Today Harriet Harman QC MP breaks the record for the longest continuous service as a woman MP in the House of Commons.
Harriet Harman was first elected at a by-election on 28 October 1982. She has been an MP for 34 years and 49 days. She was elected in Peckham in 1982, and since boundary changes in 1997 has been the MP for Camberwell and Peckham.
Today she overtakes Gwyneth Dunwoody as the female MP with longest continuous service since women were first elected to the House of Commons in 1918.
Gwyneth Dunwoody served continuously from 28 February 1974 until her death on 17 April 2008.(1) She still holds the record for the female MP with the longest total service as she was also an MP from 31 March 1966 to 18 June 1970. Her total service amounts to 38 years and 128 days.
Since 1918, 455 women have been elected to the House of Commons. Harriet Harman was the 111th in 1982. She has been in the House of Commons with 368 of the other 454 women MPs at some point in her career.
In 1997, Harriet Harman was one of five women appointed to Tony Blair’s first Cabinet. Before this just ten women had served in Cabinet since 1929, when Margaret Bondfield became the first women to be a Cabinet minister.(2) Following appointments to Theresa May’s Cabinet in July 2016, the total number of female Cabinet ministers, since 1929, now stands at 43.
In 2007 she was elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, and Gordon Brown appointed her to his Cabinet as Leader of the House of Commons.
She remained Deputy Leader of the Labour Party until September 2015, and in that period Harriet Harman served twice as acting leader of the Labour Party. In that role she asked questions of the Prime Minister on a number of occasions. On the last occasion, on 9 September 2015, David Cameron paid tribute, describing her as “a fierce champion for a range of issues, most notably women’s rights, where she has often led the way in changing attitudes in our country for the better”.(3)
In October 2015, Harriet Harman was chosen by the Joint Committee on Human Rights to be its Chair.
By Richard Kelly, Parliament and Constitution Centre, House of Commons Library.
(1) Gwyneth Dunwoody’s service also amounts to 34 years and 49 days but because of the way leap years fall, her service amounted 12,467 days. On 16 December 2016, Harriet Harman marks her 12,468th day as an MP
(2) House of Commons Briefing Paper, Women in Parliament and Government, SN01250, December 2016
Women Secretaries of State by John Ferguson
2010 | Photograph (WOA 7169)
Parliamentary Art Collection
Today Harriet Harman QC MP breaks the record for the longest continuous service as a woman MP in the House of Commons. Harriet Harman was first elected at a by-election on 28...
The run-up to Christmas and in particular the 15th and 16th December is the busiest period of the year for the police. This morning I visited police stations in Camberwell and Peckham to take part in their #WalktheMet campaign. I met Southwark Superintendent Liz Hughes to discuss knife crime, domestic violence and police numbers in Southwark, and joined Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Sergeant Andy Sellings, PC Mark McKay and Cllr Kieron Williams to visit Jephson Street and the Samuel Lewis Trust Estate and talk to residents in Camberwell Green. Thanks to all at Southwark Police for the work they do.
The run-up to Christmas and in particular the 15th and 16th December is the busiest period of the year for the police. This morning I visited police stations in Camberwell...
Great to join our hardworking postal workers at the busy delivery office in Camberwell this morning.
Great to join our hardworking postal workers at the busy delivery office in Camberwell this morning.
This morning I joined Nunhead Ward Councillors Fiona Colley and Sandra Rhule, and the local campaign team in Nunhead to talk to residents in Goldwin Close, Pomeroy Street and Juniper House.
Lots of issues were raised including housing, repairs, Brexit and healthcare.
This morning I joined Nunhead Ward Councillors Fiona Colley and Sandra Rhule, and the local campaign team in Nunhead to talk to residents in Goldwin Close, Pomeroy Street and Juniper...
As we sit and talk in her office, it’s hard not to be distracted by the view behind her: Big Ben and Parliament Square, with the Thames flanking Portcullis House.
Little about this view has changed since the 66-year-old was elected in a 1982 by-election, the year before Margaret Thatcher won her second general election. But needless to say, she has been through plenty, so too has her constituency of Camberwell and Peckham, and more recently, so has her party.
To open, I ask Harriet to reflect on the defining moments of 2016, a year that will deserve a rather large number of pages for its chapter in the history books – not least for Brexit.
She defends what Leave campaigners labelled as the Remainers’ “project fear” campaigning. “Ending our trade relationship with Europe and going into no man’s land, having a situation where things cost more because of imports against the value of the pound,” those things, she says, were not fearmongering, but “sensible concerns”.
“I’m very disappointed that having played my part and campaigned – even [after] going out on a bus with the Conservative prime minister – that we lost.”
And for his gamble, Harriet claims that David Cameron will “go down in history as a PM who has done a terrible disservice to the country” for that referendum, which rather than being characterised by sovereignty and economics, became “just about immigration”.
Then she turns on Trump. The property mogul’s shock victory in the US Presidential election has “legitimised the idea that you can be nasty, bigoted, selfish, xenophobic, tax-dodging, misogynistic”.
“It’s celebrating prejudice, and the sort of prejudice that has consequences,” she says.
“The reason we used to protest against homophobia was because it produced gay bashing: violence against lesbian and gay people. And misogyny is used as part of a culture of domestic violence. There is a relationship between what people think and what they say.
“So things have not gone well,” she says with an ironic laugh, “it’s been getting worse”.
And what about the vote in Parliament, that will authorise the government to trigger Article 50, and officially commence our departure from the EU?
As the News reported last week, Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Neil Coyle has vowed to vote against it. And Dulwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes will do the same, unless the government presents a “detailed Brexit proposal” or has held a general election.
But Harriet is reluctant to commit while “the nature” of the Brexit proposal is still unknown. “We just have no idea,” she tells me. “I’ll have to tell you closer to the time. I don’t know what ‘it’ is at the moment, or what the government is going to put forward.”
Unlike many of her counterparts, as well as the Liberal Democrats, Harriet doesn’t expect the prime minister to call an early general election.
“I think Theresa May will be spooked by what happened in America,” Harriet says. “She will be being spooked by what is happening in France… I think she would be afraid to have a general election in the current climate.”
Even despite the Tories’ mammoth thirteen per cent lead in the recent YouGov opinion polls?
“But I think… she has a majority – albeit only ten – but she has got the office of PM and I think she is the kind of person who wants to avoid uncertainty. To plunge the country into an election with all that uncertainty… people would think ‘she’s got the job, why doesn’t she get on with it?’.
“She could find herself being blamed for all sorts of things and out on her ear. Cameron thought he was sitting pretty, he made a stupid decision on a referendum, and he was out. [Theresa] will think, ‘I’m sitting in No. 10, I’ll stay here.’”
What has also defined her year has been the unprecedented transformation of the Labour party, with Jeremy Corbyn increasing his majority in September with a second leadership election.
Harriet stated her support for leadership candidate Owen Smith MP, but refrained from criticising Corbyn anywhere near as harshly as her colleagues.
How does she reconcile Labour’s new identity as the expressly left-wing party, when for the last 21 years, the party for which she was deputy leader, and twice interim leader, had been centrist?
At first she describes the left-to-right scale of politics as too reductive, an “unhelpful construct”.
“If you look at [French presidential candidate] Marine Le Pen, she is xenophobic… but she wants a high minimum wage and plenty of regulation to protect people at work. Does that make her left or right wing?
“Certainly, in order to get elected you’ve got to get a majority… the question at any given time is how you can win enough support to get into government.
“For us in the 1990s, we had tonnes of support in Scotland, Wales, the north, but we had to win [Tory safe seats] in Hastings, Crawley, Gloucester… and we did.
“You have got to think about what can inspire people to believe you have a better solution that than other side. It will be different things at different times. You cannot stick with any particular formula.”
Somewhat knocking the thunder out of Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonell’s socialism, Harriet says the economic policies they are putting forward have “not much changed from when Ed Miliband was leader, or from Gordon Brown”. Their rule of thumb being: “You borrow to invest, but you don’t borrow for current expenditure.”
And rather than focus on internal struggles and “indoctrinal correctness” (be that Blairite or Socialist) she says Labour’s politics has “got to relate to the outside world” and “focus on issues we hear on the doorstep”.
“The important thing is, if people are asked the question: ‘what is Labour most focused on, internal power struggles or my problems?’ the answer has got to be that if we want people’s votes, people have got to believe that they are our priority, not our own struggles.”
Does Corbyn bear any other similarities with his New Labour predecessors?
Tony Blair’s former cabinet members have commented that he would scarcely discuss policy with them in detail, instead keeping the big decisions to his “inner sanctum” of advisors, Alastair Campbell, his wife, and for a time, not even Gordon Brown.
Corbyn’s inner sanctum, meanwhile, could be said to include loyalists Emily Thornberry, Diane Abbott, McDonnell, and his head of communications, Seamus Milne. And it was allegedly Corbyn’s lack of communication skills that led his rebelling shadow cabinet earlier this year to say he wasn’t fit to lead.
“But I think that is what is said about all leaders, in all parties,” Harriet counters, “that they don’t listen enough.
“It is the case, that the best way to get your leadership right is to listen to as wide a group as possible. It actually helps you make the right decisions.
“One of the difficulties of being the PM is that you have to make so many decisions all the time. But it’s less the case in opposition because you’re not actually doing anything.”
And does Harriet speak very often with the party leader? The answer is a swift “no”.
“I’m not in the shadow cabinet,” she says. “I am a backbencher now so I am getting on with my work in the constituency and I am chairing the Joint Committee on Human Rights.”
However, a stark contrast between Corbyn’s Labour and that of Blair’s is their engagement with the media, or the “days of spin” as the leader puts it.
The Labour Party has always been disadvantaged by a mostly right-wing press. But Blair succeeded in courting The Sun, once he could convince the tabloid they would be backing the sure winner. Ed Miliband also tried to engage with the Daily Mail, Telegraph and others.
But Corbyn seems defeatist in trying to engage with the press. So what should Labour do to get its side of the story heard?
“I think the media landscape is very different now to how it was in 1995 and ’96,” she says.
“But I still think because the media and the broadsheets are influential, it’s important to try to win the argument with them, however [intake of breath] in vain that might seem. It’s still important to try, because we feel we have an argument: that Labour is good for the whole of Britain. So we shouldn’t be too selective about who we say it to. We should have the courage of our convictions.”
Harriet flatly refuses to answer when I ask who might make for a strong Labour leader in future, because you “can’t go into the next election if we’re not set on winning”.
“So what about in ten years?” I ask.
Though she avoids naming names, she does say: “I know of people who look at [MPs] and say ‘they’ve got leadership qualities’. [But] I think it’s idle speculation in a way. A week can be a long time in politics, let alone a year.
“But having said it’s idle speculation… I have got the names in my head, but I’m not going to mention them. Everybody has got to work as hard as they can, and people like me have got to be as supportive as they can to everybody else, and then you need the right person at the right time.”
That “right person” – it has been suggested many a time – could well have been Harriet herself. So I ask her, why didn’t she run for leader?
“Because [in 2007] I had become deputy leader, and that was… quite a big thing. And I was interim-leader twice… I just felt like I had done my bit.
“I have added it up and I think I was on the front bench for 28 years. If you look at other older people in politics they are usually people who have not spent a lot of time on the front bench. It’s not just age, it’s your political lifespan. I’ve been having my political lifespan since the early 1980s.
“People did say it to me [that I should have run for leader]. Sometimes… I feel like they’re being supportive and complimentary, but I do wonder whether they mean it. But people do still say that. But… I had done my bit. That was my definite thought.”
The burning question now then, when does Harriet plan to stand down, like so many of her former Blair and Brown cabinet members (only nine of whom are still MPs)?
It’s a question that Harriet has clearly been asked before, but nonetheless, she says it’s “far too early to say”.
“I never answer that question, and I never have done. We have a process, and no one says anything until that process starts. That’s just the way we do it. I have made a commitment to the people who voted for me in 2015 that I will be their MP and that’s what I’m doing, and I’m getting on with it.”
To cIose, I ask what have been her highs and lows of working for Camberwell and Peckham.
The answer is emotional, but again, she’s nailing down an argument that has been central to the internal debates within Labour: that without power, you can’t help anyone.
One was the alarming waiting lists for surgery at local hospitals. She recalls a cardiologist at Guy’s Hospital in the early ‘90s estimating the number of people who would die needing heart surgery, because they couldn’t be treated quickly enough.
“The highs, I think, was when we started to open children’s centres in every neighbourhood. When I first started as an MP, literally you could only get a nursery place if your child was at risk or if they were at risk of abuse at home.
“Being able to see kids playing and learning, and seeing mums going out to work. The whole spread out of children’s centres was a brilliant thing to see. And it’s heart breaking now to see [the government] cutting back.”
As we sit and talk in her office, it’s hard not to be distracted by the view behind her: Big Ben and Parliament Square, with the Thames flanking Portcullis...
Now we’ve got a Tory government again, and as always happens with a Tory government, healthcare for local people suffers, waiting lists grow, it always gets more difficult to see your GP, hospital services are stretched and health service staff are under more pressure.
My constituents regularly contact me to say they’re struggling to see their GP, and people no longer feel confident moving their loved ones into local care homes as they’re under-resourced. When people can’t get to see a GP treatable conditions can grow worse or they end up going to A &E, which makes the queues there worse.
Yet despite this there was not a single extra penny to deal with the crisis in the NHS and social care in Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement last week. The Chancellor didn’t even mention social care in his speech.
In order to meet the demand for healthcare NHS hospitals and health services are needing to spend more than the Government is allocating them, and because budgets are inadequate they are having to cut back on certain services. In 2009/10 before the Tories took over, just 8 per cent of NHS trusts were in this position. Recent figures for 2015/16 show that almost two-thirds of NHS trusts ended the year with budget shortfalls. In Southwark, nearly all of our local NHS trusts are experiencing this, with King’s being in a severe position.
Community pharmacies are a first port of call for many patients. Without their advice, out of hours prescription deliveries to the elderly and support for those with mental health issues vulnerable people could become isolated and pressure will mount on GP surgeries and A&Es.
But despite this last month the Government announced that it would be pushing forward with dramatic cuts to community pharmacies. If these cuts go ahead 18 pharmacies across Southwark are at risk of closing, despite being opposed by pharmacies and local communities.
Despite the challenges faced over the past 5 years, last month Southwark announced a new healthcare centre is planned for the Dulwich Community Hospital site. The centre will provide a range of primary care, children’s services, diagnostics, a physiotherapy unit, a renal dialysis unit, and community mental health services. I want to pay tribute to the hard work of all involved.
But the fact remains that current financial trends are not sustainable. The Government’s demand the NHS make £22 billion of efficiency savings has meant social care services have had their funding slashed by £4.6 billion over the last Parliament, hospitals are in disrepair and the number of patients waiting longer than 4 hours in A&E has increased by nearly 350 per cent since 2010. Last Tuesday the independent National Audit Office concluded that the Government’s ‘aggressive efficiency targets’ are driving shortfalls up. I will continue to work closely with my Labour colleagues to fight against these cuts, and urge Tory MPs whose constituencies are badly affected to stand up too.
Now we’ve got a Tory government again, and as always happens with a Tory government, healthcare for local people suffers, waiting lists grow, it always gets more difficult to see...
Alongside local Labour councillors Jamille Mohammed, Nick Dolezal & Jasmine Ali we joined local party members in Rye Lane to campaign for the #CareForTheNHS campaign. The aim was to highlight the Government's failings on health and to talk to local people about how Labour intends to save the NHS. We also got to talk to people about the concerns and issues that are affecting them locally.
Alongside local Labour councillors Jamille Mohammed, Nick Dolezal & Jasmine Ali we joined local party members in Rye Lane to campaign for the #CareForTheNHS campaign. The aim was to highlight the...
It was an honour to attend the first Damilola Taylor Trust Memorial Lecture on the 16th anniversary of Damilola's death.
The Damilola Taylor Trust (DTT) was set up in memory of Damilola. They are committed to providing young people with the opportunity to play, learn and live their lives free of fear and violence, and with the hope for a future where local communities can flourish.
It was an honour to attend the first Damilola Taylor Trust Memorial Lecture on the 16th anniversary of Damilola's death. The Damilola Taylor Trust (DTT) was set up in memory...
Today I tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) on Shame Based Crimes to call on the Government to do more to engage with communities in the UK to address all forms of honour based crimes, and to recognise the need for better understanding of the unique challenges shame based abuse presents to service providers supporting victims.
That this House deplores all forms of shame based crimes, otherwise known as honour based crimes, and recognises the need for better understanding of the unique implications and challenges these crimes present to statutory service providers to ensure that all reported incidents are investigated and that all victims are supported; further deplores the rape and murder of Samia Shahid, which but for the tireless work of the hon. Member for Bradford West may otherwise have remained uninvestigated; and calls on the Government to put in a more rigorous and systematic approach to dealing with suspicious deaths of British nationals overseas and a more robust strategy to engage with communities in the UK to address all forms of shame based abuse.
Today I tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) on Shame Based Crimes to call on the Government to do more to engage with communities in the UK to address all forms of honour based crimes,...
The last thing anyone expects when they are offered a job is for that offer to be put at risk by the Disclosure and Barring Service. But this is exactly what has been happening to many people in Camberwell and Peckham over the last 18 months. That's why today I signed the Early Day Motion (EDM) on the performance of the Disclosure and Barring Service to call on the Government to take urgent action to end the delays and ensure the Metropolitan Police Service have the resources they need to provide a timely service.
In February, I asked the then Home Secretary how many DBS applications from people in Camberwell and Peckham in the past year had taken more than 60 days to process - 2,371 applications by residents of Camberwell and Peckham had taken longer and the delays only seem to be getting worse.
The DBS continues to miss self-set targets on timeliness and many of my constituents have contacted me to say they are unable to take up their jobs, are missing out on wages and are under financial strain. This cannot be allowed to go on and I will continue to work with my colleagues to press the Government on this issue.
Full text of the EDM:
That this House recognises the vital role played by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults and preventing crime; notes with very great concern the often inordinate delays in the processing of some enhanced DBS checks by police forces; further notes that these delays result in some people missing out on job offers and others losing their existing employment and income; considers such delays in the processing of DBS applications to be a direct result of substantial cuts to police services, in particular to civilian support staff, since 2010; and calls on the Government to take urgent action to ensure that all police forces and in particular the Metropolitan Police Service, have the resources they need to provide a timely and accurate service.
The last thing anyone expects when they are offered a job is for that offer to be put at risk by the Disclosure and Barring Service. But this is exactly what has...
You can read my October 2015/16 annual report here.
You can read my October 2015/16 annual report here.
For Parliament Week 2016 (14-20 November) events are being held up and down the country to connect people with Parliament and democracy.
As the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights I along with other Select Committee members got involved to answer questions on why these committees are so important for holding the Government to account and to how our democracy functions. Watch the video.
Select Committees are not party political, they work as cross party teams to hold everybody to account - the Government, the police, businesses. Select Committees can do things that nobody else can do. For example on our Committee we can summon people in front of us, to give evidence to us in public. This is something even Government can't do.
Find out what events are happening near you and follow the week's highlights on Twitter at #UKPW16
For Parliament Week 2016 (14-20 November) events are being held up and down the country to connect people with Parliament and democracy. As the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human...
The official Borough of Southwark Remembrance Sunday service took place at Saint Saviour's War Memorial, Borough High Street today.
I was honoured to join local people, MPs, Councillors, civic leaders and members of our armed services to pay tribute at this service of remembrance.
The Service was led by Father Christopher Pearson OLW, The Revd Canon Gilly Myers and The Revd Dr Sam Hole and was hosted by The Worshipful Mayor of Southwark, Councillor Kath Whittam.
The official Borough of Southwark Remembrance Sunday service took place at Saint Saviour's War Memorial, Borough High Street today. I was honoured to join local people, MPs, Councillors, civic leaders...
On November 3, the British High Court ruled Parliament must be consulted before Article 50 is triggered and Britain begins the process of leaving the EU.
The High Court judges were asked a simple question: is the Prime Minister acting lawfully by side-lining Parliament, and trying to trigger Article 50 without setting out the Government’s vision before Parliament?
And they said no, because our Parliament is sovereign, and it is Parliament, not the Prime Minister alone that can make and unmake laws. Our democracy is sustained by elections and by the courts upholding the law. The courts have a duty to ensure that no one, is above the law. It is their job to ensure the Government is held to account for compliance with UK law.
We are lucky to live in a country where we have independent judges. The Government should express its commitment to the rule of law which underpins this country, and not go along with media hounding of judges. Personal attacks on judges doing their job are unacceptable and corrosive of democracy.
People have voted, by a narrow margin, to leave the EU and that is the basis on which we must proceed. The Labour Party accepts this mandate and we will not block Article 50 outright. But the Government is also negotiating the terms of our future relationship with the EU and we do not accept that the Government can proceed without any scrutiny of its proposal.
We’re absolutely clear that before we get to that stage the Government must have put its plan before Parliament.
I supported the UK staying in the EU and am worried about the implications of leaving the EU for the rights and status of long-term EU residents here, rights of people at work, jobs and the economy. I want the Government to end the uncertainty for EU nationals living in the UK, to aim high and to press for the fullest possible access to the single market and to remain in the customs union.
The deal the Government seeks with the EU will concern our living standards, our future travel opportunities and what sort of country we will be. I am concerned about the difficulty of agreeing treaties as evident from Theresa May’s talks with India this week and the years it took Canada to secure a trade deal with the EU.
The Government needs the help of Parliament to do this, because we’ve all got a stake in this. This is the most important set of negotiations for generations and will affect our future and the future of our children. Parliamentary scrutiny is not about holding the Government back, but is about ensuring that they get the best deal they can for the country.
On November 3, the British High Court ruled Parliament must be consulted before Article 50 is triggered and Britain begins the process of leaving the EU. The High Court judges...
On 4th October the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence announced that they intended to renounce some of our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in order to prevent what they argue are unjustified legal cases being brought against members of the armed forces in respect of their overseas operationS.
There are strict international rules about when a state is allowed to renounce its international treaty obligations.
The ECHR allows states to renounce (derogate from) some of their obligations under the convention “in time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation”. It can only do this “to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation”. It must not be inconsistent with the state’s other obligations under international law and certain convention rights, including the right not to be tortured or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment, cannot be denounced.
Derogating from the UK’s international human rights obligations is a very serious matter which calls for the most careful scrutiny by parliament. All the more so when the derogation is promoted by the very government department which will benefit from immunity from certain legal claims.
Experience shows that we cannot be too careful about this. The last time the UK derogated from the ECHR was in 2001 in the wake of 9/11, (the so-called “Belmarsh case”), in order to allow the government to detain foreign nationals who were suspected terrorists but could not be deported.
The derogation received little parliamentary scrutiny and both the UK’s Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights later ruled it to be incompatible with the ECHR.
This time any derogation must be properly scrutinised by parliament, which should have the opportunity to reach its own considered assessment of whether the derogation is justified.
The principle of subsidiarity, which is at the heart of the ECHR system, recognises the importance of the role of parliament in upholding human rights.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights has therefore written to the government asking it some detailed questions which will enable us to scrutinise the claims about the necessity for taking such an exceptional step.
The government’s case for derogating rests on the view that “our legal system has been abused to level false charges against our troops on an industrial scale”. We need to be able to look at the government’s evidence of any such abuse.
We have asked the government to provide us with the reasons why a derogation is necessary, identify the evidence which demonstrates that necessity, explain why the preconditions for a valid derogation are satisfied, address the wider implications of the proposed derogation for the European system of human rights protection, and indicate how it proposes to involve parliament.
The Attorney General, Jeremy Wright, told the Defence Committee last week that “in terms of parliamentary involvement, there is every opportunity… for the government to set out why it intends to derogate and explain the reasoning”.
My committee will hold the government to that commitment. We look to the government to make the necessary information available to parliament as fully and early as possible, so that all parliamentarians in both houses can play their full part in scrutinising the basis, and, strength of the government’s case.
Derogating from UK's International human rights obligations is a serious matter - parliament must carry out rigorous scrutiny
On 4th October the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence announced that they intended to renounce some of our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights...
Last Friday along with over 100 other MPs, I was in the House of Commons to support the Homelessness Reduction Bill. I was pleased that it has gone through to the next stage of the process, and I hope it will become law.
No one in Southwark should have to wonder where they are going to sleep tonight. Or live with the fear that comes with insecure or temporary housing arrangements. But that’s the reality for over 860 households in our community today.
Problems with housing, including overcrowding and repairs, continue to be the most common issue that my constituents contact me about. And over the past 12 months I’ve taken up the cases of 102 constituents who have lost their homes.
The scale of rising homelessness is a blight on our society. The number of households applying to Southwark Council for assistance with homelessness increased from 468 in 2010 to 863 in 2015, and the number of people forced to sleep rough on the borough’s streets has increased by 11% over the same period.
Currently councils are only required to prioritise for people with children or those who are vulnerable due to medical issues. This means single people, including women and young people, can be turned away. This Bill aims to change the law to ensure all homeless people can get support earlier, by placing a duty on councils if it is likely they will become homeless within the next 56 days.
It is vital that adequate funding is made available to local authorities like Southwark, who are already overstretched, so councils are able to implement the Bill should it become law. The Government must also consult charities and service providers who specialise in this area on how best this can be done.
When Labour was last in Government, between 1997 and 2010 we made progress in tackling homelessness. We launched the flagship Supporting People programme which helps vulnerable people live independently; created the Rough Sleepers Unit which aimed to reduce rough sleeping across England by two-thirds within three years; and dramatically reduced the number of people and families in long-term bed-and-breakfast accommodation. There was a 70% drop in the number of people sleeping rough.
But since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, the number of people sleeping rough on streets across England has doubled.
We have a long way to go to tackle the root courses of homelessness. People become homeless for many reasons including losing a job, mental health problems, family breakdown, addiction, soaring London rents and the Bedroom Tax. But the truth is one of the most important ways to tackle the scourge of homelessness is to build more homes.
Last year across England, the Conservative Government started building fewer than 1,000 new homes for social rent, and it has blocked Southwark Council building the homes it wants to in the Aylesbury regeneration. At the same time the Government has introduced a law which requires councils to sell-off their high-value council housing when these become vacant, reducing the homes Southwark Council have available to offer residents in crisis.
In addition to the Homelessness Reduction Bill, the Government must commit to build more affordable housing, protect funding for Housing Benefit and reverse the Bedroom Tax to prevent vulnerable people falling behind on rent and finding themselves losing their home.
The Bill will now be scrutinised further by Parliament. I will continue to back it and support my constituents who lose their homes to rebuild their lives.
Last Friday along with over 100 other MPs, I was in the House of Commons to support the Homelessness Reduction Bill. I was pleased that it has gone through...
This evening I joined members of Peckham, Faraday, Peckham Rye and The Lane wards at their annual general meetings.
Branch AGMs are an important annual get-together that chooses the members who will be the ward officers and chooses who will be the representatives on the Constituency General Committee.
This evening I joined members of Peckham, Faraday, Peckham Rye and The Lane wards at their annual general meetings. Branch AGMs are an important annual get-together that chooses the members... Read more
For too long as a society we have struggled to talk about mental illness with the same openness as we talk about our physical health. Indeed, it was only in 2012 that MPs spoke out for the first time in a debate in parliament about their own battles with mental health.
But as one in four of us will suffer from this in our lives, we all know someone living with a mental health problem.
That’s why I am supporting the South London Press and London Weekly News Change Is Possible campaign, which is doing vital work to challenge the stigma and taboo surrounding mental health and to raise funds for Lambeth and Southwark Mind’s work in our local community.
Let’s get behind them and help build a society where everybody who is unwell, be it with physical or mental illness, can access the help and support they need.
The Change Is Possible campaign aims to promote and protect good mental health for everyone in south London, helping to shape a community that makes sure people with experience of mental health problems are treated fairly, positively and with respect.
South London Press, London Weekly News and Lambeth and Southwark Mind are committed to raising awareness about the complex mental health problems that many people in our community face, and working together to expand and improve the range of support available.
They aim to put a stop to the stigma around mental health – at home, at work and at school – and to break down the barriers that prevent people from seeking help.
If you would like to support the Change Is Possible campaign, there are several ways to get involved.
– Share your story. Do you have personal experience of living with mental health problems? Has a friend or family member been affected? Your story could help inspire others to donate towards the campaign.
– Help fundraise. Support the appeal by organising a fundraising event or setting yourself a sponsored challenge. Every penny could be crucial in helping the campaign reach its targets.
– Donate to the campaign. To make a donation to the appeal, you can visit www.givey.com/changeispossible. Alternatively, you can write to Lambeth and Southwark Mind, 4th floor, 336 Brixton Road, London, SW9 7AA.
For more information about getting involved with the campaign, you can contact reporter Jack Dixon on 07973 565078 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For too long as a society we have struggled to talk about mental illness with the same openness as we talk about our physical health. Indeed, it was only in...
Joined Faraday Councillors, Lorraine Lauder and Samantha Jury-Dada and the local campaign team in Faraday this morning to talk to residents on the Taplow Estate.
Lots of issues raised including housing repairs, loss of heating & hot water and overcrowding.
Joined Faraday Councillors, Lorraine Lauder and Samantha Jury-Dada and the local campaign team in Faraday this morning to talk to residents on the Taplow Estate. Lots of issues raised including... Read more
The new Kings College Helipad became operational this morning and I was delighted to attend the launch alongside Mr Robert Bentley, Clinical Director for Emergency & Trauma Surgery and Dr Malcolm Tunnicliff, Clinical Director for Emergency Medicine and senior medical and Air Ambulance staff.
Kings is home to the largest Major Trauma Centre in the south of England and is the hub for South East London, Kent and Medway major trauma network, providing specialist emergency cover for 4.5 million people.
Air ambulances previously had to land in Ruskin Park and patients were then being transferred by road ambulance. Having a helipad on the Kings College Hospital site means patients will go from being transferred in up to 25 minutes to around five minutes.
Construction of the Kings College Hospital helipad on the roof of the Ruskin Wing took some some time and completion has been made possible through a number of funding initiatives. Including a multi-million pound donation of £2.75m from the County Air Ambulance HELP Appeal, the Trust’s own funds and a dedicated fundraising appeal, Time is Life which raised £500,000. The Time is Life fundraising video can be found on YouTube.
New Kings College Hospital helipad will cut vital minutes in getting trauma patients to expert A&E team
The new Kings College Helipad became operational this morning and I was delighted to attend the launch alongside Mr Robert Bentley, Clinical Director for Emergency & Trauma Surgery and Dr Malcolm... Read more