Harriet Harman

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

Current News

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Monthly Report September/October 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Government Must Halt the Rollout of Universal Credit

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

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

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

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

Visit to Lewisham and Southwark College

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

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

We talked about:

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

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

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

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

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

Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Government Must Act to Tackle Extortionate Energy Prices

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

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

You can listen to the interview here.

Full interview transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Labour National Women's Conference 2017

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

GC_1.JPG

Monthly Report August/September 2017

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Harriet addresses Southwark Lour Conference

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

Southwark Labour Borough Conference 2017

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

 

The Government has no idea what they’re doing and they want to muddle through behind closed doors when actually it would be better for them to face up to the fact that Parliament’s involvement will make a perilous situation better.

It is a fact of life and often in politics that you wish you weren’t starting from where you are and that’s exactly how I feel about Brexit.

Despite the fact that there was a strong remain vote in my constituency and in Southwark, by a small majority the result of the Referendum was to leave. I remain bitterly disappointed that this was the result and I am very much concerned about the future.

In the lead up to the Referendum I knocked on doors in my constituency and all around the country, urging people to vote to stay in the EU. I felt so strongly about it I even went on a Remain campaign bus with the Tory Prime Minister David Cameron (which I never thought I would do!)

Our campaign was branded ‘project fear’ but as it turns out we weren’t exaggerating – the problems we are facing are far worse than even we predicted – labour shortages including in the NHS, food prices going up at a time when people’s wages have stagnated for years, trade being hit yet further when we’re still struggling following the global financial crisis and not to mention the cost of holidays in Europe rising sharply because of the fall in the value of the pound.

Theresa May was supposedly against leaving the EU (though she didn’t do very much for the Remain campaign that I or anyone else noticed) – and now she is leading a calamitous government that is talking about being happy to leave the EU without any deal in place whatsoever.

I and my Labour colleagues are deeply worried about the prospects for protecting jobs, workers’ rights, environmental protections and fairness for EU citizens living and working here who are so important to our NHS, construction industries and universities.

Now the Government want us to vote through a Bill which would give the Government the power to bypass Parliament. Despite all the rhetoric in the Referendum being about “taking back control” – the EU Bill would take power from Brussels, not to give it to our democratically elected House of Commons but to give it to Ministers without any accountability to Parliament. As Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has said this is “an unprecedented Government power grab” and that is why I and my Labour colleagues voted strongly against it.

The Government has no idea what they’re doing and they want to muddle through behind closed doors when actually it would be better for them to face up to the fact that Parliament’s involvement will make a perilous situation better.

This is all unprecedented – no country has left the EU before, no country has ever turned its back on its largest trading bloc.I together with fellow Labour MPs will be looking to protect the country as best we can David Cameron, who called the Referendum, has got a lot to answer for and will because of this probably go down in history as the worst Prime Minister this country has ever had.

Published by Southwark News on 15 September, 2017

 

EU Withdrawal Bill will give Government ‘power to bypass Parliament’

  The Government has no idea what they’re doing and they want to muddle through behind closed doors when actually it would be better for them to face up to...

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