Harriet Harman

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

Current News

Following nominations and elections among MPs, Ms Harriet Harman has been elected Chair of the committee for the 2017 Parliament.

She was the sole nomination for the position and was therefore declared elected, unopposed.

Ms Harriet Harman will formally take up position as chair of the Committee in the next meeting.

Chair's comments

"I'm delighted to be re-elected as Chair of Parliament's Human Rights Committee. 

It's all too easy to think that our human rights here are inviolable and its only in other countries that there are human rights abuses. And some even use "human rights" as a term of abuse. 

But we have to remain vigilant and the role of our committee is to scrutinise the government to ensure that it upholds our fundamental human rights."

 

Delighted to be Re-elected as Chair of Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights

Following nominations and elections among MPs, Ms Harriet Harman has been elected Chair of the committee for the 2017 Parliament. She was the sole nomination for the position and was...

A number of people have contacted about the important issue of the Government’s Brexit Impact Assessments. On Wednesday 1st November MPs unanimously passed a Labour motion demanding the Government releases the 58 Brexit impact studies.

Labour has been absolutely clear since the referendum that ministers could not withhold vital information from the public and Parliament about the impact of Brexit on jobs and the economy.

It’s completely unacceptable for the Tories to have wasted months avoiding responsible scrutiny and trying to keep the public in the dark. The reality is that it should not have taken an ancient Parliamentary procedure to get ministers to listen to common sense.

The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis MP must now urgently respond to Parliament’s vote and publish these papers in full without redactions and Labour will continue to press the Government until they do so.

Government Must Publish Brexit Impact Assessments

A number of people have contacted about the important issue of the Government’s Brexit Impact Assessments. On Wednesday 1st November MPs unanimously passed a Labour motion demanding the Government releases...

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This morning, I asked the Leader of the House of Commons to make a statement about her plan to tackle sexual harassment in Parliament.

You can watch the whole debate here or read a full transcript here

Urgent Question on Sexual Harassment

This morning, I asked the Leader of the House of Commons to make a statement about her plan to tackle sexual harassment in Parliament. You can watch the whole debate...

I co-signed a joint letter to Home Secretary Amber Rudd calling on the Government to bring forward legislation to introduce buffer zones outside abortion clinics and pregnancy advice bureaux to protect women.

A full copy of the text of the letter can be found below:

 

Dear Amber, 

RE: Buffer zones and women’s access to essential healthcare

I am writing to you, alongside my colleagues, subsequent to our recent exchange in the Chamber on the topic of buffer zones and persistent protests outside clinics that provide family planning and abortion services.

On the eve of the 50th Anniversary of partial legalisation of abortion in UK, shockingly women daily face abuse when undergoing terminations. In my own constituency, there have been groups of people stood outside the clinic at Mattock Lane for the past 23 years – following women, calling them ‘murderers’, and telling them that if they ‘change their lifestyles then they won’t end up back here’. In my colleagues’ constituencies they stand with oversized signs with distressing and graphic images of aborted foetuses, they film women entering and leaving clinics, and they distribute false medical information. In your own constituency, they livestreamed their actions during a protest near Hastings’ abortion clinic.

This is not a protest in the usual sense of the word. These people are not seeking to change the law – they are not campaigning to change the minds of our colleagues, or encourage parliament to review the legislation. Instead, they are targeting individual women who have come to a difficult decision and who are seeking to access lawful healthcare.

Existing legislation already provides for arrest when protesters are intentionally causing harassment, alarm or offence; it allows police to disperse protesters who are causing harassment, alarm or distress; and it prevents against harassment. But these powers are simply not being used.

In the case of harassment, existing legislation places an almost insurmountable burden on women accessing abortion care – to be subject to harassment more than once by the same people, to call the police, and to agree to talk to not only them but also a public court of law about her abortion. The expectation that a woman should be forced to make public her healthcare history in order to obtain justice against those harassing her is patently unreasonable.

As you know, last week, Ealing Council voted to make use of anti-social behaviour powers as a last-ditch attempt to stop the 23-year long harassment in their Borough. This was based on gathered evidence – videos, clinic logs, and testimony from residents. It has been a long process – several years of work by highly committed volunteers who wouldn’t take lack of action from central government as an answer to their efforts.

I know that you are eagerly awaiting the outcome of Ealing’s action - but this exhaustive work should not have to be the norm. As a society we should not be forced to rely on Good Samaritans and grassroots campaigners taking the time to do the job of government and protect our citizens from gendered street harassment. Because that’s what these protests are – a way of telling women that the decisions they make about their bodies and own futures are unacceptable, and that they deserve to have attention drawn to them in the most public, misogynistic, unsolicited way possible.

That is why I am asking you to bring forward legislation to introduce buffer zones outside abortion clinics and pregnancy advisory bureaux – not to stop protests, but to ask protesters to instead make use of any of the many places they could protest – from parliament square to town centres to Speaker’s Corner. The women accessing clinics are not seeking debate – they are trying to make their own personal decision about their own pregnancy. And it must be our job as parliamentarians to protect that right.

Yours Sincerely,

Rupa Huq MP

 

Jess Phillips MP

Chair of the Women’s PLP

 

Harriet Harman MP

Mother of the House of Commons

Letter to the Home Secretary Calling on Her to Ensure The Safety Of Women at Abortion Clinics

I co-signed a joint letter to Home Secretary Amber Rudd calling on the Government to bring forward legislation to introduce buffer zones outside abortion clinics and pregnancy advice bureaux to...

We have a moral obligation to provide a space of sanctuary to those forced from their homes, by war, famine or other disasters. The current rules do not reflect the right to family life and instead force refugees to choose between their safety and their family. The importance of family relationships do not depreciate with age and our laws should reflect this, rather than prolong the suffering of those that have already been through so much.

Please be assured that I will continue to support efforts to improve the law on family reunification.

Government Must Improve the Law on Family Reunification

We have a moral obligation to provide a space of sanctuary to those forced from their homes, by war, famine or other disasters. The current rules do not reflect the...

A number of people have contacted about the difficulty of older people in getting to and from hospital appointments. I have written to the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling MP and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, about the restrictions on the use of Freedom passes for disabled people.

Mobility to access health appointments is essential for the wellbeing of older people, however Tory cuts are making it increasingly difficult for older people to access the healthcare they need. Deep cuts of almost 50% to local government budgets has forced local councils to cut dedicated transport options for older people as well as support for local bus services. The £22 billion worth of cuts to the NHS by 2020 has similarly forced local trusts to make up the losses with new revenues, including hospital parking charges.

A Labour Government would take action to combat the problems older people face in getting to and from hospital. Our commitment to supporting municipal not-for-profit bus companies will stop insufficient profit margins being an obstacle to bus coverage and will improve bus regularity. A Labour Government would also abolish hospital parking charges.

I will continue to work with Labour colleagues to put pressure on the Government to better fund public transportation and dedicated services for our older people.

Government Must Do More to Help Older People Get to Hospital Appointments

A number of people have contacted about the difficulty of older people in getting to and from hospital appointments. I have written to the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris...

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Monthly Report September/October 2017

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It was great today to welcome members of the Southwark Pensioner Action Group (SPAG) to Parliament to meet with Helen Hayes MP, Neil Coyle MP, the Mayor of Southwark, Charlie I to discuss their concerns about the pension age, NHS waiting times, Tory cuts to social care, the ‘dementia tax’ and the availability of adaptable housing.

The Conservative Government is failing older people, leaving many in limbo with their pensions and not knowing if they will need to sell their homes to pay for their care in later life. I will continue to champion older people’s rights and fight against the Tory cuts that are holding older people back.

Southwark Pensioners' Parliament 2017

It was great today to welcome members of the Southwark Pensioner Action Group (SPAG) to Parliament to meet with Helen Hayes MP, Neil Coyle MP, the Mayor of Southwark, Charlie...

This morning, I visited St. Francis Catholic Primary School to meet parents to discuss their concerns and speak to co-Headteachers Mrs R. Atkinson and Mrs C. Molloy about parking and traffic issues on Friary Road. The problem is Friary Road is a dead end street and people are driving down it making 3 point turns, sometimes mounting the pavement and endangering children. I am writing to Deborah Collins, Strategic Director of Environment and Social Regeneration at Southwark Council, to ask what the council is doing to improve signage and enforcement of yellow lines on Friary Road in order to ensure our children are safe on their way to and from school.

Visit to St Francis Catholic Primary School

This morning, I visited St. Francis Catholic Primary School to meet parents to discuss their concerns and speak to co-Headteachers Mrs R. Atkinson and Mrs C. Molloy about parking and...

At the meeting of the APPG on Ethiopia and Djibouti this morning I met the Ethiopian Ambassador to the UK, his Excellency Ambassador Hailemichael. There is a large and vibrant Ethiopian diaspora community in Camberwell and Peckham and I have visited the Horn of Africa when I was Shadow Secretary of State for International Development in 2011.

We discussed the Ethiopian Government’s progress on moving towards equal participation in primary, secondary and university level education for boys and girls and Government action to reduce the number of people living in poverty, which has decreased from 60% to 20% since 2003. Ambassador Hailemichael told us Ethiopia is the fastest growing economy in the world and about steps the Government is undertaking to improve gender equality, including the establishment of a separate bank for women with higher interest rates to help them save and programmes to help women and girls affected by FGM, which has been outlawed for over a decade in Ethiopia. 

Meeting with the Ethiopian Ambassador to the UK

At the meeting of the APPG on Ethiopia and Djibouti this morning I met the Ethiopian Ambassador to the UK, his Excellency Ambassador Hailemichael. There is a large and vibrant...

Just in the last year alone Victim Support South London have been supporting over 500 victims and their families in Camberwell and Peckham who have suffered from crime including violence, burglary and elderly people targeted by fraudsters. Despite Tory cuts to The Met Police and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, Victim Support are working hard to ensure that victims get their vital services. I met with them to talk about strengthening the forthcoming Domestic Violence Bill.

Both organisations were clear to me that the defence using sexual history smearing of victims is deterring women and men who are victims of sex crimes going to court and for those who do take cases to court it is immensely damaging to their confidence and self-respect. I am working with a coalition of women’s rights charities, MPs from all parties and members of the House of Lords to change the law to restrict the use of victims’ previous sexual history in court and prevent victims being put in the dock when it should be the person accused who is on trial.

 

Hearing from Victim Support South London

Just in the last year alone Victim Support South London have been supporting over 500 victims and their families in Camberwell and Peckham who have suffered from crime including violence,...

Many constituents have contacted me to express their concerns surrounding funding of the NHS.

As always when there’s a Tory government the NHS suffers. The Tories have cut investment in the NHS by £22bn – waiting times for A & E are growing, cancer targets have been missed for the last 3 years and in recent weeks the government has been sent stark messages from the frontline of our public services, including the Chief Executive of the NHS, warning that 5 million people will be left on waiting lists by 2020/21 if additional funding is not found in this Budget.

A quarter of nurses are forced to take a second job just to be able to make ends meet yet this Government’s plans will mean per head NHS spending is due to fall next year. For many who have dedicated their lives to public service and our NHS, the strain is becoming too much to bare. They feel they have no alternative but to leave the profession and the combination of cuts and Brexit uncertainty means the NHS now faces the worst recruitment crisis in its history. Our public services cannot function without staff, and they cannot function well unless those staff are properly rewarded – that’s why Labour are calling on the Chancellor to end the public sector pay cap right across the health service. 

A Labour Government would invest £30 billion in the NHS over the next Parliament. This would allow us to guarantee that all patients can be seen in A&E within the four hour waiting time target and guarantee access to treatment within 18 weeks – reducing the waiting list for surgery by over a million.

Please be assured my Labour colleagues and I are doing all we can to call on the Government to use next week’s Budget to give the NHS the real terms increase in funding it desperately needs.

Please do not hesitate to contact me again. 

Government Must Provide the NHS with the Funds it Desperately Needs

Many constituents have contacted me to express their concerns surrounding funding of the NHS. As always when there’s a Tory government the NHS suffers. The Tories have cut investment in...

This Bill is not about whether we leave the EU, it’s about how we leave the EU. 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 at Second Reading on 11th September 2017.

Labour have been clear that the Bill the Government have put forward is not fit for purpose. It concentrates power in the hands of Ministers with too little parliamentary scrutiny. That is why Keir Starmer has tabled dozens of amendments to attempt to stop the Government’s power grab and I have added my name to these.

Whilst it is not yet clear which amendments will be voted on, Labour have made it clear that we are willing to work across the House to improve this Bill and support amendments which would restrict the scope of ministerial powers to ensure that vital regulations and protections are enforced.

Please be assured that when the Bill comes back to the House that is what I will do.

Opposing Government Power Grab - European Union Withdrawal Bill

This Bill is not about whether we leave the EU, it’s about how we leave the EU. The Government want us to vote through a Bill which would give the...

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...

A number of people have contacted me about the important issue of Parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals. I am very concerned this and have signed EDM 128 calling on the Government to ensure the right of Parliament to properly scrutinise and have a meaningful vote on new trade deals.

Future trade deals after Brexit should not lead to a race to the bottom. Britain should seek to use trade deals to maintain and build on standards. It is important that Parliament is given proper time to scrutinise deals.

The Government 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.  

I will continue to work with my Labour colleagues to ensure the power of Parliament and regulatory protections are not undermined as we leave the European Union and enter into new trade agreements.  

Parliamentary Scrutiny of New Trade Deals

A number of people have contacted me about the important issue of Parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals. I am very concerned this and have signed EDM 128 calling on the Government...

Many constituents have contacted me about the important issue of cuts to children's services and campaigns by The Children’s Society.

I share concerns that the Government is not doing enough to help vulnerable young people. The Tories have cut local authority budgets, including in Southwark, by almost 50% since 2010, – forcing counselling and support services to be scaled back and youth clubs to close. I was extremely disappointed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, failed to provide any additional funding for children’s services in the recent Autumn Budget.

The Government’s cuts and benefit changes have forced more children into poverty – almost four million children in the UK today live in relative poverty and a third of families struggle to pay the bills. This means children going hungry, being cold in their homes and lacking school essentials.

The last Labour Government prioritised the welfare of vulnerable children and lifted a million children out of poverty. The next Labour Government will do so again through:

  • The introduction of a new Child Poverty Strategy,
  • Raising the minimum wage to a living wage of £10 an hour to improve living standards for children in the most disadvantaged families
  • Reforming Universal Credit
  • Introducing universal free school meals
  • Providing greater support to children from low income families and working to close the attainment gap between children from different backgrounds by investing £90 million per year in school-based counselling and cutting class sizes.

I will continue to work with my Labour colleagues to put pressure on the Government to do more to help the most disadvantaged children.

Government Must Do More to Protect Child Services

Many constituents have contacted me about the important issue of cuts to children's services and campaigns by The Children’s Society. I share concerns that the Government is not doing enough to...

As part of my work to improve protection for rape victims in the criminal justice system this month I met Rape Crisis South London to hear about their vital efforts supporting victims of rape and sexual assault through the ordeal of trial. In 10 of the recent cases Rape Crisis South London worked, on a victim’s previous sexual activity and sexual preferences was raised in court. One of the Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVA) told me it was difficult to reassure victims about what awaits them in court because they can’t guarantee that they won’t be grilled about their previous sexual history. The fear of this and having it splashed across social media deters  victims from reporting to the police or giving evidence at trial.

Rape Crisis South London Visit

As part of my work to improve protection for rape victims in the criminal justice system this month I met Rape Crisis South London to hear about their vital efforts...

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