Harriet Harman

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

Policy Issues

Universal Credit is a single payment which will replace six means-tested benefits and tax credits for working-age individuals and families. It is the Government's flagship welfare reform and I am concerned that it has been plagued by problems in its design and delivery. 

UC was intended to lift people out of poverty and smooth the transition into work to ensure that it always pays. Unfortunately, the programme has acted as a vehicle for cuts and caused real hardship for many people across the UK. It has pushed claimants into debt, rent arrears and forced some to rely on food banks.

I agree that the rollout should be stopped. 

Indeed, a report by the National Audit Office found that UC may end up costing more than the benefit system it is replacing. It also stated that it cannot be proven that UC helps more claimants into work and concluded it is unlikely to ever deliver value for money. 

More recently, a report from a House of Commons Select Committee concluded that UC is causing unacceptable hardship and that the Government's approach is failing claimants. It argued that the recent announcement of a further delay to the rollout is not a solution. I believe this report reveals the culture of denial about the failings of UC. It is shocking that the Government is still refusing to accept the hardship it is causing and is determined to go ahead with the next phase of the rollout.

As you may be aware, at the Budget the Chancellor announced there would be an additional £1.7 billion funding for UC. However, I am concerned the Government has not addressed wider cuts to social security or the structural problems with UC. I know that figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggest that there are £5 billion worth of cuts to social security still to come in this Parliament, which I am concerned will hit the incomes of those who have the least. 

Thank you once again for contacting me about this issue. I am committed to rebuilding and transforming our social security system and I will continue to press the Government on this important issue at every opportunity. 

Government must stop rollout of Universal Credit and fix problems

Universal Credit is a single payment which will replace six means-tested benefits and tax credits for working-age individuals and families. It is the Government's flagship welfare reform and I am...

Like the overwhelming majority of people in Camberwell and Peckham I wanted us to stay in the EU and indeed I campaigned locally and across the country for Remain. Despite the strong Remain vote in Southwark, unfortunately the result of the Referendum was, by a small majority, to leave. I remain deeply disappointed about this and am increasingly concerned that our fears about the impact of Brexit far from being exaggerated, understated the devastating impact that Brexit would have on jobs, our economy, employment rights, the environment and our security.

There are only weeks until the Brexit talks are meant to conclude but the Government still have no credible plan, no viable solution to the Irish border and there appears to be no support in Parliament for the Prime Minister’s Chequers proposals.

If Parliament votes down the Prime Minister's Brexit agreement or she cannot reach an agreement with the EU, I believe we must keep all options on the table including a public vote.

However, after the mistakes and mishaps of the last two years, I believe we should be prepared for the possibility that the Prime Minister may fail to deliver the Brexit agreement that our country needs.

I am committed to judging any Brexit agreement against Labour’s six tests that were set out by the Shadow Brexit Secretary in March last year.

When or if there is an agreement for Parliament to vote on, I do not accept that it should be a 'take it or leave it' choice between what may be a bad deal or crashing out of the EU without an agreement. I believe a No-Deal Brexit would be catastrophic and the Government does not have the right to plunge our country into chaos because of its own failure.

This is why, if any agreement is voted down by Parliament, my preference is for there to be a general election - to try to get a Government that can negotiate the best agreement for our country. However, if a general election is not possible, all other options for breaking the impasse must be kept open including a public vote.

As your elected representative in Parliament, I welcome your views and comments throughout this process. Thanks once again to all those who have contacted me on this issue.

 

People's Vote

Like the overwhelming majority of people in Camberwell and Peckham I wanted us to stay in the EU and indeed I campaigned locally and across the country for Remain. Despite...

In 2016 the Government committed to launch a Pensions Dashboard by 2019. The dashboard was designed to be a one-stop-shop digital platform, where any individual could view their various pension pots and see how much they have saved for their retirement. 

Labour has long supported the creation of a Pensions Dashboard, as it would make pensions guidance more effective and give people a better insight into their future earnings after they retire. 

Many people across the country and in our area currently have very little idea of the value of their pension schemes - they may be in multiple schemes and as a result they may have no idea what their returns might be. In addition, I am aware that the Government has estimated that 50 million pension pots with £3 billion in savings would be lost without a dashboard. Indeed, one in five adults admit that they have already lost a pension pot. 

Unfortunately, on 4 September 2018 the Government issued a statement outlining its decision to back the Pensions Dashboard, provided it is run by industry. I believe that this is a cop-out. 

I firmly believe that the Pensions Dashboard should be publicly-run for the benefit of workers across the UK. Passing it on to the private sector means there is no guarantee of compliance from all pension providers. Furthermore, there has been no indication of whether the State Pension will be included in the dashboard. 

In addition, I understand that the data of millions of people will be accessible through the dashboard, which is why I believe that it must be accompanied by high standards, tough regulations and sound governance. I am concerned that a privately-run dashboard could put savers' data at risk. 

I can assure you that I am committed to ensuring that older people have dignity and security in retirement and I will continue to press the Government on this issue at every opportunity. 


Opposing government plans to scrap the Pensions Dashboard

In 2016 the Government committed to launch a Pensions Dashboard by 2019. The dashboard was designed to be a one-stop-shop digital platform, where any individual could view their various pension...

A lot of people living in Camberwell and Peckham have contacted me concerned about environmental principles and governance after Brexit. I agree that leaving the EU must not lead to any watering down of existing standards.

The Government opened a consultation on an Environmental Principles and Governance Bill in May to explore the scope and content of a new statement of environmental principles. The consultation will also consider what functions and powers a new environmental watchdog should have to oversee environmental policy and law.

I am concerned that, under the proposals in the consultation, we may no longer retain the environmental protections we currently enjoy in the EU. The proposed watchdog is a toothless imitation of current EU institutions, which will advise and lay reports to Parliament with formal action only at the end of numerous bureaucratic hoops. I want to see a world-leading environmental body with independent, statutory backing. The consultation closed on 2 August and the Government says it will bring forward a draft bill this autumn.

As you will be aware, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill received Royal Assent on 26 June. I consistently supported amendments to this legislation to safeguard environmental protections. For example, I supported amendments which would have required the Government to pass primary legislation within six months of Royal Assent, establishing a duty on public authorities to apply principles of EU environmental law and establishing an independent body to monitor compliance of public authorities with environmental law.

While the amendments accepted by the Government in lieu of these proposals offered some helpful developments, they did not ensure that all existing EU rights, powers and liabilities that contribute to the protection and improvement of the environment are preserved under UK law.

The Government has since announced that it will introduce a new Environment Bill. However, I am concerned about the lack of information around this Bill. It is important the Government presents ambitious and concrete measures that recognise the scale of the environmental problems we face. We must make the case for a more progressive, more ambitious domestic environmental policy.

I will continue to press for environmental standards to be properly protected and enhanced where necessary and to ensure our principle and governance mechanisms are not weakened on exit from the EU. This is vital to secure the future of our natural environment.

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to get in touch with me on this important issue.

Ensuring environmental standards are not watered down after Brexit

A lot of people living in Camberwell and Peckham have contacted me concerned about environmental principles and governance after Brexit. I agree that leaving the EU must not lead to...

I believe we must meet our obligations under the Dublin regulation to reunite refugee children with family members in the UK and that Brexit must not lead to a loss of rights for refugees.

I therefore supported Lord Dubs' amendment to the Withdrawal Bill which sought to preserve existing rights - allowing those seeking asylum, including unaccompanied minors, to join a family member in the UK. This amendment was passed by the House of Lords in April but in the Commons, the Government rejected it and instead brought forward its own alternative.

This alternative amendment sets out that the Government must seek to negotiate an agreement with the EU to allow unaccompanied child asylum seekers to come to the UK to join a relative, where it would be in the child's best interests to do so. The Government has subsequently accepted changes to expand its amendment by allowing aunts and uncles as qualifying relatives able to sponsor, as well as relatives under 18. These revised proposals were agreed in the House of Lords on 18 June.

Our country has a proud history of helping those fleeing conflict and persecution and we must continue to play our part by taking our fair share of refugees. We could do more to help unaccompanied child refugees in Europe by fully implementing the Dubs scheme. This was a targeted scheme for resettling some unaccompanied refugee children in the UK.

It is very disappointing that the Government ended the Dubs scheme after resettling far fewer unaccompanied children than anticipated. I believe we should restore the Dubs scheme and accept some of the most vulnerable children in the world.

I also believe that refugees should be able to settle, integrate and live fulfilling lives in the UK and that more needs to be done to reunite families, for example by expanding the scope of the refugee family reunion rules.

I will continue to defend the right of refugees in Europe to reunite with family in the UK.

Government must keep supporting child refugees post-Brexit

I believe we must meet our obligations under the Dublin regulation to reunite refugee children with family members in the UK and that Brexit must not lead to a loss...

Many people say that prostitution - men paying for sex with women - has always been with us and always will be.  But I don't agree with that view.  Prostitution is bad for women, men and neighbourhoods and there is something we can and should do about it.

There are a number of contested propositions about prostitution.  Some argue that it is a choice women make and that they should be allowed to make that choice.  They say that just because I don't want to be a prostitute I shouldn't interfere with their choice, their right to sell their body for sex.  I think there are only a very small number of women for whom prostitution is genuinely a free, positive, strong choice.  Most women find themselves in prostitution because of mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction.  Many have had troubled or abused childhoods or have been brought up in the care system.  Many have been tricked into prostitution by human traffickers who have brought them from abroad and then forced them into the sex trade.  These women need protecting and help to lead a better, safer life. If that means interfering with the "right" of the very few women who choose to sell sex or the "right" of men to buy sex, then so be it.

Some argue that prostitutes are "sex workers" and that their "job" should be protected not eliminated.  But prostitution is not the sort of "work" that anyone would like to admit their mother does.  Who wants their daughter to grow up to be a prostitute? - No-one.  Surely we have higher ambitions for women than that they should sell their body for sex.

Some say that I should listen to the voice of organisations like "The English Collective of Prostitutes".  I have, and I don't agree with them because I have also listened to the voices of women who were victims of trafficking whose cases I dealt with when I was Solicitor General in charge of the Crown Prosecution Service.

Some say that it's a way for a woman to earn a lot of money.  Most money in prostitution doesn't go to the women but to pimps and criminal gangs.  

Some say that it's not just about women, there are male prostitutes too.  I think the arguments about protection of women apply in the same way to men who fall into prostitution.

What about a man's "right" to pay for sex, especially if he couldn't get sex anywhere else?  His right to pay does not justify his exploitation of women.  Some say "but if men can't pay for sex they'll resort to rape instead".  Men do not have a "right to sex" and if they commit rape they should be put in prison.

Some say that if you make it a criminal offence to pay for sex you will drive it underground and make women even more dangerous for women.

I think we should follow the example of the Nordic countries where the woman prostitute is treated as a victim and helped and men paying for sex are guilty of a criminal offence.  We should tackle the criminal gangs who deal in guns, drugs and women's bodies.  And I think we should ban the small ads in local newspapers which are advertising prostitution.

Protecting women in prostitution

Many people say that prostitution - men paying for sex with women - has always been with us and always will be.  But I don't agree with that view.  Prostitution...

The crucial EU Withdrawal Bill vote this month was the “meaningful vote” amendment. Since 2016 I have consistently voted for Parliament to have a say on the final deal. In the face of deep government divisions it would have been better from the start for them to face up to the fact that Parliament’s involvement will make a perilous situation better.

Last week, facing the prospect of a humiliating defeat on the ‘meaningful vote’, Theresa May was forced to enter negotiations with her backbenchers and offer a concession. But the amendment she put forward was not good enough and she’s gone back on her word to them. I voted for the amendment which would have ensured that if the PM’s withdrawal agreement is rejected by MPs - or no deal is reached at all - it would be for Parliament, not the Prime Minister, to decide the next steps. I am deeply disappointed that this was defeated by 320 votes to 303 votes.

I and Labour MPs are working to protect the country as best we can and are seeking to enshrine in law a commitment to avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland, to retain workers’ rights and environmental protections and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.  

 

Backing the Meaningful Vote amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill

The crucial EU Withdrawal Bill vote this month was the “meaningful vote” amendment. Since 2016 I have consistently voted for Parliament to have a say on the final deal. In...

A number of people in Camberwell and Peckham have contacted me about the important issue of access to taxis for blind and partially sighted people and share their experiences of being turned away by minicab drivers because their guide dog.

It is wrong and discriminatory for taxi or minicab drivers to refuse to take people based on their need for assistance from a trained dog. This directly undermines the living standards of those affected and denies them the freedom and mobility necessary to carry out basic tasks. Indeed blind and disabled people must be able to rely on taxis to take them, as unfortunately despite progress being made, in many instances it remains difficult to access other modes of transport.

It is essential that blind and partially sighted people are included in consultation by the Government on Private Hire Vehicles.

Labour is also committed to strengthening the Equality Act to ensure disabled people have the tools they need to confidently challenge discrimination, and have equal access to justice so that prejudice is not left unchallenged.

Government Must Consult Blind and Partially Sighted People Facing Discrimination by Taxi Drivers

A number of people in Camberwell and Peckham have contacted me about the important issue of access to taxis for blind and partially sighted people and share their experiences of...

Trade_Photo.JPG

Many constituents have contacted me surrounding the important issue of the UK trades with other countries after Brexit.

The Government lacks any coherent approach to Britain’s future trade policy aside from apparently wanting it to be decided behind closed doors.  Tory backbenchers are pressuring the Government to support a ‘soft touch’ trade policy that will only encourage a race to the bottom on standards that will worsen inequality and poverty both in the UK and in the developing world. It is absolutely essential that Parliament is given a proper say on each trade deal to ensure proper scrutiny.

Brexit poses a difficult question for Britain. Britain should use our new position to take the lead in breaking down global barriers to trade. It is essential that our new trade policy works for the many not the few. Labour believes the UK should use trade deals to raise international standards, tighten global rules on corporate accountability and crack down on abuses in global supply chains, alongside encouraging greater global trade.

Labour is committed to a post-Brexit trade policy that supports development in the Global South and the achievement of the    UN Sustainable Development Goals – eradicating poverty, reducing global inequality and boosting industry, innovation and infrastructure in the developing world.

I will continue to work with my Labour colleagues to insist the Government adopts a trade policy that seeks to raise standards and boosts development rather than encourage a race to the bottom and will continue to vote against the Government’s trade legislation which does not ensure proper Parliamentary scrutiny.

Trade with the Developing World Post-Brexit

Many constituents have contacted me surrounding the important issue of the UK trades with other countries after Brexit. The Government lacks any coherent approach to Britain’s future trade policy aside from...

A number of people have contacted me this week to ask me to support the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill, introduced by my Labour colleague Karen Buck MP, on Friday 19th January.  

I am strongly backing the Bill. It is a basic expectation that rental homes should be warm, dry, free from damp and safe. The Tory Government has failed to tackle rogue landlords and ensure that renters have proper protections. Currently landlords are under no obligation to make sure that the properties they let out are fit for human habitation. The only obligations that exist are to repair damage to the structure of the building and fix broken heating, gas, water or electricity installations. This does not cover common issues such as fire safety, inadequate heating or poor ventilation, which can lead to condensation and mould growth.

Local councils have powers to enforce fitness standards, but only 50% of councils have served a notice in the last year. This Bill would give tenants the power to take legal action against landlords who fail to maintain safe standards for rented homes and would enforce a responsibility on landlords to make homes fit for people to live in.

If successful the Bill will make important changes to protect tenants and improve the living conditions for 3 million low-income families living in substandard housing. I welcome the Government’s announcement that they will be supporting the Bill and I will continue to support its progress as it passes through the Commons.

 

Government Support for Homes Bill Welcome But More Needs To Be Done For Renters

A number of people have contacted me this week to ask me to support the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill, introduced by my Labour colleague...

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