Harriet Harman

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

Current News

As Chair of the Privileges Committee, on Wednesday 22nd March I chaired an oral evidence session to hear from Boris Johnson MP as part of the Committee's inquiry into whether former Prime Minister misled Parliament when he said that there were no parties in No. 10 during lockdown and that no rules or guidance was broken. You can watch the evidence session here

I was chosen by the House of Commons on 14th June 2022 to chair the Committee of Privileges, a parliamentary committee that investigates MPs' conduct in the House of Commons. The members of the Privileges Committee are four Conservatives, Sir Bernard Jenkin MP, Alberto Costa MP, Andy Carter MP and Sir Charles Walker MP, one Scottish National Party, Allan Dorans MP, and myself and Yvonne Fovargue MP from the Labour Party. You can read more about the committee’s work here.

 

Chairing the Privileges Committee inquiry into Boris Johnson MP: oral evidence

As Chair of the Privileges Committee, on Wednesday 22nd March I chaired an oral evidence session to hear from Boris Johnson MP as part of the Committee's inquiry into whether...

11th March 2023

 

Camberwell and Peckham is sandwiched between outer London, where hundreds of thousands of people live, and central London, where hundreds of thousands of people work. We are a densely populated area with crowded housing and shopping areas. We are also a young area with many families with young children. 28% of households in Camberwell and Peckham have at least one young child.

 

Southwark has long suffered with being a through-route for people driving into central London. This clogs up the streets local people need to drive through, cycle on and walk beside, leads to air pollution which causes ill health (particularly in children), makes it more dangerous for cyclists and causes more injuries through traffic accidents.

 

So our area had much to gain from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan’s pioneering initiative launched in April 2019 to bring in an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to limit the number of cars, vans and lorries using Southwark as a through-route to central London.

 

This has been a highly controversial policy. To deter polluting vehicles from driving in the ULEZ, cars and small vans are charged a daily rate of £12.50, with big vans and lorries charged £100. The charges apply to vehicles that don’t meet emissions standards, 24 hours a day for every day including weekends. The only day exempt from the ULEZ is Christmas Day. But it is working. The Mayor is now planning to increase the areas covered by ULEZ charging, due to come into force on August 2023. It is a big expansion of a radical policy but I fully back it.

 

A recent report carried out by City Hall and academically peer reviewed has shown that the ULEZ has already cut the levels of harmful pollution in central London by almost half. In inner London, the pollution level is now 21% lower than it would have been had the Mayor not introduced the ULEZ. And there are 74,000 fewer polluting vehicles in the ULEZ than there were before its expansion.

 

This means that all children in Camberwell and Peckham are benefitting from cleaner air thanks to the Mayor’s policy.

 

The ULEZ is also contributing to the UK’s carbon reduction targets. It is estimated that since the ULEZ was brought into effect, CO2 emissions from vehicles across London have been cut by 800,000 tonnes compared with what the amount would have been without the ULEZ, moving London closer to becoming Net Zero by 2030.

 

But there is more to do. London as a whole still fails to meet the World Health Organisation’s air quality guidelines. Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely every year due to polluted air and 500,000 Londoners live with asthma and are therefore more vulnerable to the effects of toxic air.

 

The lesson here is that it’s important to identify what the problem is, consider plans which will make a practical difference, consult on them before introducing them and review their impact. That is exactly what the mayor of London has done with the ULEZ and I support his policy.

The Ultra Low Emission Zone

11th March 2023   Camberwell and Peckham is sandwiched between outer London, where hundreds of thousands of people live, and central London, where hundreds of thousands of people work. We...

8th March 2023

 

Once again it’s International Women’s Day and a time to celebrate what women have achieved and what they contribute but also to reflect on the oppression and inequality they still suffer.

 

When I first became an MP 40 years ago most women gave up work when they had their children and when they went back to work it was usually only part-time. Men were paid much more than women and did not expect to play much of a role in the daily care of their children. Domestic violence against women was often justified on the basis that “she provoked him”, or “she brought it on herself”. Women who had been raped were frequently blamed for wearing revealing clothes or being out late at night.

 

Men were in charge of every area of public and private life from the workplace to the home. And politics was male-dominated with 97% of MPs men and only 3% women.

 

Much has changed for the better since then.

 

Now most women work and the pay gap has narrowed,  from 27.2% in 1981 to 12.3% now. Though men don’t yet share the childcare and housework they certainly do more than they did. Now 27% of UK High Court judges are women, compared to 3% 40 years ago. And 225 of the 650 MPs in Parliament are women, an all-time high of 35%, and there are women in nearly every parliament around the world.

 

Although the scourge of male violence against women persists, all political parties are now committed to tackling it and numerous laws have been passed to that end. There is widespread recognition of the prevalence of domestic violence and a consensus that it is abhorrent that women should be beaten in their own home, often in front of their terrified children.

 

But one dreadful problem which remains to be dealt with is that men get away with rape, and they even get away with murder when the victim is a woman and they say they killed her by mistake in “rough sex gone wrong”. The conviction rate for all rape cases that go to trial is an unacceptably low 7.2%, and for domestic abuse cases it is even worse at 2.1%.

 

The Government is bringing in a new Bill to protect victims. The Victims Bill is a welcome initiative but it needs some measures added to it. I will be bringing forward some changes which would restrict the use of a woman’s sexual history by the defendant in rape trials and in trials for sexually-motivated homicide. This would end the problem of these trials turning into a trial of the victim rather than the defendant and prevent men from dragging a woman’s reputation through the mud to try and protest their own innocence.

 

This is not a party politics issue. There should be no reason for the Conservative Government to block it.

 

The shadow of rape and the murder of women hangs over this International Women’s Day. But we can take steps to deter men and ensure justice for women.

International Women's Day 2023

8th March 2023   Once again it’s International Women’s Day and a time to celebrate what women have achieved and what they contribute but also to reflect on the oppression...

You can read my February 2023 report here

Parliamentary Report February 2023

You can read my February 2023 report here. 

You can read my January 2023 report here

Parliamentary Report January 2023

You can read my January 2023 report here. 

You can read my December 2022 report here

Parliamentary Report December 2022

You can read my December 2022 report here. 

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.   

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