Harriet Harman

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

Current News

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I am contacted by a growing number of people in Camberwell and Peckham who can’t get the quality social care their older relatives need. People come to me distraught, concerned that the care their vulnerable parent with dementia is getting is suffering due to cuts. One man told me that the poor and inconsistent standards of care have caused his 89-year-old mother such frustration and distress it has accelerated the decline in her health.

A decade of Tory cuts to local council budgets and a growing number of elderly people needing care has pushed care services to the brink and is causing thousands of people untold misery. Councils across the country are having to make impossibly difficult decisions about who receives care, there is currently a 122,000 national staffing shortfall and millions of people are left to cope at home, alone, without the support they need. Despite the brilliant efforts of staff, many vulnerable people are waiting longer for treatment and standards of care are not being delivered. And families are pushed to breaking point

The care you receive in your older years should not depend on your income. Quality social care must be a universally-available public service. Families across the country deserve peace of mind that their relatives will be safe and looked after. The measure of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable.

And if people can’t get the help they need at home or in the community they are more likely to go to A& E or their GP surgery, causing extra strain on already desperately stretched hospital and GP services.

It has now been almost 3 years since the Government promised a consultation on social care and 7 months since the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, stood on the steps of Downing Street and claimed he had a clear plan to fix the crisis in social care. But there is, as yet no plan?

The Government’s proposal this week to increase funding by £1 billion per year does not go anywhere near far enough. 1.5 million people are currently going without the support they need. The local Government Association estimates that by 2024 the funding gap will be £3.5bn.

Locally Southwark Council are working hard to help older residents and people with dementia stay safely in their own home, despite deep Tory cuts. The council has just announced it is building 50 extra care homes and a new day centre at Tayo Situ House in Peckham, named after the late Mayor of Southwark and dedicated Peckham Councillor, Tayo Situ. Extra Care homes are self-contained flats that allow people to live independently in their own homes, but with round the clock care support on site so there is help if they need it and so they  feel less isolated or alone. 

Tackling the crisis in social care is a priority for Labour. I’ve co-signed Helen Hayes MP’s Early Day Motion to demand the Government urgently brings forward proposals to Parliament so we can ensure everyone gets the support they need and can live with dignity in their old age. We are also pressing Ministers to invest in the social care workforce. Carers play a vital role in our society, yet they are often unappreciated and underpaid. We need to pay care workers a real living wage and develop a sustainable, cross-party solution, otherwise the 122,000 staff shortfall and the crisis in social care will grow and more older people and their families will suffer. 

People need dignity in their old age - families need support, social care must be a universal public service

I am contacted by a growing number of people in Camberwell and Peckham who can’t get the quality social care their older relatives need. People come to me distraught, concerned...

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A remarkable symbol of peace. Pleased to attend the unveiling of the dove sculpture in the new Southwark Peace Garden at   Walworth Methodist Church. Made from knives seized by Southwark Police, it represents the local community’s determination to tackle knife crime.

 

Southwark Peace Garden

A remarkable symbol of peace. Pleased to attend the unveiling of the dove sculpture in the new Southwark Peace Garden at   Walworth Methodist Church. Made from knives seized by Southwark...

A number of constituents have contacted me about the recent petition calling for those with British National (Overseas) passports to be granted full British citizenship.

I understand that individuals who were British Overseas Territories citizens by connection with Hong Kong were able to register as a BN(O) before 1 July 1997. 

In recognition of the fact that those with BN(O) status were at a disadvantage compared to those with other British nationalities, the then Government changed the law in 2009 to allow BN(O)s without another citizenship or nationality to apply to register as a British citizen under section 4B of the British Nationality Act 1981. Those with BN(O) status can also register as a British citizen if they have lived in the UK for five years and meet the residence requirements.

To grant all BN(O)s British citizenship would require a change in the law and the Government has said it has no plans to do so.

The Government has noted that the 2007 Review of Citizenship by Lord Goldsmith recognised that to automatically give BN(O)s full British citizenship would be a breach of the commitments made between China and the UK in the 1984 Joint Declaration on the future of Hong Kong.

The relationship between the people of the UK and the people of Hong Kong is built not only on the foundations of our history but on shared principles. The UK has a moral and a legal obligation to the people of Hong Kong and I therefore understand why the matter of British citizenship has been raised.

I am very concerned by the situation in Hong Kong and the erosion of compliance with the Joint Declaration that we have seen over recent years. The recent protests have rightly prompted serious reflection on the condition of democracy in Hong Kong more widely, and on the increasing crackdown on dissent and protest.

Unfortunately, I believe the UK Government has been too quiet on this issue and I think it should reassert to the Chinese Government its commitment to upholding the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong citizens that were guaranteed in the Joint Declaration. I hope the Prime Minister will also speak up and stand firm in defence of the Joint Declaration.

 

Hong Kong: British National (Overseas) Citizenship

A number of constituents have contacted me about the recent petition calling for those with British National (Overseas) passports to be granted full British citizenship. I understand that individuals who...

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Thank you for your service Reverend Rose. Proud that you will be Church of England's first black woman bishop! Congratulations & best wishes!

#Trailblazer

Parliament bids farewell to Speaker's Chaplain Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin

Thank you for your service Reverend Rose. Proud that you will be Church of England's first black woman bishop! Congratulations & best wishes! #Trailblazer

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Packed meeting on the Brandon Estate tonight after tragic killing last week. Fear, anger and frustration. Important Southwark Council sort lighting, tree pruning and CCTV. Residents feel less safe than they did before police cuts. 

Brandon Estate Community meeting

Packed meeting on the Brandon Estate tonight after tragic killing last week. Fear, anger and frustration. Important Southwark Council sort lighting, tree pruning and CCTV. Residents feel less safe than they did...

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Joyful unveiling of the inspirational Peckham Portraits at Mountview Theatre in Peckham.

Congratulations to photographer Franklyn Rodgers, Fraser James and everyone at Mountview and Southwark Council who made this happen.

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Peckham Portraits return!

Joyful unveiling of the inspirational Peckham Portraits at Mountview Theatre in Peckham. Congratulations to photographer Franklyn Rodgers, Fraser James and everyone at Mountview and Southwark Council who made this happen. #BlackHistoryMonth

As Chair of Parliament’s Human Rights Select Committee I’m demanding the Government use the Bills they are bringing forward in their Queen’s Speech this week to end human rights abuses, including to introduce a time limit on immigration detention in the Immigration Bill. To make the child’s human right to family life a central concern when a judge is deciding whether to send their mother to prison, particularly for non-violence offences, in the new Sentencing Bill.

 

Queen's Speech puts spotlight on government human rights record

As Chair of Parliament’s Human Rights Select Committee I’m demanding the Government use the Bills they are bringing forward in their Queen’s Speech this week to end human rights abuses, including...

Greta Thunberg and climate protesters across the world have raised global awareness of the urgency of the climate crisis. Their action is a wake-up call to the Government and to all of us as MPs. We can see the science. It is now our responsibility to act. I’ve co-sponsored Jane Dodds MP Early Day Motion to demand the Government establish a UK Citizens’ Climate Assembly to debate climate policy and deliver proposals to government.

Establish a Citizens’ Assembly to tackle climate change

Greta Thunberg and climate protesters across the world have raised global awareness of the urgency of the climate crisis. Their action is a wake-up call to the Government and to...

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The Brandon Estate community in Camberwell are again facing unfathomable grief and distress after 18 year old Clinton Evbota, a former resident of the estate, was stabbed to death in the centre of their estate on Grimsel Path on Thursday 10th October. Clinton is the third young man who has been murdered on the Brandon Estate in just 18 months after Rhyhiem Barton, aged 17, was killed in May 2018 and Siddique Kamara, aged 23, was killed in August 2018.  

The morning after Clinton was killed I met up with the tenant’s association chairs and talked to residents on the estate with Cllr Evelyn Akoto, Cabinet Member for Community Safety at Southwark Council & local councillor Alice Macdonald. For families and the community who live on the Brandon this is not just a newspaper headline, this is their lives, and for Clinton’s family, it’s their worst nightmare.

It is vital that the longstanding demands of the tenant’s association are met. They’ve been asking for CCTV. It’s installed, but not yet operational. And the trees that they’ve been asking to be cut back are still in full leaf. The TRAs are the heart of the community and know what’s needed. They are holding a community meeting this week and Southwark Council will need to come with clear timelines on how they will meet the demands so the whole community can feel safer. Council action is one important part of the picture, but the causes of this horrific violence are complex and developing over years. Government cuts have hit every service. There are fewer after school clubs and holiday play schemes, fewer support workers in schools and child and adolescent mental health are under strain. These services are vital, especially for young people who are losing their way and are at risk of getting into trouble. In every area there should be youth clubs, and services for young people to help tackle knife crime and problems such as mental ill-health and school exclusions. Southwark is a great place to live. But too many young people are dying violent deaths. This is a national crisis. We need leadership and more resources from government, and an end to the cuts.

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Supporting the Brandon community grieving another young life lost to violence

The Brandon Estate community in Camberwell are again facing unfathomable grief and distress after 18 year old Clinton Evbota, a former resident of the estate, was stabbed to death in...

Current free movement rules allow EU artists to undertake tours in the EU and to travel for one-off or short-term engagements, without the need for a visa.

I appreciate the very real concerns of UK musicians and crews about the end of freedom of movement and the impact this could have on their ability to tour in the EU, particularly in the event of a No Deal Brexit.

Firstly, I am firmly opposed to leaving the EU without a deal and was pleased to support legislation to prevent this from happening on 31 October 2019. The Prime Minister must now obey the law, fulfil the will of Parliament, and take No Deal off the table.

I believe musicians’ rights and ability to tour should be protected. The creative industries make a vital contribution to our economy and national life, and we must ensure musicians do not lose out because of Brexit.

Earlier this year, the UK Government said it was seeking an accord with the EU to allow mobility for UK musicians to perform in the EU, and vice versa. When pressed recently about the possibility of creating a musician’s passport, the Government insisted its focus remains on leaving the EU with a deal.

I am dismayed that considerable uncertainty remains for UK musicians and technicians, and that the UK Government’s own guidance – published recently – indicates that touring in the EU would become considerably more difficult in the event of no deal.

I therefore hope the Government will engage with the music industry on these important issues and respond to the concerns that continue to be raised by organisations like the Musicians’ Union and Incorporated Society of Musicians.

I can assure you I will follow developments closely and will continue to stand up for the music industry and our creative sector.

Defending rights of touring musicians post-Brexit

Current free movement rules allow EU artists to undertake tours in the EU and to travel for one-off or short-term engagements, without the need for a visa. I appreciate the...

Men who kill their wife or girlfriend are escaping murder charges claiming “rough sex gone wrong". She is dead and can’t say otherwise. Listen to my BBC Radio London interview on the change in the law I’ve proposed to the Domestic Abuse Bill to end the “50 shades of grey” defence which has strong cross-party support.

 

Strengthening the Domestic Abuse Bill

Men who kill their wife or girlfriend are escaping murder charges claiming “rough sex gone wrong". She is dead and can’t say otherwise. Listen to my BBC Radio London interview...

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Quality child mental health services is an equality and human rights issue. A child being able to get the support they need should not depend on how much money their parents have. All credit to Southwark Council and Cllr Jasmine Ali launching the new Southwark Child and Adolescent Mental Health Commission and insisting that 100% of children with mental health problems get the services they need. Thanks to Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield for her backing. I hope other councils and Clinical Commissioning Groups follow Southwark’s leadership.

Launching Southwark Child Mental Health Commission

Quality child mental health services is an equality and human rights issue. A child being able to get the support they need should not depend on how much money their...

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Out & about meeting residents on Rye Hill Estate with Southwark Police, Cllr Victoria Mills & Renata Hamvas.
Thanks to Miriam Facey, TRA Chair, for your important work for residents.

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Rye Hill Estate visit & surgery

Out & about meeting residents on Rye Hill Estate with Southwark Police, Cllr Victoria Mills & Renata Hamvas. Thanks to Miriam Facey, TRA Chair, for your important work for residents.

 

 

Lovely welcoming atmosphere at Pecan’s Southwark & Lewisham Women’s Space. A sanctuary & positive help for women who’ve faced difficulties. Thanks to Pecan for all their work & to Cllr Jasmine Ali & Southwark Council for their support.

 

Pecan Women’s Space

    Lovely welcoming atmosphere at Pecan’s Southwark & Lewisham Women’s Space. A sanctuary & positive help for women who’ve faced difficulties. Thanks to Pecan for all their work & to Cllr...

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Parents, teachers, school students, faith representatives tell me of public disapproval of shouting and abuse in the Commons Chamber. We must review the rules on MPs’ language & tone.

 

Hearing from Peckham Citizens

Parents, teachers, school students, faith representatives tell me of public disapproval of shouting and abuse in the Commons Chamber. We must review the rules on MPs’ language & tone.  

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In January 2019 Ken Clarke, the Father of the House and I proposed a Speaker’s Conference to address the issue of what should be the response to the growing threats of abuse and violence against MPs. After the concern expressed in the Chamber last night I am once again putting forward the idea that there should be a Speaker’s Conference. Click here to read the proposal.

The fundamental principle of democracy is that MPs are elected by the voters and once elected no-one must stop them carrying out their duties.  They must be able to get on with their job.  Yet, now, on a more or less daily basis, MPs are threatened with physical violence. Where MPs are threatened just because they are an MP that is a "contempt of parliament" and an undermining of our democracy and demands action.

The advent of social media means that the whereabouts of MPs whether at home or at work, are very widely known.  Social media is important for MPs to communicate directly with their constituents and account for what they are doing on a regular basis.  But it is also used by people who anonymously threaten MPs and by those who whip up hostility and violence towards MPs. 

Now, more MPs are women, living away from their families on their own during the weeks when parliament is sitting. MPs are high profile and when there’s an atmosphere of hostility to politics and politicians they are vulnerable.

BBC 5 Live has conducted a survey of women MPs asking about our security. It showed:

  • More than half of women MPs questioned had faced physical threats.
  • An overwhelming majority of women MPs have received online and verbal abuse from the public.
  • Two thirds felt "less safe" following the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox.

This is a problem for men MPs as well as women.  While MPs are away from their home during the week their families, living at an address which is well-known locally and easily found on the internet, can feel vulnerable.  This applies to elderly relatives who might be living with them as well as spouses and children.  A police officer stood by while a member of the public shouted out at the young children of Jacob Rees-Mogg.  If their parent had been a member of the public rather than an MP it’s surely the case that the officer would have stepped in and asked the ranting member of the public to “move along now”.

Women MPs, particularly younger women and most particularly ethnic minority MPs, are subjected to the greatest number of threats. A study by Amnesty International in 2017 found Diane Abbott received almost half of all abusive tweets ahead of the June 2017 General Election and black women politicians are almost twice as likely as their white peers to be abused on Twitter.

There has always been a level of threat against MPs but we don’t know the scale of the problem because MPs are reluctant to report and many threats and offences go unreported.  

We also don’t know the full extent to which MPs are altering the way they work and travel because of these threats. Their priority is to get on with their job, not to talk about their own personal safety.

Parliament has taken many steps to protect MPs both before and in particular after the murder of Jo Cox as she held her constituency advice surgery.  MPs can apply for funding from IPSA for extra security in their own homes and constituency offices. 

MPs who are threatened all deal with it differently.  Some ignore it hoping it will go away.  Some call the police - and depending on which police area they are in get widely differing responses.  Some take out injunctions against the threatening individual - hoping that so doing will inflame them less than a police intervention or worried for the threatener’s mental health if the police are involved. 

When an MP is threatened by a member of the public the response of the police and the CPS varies in different areas.  On some occasions the Criminal Justice Agencies react on the basis that it is their job to protect the MP.  Sometimes their response is based on the sense that they regard it as their job to protect the rights of the public, to demonstrate, to have free speech in relation to their MP, to challenge their public representative. 

Over the past years the concern has mounted but there’s been no comprehensive consideration of the issues at stake and the measures needed to address them.

Unless we respond to threats and abuse we are colluding with the notion that we deserve to be denigrated and abused. We cannot just denounce every ugly incident but take no action.

There is also an issue of whether by our own words in the House of Commons our political debate fans the flames of threats and intimidation that leads to violence. The rules on language in the House of Commons date back centuries well before the era when MPs conducted surgeries in small community halls and tenants’ centres and before women were a major part of the Commons.

It is therefore time to review the rules about language within the House to consider whether they need to be amended so that they are appropriate for today’s context.

The responsibility for ensuring that MPs are able to get on with their work, vote without looking over their shoulder and freely engage with their constituents and the wider public lies not with them as individuals or their party or the Government.  It lies with Parliament.  Parliament must step forward to address them.

Proposal for a Speaker's Conference on threats of violence and abuse against MPs

In January 2019 Ken Clarke, the Father of the House and I proposed a Speaker’s Conference to address the issue of what should be the response to the growing threats...

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Sending a mother to prison has a serious, detrimental impact on her children.

As our recent Joint Committee on Human Rights report shows, the harmful effects of a mother going to prison begin the moment she is sentenced and are felt throughout her sentence and continue for many years after she is released.

We heard from one mother who told us no arrangements were in place to collect her children from school on the day of the sentence being handed down. We heard of the trauma caused by prison visits, where children have not been allowed to sit on their mother’s knee, and of working kinship carers unable to afford to make prison visits due to the cost of travel.

Research shows that children who experience a parent going to prison as a child are more likely than their peers to have future problems.

These include an increased likelihood of criminal offending, mental health problems, drug and alcohol addiction and dying before the age of 65. They are likely to earn less than their counterparts as adults and stop education at a younger age than is the norm.

Those who give birth in prison, or who are mothers of new-borns when sentenced, experience particular difficulties. In some cases, new mothers have had no access to necessities such as breast pads, or even adequate nutrition. We heard of mothers and their new-born babies being separated whilst applications for places in a Mother and Baby Unit were made and processed - even when there was actually a place available.

We welcome the review of the use of these Units: its ultimate outcome must include an assurance that mothers are not separated from their babies simply because they have been imprisoned.

The Right to Family Life, set out in article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, states that “Everyone has a right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”. It is this right that is violated when a child loses their mother to imprisonment.

There is a complete lack of reliable data on the number of mothers in prison, the number of children whose mothers are in prison and the number of women who are pregnant and give birth in prison. Without proper data collection it is impossible to fully understand the scale and nature of the problem or to properly address it - the Ministry of Justice must prioritise the mandatory collection and publication of this information.

Judges can only fulfil their obligation to consider the rights of the children of offenders when sentencing if they know that a child exists. There is no guarantee they will have that information, let alone consider the likely consequences of separation of a child from his or her primary carer. The welfare of the child must be at the forefront of the judge’s mind in sentencing a mother or primary carer.

We recommended a change in statute law to require the judge to consider the interests of the child when sentencing.

Our report found that where there are kinship carers willing to step in to care for children who have lost their mother to prison they should be entitled to financial and practical support. Mothers should be placed in facilities close to their homes, and there should also be financial support available for the cost of bringing children to visit their mother in prison. The Department for Education must revise their framework for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.

Much greater attention must be paid to the needs of children and their families when a mother is sent to prison.

 

View the article as it originally appeared on the PoliticsHome site here.

Imprisoned mothers should not be separated from their children - PoliticsHome article

  Sending a mother to prison has a serious, detrimental impact on her children. As our recent Joint Committee on Human Rights report shows, the harmful effects of a mother going to...

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The people who understand best & care most about a child or young person with special educational needs are their parents. Full support to Independent Voice Parents Forum launched today. Admiration & respect to Cllr Jasmine Ali.

Backing Southwark Independent Voice

The people who understand best & care most about a child or young person with special educational needs are their parents. Full support to Independent Voice Parents Forum launched today. Admiration...

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Monthly report - August / September 2019

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HH_2017_New_Portrait.jpgFollowing John Bercow’s announcement that he is standing down as Speaker by the 31st October I’ve decided to run for Speaker of the House of Commons.

The Speaker still undertakes all their responsibilities to their local area and to individual constituents seeking their help. I would absolutely continue with my same commitment were I to be elected Speaker.

Helping constituents has always been the most important aspect of my work and since the last election in June 2017 I and my team have helped over 10,000 local people facing a range of problems including with immigration,
housing and benefits.

Parliament has never been more important as we face turbulent times.

We need a Speaker who will stand up for Parliament and not allow the Government to push Parliament around.

After 600 years we have had only one woman Speaker. It’s time for another!

And as the last Speaker was a Conservative, the next Speaker will be Labour.

I will remain totally committed to the people of Camberwell and Peckham who I will continue to serve as their MP if I become Speaker.

Election for Speaker: Pledge to Camberwell and Peckham Constituents

Following John Bercow’s announcement that he is standing down as Speaker by the 31st October I’ve decided to run for Speaker of the House of Commons. The Speaker still undertakes...

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