Harriet Harman

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

Current News

You can read my November 2022 report here.

Parliamentary Report November 2022

You can read my November 2022 report here.

Westminster Hall Debate: Supporting UK Artists and Culture

November 22nd 2022

Watch my contribution here

With everybody incredibly anxious about what is going to happen to energy bills, with food prices soaring and with the NHS and public services struggling, it might seem an odd time to be raising the issue of funding for the arts, but it is absolutely right for us to do so. As well as helping drive our economy, as the hon. Member for Gosport said, our culture and arts are central to how we define ourselves individually and as a nation.

We must not allow public policy to drive the cultural impoverishment of this country, but unless the Government step in to stop that or the Arts Council can be persuaded to think again, that is exactly what is going to happen with the closure of the English National Opera at the Coliseum. We cannot stand by while the ENO, which is artistically excellent, economically vital and culturally important, is closed and, with that, see the end of the social engagement and widening access that is central to the ENO’s mission.

The Arts Council has removed all funding from the ENO at the Coliseum, meaning that, as the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) rightly said, 300 skilled artists, dedicated professionals and other employees will be thrown out of work. The Arts Council spin was that the ENO was to be relocated as part of levelling up. The Guardian said that the ENO

 

“is to relocate outside London”

 

and the BBC said:

 

“English National Opera to leave London as arts funding gets levelled up”.

 

The briefing was that the ENO was going to Manchester—not only was that a bolt out of the blue to the ENO, but it was the first time Manchester had heard of it, and it was not what they wanted. The Arts Council is closing the ENO with a tremendous cultural loss and nothing to show for it up north.

What the Arts Council proposes to do is completely wrong, but the way it has gone about it—with no consultation and, frankly, misleading spin—is shameful. It should think again. Yes, times have changed and times are hard, but difficult decisions should be made carefully, not with a wrecking ball. I am backing the ENO’s call for three things: a strategic review of opera as a whole; that the Arts Council should agree realistic funds for the ENO for a period of four years; and that the Arts Council should agree a period of five years to consult on a new model, based on the ENO retaining its Coliseum base but increasing still further its fundraising and work outside London.

As has been said, the ENO has effective leadership; I pay tribute to that and it is also fully acknowledged by the Arts Council. It has a dedicated company of employees who deserve better than to be thrown out of work in April next year. The ENO means a great deal to many, as emails from my constituents can attest. I thank all those who have contacted me and assure them that the ENO will have my full support.

Surely Sir Nicholas Serota does not want his legacy to be the closure of the ENO; if he goes ahead with the closure, that will be the only thing everybody will remember about him and his tenure at the Arts Council. The decision to close the ENO is wrong, and the best thing to do with a wrong decision is to change it. The Government have been quite active on that front in the past, with U-turns here and there—this would be one U-turn that would be universally welcomed. I welcome the Minister to his role and I hope to hear in public, or even in private—whatever is necessary—that he will step in, and that the ENO will not be closed.

Closure of ENO - why Arts Council England must u-turn decision

Westminster Hall Debate: Supporting UK Artists and Culture November 22nd 2022 Watch my contribution here.  With everybody incredibly anxious about what is going to happen to energy bills, with food...

17 November 2022

At least 17,000 homes in Southwark are served by communal heat networks. Communal heat networks buy gas wholesale and then distribute it to residents and because communal heat networks are not regulated by Ofgem residents are not protected by the energy price cap. This means that, at a time when global gas prices are soaring, these costs get passed directly onto the consumer.

The majority of residents in the UK on heat networks live in social housing, and the majority of those in social housing are over the age of 55, which means that these price rises often disproportionately hit the elderly and those on low incomes. Southwark Council has negotiated competitive gas prices for its bulk purchasing for many years and it is also absorbing some of the financial shock caused by energy price spikes, so council tenants in Southwark are protected from the worst of the price rises. But the Government should have acted far sooner and it is unacceptable that many heat network customers have been left without protection.

I back the call from Labour for far greater regulation of the heat network system so that customers are properly protected and do not see unsustainable price rises. I want there to be a new regulatory regime for heat networks, including bringing heat networks onto the price cap system if possible.

People in Camberwell and Peckham on communal heat networks have already faced huge increases in their bills. The wholesale price of gas has increased over 200% in the past year and is forecast to continue to rise. 

I have been contacted directly by no fewer than 40 constituents who are on communal heat networks and who are concerned about unsustainable rises in their energy bills. One constituent told me that their bill was due to increase by 776% and another said that their bill had already increased from £87.53 last year to £630.25 this year.

One constituent said that the bill rises will:

make heating and hot water unaffordable for many residents and families and we remain exposed to even worse potential rises the year after.

Another said:

This 400% rise is going to make heating and hot water unaffordable for many of our residents, who are on low or fixed incomes. It is distressing news, especially as we face job losses, wage stagnation and other rises in the costs of living.

In September I wrote to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on behalf of my constituents demanding that people on heat networks be included in the Government’s plan to freeze energy prices.

Following my letter, I was reassured to see that people on communal heat networks were included in the Government’s policy. However, clearly the promised Government support has not materialised for many of my constituents, meaning that they are still facing huge rises in their bills. This failure to provide timely support despite it having been announced is yet another failing by the Government and I have asked further questions of the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Grant Shapps, to press for the promised support to get to my constituents and hundreds of thousands of others. I continue to press the Government and once I have the Government’s response I will be communicating it directly with my constituents.

Support for People on Communal Heat Networks

17 November 2022 At least 17,000 homes in Southwark are served by communal heat networks. Communal heat networks buy gas wholesale and then distribute it to residents and because communal...

You can read my report on women's equality 40 years ago and today here.

Great Progress But Still Far To Go - Women's Equality 40 Years Ago and Today

You can read my report on women's equality 40 years ago and today here.

 

You can read my July - October 2022 report here

Parliamentary Report July - October 2022

  You can read my July - October 2022 report here. 

 

Financial Protection for People on Heat Networks

 

10th August 2022

Whilst the Conservative Party is bogged down in internal political crisis, the Government is not functioning and people in Camberwell and Peckham, already struggling with the very real cost of living crisis, face even higher bills. But even though the Government is in crisis, they must take action to ensure people are not left anxious and unable to pay their bills.

The cost of living crisis is hitting people with soaring inflation, petrol and food increases and above all rocketing energy costs. Latest figures show that consumers already owe £1.3bn to energy suppliers, and this is before bills are expected to jump by over 80% in the Autumn. Households are projected to face annual energy bills of up to £4,200 next January. And inflation hits the poorest families in the UK hardest, because they spend more of their total budget on gas and electricity than the better off.

The crisis therefore hits particularly hard in Camberwell and Peckham where more people are on tight budgets. We have a higher percentage of people on low incomes than the regional average and the constituency is in the top 15% nationally for the proportion of people relying on Universal Credit. People just aren’t able to afford sudden price increases for things that are essential to their daily lives. And this crisis will not only hit individuals and their families but also the local economy in Camberwell and Peckham, as local people will have far less money in their pockets to spend in shops and in the local community.

In light of these price increases it is even more scandalous energy company profits and their payouts to shareholders and bonuses to top executives have soared. BP announced its profits had tripled to £6.9bn between April and June this year, and that it would be handing out £4bn to shareholders as a result. The BP Chief Executive took home £4.5m in 2021 alone. These profits show Labour was right to repeatedly call for a windfall tax on energy companies, something which the Government only reluctantly did after a U-turn following political pressure from the Opposition, and it shows how totally wrong it is that the Government has given big tax cuts to oil companies. Labour would abolish these tax cuts and use the money to help insulate people’s homes to help them cut their energy costs.

In the face of this looming crisis, the Government has done nothing to assure people that they will get the support they need to afford the basics this Autumn. That is why I strongly back calls from Labour former Prime Minister Gordon Brown for an emergency budget before the UK hits a “financial timebomb”. Only this can stop millions being pushed into poverty and debt when energy prices rise again in October. I also strongly agree with Labour leader Keir Starmer that the Government should cut VAT on gas and electricity bills now. Taxes on low income people should also never have been raised and the Government should scrap their National Insurance tax increase, which they promised in their manifesto they wouldn’t do but which came into effect in April this year, just when people could least afford it and hitting hardest those who can least afford it.

The Labour Party is putting forward workable policies which would make a difference to people’s lives right away when they need Government support most. So far neither of the two candidates to be the next Tory leader and Prime Minister has put forward a credible and clear plan to help those most in need and the current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is rejecting calls to get a grip of the situation. But a crisis in the Conservative Party and a crisis in Government cannot mean that people are left without support in the face of mounting debt and a struggle to afford the basics for themselves and their families. The Prime Minister and the leadership candidates must act now before it is too late.

The Government must act now on the cost of living crisis

10th August 2022 Whilst the Conservative Party is bogged down in internal political crisis, the Government is not functioning and people in Camberwell and Peckham, already struggling with the very...

 

 

You can read my submission to Transport for London's Central London Bus Review here

Stop the bus cuts in Camberwell and Peckham - submission to the Central London Bus Review

    You can read my submission to Transport for London's Central London Bus Review here. 

You can read my 2021/2022 annual report here

Parliamentary Annual Report 2021/2022

You can read my 2021/2022 annual report here. 

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), which I chair, has published its report into the adoption of the children of unmarried women in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. You can read our report here, and you can read more about the inquiry here.

Joint Committee on Human Rights: The Violation of Family Life: Adoption of Children of Unmarried Women 1949–1976

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), which I chair, has published its report into the adoption of the children of unmarried women in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. You...

 

 

You can read my June 2022 report here

Parliamentary Report June 2022

    You can read my June 2022 report here. 

You can read my April and May 2022 report here

Parliamentary April and May Report 2022

You can read my April and May 2022 report here. 

You can read my Spring 2022 report here

 

Parliamentary Spring Report 2022

You can read my Spring 2022 report here.   

You can read my December 2021 monthly report here

 

Parliamentary December Report 2021

You can read my December 2021 monthly report here.   

 

You can read my November 2021 monthly report here

Parliamentary November Report 2021

  You can read my November 2021 monthly report here

You can read my October 2021 monthly report here

Parliamentary October Report 2021

You can read my October 2021 monthly report here

WEB_PIC_SUMMER_REPORT.PNG

You can read my summer 2021 report here.

Parliamentary Summer Report 2021

You can read my summer 2021 report here.

afghan_web.JPG

You can read my Parliamentary Special Report on the Afghanistan Crisis here.

Afghanistan Crisis - Parliamentary Special Report

You can read my Parliamentary Special Report on the Afghanistan Crisis here.

The Government must increase the 5,000 Afghanistan Resettlement Scheme cap – My question to the Foreign Secretary.

You can watch my speech here.

HH_Statement.PNG

The Government doesn't even know how many Afghans have asked to come to the UK under the scheme for those threatened by the Taliban.

My speech in full:

Ms Harriet Harman

(Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab)

I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement. May I ask him about the number of requests the Government have already had in respect of Afghan citizens who do not qualify for the ARAP scheme as they did not work directly for us, but who want and need to flee here from Afghanistan and have already asked? I know that the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme is not yet open, but he must already know how many have, through Members of this House or other organisations, already asked to come here because of the Taliban. Can he tell us how many have done so? How will the Government decide who is going to get into the 5,000 cap? The criteria for the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme are yet to be announced, but we know that it is for those who are highly vulnerable to the Taliban because of what they have done in support of the values we and the previous regime were committed to, in particular, women and girls, equality, democracy and human rights. There are bound to be so many more than 5,000, so how will the Government in practice decide between those who will be the lucky 5,000 and be allowed to come here, and those who, although meeting the criteria, will, because of the 5,000 cap, be refused and face a terrible fate at the hands of the Taliban? The reality is that the unless the Government increase the 5,000 cap, the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme is going to end up as a lottery of life and death.

Dominic Raab

I know how passionate the right hon. and learned Lady is about this issue and how assiduous she has been on it. It is difficult to give a precise number of the applications and claims, not least because there is some duplication in the multiple emails and correspondence we have had. She is right to say—frankly, this would be true even if we doubled or tripled the quota—that the number of people who flee Afghanistan is going to outstrip what the UK would be able to take alone. That means that we need to look very carefully at the criteria, as the Home Secretary and I are doing across Government, to make sure that we prioritise the most vulnerable and those with a particular link to the UK, as well as co-ordinating with the United Nations. Further details will be set out by the Home Secretary.

As I mentioned earlier, the UK is doing our bit, alongside the aid we are providing, including to support third countries that take refugees. The UK will not be able to deal with the demand alone—of course we would not do so—but by taking action and showing leadership, we will help to corral and cajole other countries to follow suit. That is how we will have a comprehensive and effective response to the Afghanistan situation.

Afghanistan Statement - Foreign Secretary

The Government must increase the 5,000 Afghanistan Resettlement Scheme cap – My question to the Foreign Secretary. You can watch my speech here. The Government doesn't even know how many Afghans...

Today in Parliament I urged the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, to do all that is possible to rescue UK nationals, including Camberwell and Peckham constituents stranded in Kabul.

The UK has a moral obligation to evacuate those who worked with and for us and called for a generous refugee resettlement. Read my speech in the Afghanistan debate below and click here to watch.

Courageous Afghan women are standing their ground. If the Foreign Secretary wants to help, don't just speak to men. Pick up the phone to those women, ask them what we can do and then do it!

Afghanistan_speech_18_August_2021.jpg

11.19am
Ms Harriet Harman 
(Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab)

It is an honour to follow the Father of the House.

I strongly agree with what was said by the Leader of the Opposition and by the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), who speaks with the experience of having served as Prime Minister. I particularly agree with what she said about the threat of terrorism and the need fully to reinstate our aid budget, the issues for NATO and the proud legacy of our troops.

We have all looked on in horror as the events in Afghanistan have unfolded. I join everyone who is urging the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to do everything they can to help UK nationals, including my constituents, who are stranded and in hiding in Kabul, desperately needing to get back home to the UK. We urgently need to evacuate those who worked with us, who thereby feel that they are vulnerable and to whom we have a moral obligation. The Government are setting up a refugee resettlement programme. I urge them to make a realistic and generous assessment of the scale of the need and to work with all local authorities that want to play their part in giving a warm welcome to those who are fleeing. The Government also need to work, of course, with NATO countries and more widely on an international resettlement programme.

We need to think about those who cannot or do not want to leave, particularly women and girls. When the Taliban were last in control, there were literally no girls in school. Now—at least, up until the Taliban took over again—40% of schoolchildren are girls; over the last 20 years, there has been a whole generation of girls who have been educated, and a whole cohort of young women who have been able to work and want to continue to do so.

When the Taliban were last in control, there were no women in public life—no women to speak up for other women. Women were silenced. Now there are 69 women Afghan MPs. Indeed, three years ago, one of them—Elay Ershad—came to this Chamber to speak from the Front Bench while participating in our Women MPs of the World conference, and was welcomed by the former Prime Minister to No. 10 Downing Street. The President has fled but Elay is staying in Kabul with her daughters, in solidarity, she says, with her people. What courage. The Afghan army has retreated, but so many Afghan women are standing their ground. All those women politicians and activists are determined not to let the progress of the last two decades be crushed. They now face great jeopardy. I know that the whole House, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary will express publicly our solidarity with and admiration for Afghan women MPs, who, as parliamentary pioneers—having stepped forward into public life to make a reality of democracy for that half of the population of Afghanistan who are women and girls—are now, in the face of such an uncertain future, determined to protect and defend those rights.

As to what we can do, I would say: do not just listen to the male leaders about what we need to do for women. I say to the Foreign Secretary, do not just speak to the men; pick up the phone to those women Afghan MPs, ask them what we can do to support women and girls in Afghanistan, and then do it.

Afghanistan debate - Recall of Parliament

Today in Parliament I urged the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, to do all that is possible to rescue UK nationals, including Camberwell and Peckham...

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.