Harriet Harman

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

Current News

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Monthly report - March / April 2019

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Important news that Peckham Rye station to get a lift. Locally many have campaigned for years for safety & accessibility for wheelchairs, buggies, elderly, & people with restricted mobility. We need the work done soon.

Peckham Rye Station: improving accessibility

  Important news that Peckham Rye station to get a lift. Locally many have campaigned for years for safety & accessibility for wheelchairs, buggies, elderly, & people with restricted mobility....

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This week we mark World Autism Awareness Week. It is thanks to vital campaigns like this led by the National Autistic Society and Cheryl Gillan MP as Chair of the APPG on Autism, that there is now a growing understanding of what the NAS describes as a lifelong developmental condition.

It is only recently there has been recognition that people on the autistic spectrum have difficulties with communication and social interaction. While we’ve come a long way with public awareness, there’s much to do to ensure that the support that there is there for people with autism and their families fully meets their needs.

We estimate 1,377 people in Camberwell and Peckham are autistic. Taking account of their families, this means autism is part of 5,508 people’s daily life.

The government cutting Southwark Council’s budget by almost half since 2010 means that they’ve had to cut the services they provide.

Parents I met at Cherry Garden and Tuke Special Schools in Peckham this month told me how they struggle as the cuts hit them. 

It takes longer for their children to get the diagnosis they need. Which means a delay in getting the necessary support - without which they and their family suffer.  One mother told me that the hours of help she gets for her 12 year old child had been cut from 24 to 16. Another mother told me she couldn’t apply for a primary school until her son’s care plan was in place, but this had been delayed so she feared he would miss out on a school place altogether or start the year without the right support. And Tuke School can no longer afford to run their invaluable after-school and summer holiday clubs that parents used to rely on.

I’m full of admiration of how these parents stoically battle for their child with autism and their other children, often struggling through complex systems without support.

Parents have got to be fully included in the key decisions about where their child goes to school and the care and support they get.

For some families care at home proves impossible. As chair of Parliament’s Human Rights Committee I’m leading an inquiry into the Assessment and Treatment Units where some autistic young people are detained. We’ve heard from parents whose children have been sent to units which far from helping them have made them worse. We’ve heard when parents raise concerns they are treated as a nuisance by services. But parents are the people with lifelong commitment to that child so we need to make sure that they can help shape the services that support their family.  We’re also shortly hearing from MPs who’ve spoken passionately of their own experience, including Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP and Jonathan Reynolds MP, who have autistic sons.

There is invaluable expertise in our schools, health and council services but we must never forget that parents are the experts and services must be properly funded.

 

 

Mark World Autism Awareness Week by properly funding support for autistic people and their families #WAAW

This week we mark World Autism Awareness Week. It is thanks to vital campaigns like this led by the National Autistic Society and Cheryl Gillan MP as Chair of the...

Thanks to the 1000+ Camberwell & Peckham people who contacted me ahead of the . 3 years on yet more uncertainty for people, businesses, NHS and security. Bleak. My votes last night, including for Customs Union, & :

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Brexit Indicative Votes

Thanks to the 1000+ Camberwell & Peckham people who contacted me ahead of the #IndicativeVotes. 3 years on yet more uncertainty for people, businesses, NHS and security. Bleak. My votes last...

All of us watching the news were outraged that after 5 people were murdered in just one week in London the Government refused the Met Police’s request for extra money to tackle knife crime. On 10th March every London Labour MP wrote to the Chancellor to redouble our demands that the Government give the police the resources they need. This is a national crisis. Labour are calling for an emergency committee coordinated by No.10 to develop a clear vision for all parts of government, and actions for police, prevention programmes, youth centres, schools, councils and mental health services. It is time for Theresa May to step up and provide focus and leadership. I met Southwark Police Chief, Simon Messinger, to discuss the local response.

 

Prime Minister must get a grip on knife crime with cross-government response

All of us watching the news were outraged that after 5 people were murdered in just one week in London the Government refused the Met Police’s request for extra money...

Over the last 2 weeks there have been lots of important votes. I have voted:

-AGAINST the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, which was defeated by 149 votes.

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-FOR the cross-party amendment to reject a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances. The Government voted against but we won by 4 votes.

-FOR the Official Labour Opposition amendment to extend article 50 and seek a new Brexit approach. This was lost by 16 votes.

-FOR the Hilary Benn amendment to allow MPs a series of votes on all the different options. The Government voted against this and it was defeated by 4 votes.

Read more here.

 

Key Brexit Votes

Over the last 2 weeks there have been lots of important votes. I have voted: -AGAINST the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, which was defeated by 149 votes. -FOR the cross-party...

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Monthly report - February/March 2019

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Following a stabbing involving 2 young people in February I visited Grosvenor Tenants and Residents Association for a meeting with local T&RA Chair, Chris Lacey, Camberwell Green Ward Cllr Kieron Williams & ward police officers Charlotte and Shane to renew action on the community’s safety concerns.

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Grosvenor Estate Tenant & Resident Association Meeting

Following a stabbing involving 2 young people in February I visited Grosvenor Tenants and Residents Association for a meeting with local T&RA Chair, Chris Lacey, Camberwell Green Ward Cllr Kieron Williams...

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Too often I’ve sat with grieving mothers of knife crime victims in Camberwell and Peckham. They have said goodbye to their son in the morning before school or work and they’ve never returned. 

11 people have tragically lost their lives to knife crime in Southwark since April 2018. That’s one every month. For families and communities torn apart this is not just a newspaper headline, this is their lives and it’s every mother's worst nightmare.

One mother from East Dulwich told me she is too scared to let her 11 year old son walk to and from school on his own. Another mother living in Camberwell told me that during the last school summer holidays her 14 year old son stayed in their flat alone all day everyday while she went to work, because youth centre provision had been cut back and he didn’t feel safe out alone on their estate –their home.

The urgency of this issue cannot be overstated. Since 2012 there has been a 93% rise in the number of young people stabbed. Last year 285 people in the UK lost their lives to knife crime, the highest level since records began.

All of us watching the news are outraged and mystified that after 5 people were murdered in just one week in London last week the Government has refused the Met Police’s request for extra money to tackle knife crime. The Met Commissioner, Cressida Dick, says the Prime Minister can no longer deny that cuts to police numbers have had no effect on rising crime. Under the Tories the Met has lost £1 billion and they are at full stretch. Southwark alone has lost 200 police officers and Police Community Support Officers since 2010.  

That’s why on 10th March every London Labour MP - including shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott; Sarah Jones, MP for Croydon Central and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime, and Rosena Allin-Khan the MP for Tooting who is playing a leading role on tackling knife crime in parliament and I – wrote to the Chancellor to redouble our demands that the Government give the police the resources they need to fight the rise in violent crime.

Police numbers are one important part of the picture, but the causes of this worrying rise in violence are complex and have been developing over a number of years. Cuts have hit every service, from child and adolescent mental health, to A & Es, GPs, schools and youth centres, and hampered the ability of agencies to step in when they suspect a youngster is getting involved in crime before a problem develops into a crisis.

No one single department or service can deal with this crisis.

Back in the early 2000s when there was a rise in violent street crime and robberies when Labour were in government we brought together an emergency cross-government COBRA committee and established a target for bringing this crime under control. It was run from Downing Street at the centre of government, with the Prime Minister regularly personally involved, and it worked. Within 6 months there was a 10% reduction in street robberies.

It is time for Theresa May to step up and give this crisis focus and leadership. Labour are calling for an emergency committee, backed up with the money it needs, to come out with a clear vision from all parts of government and to lay down clear actions for the police, prevention programmes, youth centres, schools, councils and mental health services.

South London is a great place to live.  But too many people are dying violent deaths.  We need leadership and more resources from government, and an end to the cuts. We can not let any more mothers go through the agony of waving their children off to school and work, not knowing whether they will return home.

 

Article published in South London Press, 14th March 2019

It’s time for the Prime Minister to take the lead on knife crime and set up a cross-government emergency response

Too often I’ve sat with grieving mothers of knife crime victims in Camberwell and Peckham. They have said goodbye to their son in the morning before school or work and...

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I was honoured to give the Tony Benn Memorial Lecture. Brexit has caused instability and division in bucketfuls. But Parliament has discovered it can put its foot down when the Government treats it with disrespect. Brexit has strengthened parliament - and that is now something worth fighting to retain. Read my speech here and my Politics Home article here.

 

Tony Benn Memorial Lecture 2019

I was honoured to give the Tony Benn Memorial Lecture. Brexit has caused instability and division in bucketfuls. But Parliament has discovered it can put its foot down when the...

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Thanks to Executive Principal Chris Everitt and Principal Peter Groves for giving Cllr Jasmine Ali, Cabinet Member for Schools, local Cllr Jon Hartley & I a tour of the school. Good to see the Year 8 biology class learning about child birth and C-sections! I reiterated my offer to students to do work experience in my office.

 

Harris Boys’ Academy - East Dulwich

Thanks to Executive Principal Chris Everitt and Principal Peter Groves for giving Cllr Jasmine Ali, Cabinet Member for Schools, local Cllr Jon Hartley & I a tour of the school....

Writing ahead of the Tony Benn Memorial Lecture, Harriet Harman says Brexit may have caused instability and division in bucketfuls. But it has also reminded us just how much Parliament matters – and that’s something worth fighting to retain:

Parliament "As the government struggles there’s a new sense of just how much Parliament matters," Harriet Harman writes
Credit: PA

Nearly everything in politics has been changed by Brexit – and parliament is no exception. Long-standing tensions about Europe in the Tory party have stormed into the public domain and with that a giddying turnover of ministers. Cabinet ministers used to be able to count on courtesy and respect from newly elected backbenches – but no longer. On the Labour side, our divisions on Brexit, though less ideologically toxic than the Tories’, have a problematic regional dimension. Labour friends find their positions pulled apart by whether their constituency voted leave or remain.

The normal set patterns of the parliamentary year have been thrown up in the air with recess cancelled, business changed at the last minute and no-one knowing what’s going to be happening until the day before.

The toxic combination of Brexit and the anonymity of social media has turbo-charged threats against MPs which demand to be dealt with. No MP should have to put up with threats to themselves and their family, of rape and murder.

People hate instability and division and Brexit has brought that in bucketfuls. But paradoxically, some of the changes precipitated by the chaos are, nonetheless, valuable.

There’s a dramatic weakening of the power of the whips. Government whips who manage to lose a vote by 230 don’t seem invincible any more. And on the Labour side some of the Whips themselves voted against the whip and yet remain in their role. The default position of Members voting with their whip can no longer be taken for granted. MPs can’t just be told how to vote, a case has to be made and won. Loyalty to the party which chose and elected you is valuable but it’s a good thing that blind loyalty is less prevalent.

Select Committees have grown in authority. Important figures who’ve left the government over Brexit now find themselves chairing select committees – Nicky Morgan chairing the Treasury Select Committee is the Government’s loss but Parliament’s gain.

Brexit has been complex and beset by detail. Step forward the Brexit Committee under Hilary Benn, the Home Affairs Committee under Yvette Cooper and the Business Committee under Rachel Reeves to expose what’s really going on. That ascendancy of the select committees is an invaluable rebalancing between the Government and parliament – in parliament’s favour.

Parliament has discovered it can put its foot down when the government is treating it with disrespect. For some time the Government has been boycotting Opposition Days and ignoring parliament’s expressed view. That’s come to an end with the House ruling that the Government was in contempt of parliament and ordering that the Attorney General’s advice be made public. As the government struggles there’s a new sense of just how much Parliament matters.

With the weakening of the party power hierarchies and the strengthening of Select Committees has come a new phenomenon of cross-party working. Working with others from different parties used to be for grandees who’d given up on party politics or for single issue campaigns. But it’s become entrenched now in a completely new way.

As a newly elected Member, it was years before I even spoke to a Tory MP but just as the profoundly important issue of Brexit has opened up fissures within the parties, so it has created new alliances across the parties.  

The new members – from both sides – who arrived in 2017 are as likely to search support for their campaigns from the other side as they are from their own. And that’s a good thing too.  

It’s hard to know if the positive changes that have emerged out of the Brexit chaos will endure when Brexit is no longer an issue (if ever that day comes). But the constitutional crisis it has precipitated has reminded parliament that we, not the Government, are democracy. And that’s invaluable and worth fighting to retain.

Harriet Harman will deliver the third Tony Benn Memorial Lecture tonight in Speaker's House. 

Brexit chaos offers Parliament an opportunity to take back control - PoliticsHome Article

Writing ahead of the Tony Benn Memorial Lecture, Harriet Harman says Brexit may have caused instability and division in bucketfuls. But it has also reminded us just how much Parliament matters –...

The Human Rights Committee has published our report into human rights and trade post-Brexit. We were concerned that human rights are not part of the consideration in new free trade deals currently being negotiated by the Government. The Human Rights Minister told us he didn't even know if human rights were in the newly signed Israel-UK trade deal! Rights should not be an  ‘add-on’ to international trade agreements, but be embedded from the outset. We are demanding Parliament’s Human Rights Committee remit is widened so we can check these agreements.

 

UK must not become weak link for human rights post-Brexit

The Human Rights Committee has published our report into human rights and trade post-Brexit. We were concerned that human rights are not part of the consideration in new free trade...

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Great to meet teachers from Nell Gwynn & The Grove Nursery, and staff & very impressive pupils of Oliver Goldsmith Primary School at the nursery funding lobby in Parliament. Nurseries provide vital services especially for low-income children. I’m backing their demand that government ring-fence nursery funding. #SaveOurNurseries

 

Backing local nurseries

Great to meet teachers from Nell Gwynn & The Grove Nursery, and staff & very impressive pupils of Oliver Goldsmith Primary School at the nursery funding lobby in Parliament. Nurseries provide...

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#IWD is the moment every year when we pat ourselves on the back for the progress we’ve made but also take stock of just how much further we still have to go. It was great to welcome Camberwell & Peckham Labour Women’s Forum for a tour of Parliament to mark the day! Women are still change-makers and that is a battle. Things are much better in my generation than they were for my mother, and they’re better for my daughter’s generation, but we cannot rest. Read my #IWD2019 articles in The Times & Harpers Bazaar.

 

International Women’s Day 2019

#IWD is the moment every year when we pat ourselves on the back for the progress we’ve made but also take stock of just how much further we still have to...

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International Women’s Day is the moment every year when we pat ourselves on the back for the progress we’re making on women’s equality and bemoan just how much further we still have to go.  But having made monumental change from the position of women in my mother’s generation, we have learnt a few lessons.  *change is possible - even when everyone is telling you it isn’t. *it needs resilience and persistence - even the most obvious change can take decades. *you will face a backlash which is often personal and threatening.  The more progress you make and the more women’s voice are heard the greater the misogynist backlash.  And it’s always nasty. *It’s not possible to make change as a woman acting alone.  It’s the solidarity of women working together which does it - not a few inspirational leaders. *don't stand around waiting to be popular.  Women who fight for equality are labelled awkward, aggressive or abnormal. But *women sticking their neck out for change will always have the support of millions of women who, like us, rail against unfairness and the discrimination they all face in their own lives.

And that’s how we’ve gone from a situation where women were defined by their role in a household dominated by a man - daughter, housewife, mother, - to a situation where nearly everyone agrees that women are not inferior to men.  But though we’ve won the arguments the reality still needs more work.  Few would argue that women should be paid less than men at work.  But 8 out of 10 employers still pay their women less than their men.  No-one condones domestic violence - like they used to. But still women’s eyes are blacked, their ribs broken and their children terrorised by men who are their husbands or boyfriends.  No-one would, any more, argue that men should make the decisions and women should abide by them.  But where decisions are to be made whether it’s in politics or business or any other field, it’s the men making the decisions even if they have to rely on women to implement them!

But though it’s depressing to see misogyny centre stage in America’s White House and the burning injustice of women in the developing world, we shouldn’t understate what we’ve achieved.  The Women’s Movement’s quest for women’s equality has been the most enduring successful political movement of my lifetime.  And the prospects for more progress are strengthened by the arrival in Parliament of more women than there have ever been.  And whilst it used to be only on the Labour side that women were arriving in numbers, there are now women in the Tories who see themselves as feminists and are pressing for progress.  With more than 200 hundred of us, if we women MPs can find a way to work together on a consistent basis, we might just turn out to be the most coherent force in a fractured parliament.

Original article appeared in the Times on International Women's Day - 8th March 2019 https://t.co/Bupu4d9CMY

 

Women need co-operation, not inspirational leaders - The Times

International Women’s Day is the moment every year when we pat ourselves on the back for the progress we’re making on women’s equality and bemoan just how much further we...

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The first thing to say is that there should have been. It’s embarrassing and wrong that the party that regards itself as the party of equality, the party that has more women MPs than all the other parties put together, has nonetheless never had a woman leader and the Conservative party has had two.

Perhaps it’s because the women in the Labour Party have consciously challenged the structures of the party and the way it works, striving to change the way we do politics. We’ve been a subversive, critical force - we wanted half the constituencies that we were going to win to be set aside for women. That was bitterly opposed by many of the men in the party. We insisted that there must be three allocated places on the shadow cabinet for women – this was when there was an all-male Tory cabinet and all bar one in Labour’s shadow cabinet were men. That doesn’t win you any friends because the men think the women are taking the places that they could have had. This means we’re seen as criticising the party hierarchy rather than being part of it. Whereas Conservative women like Margaret Thatcher weren’t seen as subversive within their own party, we’re going to turn this party upside down. She wasn’t saying it’s been a party of men, I’m going to make it a party where women and men share power on equal terms. She was about succeeding within the party power structure as it was, about beating the men at their own game, on their terms. She wouldn’t change the rules to make the party more women-friendly. She didn’t believe in that.

If you argue for positive action, which the women’s movement in the Labour Party has, then that will be and has been resisted. If you are always pushing at barriers, you’re a productive force, but not necessarily a popular one. Those leading that charge can come to be considered too unpopular for the top job. That is an explanation, but it’s not an excuse. There’s no justification for not having a woman leader. We’ve had a party for 100 years, we regard ourselves as the party of equality - next time it’s got to be a woman.

Most people in the party realise that it’s beginning to look like Labour has a problem with women, that we have to be led by a man, that none of the women in the party are good enough to lead. But nobody believes that – 45% of our MPs are women - and look at our shadow cabinet today which is 50% men and 50% women, or the previous shadow cabinets; you’ll see Labour has a big choice of exceptional women. It’s not as if there’s no women in the pool to be the next leader. 

The party needs to think about how it will look if, more than 100 years after the party was formed, it hasn’t ever had a woman leader. It always seems to be a man’s turn. The only way we’re going to put it right is that the next time that we have a contest for leader is to decide that, although we have many very brilliant men, we have lots of brilliant women too and this time it’s going to be a woman that wins the top job and the man can be deputy. There needs to be a shift in consciousness that next time the job must go to a woman, so the women who step forward know that they will receive support. Men within the party need to recognise that, if they are to be champions of gender equality, and supporters of the feminist cause, they should walk the talk by going for deputy and supporting a woman for leader. That is the challenge for men in the party. 

We’re on the right side of history and many of the changes that we’ve battled for, we’ve achieved. The Women’s Movement is the most successful political movement of my lifetime in terms of social and economic change. Women are still change-makers and that is a battle. Each generation needs to take it forward. Things are much better in my generation than they were for my mother, and they’re better for my daughter’s generation, but we still have more progress to make. Each generation has to carry the torch.

 

 

Why there has never been a female leader - Harpers Bazaar #IWD2019

The first thing to say is that there should have been. It’s embarrassing and wrong that the party that regards itself as the party of equality, the party that has...

Thank you to the 2000+ people in Camberwell and Peckham who have taken the time to write to me about a further referendum. 

I share your concern at the way our withdrawal from the EU has been handled. I believe the Prime Minister's Brexit deal will not protect jobs, workplace rights or environmental standards, and will not ensure frictionless trade for British businesses.

There is a majority in Parliament against a No Deal Brexit and I will continue to oppose a Brexit based on the Prime Minister's rejected deal.

All options must remain on the table to break the Brexit deadlock and that includes the option of a further referendum.

Thank you once again for contacting me on this issue.

 

Further Referendum

Thank you to the 2000+ people in Camberwell and Peckham who have taken the time to write to me about a further referendum.  I share your concern at the way...

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Great to welcome anti-poverty   campaigners ATD Fourth World , Thrive Teeside & Joseph Rowntree Foundation to Parliament on 5th March. We agreed it’s important to have people with lived experience of poverty at the heart of policymaking and we’re urging the Government to implement section 1 of the Equality Act to tackle wealth inequality.

 

People are the experts to reducing poverty

Great to welcome anti-poverty   campaigners ATD Fourth World , Thrive Teeside & Joseph Rowntree Foundation to Parliament on 5th March. We agreed it’s important to have people with lived experience...

parliament_security_wy6kjo.jpgJo Cox was murdered less than 3 years ago doing her job as an MP seeing her constituents in an open advice surgery.  Since then, there have been a steady stream of people being convicted for offences of threats and violence against MPs.  We notice them in a brief press report or on Twitter.  But what we see is just the tip of the iceberg.  We’ve got to start facing up to the rising tide of harassment and violence against MPs.  And stop it.  What is at stake here is our democracy.  Some might think that MPs are only willing to whinge about what’s happing to us.  The opposite is the case. There is massive underreporting of threats to MPs.  We are hard-wired to be champions of our constituents and rescue them from their problems.  The last thing any MP wants is to be seen as a victim.  Some don’t report threats worrying it will only increase the obsession of the “fixated individual” who’s stalking them.  Some feel at the same time both fearful of their assailant and sorry for them - especially if they’ve got mental health problems.  We see our task as helping the vulnerable not calling down the police on their heads.  And some don’t report because they think that it will be a waste of their time and nothing will be done about it.

And in response to the rising tide of threat, there’s a steady and worrying trend of MPs changing the way they work.  Constituents are less likely to see us going about our work as we are now less likely to tweet in advance of a meeting we’re going to, or identify an estate where we’re off for a walkabout.  Many MPs have changed the way we do our advice surgeries.  Instead of open surgeries where any constituent could turn up, only seeing them if they’ve got an appointment.  No longer doing surgeries in remote community halls on estates and instead holding them in the Town Hall. 

MPs are less likely now to travel on public transport on their own.  And that’s a shame as it’s when you get the chance to hear from random strangers.  MPs who are driven off Twitter by abuse are being denied the important right to use social media to communicate.

And even when they are out and about with their families, MPs report that they get harassed. While many MPs are resigned to enduring abuse it’s not fair for it to be inflicted on our family members.  So MPs worry about the safety of their staff.  Only last week Peter Kyle’s constituency office was attacked.

Those MPs who do ask for help report a big variation in the response.  While some find the police concerned and helpful, others report the police showing more sympathy with the assailant than the MP victim.  The police who stood by while Anna Soubry was being harassed as she tried to make her way back to Parliament no doubt thought that they were defending the rights of protestors. 

No MP should face a barrage of abuse for doing their work as a holder of public office.  It’s in no-one’s interest if, to stay safe, MPs retreat from and become more remote from our constituents. MPs should not, as they have to in many countries, have to live behind bars.

There are competing rights here.  The rights of MPs to be able to speak their mind without fear or favour, as they are elected to do and the rights of the public to protest.  The Joint Committee on Human Rights is holding an inquiry into the scale of the threat to MPs and how we draw a line to ensure that MPs remain safe to get on with our work while respecting the right to protest.

We’re going to interview a wide range of MPs to get a complete analysis of the origin, object and scale of these threats; the impact of social media, the regional “heat spots”, the correlation with racism and misogyny.  We’ll be scrutinising the work of the House authorities, the police, and CPS.  We’ll be making recommendations which respect the rights of protesters and protect the safety of MPs.  We are not an effective democracy if MPs have to look over their shoulder before they speak or vote.  

Link to article as it appeared in House Magazine, Parliamentary Culture Issue, 05 March 2019: https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/government-and-public-sector/house/house-magazine/102291/harriet-harman-members-parliament

 

Members of Parliament must be protected. Our democracy is at stake - House Magazine

Jo Cox was murdered less than 3 years ago doing her job as an MP seeing her constituents in an open advice surgery.  Since then, there have been a steady...

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