Harriet Harman

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

Current News

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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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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....

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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...

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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Meeting David Quirke-Thornton, Director of Southwark Children’s Services & Cllr Jasmine Ali, Cabinet Member for Children & Schools, to discuss their work to help families get the right school place for their child with autism. I will shortly be publishing my report on autism.

 

Working with Southwark Council to support children with autism

Meeting David Quirke-Thornton, Director of Southwark Children’s Services & Cllr Jasmine Ali, Cabinet Member for Children & Schools, to discuss their work to help families get the right school place...

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Or you can click to read it here.

Monthly report January/February 2019

Or you can click to read it here.

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Opposing proposal to cut 24 posts from King's Community Midwives

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. cllrs & Lorraine updating me on their sterling work to protect & support residents. More reliable heating/hot water. Swift fair compensation.

 

Faraday Councillors

.@FaradayLabour cllrs @jackbuck123 @paulwfleming & Lorraine updating me on their sterling work to protect & support #Aylesbury residents. More reliable heating/hot water. Swift fair compensation.  

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Great turn out for a chilly Old Kent Road campaign session on 9th February! Lots of concern about Brexit from residents and lots of support for local councillors Evelyn Akoto, Michael Situ and Richard Livingstone. Thanks to everyone who came out.

 

Old Kent Road Campaigning

Great turn out for a chilly Old Kent Road campaign session on 9th February! Lots of concern about Brexit from residents and lots of support for local councillors Evelyn Akoto,...

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It is so dismaying that EU citizens who have been such an important part of our community, who have had families here and lived in Southwark for decades are now facing the anxiety of having to ‘settle their status’ as the UK leaves the EU.

The Government says that EU citizens are “our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues and we want them to stay.”  They will only have to prove they are existing residents.

That is, of course, exactly what was said to the Windrush Generation. But everyone now acknowledges that terrible mistakes were made and people who were here for years were wrongly detained as illegal immigrants.

With no independence or accountability in the system Home Office mistakes are inevitable. So it’s vital that as the Government subjects 3m EU citizens to our immigration system, they make sure lessons have been learnt from Windrush and those injustices are not repeated.  

As Chair of Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights I’m leading an inquiry into this. We heard harrowing evidence from people wrongly detained, separated from their children and threatened with deportation. The evidence on their files that they were long term residents was ignored, the pleas of their families swept aside.

I have helped countless people in Camberwell and Peckham challenge Home Office decisions. Like one Chinese man who was detained for 33 days and threatened with removal. He is now back home with his partner.

Those we get to hear about are only the tip of the iceberg.  But we know that £21m was paid out by the Home Office in just 5 years to compensate people for wrongful detention.

If you are suspected of a crime you can’t be detained by government - only by the police - who are independent of government.  If the police need to detain you beyond 36 hours they have to bring you to court - also independent of government.

But if the Home Office suspects you of being in breach of immigration laws, there is a complete absence of independence in the decision-making. A civil servant – nameless and faceless behind closed doors - ticks a box to detain you.  The first you’ll know about it is there’ll be a banging on your door in the early hours of the morning, you’re bundled into a van and taken to a detention centre.

You have no idea whether you’ll be in the detention centre for a day, a month, or a year. The Criminal Justice System imposes time-limits at every stage of detention. But the Home Office can hold you in immigration detention indefinitely. 

It should not be the case that you have fewer protections as an immigrant than you would if you had actually committed a crime. For any individual traumatised by indefinite detention, that’s reason to change the policy. But it is now happening on such a scale that it is really important to deal with it. 

In the 1990s there were only 250 detention places. Now there are over 2,500 and more than 27,000 people are detained every year. 

I am working with Yvette Cooper MP, Hilary Benn MP, Dominic Grieve QC MP, David Davis MP and Andrew Mitchell MP to amend the Brexit Immigration Bill to ensure that in future no-one is deprived of their liberty unless the decision is taken independently and to make it illegal for anyone to be held in an immigration detention centre for more than 28 days.

In light of the injustices exposed by Windrush and the fear that this could happen to EU nationals after Brexit, I am confident the Government will accept this change which has widespread support across Parliament, from the SNP, Lib Dems, the DUP and the Labour frontbench.

Unaccountable, arbitrary, indefinite detention is a human rights abuse. It’s long overdue to end this historic injustice.

 

Strip Home Office of power to indefinitely detain migrants

It is so dismaying that EU citizens who have been such an important part of our community, who have had families here and lived in Southwark for decades are now...

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Immigration and Social Security Co-Ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, Second Reading, House of Commons

This Bill repeals the law relating to free movement and brings EEA nationals and their families under the general UK immigration control.

When EEA nationals and their family members become subject to our immigration laws they will be required to have leave to enter and to remain under the 1971 Immigration Act.

The government have said that the 3m EU citizens are “our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues and we want them to stay.” They will only have to register that they are existing residents.

No one doubts the government’s sincerity on that but that is, of course, what was said to people of the Windrush Generation and everyone now acknowledges that terrible mistakes were made by the Home Office and people who had been here for years were wrongfully detained as illegal immigrants.

So it’s right as we subject 3m EU citizens to our immigration system, that we should at this point ask ourselves whether we’ve learnt the lessons from the Windrush cases and that we do not repeat those injustices on EU citizens.

In our inquiry into immigration detention it was clear to the Joint Committee on Human Rights that there are 2 problems which need to be addressed:
1 - the lack of independence in the detention decision and
2 - indefinite detention

If you are suspected of a crime you can’t be detained by government - only by the police - who are independent of government. If the police want to continue to detain you beyond 36 hours they have to bring you before a court - which is, of course totally independent of government.

But for someone who the Home Office suspects of being in breach of our immigration laws, there is a complete absence of independence in the decision-making.

A civil servant - nameless/faceless - behind closed doors can tick the box to detain you. The first you’ll know about it is that there’ll be a banging on your door in the early hours of the morning, you’ll be bundled into an immigration enforcement van and taken to a detention centre.

With no independence in the decision-making and with no scrutiny or accountability, mistakes are inevitable. Those we get to hear about are probably only the tip of the iceberg. But we do know that £21m was paid out by the Home Office in just 5 years to compensate for wrongful detention.

And terrible mistakes are certainly what happened with the Windrush cases.
It is routinely said that they were unable to prove their residence here. That is not the case for the detainees we saw. We looked at their Home Office files (which the Home Sec was good enough to release to them) and it was not that there was no evidence of their residence here. There was masses of it. Including records of National Insurance Contributions going back to the 1970’s. If there had been any independence in the decision-making these people would not have been detained. Yet they were detained not once but twice - the papers on their files ignored, the pleas of their families swept aside.

After the right to life, the right not to be unlawfully detained is one of the most important human rights.

It should not be the case that you have fewer protections from wrongful detention as an immigrant than you would if you had actually committed a crime.

We should ensure that in future no-one is detained unless the decision is taken independently. The Home Office must make their case. But someone independent must take the decision if you are to be deprived of your liberty.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights will put forward an amendment to this bill to that effect and we hope that the Government will agree to it.

Another of the deplorable aspects of our immigration system - which under this Bill EU citizens are now to be subject - is that there is no time-limit when you are detained. You are taken from your home, or your workplace and you have no idea whether you’ll be in the detention centre for a day, a month, or a year.

Evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights identified the indefinite nature of the detention as one of the most cruel aspects of it.

The Criminal Justice System imposes time-limits at every stage of detention. From the first bringing before a magistrate to the sentence which sets out the time in prison.

But the Home Office can hold you in immigration detention indefinitely.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights agrees with the Hon Member for Royal Sutton Coldfield (Andrew Mitchell); for Beaconsfield, (Dominic Grieve); Leeds Central, (Hilary Benn); Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper); and Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) that there should be a time limit of 28 days on immigration detention.

And we will bring forward an amendment to the Bill which lays down that if the detainee is not deported by this time then they should be released or they should be brought before a judge where the Home office could apply for a further 28 days.

We hope that the Government will accept this amendment which has widespread support in the House. Including from SNP, Lib Dems and DUP and the Labour frontbench.

This is not a party issue. The Labour government should have ended the scandal of indefinite detention - but we didn’t.

Here in the UK we pride ourselves on our commitment to human rights - so how is it that indefinite Home Office detention has been a feature of our system for so long.

I suspect one of the reasons is that it used to be only a very small number of people, exceptional cases, where immigration detention was used. In 1993 there were only 250 detention places. Now every year about 27,000 people are detained.

Unaccountable, arbitrary, indefinite detention is a human rights abuse. It is a cruel anomaly in our system and I hope the government will use the opportunity of this bill to end it. It is long overdue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's time to end the injustice of indefinite immigration detention - Speech

Immigration and Social Security Co-Ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, Second Reading, House of CommonsThis Bill repeals the law relating to free movement and brings EEA nationals and their families under the...

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