enforced going forward will also be of central importance.

Trade agreements

The EU has included human rights clauses in trade agreements for many years. The Committee recommends that when the UK exits the EU, and enters into trade agreements with other states, the Government should, at the very least, ensure that standards included in current agreements are maintained.

Harriet Harman said:

"Any dilution of human rights standards would be extremely undesirable. There is an argument to be made that if the UK enters into any new agreements, this is an opportunity to raise standards."

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

Human rights should not be a bargaining chip for Brexit

The Joint Committee on Human Rights today releases its report on the human rights implications of Brexit. The Committee calls on the Government to give an undertaking to protect the residency rights...

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