Harriet Harman

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

Current News

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In 2012 Desreen Brooks was walking in Hampstead with her husband Ben Brooks-Dutton and her 2 year old son Jackson when a driver mounted the pavement and killed her. The driver, aged 82, had mistaken the accelerator for the break and was driving at 54mph in a 20mph zone.

He was convicted of causing Desreen’s death by dangerous driving and in sentencing him the judge said “an elderly driver who knows, or should acknowledge, that he or she is losing his or her faculties is no less a danger than a drunken driver who knows the same.”

Desreen’s widower Ben and son Jackson now live in my constituency and Ben has asked me to take up the issue of making our roads safe from drivers who are unfit to drive through ageing. 

Currently there is no upper age limit for a driving licence. But once you reach the age of 70 you have to fill in a self-assessment form every 3 years in order to renew your licence. This means the responsibility is on the older person themselves to notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of any medical impairment which may affect their driving. If there’s only a gradual change you might not notice it yourself. And some people, even where they are aware of changes, don’t want to face up to them if it means giving up driving.  

With increasing numbers of drivers and a growing number of elderly and very elderly people, this is a road safety issue which must be addressed. According to the DVLA more than 1.2million people over 80 hold a UK driving licence and the number of people aged over 90 holding a driving licence is, for the first time, over 100,000.

I think there’s a simple way to deal with this. Already, when you are over 75 you have a named GP and are entitled to an annual health check. It would be simple and straightforward for anyone over the age of 75 to have to get their GP, at their annual health check, to certify whether they are still fit to drive. And without the annual recertification by the GP – who will have checked their eyesight as well – they would not be able to renew their driving licence.  

For many older people driving is an important way of maintaining independence so we mustn’t prevent people from driving on the basis of their age alone. It’s about their capabilities. 

I have asked the new Chair of Parliament’s Transport Select Committee Lilian Greenwood MP to conduct an inquiry into older drivers and have proposed a requirement for fitness certification of older drivers and I am urging the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP to do the same. 

No one wants to make life harder for older people. And in less than 10 years’ time I will be over 75 myself. But we have to recognise that ageing can impair faculties and we must keep our roads safe. And at the same time we should improve public transport in all areas and cut fares for older people.

Older drivers should have GP health check to certify they are safe to renew licence and drive

In 2012 Desreen Brooks was walking in Hampstead with her husband Ben Brooks-Dutton and her 2 year old son Jackson when a driver mounted the pavement and killed her. The...

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Government must give Southwark Council money to ensure Ledbury residents are safe - my letter to Sec of State

Sierra Leone has been hit by a dreadful mudslide which has left many dead, many injured, homes unsafe, transport and commerce disrupted. There is a vibrant Sierra Leonean community in Camberwell and Peckham and the UK has a longstanding relationship with Sierra Leone. Today I've written to the Secretary of State for International Development, Rt Hon Priti Patel MP to urge the government to do all it can to support Sierra Leone as they rebuild after this tragedy.

Full letter:

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Government must do all it can to help Sierra Leone following dreadful mudslide

Sierra Leone has been hit by a dreadful mudslide which has left many dead, many injured, homes unsafe, transport and commerce disrupted. There is a vibrant Sierra Leonean community in Camberwell and...

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This morning I visited the Ledbury Estate to talk to residents after the council was advised to turn off the gas supply in the four blocks. Along with Cllr Michael Situ, Ledbury Housing Officer Peter Bailey, Ledbury TRA Chair Jeanette Mason and caring council staff, I spoke to residents who are worried sick about what is going to happen. They are facing complete disruption to their lives and everyone is uncertain about whether they'll have to move, where to, for how long and how they'll cope.

It's an awful situation but the council are working hard to ensure that every individual resident is helped. They are sorting temporary accommodation, permanent accommodation and even hotels and compensation for the costs people are facing.

The council are doing their best but it's time the government stepped up and gave Southwark Council the money it needs to ensure the Ledbury costs do not take money away from other important major works projects for tenants in the borough.

I'd like to pay tribute to the work of Jeanette Mason and the Ledbury Tenants Association as well as council staff and local councillors who are all working hard for the local community.

You can read my full statement here.

 

 

Talking to residents on Ledbury Estate

This morning I visited the Ledbury Estate to talk to residents after the council was advised to turn off the gas supply in the four blocks. Along with Cllr Michael Situ, Ledbury...

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For immediate release
Friday 11th August 2017

After talking to worried residents on the Ledbury Estate in her constituency of Camberwell and Peckham this morning local MP Harriet Harman said:

“The residents of the tower blocks on the Ledbury are facing complete disruption to their lives and many of the residents I spoke to this morning are worried sick about what's going to happen.  Ledbury is a settled community where generations live together and help each other.  Elderly residents are looked after by their children and grandchildren, grandparents look after the grandchildren while the parents are out at work.  People work locally and their children are in local schools and everyone is now uncertain about whether they'll have to move, where to, for how long and how they'll cope.  People are taking time off work to deal with their rehousing and losing money.  One woman had planned to go on holiday tomorrow - a treat for her retirement - and now doesn't know whether she should go.

“It is an awful situation but the council are working hard to ensure that every individual resident is helped.  They are sorting temporary accommodation, permanent accommodation and even hotels and compensation for the costs people are facing.

“The council have assured me that they will refurbish the Ledbury Tower blocks and they will continue to be council flats.  They are not going to sell them off. 

“The council are doing their best and it’s time for the government to step up to the plate.  The government has cut Southwark Council’s grant by half in the last 7 years.  They must give them the cash they need to deal with this.  I and the other Southwark MPs Helen Hayes and Neil Coyle have been pressing the government to give the council the money they need.  So far it’s just been evasion and obfuscation and no commitment on cash.  The council will pay the cost for the Ledbury refurbishment and rehousing.  But they must not be forced to take the money away from other important major works projects.  Tenants and residents in other estates have been waiting for important improvements and Ledbury mustn’t mean that they have to wait still longer.  And nor should the burden fall on leaseholders who've already been faced with big charges.  I welcome that the council has told the Ledbury leaseholders that they won't have to pay for the major works that are now underway.

“I'd like to pay a big tribute to Jeanette Mason and the Ledbury Tenants Association.  Like so many tenants reps, Jeanette works tirelessly, unpaid, for her local community.

"I'd like to thank the local councillors, Richard Livingstone, Evelyn Akoto and Michael Situ and the council staff who are there on site and will be working over the weekend.  They are dedicated and caring and determined to do their best for the council's residents in such a dire situation.

“We will need to find out why, when the block has been subject to so many investigations and reports over the past decades, that it was not until the last few hours that the council was told that the blocks are not safe for their gas system.  Why has this not been the advice that the council received over the last decades”.

ENDS

For more information contact Rachel Smethers Rachel.smethers@parliament.uk / 020 72192057

Press release: Government must step up and give Southwark Council cash it needs for Ledbury

For immediate release Friday 11th August 2017 After talking to worried residents on the Ledbury Estate in her constituency of Camberwell and Peckham this morning local MP Harriet Harman said:...

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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...

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Monthly Report May/June 2017

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

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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...

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Government must provide councils with money for vital fire safety work

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