Harriet Harman

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

Current News

NEW_Southwark_News_-_USE.jpg

Harriet Harman: government should cover cost of fire safety improvements in council housing

News Desk (20 July, 2017) Columnists

I will continue to work with my Southwark Labour colleagues... to press the government to commit to providing Southwark Council with the money it needs to carry out all necessary inspections and do the work to ensure residents are safe.

There are 174 tower blocks in Southwark – 54 of which are in my constituency Camberwell and Peckham. I was very concerned by the BBC London report on 11 July which raised issues of cracks between flats and fire defects in the 4 blocks on the Ledbury Estate and I am in regular contact with Ledbury tenants’ association and Southwark Council. The council have assured me that they have taken expert advice and both they and the Fire Brigade are confident it is safe for residents to remain in their flats but it is clear urgent safety inspections must continue across the borough.

Since the Lakanal House fire in 2009 in which 6 people tragically lost their lives Southwark Council has prioritised fire safety and spent £62 million on fire risk assessment and fire safety works for council homes. But following the Grenfell Tower fire it is imperative that the council carries out further fire safety checks and improvements, assesses all cladding on buildings and fits sprinklers in tower blocks. These works could cost about £100 million.

Southwark Council has two key legal duties: one is ensuring people are safe, the other is balancing the books financially. They must be able to do the first without jeopardising the second. But since the Tories took over in 2010 Southwark Council’s budget has been cut by almost half.

The cost of additional fire safety work should not be done at the expense of much-needed improvement works to kitchens and bathrooms, which are eagerly awaited by tenants. As Southwark MPs Helen Hayes, Neil Coyle and I have written to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid to seek confirmation from the government that they will:

  • Cover the costs of any additional fire safety works in Southwark, including fitting sprinklers in tower blocks.
  • Not charge leaseholders for fire safety work – approximately 20% of people in Southwark Council blocks are leaseholders. Most leaseholders already face considerable charges for planned improvement works.
  • Carry out an urgent review of fire safety regulations, as proposed by the coroner in the 2013 Lakanal House fire inquest.
  • While the immediate concern is homes, other tall buildings including schools and hospitals in Southwark need to have urgent fire safety inspections too. The government must provide resources for their inspections and set out a specific timeframe.

I will continue to work with my Southwark Labour colleagues Helen Hayes MP and Neil Coyle MP to press the government to commit to providing Southwark Council with the money it needs to carry out all necessary inspections and do the work to ensure residents are safe.

Govt should cover cost of fire safety for tenants and leaseholders - Southwark News article

Harriet Harman: government should cover cost of fire safety improvements in council housing News Desk (20 July, 2017) Columnists I will continue to work with my Southwark Labour colleagues... to...

GC_Report_May-June_2017_RS_GE-page-001.jpg

Monthly Report May/June 2017

Read more

Older_drivers_-_Lilian_Greenwood.JPG

Health checks should be compulsory for older drivers - letter to Transport Committee Chair

Women_abuse_-_Guardian_article_14.07.2017.JPG
Harriet Harman seeks political unity in fight to stop abuse of female MPs

By Political editor, Guardian Friday 14 July 2017

Harriet Harman has called on Labour women to speak out against any abuse and intimidation aimed at female Conservative MPs, warning that “a misogynistic attack on one woman is a misogynistic attack on all women”.

“I think that undeniably there is a problem and particularly focused on women, and particularly younger women or, in the case of Diane Abbott, a black woman, of abuse and harassment and threats. And that is an absolute fact,” she said in an interview on the Guardian’s Politics Weekly podcast.

Harman, who as the longest-serving female MP has the title Mother of the House, said voters must be given the right to choose a representative and for that person to be free from intimidation and harassment. “This sort of thing is an attack on democracy and we must treat it with absolute seriousness,” she said, a day after Theresa May ordered an investigation into intimidation experienced by candidates during the general election after a barrage of complaints about death threats and harassment.

Harman argued that the first response was for every party - including Labour – to commit to expelling anyone engaging in misogynistic abuse. “In the spirit of solidarity and a commitment to democracy, let alone the sisterliness of feminism, we must all stand together against this. And, as Labour women, we’ve got to be as vocal in protesting and demanding action to protect Conservative women and candidates as we are in our demands to protect our own Labour women.”

Harman’s intervention comes after a debate in parliament by MPs on the abuse they suffered in everyday life and on social media, with many revealing that they had taken action to improve their security after Labour’s Jo Cox was murdered by a rightwing extremist in 2016.

In her interview, Harman spoke of other challenges facing female MPs, as new figures from the House of Commons library reveal that women’s average length of service as MPs was about 33% shorter than for men – four to five years less, on average.

“Some might assume, because it is very difficult to combine being an MP – especially for an out-of-London constituency – with having family responsibilities, or it is difficult because there is a lot of abuse being a woman MP,” said Harman. “But actually what the facts show is that women are more likely to be selected in seats which are less safe – they are more likely to be selected in marginal seats.”

Despite warnings that only 23% of the candidates to chair select committees were women, Harman said that the elections on Wednesday represented a breakthrough. She highlighted Sarah Wollaston, who is chairing the health committee, Yvette Cooper (home affairs), Meg Hillier (public accounts committee), Rachel Reeves (business) and Nicky Morgan, who became the first female to chair the powerful Treasury select committee.

“With her as prime minister, there are a lot of people working in the public services who are crying their eyes out, and a lot of people who are needing public services crying their eyes out, and a lot of people feeling worried about having a job in future because under Theresa May they are worried of the economy going over a cliff,” she said.

Anyone engaging in misogynistic abuse should be expelled from party

Harriet Harman seeks political unity in fight to stop abuse of female MPs By Anushka Asthana Political editor, Guardian Friday 14 July 2017 06.00 BST Harriet Harman has called on Labour women...

Southwark_MPs_SOS_DCLG_13.07.2017_-_page_1.jpg

Government must provide councils with money for vital fire safety work

Read more

The_Times_-_AG_letter_(2).jpg

Today I've written to the Attorney General, Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP, calling on him as the government's senior Law Officer to prevent Tory Ministers from attacking independent legal firms and undermining the rule of law. You can read the letter and the report in The Times - 13 July 2017 below:

 HH_to_Attorney_General_13.07.2017-page-001.jpg

 

Ministers must not attack independent legal professionals - letter to the Attorney General

Today I've written to the Attorney General, Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP, calling on him as the government's senior Law Officer to prevent Tory Ministers from attacking independent legal firms and undermining... Read more

SLP.png

7 July 2017 

We have all been appalled at the horrific death toll, injury and loss caused by the Grenfell Tower fire and are devastated for those who’ve lost loved ones and their homes. But it will be particularly chilling for people living in tower blocks, and I’ve heard from a number of constituents in the 54 high-rise blocks in my constituency, frightened about their safety.  

The Grenfell fire took us back to the terrible fire in Lakanal House in 2009 where 3 women and 3 children died.  It was awful to see history repeat itself, with an event greater loss of life which should never have happened.

Again, a block which had undergone refurbishments to improve it was not properly re-inspected after the work and a fire which should’ve been contained in one flat spread and the fire brigade told residents to “stay put” as the fire spread.

In 2013 the Coroner in the Lakanal inquest said those deaths had been avoidable and made recommendations for improving safety in high-rise blocks, greater supervision of maintenance contracts, fire inspections, fitting sprinklers and updating fire regulations. The Tories say they’ve followed the Coroner’s rulings but they haven’t.

While I welcome the announcement that there will be a public inquiry, the Government mustn't wait for the outcome of another inquiry to act.

After the fire I made sure that, even though the House of Commons hadn’t yet reconvened after the General Election, there was a ministerial briefing which took place in Parliament on 15 June 2017.  I spoke in it demanding that the Government: 

  • Award Legal Aid to the residents so their voice can be heard in the public inquiry.  The Fire Service and Kensington and Chelsea council will have QCs - at public expense.  It will be a travesty if the residents, who had to run for their lives, just have to sit in the public gallery.
  • Ensure that Grenfell Tower residents are rehoused in the area and that problems with their bank, insurance and ID documents are sorted out.
  • Make sure that hospitals and emergency services have enough resources to deal with survivors.
  • Provide the money to ensure survivors are rehoused in the area, not sent miles away.
  • Give all councils the resources they need to increase fire inspections, supervise contractors working on improvements and install sprinklers.
  • Review and update building regulations. 

Over three weeks have passed since the Grenfell tragedy and the Government have been too slow to act to ensure that tenants living in other tower blocks are safe. 

When the Prime Minister made a statement in the House of Commons on 22 June, I challenged her to get a grip on the tragedy personally and use Cobra to call together all local authorities to require them to check the cladding on every one of their tower blocks, and to give councils the resources they need to conduct these inspections, to replace cladding if found to be combustible and fit sprinklers – all within a specified timescale. As Southwark MPs, Helen Hayes MP, Neil Coyle MP and I have written to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to ask for a commitment that the council will not have to divert money away from other much needed improvements to pay for this and should be able to waive the charges to leaseholders.

The last Labour government invested billions of pounds improving council homes but the Tories have made deep cuts. Councils want to improve fire safety but since 2010 the Government has slashed their budgets by half, making it harder to supervise contractors and impossible to afford the unprecedented costs of urgent safety inspections and sprinklers in the wake of Grenfell.

The Government is responsible for the safety of people in social housing and cuts cost lives.  I will continue to press the Prime Minister to provide our council with the money it needs and work with Southwark Council to satisfy myself that all tenants in tower blocks in my constituency are safe. 

 

Govt must provide councils with money for fire safety work - South London Press article

7 July 2017  We have all been appalled at the horrific death toll, injury and loss caused by the Grenfell Tower fire and are devastated for those who’ve lost loved...

AR_13.07.17.jpg

It was great to welcome Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, to Camberwell & Peckham as our special guest for the General Election thank you party this evening. Angela talked Labour's energetic election campaign and how we can keep taking the fight to the Tories.

AR_1_13.07.17.jpg

About Angela Rayner MP: she was elected as Ashton-under-Lyne's MP in 2015.

Angela started work as a care assistant for the elderly, where she got her first taste of trade unionism in fighting low pay and poor working conditions. As a mother of three, she has juggled child care with low paid shift work.

Angela rose through the ranks of UNISON, serving as Branch Secretary for Stockport Council before being elected to represent 200,000 public sector workers across the North West, including school support staff, refuse workers, cleaners and hospital technicians.

She has served on Labour’s National Policy Forum and helped ensure the Labour Government’s go-ahead for Capitalisation Funding to deliver equal pay for women working in the public sector. Low pay, the impact of austerity on working people and the future of the National Health Service are amongst her key political priorities.

 

Camberwell & Peckham General Election Thank You reception with Angela Rayner MP

It was great to welcome Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, to Camberwell & Peckham as our special guest for the General Election thank you party this...

portcullis_black.gif

We have all been appalled at the horrific death toll, injury and loss caused by the fire in Grenfell Tower. The Government must ensure that they do all they can to reassure people living in high-rise blocks, including student accommodation, that they are safe from fire. This requires providing the funding for local authorities to carry out inspections of cladding on every one of their tower blocks and to remove the cladding if found to be combustible - all within a specified timeframe.

On Wednesday 28 June 2017 I submitted a series of written Parliamentary Questions to Ministers to ask if the Government will cover the additional cost for councils to carry out checks on tower blocks, to publish the review of building regulations which has been delayed since the Lakanal House fire inquest ruling in 2013, and to examine the Government's record on funding for the Fire Brigade since 2010.

Full list of questions:

Response due from Government - 4 and 5 July 2017

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if his department will give councils the resources to conduct cladding inspections on blocks over seven stories and to remove cladding if necessary within specified timescales.

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if his department will instruct local authorities to retrofit sprinklers in high-rise blocks and provide the funding for this.

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when his department will publish the review of Part B of the Building Regulations following the Lakanal House fire inquest in 2013.

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if his department will create a requirement to upload records of fire safety inspections and refurbishments undertaken to a centrally monitored database, on a) local authorities, b) housing associations, and c) private landlords.

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when the last fire safety inspections were undertaken in student accommodation blocks in a) the London Borough of Southwark and b) in London.

  • To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much funding has been given to the Fire Brigade in each of the last 7 years, a) in the London Borough of Southwark, and b) in London.

  • To ask the Secretary of Statefor the Home Department what number of firefighters were employed in each of the last 7 years, a) in the London Borough of Southwark, and b) in London.

You can follow my tweets on the issue of Grenfell Tower and fire safety on @harrietharman

You can follow my
tweets on the issue of Grenfell Tower and fire safety on @harrietharman

Challenging Government on fire safety inspections and fire service cuts

We have all been appalled at the horrific death toll, injury and loss caused by the fire in Grenfell Tower. The Government must ensure that they do all they can to reassure people...

Southwark_Council_Logo.JPG

Following the appalling tragedy of so many lives lost at Grenfell House, I had a meeting at Southwark Town Hall with Southwark Council to review fire safety in my constituency of Camberwell and Peckham. 

There are 54 council blocks in my constituency which are over 7 floors.  The council, as landlord, has responsibility for the safety of residents in those blocks.  There are other blocks over 7 floors which are housing association or student accommodation.  Though the landlord has principle responsibility in those blocks, the council also has responsibility for enforcing building regulations.

The council rightly seeks to ensure the highest possible standards of fire safety

*that requires the most proactive and professional supervision of refurbishment contracts

*regular fire inspections

*enforcement of fire safety clauses in tenancy agreements - such as not storing furniture on balconies

*being alert to any concerns from tenants about fire safety

Since the inquest in 2013 and prosecution of the council in 2017 after the Lakanal House fire in 2009, the council have, rightly, been taking a particularly proactive approach to fire safety.  And after the Grenfell Tower fire the Cabinet member for housing – Cllr Stephanie Cryan - wrote to tenants informing them of the council’s programme of works to improve fire safety in tower blocks, telling them who to contact if they have concerns and reminding them to avoid creating fire hazards.

* The council are carrying out fire safety inspections on all high-rise blocks, schools and libraries.

*  At my request the council have agreed to establish a “real time” dashboard of information featuring every tower block in my constituency with updated information as to: if there’s cladding, if so whether it’s been tested and what was the result of the testing, when last refurbished, when last fire inspected, any fire safety complaints from tenants.  In the first instance this will be available to myself and local councillors and subsequently to be put online and made available for the public.  This will enable me to monitor in real time council work on fire safety in tower blocks in my constituency.

*  The council have agreed to invite the representatives of tenants and residents associations of council blocks over seven stories in Camberwell and Peckham to a meeting to hear any of their concerns and update them on safety measures - at the Employment Centre on Peckham Road in the next fortnight.

The 3 MPs have decided to write to the government:

*reiterating our protest about the cuts to the councils budget

*reminding them that the restrictions on rent rises further undermines the council’s ability to pay for maintenance and improvement

*pointing out that the additional post Grenfell tower checks will require extra resources which the government should make available to the council  

*insisting that the cost of further checks and fire safety improvements must not be at the expense of maintenance for existing tenants or postponement of necessary upgrading of kitchens, bathrooms etc. for which tenants have been waiting

*to insist that leaseholders should not have to be charged for a share of the fire upgrading which might be necessary.  They have already been paying for capital improvements and additional obligations would be unfair on them

Since the Grenfell Tower fire I’ve received 11 emails concerning fire safety. 9 in respect of tower blocks, 1 about escape routes and 1 about rubbish outside a stairwell.

Fire safety meeting with Southwark Council Leader Peter John and Member for Housing Stephanie Cryan

Following the appalling tragedy of so many lives lost at Grenfell House, I had a meeting at Southwark Town Hall with Southwark Council to review fire safety in my constituency...

The Labour Party will place cookies on your computer to help us make this website better.

Please read this to review the updates about which cookies we use and what information we collect on our site.

To find out more about these cookies, see our privacy notice. Use of this site confirms your acceptance of these cookies.