Harriet Harman

Parliament has been dissolved until after the General Election and I am no longer an MP

Home

Recent Activity

Child sex offenders to lose parental rights over their own children

Despite being firmly in a pre-election period it’s still possible for MPs to be making changes.

One of the major pieces of legislation currently going through Parliament that presents opportunities for that is the Government’s wide-ranging Criminal Justice Bill. With that in mind I put forward a proposal to change the law to protect children of convicted child sex offenders by taking away their father’s parental rights – and I’m pleased to say the Government has accepted it.

It will be hugely significant and will lay down that fatherhood is a privilege not a right, and you will forfeit it if you are a danger to children.

It’s long been recognised that children need protecting from sex offenders. So in the 1990s we introduced the Sex Offenders Register and banned them from working with children. But the glaring anomaly is that, while those measures protect other people’s children from a sex offending man, there has been no protection for his own children. It’s been left to the mother to go to court to try and protect her children.

A spotlight was put on this by BBC reporting of a recent family court case in Cardiff. When the father of “Bethan’s” daughter was sent to prison for child sexual abuse, Bethan was horrified to discover that – despite being in prison – he still had rights over their child. When he was sentenced, he was given an order banning him from any future contact with children, but that ban did not extend to his own. Bethan spent £30,000 going through the family court fighting to protect her child from him. 

BBC reporting in this was crucial. You can’t put public policy right unless you can see it going wrong. The limited, careful opening of the family courts and the diligent reporting by the BBC’s Sanchia Berg meant this awful anomaly was exposed.

I heard Bethan’s story on Radio 4’s Today Programme and seeing that there was an opportunity for change, I tabled the new clause and got the support of former Tory cabinet minister Maria Miller and Caroline Nokes, a Tory select committee chair.

The Lord Chancellor has now agreed it so that in future when a man commits the most serious of sex offences, rape of a child, he will be automatically deprived of his parental rights. He will be able to get them back only if he is able to persuade the Family Court that it is in the child’s best interests for his parental rights to be restored. In the case of a child rapist that is unlikely.

The patriarchal hangover whereby a father’s rights over his child were sacrosanct will, at long last, give way to the priority of protecting the child.

The new law will start at the most extreme end of abuse. And can, in due course, be extended to other offences. The Criminal Justice Bill is expected to pass into law in the coming weeks.

May Southwark News Press Column

Child sex offenders to lose parental rights over their own childrenDespite being firmly in a pre-election period it’s still possible for MPs to be making changes. One of the major pieces...

 

Parents urgently need affordable, high-quality childcare – let’s turn the page on Tory failure

Affordable, high-quality and accessible childcare is important not just because it enables parents to work, but because it gives every child a fair start in life.

Childcare should be as much part of our economic infrastructure as transport – a functioning childcare system is as important as the rails and the roads which take us to work.

Without it many parents, mainly mothers, will miss out on work, or earn less than they should – and the economy will not grow to its full potential.

Sadly, many parents in Camberwell and Peckham tell me they simply cannot find the childcare they need. A report this week by the Fawcett Society showed 85% of UK mothers cannot get the hours or days they need. Under the Conservatives childcare has become less workable for the majority of UK families.

While the recent expansion of free hours was welcome, nursery leaders tell me they are struggling to meet parents’ demand and lay on the new hours due to a lack of staff. How after 14 years do the Tories still have no strategy for increasing the early years workforce?

Offering families free funded childcare hours are no good if nurseries can't safely staff them: families across the country urgently need a credible long-term solution so they can plan their lives. This is what Labour will deliver.

The last Labour government’s National Childcare Strategy led to a massive increase in childcare provision. There were 2,500 more childcare places in Southwark alone.

We did this through childcare tax credits, Sure Start Centres and nurseries in the NHS and colleges. And the benefits of these changes stayed with children for life. A recent report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that children from low-income families who grew up near a Sure Start centre did better than their peers at GCSEs. This is the difference a Labour government will make. 

The next Labour government will once again make childcare our priority – we know it is government’s responsibility to deliver on this. We will work with local authorities to boost the availability in places where provision is currently letting so many families down. It is not right that in 2024 Britain lags far behind other European countries in terms of the amount of free hours parents are able to access. 

Let’s turn the page on Tory failure and treat childcare like we would any other crucial pillar of the country’s infrastructure, so all new families get the best possible start.

May South London Press Column

  Parents urgently need affordable, high-quality childcare – let’s turn the page on Tory failureAffordable, high-quality and accessible childcare is important not just because it enables parents to work, but...

Feb_2024_Report_Image.PNG

You can read my January 2024 report here

Parliamentary Report February 2024


View More Activities

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.