Harriet Harman

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

Current News

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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 

 

Why are Select Committees important? Parliament Week 2016

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...

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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.

 

Southwark Remembers - Remembrance Sunday

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...

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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.

South London Press column - Why Parliament must be consulted before Article 50 is triggered

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...

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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...

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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.

No one in Southwark should have to wonder where they are going to sleep tonight

  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...

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This evening I joined members of Peckham, Faraday, Peckham Rye and The Lane wards at their annual general meetings.

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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.

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Camberwell & Peckham Branch AGMs

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

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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 MISSION

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.

GET INVOLVED

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 jack@londonweeklynews.co.uk

 

Time to challenge mental health taboo

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...

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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.

Campaigning in Faraday Ward

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

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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

Tonight at the Rye Hill Tenants & Residents Hall, the residents of Solomon’s Passage got the opportunity to put their concerns directly to senior Wandle staff, including the Chief Executive Tracey Lees and Newman Francis, who is the appointed Independent Resident Advisor.

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We discussed a number of ongoing issues and it is clear that some residents still feel worried and anxious about their housing future and communication with Wandle continues to be a problem.

I will continue to work with Wandle and Newman Francis to ensure all Solomon’s Passage residents are clear about their housing future and to make sure their options are fair.

Many thanks to Miriam Facey, Chair of Rye Hill TRA for arranging the use of the Rye Hill TRA Hall for this meeting.

Solomon’s Passage residents still facing uncertain housing future following meeting with Wandle Housing

Tonight at the Rye Hill Tenants & Residents Hall, the residents of Solomon’s Passage got the opportunity to put their concerns directly to senior Wandle staff, including the Chief Executive...

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has today raised further questions about the use of drones for targeted killing, following the Government’s response to its recent Report on the issue.

The Committee welcomes some clarifications of the Government’s position, but is disappointed that the Government has refused to clarify its position in relation to the use of lethal force outside armed conflict on the basis that this is "hypothetical." What law applies to such uses of lethal force is one of the most important questions raised by the Committee’s inquiry and Report, and the Committee expected the Government to make its position clear on this central issue.

The Government’s response provides some clarification in certain areas. It has explained its understanding of the thresholds that need to be met for a threat to considered "imminent" and use of force justified. But uncertainty remains about what the Government considers to be the relevance of when a threatened attack might take place. There are also some important questions about human rights law that remain unanswered.

JCHR Chair Harriet Harman said:

"The Government has stated that it follows "detailed and developed thinking" when applying the law to its use of lethal drone strikes but this has not been fully demonstrated in its response to our report. Greater insight has been provided into the broad approach the Government takes in establishing what terrorist threats merit the use of force. However the Government has chosen not to answer the most important questions raised by our Report concerning its understanding of the legal framework which governs the use of lethal drone strikes outside armed conflict.

"It is simply not good enough for the Government to refuse to answer this on the grounds that it is a hypothetical question, when in the course of our inquiry it stated that it would be prepared to resort to such use of lethal force for counter-terrorism purposes even outside of armed conflict. Parliament is entitled to expect an explanation of the Government’s view of the legal justification for such a use of force before it happens, rather than wait until it does."

Further explanation

Key areas where further explanation is needed:

  • Is the Government applying the Laws of War where operations are being carried out in areas outside of armed conflict?

  • What degree of physical power and control over a person who is killed by a drone strike is enough to bring that person within the UK’s jurisdiction so that the right to life in the ECHR applies?

  • Does the Government maintain its position that the use of drones outside of armed conflict must be in accordance with international human rights law?

  • What does the Government consider Article 2 of ECHR to require? Is an "impossibility of capture" test applied?

  • How does the Government ensures that UK support of other states using lethal drone strikes does not contravene international human rights law, protecting UK personnel from future criminal prosecution?

  • What importance does the Government place on the timing of a potential attack when deciding its response?

International consensus

The Government’s response also misinterprets the recommendation of the Committee that the Government should take a lead in developing an international consensus. The Committee did not advocate the development of a special legal regime for the use of drones. Its Report recommended that there should be an international consensus in how existing legal frameworks should be interpreted and applied. In any future response the Government must recognise this and show its determination to lead the international community in achieving this goal.

You can read the Report conclusions and recommendations here

You can read the Government's response to the Committee's Report here

 

Government has ducked central question about lethal drone strikes

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has today raised further questions about the use of drones for targeted killing, following the Government’s response to its recent Report on the issue. The Committee...

Big responsibility on re-elected leader Jeremy Corbyn. Unite the party and inspire the public that Labour credible Opposition and future Government

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Monthly Report - September/October

Big responsibility on re-elected leader Jeremy Corbyn. Unite the party and inspire the public that Labour credible Opposition and future Government Read more

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The new Prime Minister must get a grip on Brexit

Now, after the June referendum we will be leaving the EU.

The Prime Minister says "Brexit means Brexit" but what does that mean?  Article 50 is the clause in the EU founding charter which lays down the process for leaving.  The government trigger Article 50 and there's then 2 years negotiation before we formally exit.

Most people in Southwark voted to "Remain" and I'm deeply disappointed that we will be leaving the EU But as "Leave" won, the government must ensure that we suffer as little as possible by leaving.

 I'll be pressing the government to protect our economy and our opportunities for the future and tell us what they're up to.

*The government must say when they will be putting the weekly sum of £350m into the NHS they promised as part of a "Brexit dividend".  This was written on their "Leave" campaign bus but we've heard nothing of it since the vote.

*The government must guarantee areas who've been promised EU funds for infrastructure like roads and bridges that they will not lose the money when we leave the EU but they'll get it from our government. 

*they must ensure we stay in the single market so our companies exporting to EU countries don't have to pay tariffs which will make their goods more expensive.

*They must be ready to support industries whose exports are threatened by the 10% tariffs that will go on our goods being sold to the EU.  We must not lose vital investment such as Nissan in the North East, because we've left the EU

*They must tell the many EU nationals who live in this country, some who've lived, worked and brought up their families that they will not be kicked out. 

*on leaving the EU we'll have to negotiate new trade agreements with every country in the world we want to trade with to replace the trade agreements with countries like China and Cambodia, that we have by virtue of our membership of the EU.  All EU trade deals require the countries we trade with to protect minimum human rights standards; to outlaw child labour and forced labour and to protect the right to join trade unions.  When we negotiate new trade deals for ourselves with countries we wish to trade with we must ensure that those human rights clauses are included.  We must not become the weak link in the quest to improve human rights around the world.

*The government must publish every 3 months the increase in the number of civil servants who have been employed on the Brexit negotiations, and their pay bill.  Going it alone outside the EU means that instead of sharing work on treaty negotiations, we'll have to do them ourselves which will involve thousands more civil servants costing hundreds of millions of pounds.  It is likely the £350m a week will go on lawyers and consultants negotiating Brexit rather than our NHS.

*the government must commit to matching rights that employees get in the EU.  Britain's workers can't slip behind on issues like equal pay and maternity rights.

*The PM must take a personal grip on this.  She can't leave it to her warring ministers.

9 Point Plan for Brexit

The new Prime Minister must get a grip on Brexit Now, after the June referendum we will be leaving the EU. The Prime Minister says "Brexit means Brexit" but what...

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Despite the weather the Livesey Labour team were out meeting local residents talking to them about their concerns. Cllr Richard Livingston and Cllr Michael Situ and I heard a range of concerns from local people including housing and anti-social behaviour.

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Campaigning in Livesey Ward

Despite the weather the Livesey Labour team were out meeting local residents talking to them about their concerns. Cllr Richard Livingston and Cllr Michael Situ and I heard a range...

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At Solomon's Passage in Peckham today I met with shared owners, leaseholders and tenants to discuss their ongoing situation with Wandle Housing Association. Residents are still facing uncertainty about their housing future 5 months on from when they were told that they would be losing their homes because of fundamental defects in the blocks which were only built 6 years ago.

 

There are a number of significant issues that still need to be clarified and resolved and I'll be meeting with the Chair of Wandle Housing Association Richard Raeburn and the Chief Executive Tracey Lees later this week to discuss these issues further.

 

It is vital that all residents have a fair deal.

Solomon's Passage Tenants and Residents meeting

At Solomon's Passage in Peckham today I met with shared owners, leaseholders and tenants to discuss their ongoing situation with Wandle Housing Association. Residents are still facing uncertainty about their...

APM_29.09.16.jpgAPM Women in Project Management Conference 2016

Victoria Park Plaza

Thank you so much for inviting me here to your conference today.  Great to see so many of you here from many different sectors and at different stages in your career, all determined to go forward in your work.

 

Some of you will be very much a minority as a woman, some will be working amongst a "critical mass" of women but you are all still pioneers.  For my mother's generation the expectation was that

 

*education was wasted on a girl

 

*that you'd have to choose between a career and a family but not have both

 

And then, as women of my generation and yours we are grappling with what it is to be a woman in the world of work, what it is to be a mother and going out to work, what it is to be a daughter caring for elderly parents and going out to work, what it is to be a woman, leading other women and leading other men

 

These are all difficult questions which need to be worked through by women getting together and sharing strategies and experiences. 

 

But the reality is that the future depends on women's work, in every region, in every sector.  And the future needs equality because that is modernity and meritocracy.  When you see photos of all-male line ups at the top of companies, companies which are employing women, selling to women, providing services to women, you know that they are old-fashioned, backward and missing out.

 

We had that problem in politics - when I was first elected in 1982 parliament was 97% men and 3% women which is how it had been since the 1950s.  When we changed that with 101 Labour women elected in 1997, we showed that we were for women as well as men and the other parties just had to start changing too. 

 

And I wish I'd been at the afternoon sessions as I was specially interested in difficult conversations....I've had so many and avoided so many over the years. 

 

When I was first in government in 1997 I had a terrific young woman Special Advisor.  One day she came back from one of the many meetings with special advisors across government where she was the only woman and said she was worried that she wasn't doing a good enough job for me because none of the guys would listen to anything she said in the meeting, but some of them asked her for a date afterwards.  She asked whether I thought she should give up her short skirts and tie back her long shiny black hair and try and look dowdy.  There was nothing outlandish about what she was wearing.  She was dressed as a woman of her age.  What was I to advise her? She wanted to be effective, it wasn't she who was the problem but the fact that it was an overwhelmingly male room.   Ultimately the only way past this is by numbers so that a young  woman in a room is not unusual abut the norm.

 

And in government I was constantly faced with the problem of when to make a fuss and when to let it go.  Too many rows and you find yourself ineffective and out on a limb, not enough rows and you find yourself ineffective as you just get walked over.  For a woman working in the man's world of work, that is a constant balancing act.   Especially as women often get labelled "difficult" in circumstances where the same action by a man would be regarded as pleasingly assertive.  At the time, when I was in government I thought I was having far to many rows.  Now I look back and think I wasn't having nearly enough.  I had more power and influence than I realised and that is very typical of women.

 

I've chosen to speak to you today about Equal Pay - or rather unequal pay. Why it matters and what can be done about it.  Probably the single best indicator of what's going on in an organisation in relation to equality is pay.

 

When we look at what men and women earn the scale of inequality more generally is laid bare.

 

You'll all be familiar with the pattern. Women and men start their working lives on nearly the same levels. But then, when they have children, her pay plummets and his goes up.  She might go part-time, and as she'll be taking the lion's share of responsibility at home she probably won't go for promotion.  She's earning less so he has to earn more -  so he goes for promotion and up the ladder.

 

And that is how the pay gap starts - and how it carries on.  Even when the kids have grown up and she's back to working full time, she never catches up.

 

Some will say well, you've said it yourself, she's busy at home, she's worth less and he's worth more.

 

But I think that's wrong. And it's out of date.

 

Women used to have many more children and retire, in not the best of health, by the time they were 60. 

 

Look at the years of work now.  Many women starting work in their early twenties and will be working till they're nearly 70.  That's nearly 50 years.

 

And, as the years of work grow the years of child-bearing shrink.

 

When I was first an MP many of my constituents had families of more than 10 children.  Now they are most unlikely to have more than three.

 

And women's health was so much worse then than it is now.  Now women stay fit and healthy into their 60s and 70s.

 

And anyway even when she's working fewer hours I think it's wrong to judge the value of work by the number of hours worked.  I'm sure you'd all recognise the phenomenon of "presentism" - it's the opposite of absenteeism.  He comes in early, everyone sees his jacket on the back of his chair, he doesn't leave till 7 so he's got all day.  But she's gets it all done to leave at a fixed time to get home for the kids.  Each of his hours is most definitely not worth more than each of hers.

 

It's unfair for women to be locked at the bottom of the labour market, or stuck in work below their potential. And it doesn't make sense for our labour market, or any organisation, to waste the talent of its women.

 

So what can you do about it?

 

First is to look hard at your own organisation.  It's too easy to say the pay gap's awful but it happens somewhere else, it doesn't happen here.

 

It's only when you face up to it that you can start to do something about it.

 

Transparency is crucial.

 

In the Equality Act which we passed in 2010 we put in a clause which would require organisations with more than 250 employees to publish their pay gap.

 

There's been a bit of a time lag on this with the new government and its only going to become law in 2017 but there's no reason why organisations shouldn't go ahead now.  But it's crucial how you measure it and how you publish it.  You will need to comply with The Regulations which the government have drawn up but within that I think it's important that you publish and focus on one figure. 

 

*which everyone in your organisation knows,

 

*which is published every year so you can see progress and

 

*which you can use to compare with other organisations in the same and different sectors.

 

And that figure should be the gap between the average hourly pay of men and the average hourly pay of women.  It has to be hourly - or you're leaving out part-timers.

 

It's bound to be dire when you first publish it but it will be a starting point and act as a galvaniser to discuss why it's men at the top and women lower down, why the part-timers don't get promoted, why men don't take parental leave or work part-time.  The first organisation that does it and does it really honestly and openly will be terrified of the criticism...but then will find it gets huge credit for being the first and others will be pressurised to follow suit.

 

And the point is not how bad your starting point is but the progress you make.

 

*So my first point on tackling equal pay is measure your pay gap and publish it every year.

 

*My second point is discuss and agree to set  targets for how much progress you expect to make in the next 12 months, the next 5 years.

 

*My third is don't mess around with the measurement - this is a long term quest and you won't keep the momentum if you keep changing the way you measure it.

 

*My fourth point is publish annually the % of men working part-time and the % of men who take parental leave each year and the number of men taking paternity leave and for how long for each year.    It will help women in your organisation be more equal if there's not so much gender segregation in working patterns - and it will certainly help the wives/partners of your male employees.

 

*My fifth point is audit your socialising/team-building activities to make sure that they don't work a treat for male-bonding but leave women on the margins.  Breakfast meetings just don't combine with dropping kids to school, events arranged around after-work drinks don't combine with children's bed-time.   An outing to the funfair and rides on a roller coaster is not suitable for pregnant women. 

 

*My sixth point is bite on the bullet and take positive action - if a man and a woman are a dead heat for promotion, take the woman.

 

*My seventh point is don't forget older women.  The pay gap for older women is worse even than it is for women in their child-bearing years.  Sexism against younger women is now much more likely to be challenged.  But older women still seem to be expected to put up with jibes which are a combination of sexism and ageism.  There's still "banter" about hot flushes in a way that there'd never be tolerance of jibes about the "time of the month".

 

There's a different way of looking at men and women as they go through the different stages of our life.

 

I'm only half joking when I say there are the 3 ages of men and the 3 ages of women.

 

Here's the 3 ages of man:

 

First, he's in his 20s, young, bright, dynamic, thrusting forward and full of promise - he's in his prime

 

Second he's in his 30s and 40s a family man - 3 children - reassuringly virile - he's in his prime

 

And then he's in his 50s and 60s he's a grey beard, a silver fox, wise, experienced, authoritative, mature - he's in his prime - again!

 

But here are the 3 ages of woman:

 

First, she's in her 20s, distractingly too young and pretty to be taken seriously

 

Second she's in her 30s and 40s got young children she's a write off - too much on her plate

 

Then she's in her 50s and 60s and the children have left home but she's older - suddenly she's past it.

 

Men are always in their prime and we never seem to have ours.  It's about time we said, whatever age we are, our prime is now.

 

Finally I'd like to end with a word about mentoring, training, inspiring.  It's good for women to see other women to give them the idea that they can do it.  But the spirit of the women's movement was that you shouldn't wait to see another woman do it, you had to break new ground.  It's good to encourage and support women - but are we yet at the stage we can be role models.  I dread the idea that I'm a role model to younger women MPs, I don't want them to make the blunders I made, suffer the maternal guilt I did, get sacked twice - I want them to be far more tranquil in their work/life balance and make far fewer mistakes.  I want them to do better than I was able to.  Support and encouragement, yes, but role models is a conservative notion that embodies the idea that you do the same as women who came before you.  I want you all to do better than my generation, to do it your own way, to press forward with the quest for equality. 

 

And I hope that your discussions today will help you go back to your organisations and press on with it.

 

Women in Project Management - The Gender Pay Gap: why it matters. What to do about it.

APM Women in Project Management Conference 2016 Victoria Park Plaza Thank you so much for inviting me here to your conference today.  Great to see so many of you here...

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I'm delighted to be here with you all again this year.

It's been a year of political change in the last year.

We're out of the EU so we've got to campaign to make  the government commit to keeping and keeping up with the rights for women, on maternity and equal pay, that our EU membership has secured for women in this country.

We've got a new Tory Prime Minister - and she's a woman.

But like Margaret Thatcher before her, Theresa May's is no supporter of women.

When we were pushing forward in government on rights for women - she was a drag anchor - calling it a burden on business and voting against our Equality Act.

When we were pushing for more Labour women MPs she chased me round TV and radio studios decrying us, joining the men in her party and some in ours who called it "political correctness gone mad".

And while she's been in government she's voted every time for the cuts to the vital programmes that we brought in when we were in government, like sure start centres, and for tax credits for childcare.

Theresa May is woman - but she's no sister.

The fact of the matter is that it has always been Labour that has been the party of and for women and for equality. 

We have 100 Labour women MPs, more than all the other parties put together. That puts a huge responsibility on the shoulders of our chair of the women's PLP - Jess Philips.  We must be united in holding the government, and our own party, to account and demanding change and progress for women.  And we can do that, together, as women. In the 1980s despite the turmoil in the party  with the party split from top to bottom and with predictions we would never govern again, we women across all of the party worked together and made massive progress. 

We worked together as women in the cause of women despite our differences over the leadership at that time. And so we must and will now.

And let's face it there's not one of us here who isn't smarting that while the Tories, SNP, the Greens and even, god help us, UKIP have a woman leader, when it comes to Labour "it's raining men"

That makes the work of the woman I'm about to introduce to you even more important. She’s speaking for all the women in this country who are suffering under this government and who need Labour.  She's absolutely grounded in the real world and a voice of clarity and principle. She's our Minister for Women and Equality. Let's give our full backing and a huge welcome to Angela Rayner.

National Women's Conference 2016 - Liverpool, Harriet Harman MP introduces Angela Rayner, Shadow Women & Equalities Minister

I'm delighted to be here with you all again this year. It's been a year of political change in the last year. We're out of the EU so we've got...

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It was great to attend the annual Nunhead's Voice Older Peoples Celebration Day at Lime Tree House. As part of the programme for I took part in a Question time panel alongside colleagues from the London Fire Brigade and the Metropolitan Police. We took questions from local people on the issues that are affecting them, their families and the local community.

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Housing was the biggest issue raised with local people, concerned about the lack of affordable homes and worried about how this affects them and their families. Anti-social behaviour and home repair worries were amongst some of the issues raised. There was also a discussion from the Fire Brigade about raising awareness about fire safety in the home.

Thanks to Cris Claridge for organising a great event.

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Nunhead's Voice - Older Peoples Celebration Day

It was great to attend the annual Nunhead's Voice Older Peoples Celebration Day at Lime Tree House. As part of the programme for I took part in a Question time...

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It was a privilege to attend the blue plaque unveiling and honour the life of radical, hero, civil rights activist George Arthur Roberts 1890-1970.

Born in Trinidad in 1890, George Arthur Roberts served in the First World War and went on to become a firefighter throughout the Blitz and rest of the Second World War.

In 1944 he was awarded the British Empire Medal “for general duties at New Cross Fire Station” and for his part as a founder and pioneer of the Discussion and Education groups of the fire service.

He was wounded first at the Battle of Loos, and then in the Battle of the Somme. After the war he settled in London firstly living in Peckham and then Camberwell where George and his family lived for almost 50 years.

A former electrical engineer, in 1939 George completed his training with the fire service and in 1943 became a section leader.

In 1931, George was one of the founder members of the League of Coloured Peoples, one of the first organisations to take care of the needs of Britain’s black community.

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The Blue Plaque scheme was set up to recognise the borough’s rich history.

Honouring the life of radical, hero, civil rights activist George Arthur Roberts 1890-1970

It was a privilege to attend the blue plaque unveiling and honour the life of radical, hero, civil rights activist George Arthur Roberts 1890-1970. Born in Trinidad in 1890, George...

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Theresa May has said that Brexit brings new opportunities for Britain and that we can lead the world in Free Trade. The warnings from the Bank of England that our economic growth will be half what we would have had if we'd stayed in the EU are very worrying.  And The Prime Minister's visit to China and statements from Japan, and Australia show that setting out on our own to negotiate trade deals is going to be no easy task.  One of the important aspects of all EU trade agreements with non-EU countries is that the EU insists on the inclusion of clauses which require the government to ensure that trade is Fair as well as Free. That means that those we have a trade agreement with commit to preventing child labour, forced labour, discrimination and to ensure that workers are able to join a trade union and that their union is free to negotiate.

Over the years, Unions in this country have been key to ending exploitive and dangerous work practices. And Sports Direct shows that they still are.  But they are even more important in the developing world where child labour and forced labour sees people working in deadly, dangerous factories.  After Brexit, we will no longer be part of EU trade deals with non-EU countries or part of the human rights protections in those agreements.  But when our ministers and civil servants start talks and then negotiations for our post Brexit UK trade deals, we must put on the table at the outset that we will insist on clauses that are, at the very least, no weaker than the clauses in the EU trade deals.  Brexit must not be the moment when the UK becomes the weak link in the global attempt to protect the human rights of workers overseas. 

There are 50 global companies who, between them, employ 160 million of the world’s poorest people.  These companies are giants compared to the countries they are working in.  People in those countries need us to be on their side to be part of improving their safety and rights at work. And crucial to this is trade unions. They are in the factories 24/7.  Something which auditing and monitoring organisations can never be. They are the "canary in the mine" warning of unsafe and unfair conditions. They ensure that workers have someone independent they can report to.  Theresa May stood on the steps of Downing Street saying she wanted to see equality.  We need it here in this country.  And we need global equality too. Brexit must be the moment we set higher standards and certainly not lower them for struggling people in the developing world.

Brexit means government must safeguard workers’ rights that trade unions fought for

Theresa May has said that Brexit brings new opportunities for Britain and that we can lead the world in Free Trade. The warnings from the Bank of England that our economic...

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