Harriet Harman

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

Current News

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Ahead of National Libraries Day 2015, I visited the House of Commons Member’s Library to speak to staff about the valuable work that the library does, how it can help MPs like myself in our constituency and front bench duties, and view some of the historical books that are kept in the Library.

National Libraries Day takes place on Saturday, February 7th and is a chance to celebrate libraries and the services that they offer to their communities.  You can find out more about National Libraries Day by visiting http://www.nationallibrariesday.org.uk/

Harriet visits the House of Commons Member’s Library

Ahead of National Libraries Day 2015, I visited the House of Commons Member’s Library to speak to staff about the valuable work that the library does, how it can help...

Dame Patricia Hodgson DBE

Chair

Ofcom

Riverside House

2A Southwark Bridge Road

London

SE1 9HA

 

2nd February 2015

 

Dear Dame Patricia

Ofcom appointments

I am writing to you about the Deputy Chair of the Ofcom Board, Baroness Noakes.

We regard the work and standing of Ofcom as of the greatest importance.  Ofcom’s responsibilities include ensuring broadcasters are properly regulated, the market fair, consumers protected and the requirements on public service broadcasters complied with.  Ofcom’s role is fundamental to the plurality and integrity of our broadcasters and therefore Ofcom is fundamental to our democracy.  

It is universally agreed that to do that, Ofcom must be, and seen to be, scrupulously non-political and non-partisan and be free from financial conflicts of interest.  And it has, hitherto, in my view, carried out those important functions with integrity and in an evidently non-partisan way.  Your strong commitment to high standards and impartiality is unquestioned. 

So it is with great concern that I discovered that your Deputy Chair, Baroness Noakes, held telecoms shares, was taking the Conservative Whip in the House of Lords and serving as a Conservative nominee on a Bill Committee in the House of Lords and was issuing highly partisan tweets.  

It is essential that Ofcom is respected by all.  But I don’t see how this respect can be sustained if the Deputy Chair is so lacking in judgement that she holds shares which give rise to a conflict of interest, does not resign the Conservative whip and engages in blatantly pro-Tory, anti-Labour tweeting.  

I am also concerned that it has fallen to me to raise this.  Leaving aside the point that Baroness Noakes clearly does not understand the nature of the role – which begs the question of why she was appointed in the first place – why was the problem not identified and acted upon by Ofcom itself?  Ofcom should be responsible for ensuring compliance with its own guidance – this should not be the responsibility of the Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.  

My own view is that Baroness Noakes continuing to be Deputy Chair of the Ofcom Board will be a continuing vulnerability for Ofcom.  She cannot be expected to lead standards and integrity within the regulator.  Those outside the regulator cannot be expected to accept that she is non-partisan.  When the next controversy arises we will need, as ever, Ofcom to deal with it.  Yet with Baroness Noakes in post, Ofcom would become part of the problem. 

I assure you that I am not trying to take party political advantage on this because she is a Conservative.  The integrity of Ofcom matters to all parties.  Despite his former role as a member of Thatcher’s cabinet and her election campaign manager I did not challenge Chris Patten’s non-partisanship as Chair of the BBC because he so actively embraced the non-partisan nature of the appointment.  Indeed I would be every bit as dismayed if a Labour appointee acted like this (though I would hope to never appoint someone with such poor judgement). 

Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has declined to comment or take any action on this.  I look forward to hearing your response.

Yours Sincerely,

  

 

Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Harriet Harman, Labour’s Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary writes to Dame Patricia Hodgson, Chair of Ofcom, about Tory appointment to independent regulator Ofcom

Dame Patricia Hodgson DBE Chair Ofcom Riverside House 2A Southwark Bridge Road London SE1 9HA   2nd February 2015   Dear Dame Patricia Ofcom appointments I am writing to you...

It was good to join Labour's candidate for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, Neil Coyle, to open his campaign office on Tower Bridge Road this weekend.  Lots of local members turned up for the occasion, and stayed around to campaign in the constituency afterwards.

 

Campaigning in Bermondsey and Old Southwark

It was good to join Labour's candidate for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, Neil Coyle, to open his campaign office on Tower Bridge Road this weekend.  Lots of local members turned up...

Rt. Hon. Iain Duncan Smith MP

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Caxton House

Tothill Street

London SWIH 9NA

 

30th January 2015

 

 

Dear Iain,

 

Discretionary Housing Payment funding for the London Borough of Southwark

 

I am writing to you about the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) funding provided by the DWP to the London Borough of Southwark, which includes my constituency.

 

DHP funds for the 2014-15 financial year were spent by the 31st December 2014 and I’m concerned that no additional funding has been forthcoming from the DWP. In October 2014, Southwark Council wrote to the DWP requesting additional DHP funding and was advised that a decision would be made shortly but to date no such decision has been communicated to the Council.

 

Southwark has high levels of deprivation and social housing, and the second largest number of tenants in London affected by the Bedroom Tax. 3,497 households in Southwark have been hit by the Bedroom Tax costing them each, on average £1,058 per year. So the Bedroom Tax is a big issue in Southwark.

 

I’m concerned that without additional DHP funding, Southwark Council will not be able to continue to protect people affected by the Bedroom Tax which will mean an increase in evictions from both council and private rented accommodation, and consequently homelessness.

 

Because of the Bedroom Tax many people on low incomes in Southwark are struggling to keep their heads above water, finding themselves in debt and rent arrears for the first time. A number of constituents have contacted me desperately concerned about their rent arrears after being told by the Council that DHP funds are no longer available.

 

For example, a single mother from Peckham lives with her severely disabled daughter in a 3 bedroom property specially adapted to meet the needs of her daughter who has cerebral palsy and is a wheelchair user. When the Bedroom Tax was introduced, her housing benefit was reduced even though she needs the extra bedroom for an overnight carer. She applied for a DHP to cover the shortfall in rent, which was granted, and continued to receive payments until they were stopped at the end of September 2014. She re-applied for a DHP but the Council had to refuse her application because there were no funds left in the DHP budget. She is now in rent arrears of £150 and is anxious that this may lead to eviction proceedings.

 

While a number of local authorities, like Southwark, have exceeded their DHP allocation this year, others have not used significant proportions of their DHP funds. It’s unfair that the money to help people with their housing in Southwark has run out not because the Council has spent it unwisely but because of the high level of demand.

 

Please can you arrange for your officials to meet Southwark Council officials as soon as possible to discuss DHP funding arrangements for the remainder of this financial year, and make extra funds available for Southwark.

 

I look forward to hearing from you. 

 

Best wishes,

 

Harriet Harman MP and Tessa Jowell MP

 

 

Extra funds needed for emergency housing payments in Southwark - Letter to Ian Duncan Smith

Rt. Hon. Iain Duncan Smith MP Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Caxton House Tothill Street London SWIH 9NA   30th January 2015     Dear Iain,   Discretionary...

The Director of Public Prosecutions is independent of politicians and her job is not to make the law but to enforce it. And that's exactly what she is doing in respect of rape. She's trying to ensure that victims of rape get justice.  Too many don't report at all - fearing they won’t be believed.  Or drop out half way through the case because they can't face re-living the ordeal.  So the fact is that many rapists get away with it.  That is not only unfair on the victim but its bad news for deterrence.  Most of the evidence is that rape is a "repeat offence" i.e. he'll do it again until he's stopped.

We're not talking about a man making a mistake here - as Sarah Vine does.   We’re talking about a criminal offence.  If I leave a window open an inch and someone breaks in, steals everything I own and ransacks my house no one would say it wasn't a crime or that the offender had "made a mistake".

Rape is the crime of sexual intercourse without consent.  If there is consent then it’s not a crime. What is at issue here is where there isn't consent and how we make sure that women are protected from rapists and that they are brought to justice.

Tackling crimes by men against women is bedevilled by the culture of men's excuses and blaming of their victims.  It was only a few years ago that we managed to change the law so that a man who killed his wife could no longer blame her for provoking him - for example by her having an affair.  The so-called "nagging and shagging defence" which saw wife-killers evade murder charges was abolished.  But in rape, victim-blaming is alive and well.  Can't we ever leave behind the blame culture which says to the victim that she brought it on herself and therefore the man is the victim because he is accused.

The DPP will carry on her work in the best interests of justice.  And more power to her elbow.  She's doing the right thing and it’s long overdue.  It’s not my job to prosecute rapists.  It’s hers.  But I for one am backing her all the way.

Response to Sarah Vine's comments today on rape and consent

The Director of Public Prosecutions is independent of politicians and her job is not to make the law but to enforce it. And that's exactly what she is doing in...

Sometimes it seems that environmental challenges like global warming are so big we can’t possibly do anything about them as individuals. Or we are so busy and stressed in our everyday lives that we don’t have time to think about it, or to take action.But tackling environmental issues - from climate change to energy use, waste to transport - is important for our future and in our daily lives we can all be doing something to reduce the harmful impact of our actions on the environment.

Here are my five key points for action:

*Bring the tube to Camberwell and Peckham: Good public transport cuts car use, cuts noise and air pollution and cuts traffic jams. I strongly support extending the Bakerloo Line to Camberwell and Peckham. It would cut local traffic congestion especially along Walworth Road and Old Kent Road.

*Recycling household waste: Putting waste in landfill sites is very bad for the environment as some waste contains toxic substances that leak in to our soil and groundwater, and food or plant waste releases methane which contributes to global warming. Two thirds of our household waste could be recycled or composted. Recycling is easy in Southwark – your recycling, food and garden waste can be collected from your home or you can take it to the Council’s Reuse and Recycling Centre on Old Kent Road. In Southwark we've doubled our recycling rates since 2010 but we should aim to divert more than 95% of waste away from harmful landfill.

*Saving energy at home: Making small changes to the way you use energy can reduce your carbon footprint as well as saving money. Even small things make a big difference. Like turning off the lights when you leave a room, turning off your appliances at the wall rather than leaving them on standby, boiling your kettle with only as much water as you need, and drawing the curtains at night to stop the heat escaping. When Labour was in government we set up the ‘Warm Front’ scheme to properly insulate homes but the Tory-Lib Dem Government scrapped it. The next Labour government will have a major push on home insulation with at least 5 million homes upgraded over 10 years, saving the average household more than £270 a year in energy bills.

*Safer cycling: Cycling is a good thing. As well as being great exercise and a cheap way to travel, it cuts down on traffic jams and pollution. But cycling needs to be safer. Labour will make cycling safer in London and throughout the country. We have put forward a plan for tough new safety rules for HGVs. And in Southwark we want a ‘safe cycling hour’ with lorries banned from the roads at rush hour.

*Tackling environmental problems globally. The last Labour Government made progress in tackling climate change not just in the UK, but working with other governments in Europe and globally, and helping developing countries to develop more sustainably. More than ever Britain and the world need leadership on tackling the key global issues - climate change, poverty and inequality. 2015 is an important year for international action with a series of summits and conferences that can shape our future. Labour will seek a binding international agreement on climate change and global targets for cutting carbon emissions.

*The print version of this article is slightly shorter.

Southwark News column - Tackling environmental problems important for our future

Sometimes it seems that environmental challenges like global warming are so big we can’t possibly do anything about them as individuals. Or we are so busy and stressed in our...

Harriet Harman letter to Sajid Javid:

 

Dear Sajid,

Ofcom appointments

I am writing to you regarding the appointment of Baroness Noakes, who you appointed as Deputy Chair of Ofcom on 1st June 2014 to serve a four year term on the Ofcom board.  Your duty as the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is to protect the integrity of the regulator of the broadcast media and not to compromise this with a party political appointment. 

On page two of the Ofcom 2013/14 annual report, it clearly states that Ofcom works:

independently, free from political influence”.

It is of upmost importance that Ofcom is, and is seen to be, scrupulously impartial.  This is underpinned by Ofcom policy which specifies:

“It is essential that Ofcom should establish and maintain a reputation for impartiality, integrity and high professional standards”.

“It is not appropriate for a Non-Executive Board Member to act as a party spokesman in the House of Lords”.

Baroness Noakes continues to take the Conservative whip in the House of Lords.  Since 2010, acting as a spokesperson for the Conservative Party, she has sat on seven committees in the House of Lords.  On the face of it this is not in compliance with Ofcom policy. 

To ensure impartiality, both Ed Richards and James Purnell when appointed to senior positions in the Ofcom and the BBC resigned from the Labour Party.  To comply with this, Lord Triesman, Baroness Young, Lord Smith and Lord Williams have all resigned the whip as Labour Peers in the House of Lords and sat as cross-benchers when they have been appointed to senior positions in public bodies, including the Football Association and the Environment Agency.

But it is not as though she has just failed to resign the whip.  There are also clear breaches to be found on Baroness Noakes’ twitter account (she tweets as @1SVN).  Her Twitter biography describes her as a “Conservative peer, non-executive director and chartered accountant”.  Her tweets attack Ed Miliband and the Labour Party, and examples can be found below: 

  • January 23rd 2015 – “Get a grip! #TVdebate May7 is about who we want as our PM Cameron v Miliband that’s the real debate” (retweeted Anna Soubry MP);
  • January 21st 2015 – “Further fall in UK unemployment. #LongTermPlan still delivering.  Must not let Labour back to destroy progress”;
  • January 11th 2015 – “Be afraid. Be very afraid if @ed_miliband and #Labour get back into power” (NB this tweet included a photo produced by the Conservative Party including a picture of Ed Miliband and the slogan “Don’t risk it with Labour”);
  • January 6th 2015 – “Labour at war over Mansion Tax bribe for Scots. Says it all”.
  • January 5th 2015 – “Any wonder they crashed our economy? Document put out by @edballsmp repeatedly confuses millions for billions” (NB this tweet includes a photo of Ed Milliband and Ed Balls sitting next to one another in the Commons chamber);
  • December 14th 2014 – “We can never state too often the basic fact that every Labour government in UK history has left the country in financial ruins” (retweeted Sebastian Lowe);
  • December 5th 2014 – “OMG: Lord Mandelson: Britain could still join the Euro via @Telegraph ttp://fw.to/uFT8dgm  Another good reason to keep Labour out”.

She cannot be upholding the impartiality of the broadcasting regulator whilst tweeting pro-Conservative, anti-Labour material about TV debates. 

 Ofcom is the regulator for our broadcast media.  It is important that at all times the regulator maintains the highest level of political impartiality, but this is even more important with the election rapidly approaching.

I would also ask that you note that Baroness Noakes has shareholdings in Verizon Communications Corp, a global communications and technology company.  Dame Patricia Hodgson, the former Deputy Chair of Ofcom, was paid £70,000 for the role.   

Given the number of breaches of Ofcom policy and the clear bias that Baroness Noakes has shown at a personal and professional level, I would ask that you reconsider Baroness Noakes’ position as Deputy Chair of Ofcom as a matter of urgency.  I ask that you write to me about this matter immediately. 

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

 

ENDS

Harriet Harman, Labour’s Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, challenges Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Sajid Javid over Tory appointment to independent regulator Ofcom

Harriet Harman letter to Sajid Javid:   Dear Sajid, Ofcom appointments I am writing to you regarding the appointment of Baroness Noakes, who you appointed as Deputy Chair of Ofcom...

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Holocaust Memorial Day is the day for everyone to remember the millions of people killed in the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The 27th January marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

Holocaust Memorial Day - 27th January 2015

Holocaust Memorial Day is the day for everyone to remember the millions of people killed in the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.... Read more

Yesterday, Monday 26th January, MPs voted on the Infrastructure Bill.  Labour took the opportunity to put forward a series of important amendments to protect communities and ensure that fracking does not take place without proper restrictions and robust regulations.  We welcome the Government’s decision, having previously ignored legitimate environmental concerns, to accept Labour’s proposals to tighten fracking regulations.

My view is that shale gas extraction should only go ahead if there is robust regulation, comprehensive monitoring and strict enforcement, and in a way which is consistent with decarbonising our electricity supply by 2030.  It is disappointing that so far, the Government has failed to listen to legitimate environmental concerns that have been raised about the extraction of shale gas.

One of the key concerns people in Camberwell and Peckham have raised with me is about underground access rights.  Currently, other activities which involve drilling or excavating horizontally in this way have deep-level land access rights, including coal mining or the laying of gas, water or sewage pipes.  These rights enable operators to access deep-level land without having to acquire permission from the landholder above.

Shale gas, however, is not currently covered by these existing rights.  This means that, at present, a shale gas operator has to seek permission from each individual landholder for drilling operations at all depths.  The Government is proposing that for shale gas operations taking place at 300m or deeper, no permission is required.  For surface access the company will still have to obtain a right of access from the owner of the land.

Labour’s believes that the entire environmental and safety framework needs to be much more robust.  The amendments we have put forward would prevent fracking from happening until the environmental framework is fit for purpose.  Our view is that this is a much more effective position than trying to remove the provisions on underground access, which might delay fracking but would do nothing to ensure the entire environmental regulation framework is fit for purpose. 

The conditions we believe must be met before fracking can take place are as follows:

  • Require shale gas operators to individually notify residents of activity, rather than publishing a generic notice;

  • Prohibit shale gas extraction in groundwater protection zones;
  • Put the payment of community benefit onto a statutory footing;

  • Introduce a presumption against development in Protected Areas;

  • Prohibit the use of “any substance” in the frack fluid, as in current legislation;

  • Ensure that decommissioned land is returned to a state required by the planning authority;

  • Place an obligation on operators to monitor and report fugitive emissions;

  • Empower local planning authorities to consider the cumulative impact of multiple developments in their area;

  • Ensure that there is independent inspection of well integrity;

  • Require 12 months of baseline assessments;

  • Require all shale gas sites to conduct Environmental Impact Assessments;

  • Make water companies statutory consultees in the planning process; and

  • No fracking operations to take place at a depth of less than 1,000m.

Only by fully addressing legitimate concerns about fracking with robust regulation, comprehensive monitoring and strict enforcement can people have confidence that the extraction of shale gas is safe and reliable.

As the Infrastructure Bill makes its way through Parliament, Labour will continue to hold the Government to account and ensure the important changes we made to the Bill stay in place.

Fracking must not go ahead without robust regulations and restrictions

Yesterday, Monday 26th January, MPs voted on the Infrastructure Bill.  Labour took the opportunity to put forward a series of important amendments to protect communities and ensure that fracking does...

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Fantastic turnout on Saturday morning for campaigning in East Walworth to support Parliamentary candidate Neil Coyle and also East Street Market in Faraday ward.

Campaigning in Southwark

Fantastic turnout on Saturday morning for campaigning in East Walworth to support Parliamentary candidate Neil Coyle and also East Street Market in Faraday ward. Read more

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Tonight at the University of East Anglia I took part in Charles Clarke's in conversation event entitled 'discovering why politics matters'. The event was part of the Politics Lectures spring series 2015.

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Over 360 people joined us in the Thomas Paine study centre lecture theatre. We had a great discussion and I also took a wide ranging series of questions from the audience.

In-conversation with Charles Clarke at the University of East Anglia

Tonight at the University of East Anglia I took part in Charles Clarke's in conversation event entitled 'discovering why politics matters'. The event was part of the Politics Lectures spring...

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Today I visited the 4women centre in Norwich. The centre provides a one stop shop for women and centre director Rowenna Hagger showed me what services the centre offers to women in the area.

During a roundtable discussion I got to hear from representatives from the centre, charities and professionals who support the women and the centre.  We had a good discussion on the importance of the centre and what it means to the women that use it.

4Women Roundtable Discussion - Norwich

  Today I visited the 4women centre in Norwich. The centre provides a one stop shop for women and centre director Rowenna Hagger showed me what services the centre offers... Read more

You can read my monthly newsletter for December 2014 to January 2015 here.

Monthly Newsletter - December 2014 - January 2015

You can read my monthly newsletter for December 2014 to January 2015 here.

"It's clear from their policies and what they say, and what they do that UKIP is bad for women.  It's not just the Neanderthal sexist comments, and their overwhelmingly male team of candidates.  Their policies show no recognition that half the people in this country are women and that women expect, and are entitled, to be treated on equal terms to men." 

Harriet Harman sets out the ten reasons UKIP is bad for women

"It's clear from their policies and what they say, and what they do that UKIP is bad for women.  It's not just the Neanderthal sexist comments, and their overwhelmingly male... Read more

Kris Hopkins MP

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State

Department for Communities and Local Government

Eland House, Bressenden Place

London SW1E 5DU

 

22nd January 2015

 

 

Dear Kris,

 

Fairer funding for Southwark Council

 

I am writing to you in regard to the provisional local government funding settlement figures for the London Borough of Southwark, which includes my constituency. I’m concerned to hear that Southwark Council stands to lose £21.2m of spending power in 2015-16 and faces a budget gap of over £30m, which is about 10% of its budget.

 

While I appreciate that many areas of public spending are being cut, I am concerned about the unfair nature of the distribution of the proposed cuts amongst local authorities. Southwark will suffer the third highest spending power reduction in the country despite its high levels of deprivation and social housing. And after five consecutive years of local government spending cuts, it may be the case that some council services will have to be reduced or stopped altogether.

 

The Government has hit the communities with the most need the hardest and frontline services that residents rely on are bearing the brunt. There should be a fairer funding settlement and I would therefore ask you to reconsider the proposed settlement for Southwark to ensure it receives a fairer share of resources. 

 

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Best wishes,

 

Harriet Harman

Fairer funding for Southwark Council - Letter to Minister for Local Government

Kris Hopkins MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Department for Communities and Local Government Eland House, Bressenden Place London SW1E 5DU   22nd January 2015     Dear Kris,  ...

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This morning I met with the Leader of Southwark Council, Cllr Peter John. We discussed the campaign to extend the Bakerloo line through Southwark, local government funding for Southwark, leaseholder policy and the council's adoption of the 'Ethical Care Charter' committing the council to better employment conditions for staff.

Meeting Southwark Council Leader Peter John

This morning I met with the Leader of Southwark Council, Cllr Peter John. We discussed the campaign to extend the Bakerloo line through Southwark, local government funding for Southwark, leaseholder policy...

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Tonight I joined Iain Dale for my regular phone in slot on LBC 97.3  We discussed the topics that are currently leading Britain's conversation. We took questions and answered texts from callers nationwide.

LBC Phone in with Iain Dale

Tonight I joined Iain Dale for my regular phone in slot on LBC 97.3  We discussed the topics that are currently leading Britain's conversation. We took questions and answered texts... Read more

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Joining our great local campaign team of members and councillors to talk to residents on the Southampton Way estate in Camberwell.

Campaigning in Brunswick Park, Camberwell

Joining our great local campaign team of members and councillors to talk to residents on the Southampton Way estate in Camberwell.

You can read my quarterly casework report for October to December 2014 here.

Quarterly Casework Report - October-December 2014

You can read my quarterly casework report for October to December 2014 here.

Today at DCMS questions I asked the Minister about what steps he has taken to protect the rights of free speech and free press in the wake of the horrific murders in Paris:

After the horrific murders in France last week it has never been more important unequivocally to assert our commitment to the right of free speech and a free press, the right to be provocative and even offensive and including the right to lampoon religion.

But after last week the reality is that a shadow hangs over broadcasters, bloggers, journalists and satirists.  They, and their staff, should not have to look over their shoulder fearing violence. 

What has he done to reassure them not only of the government's in principle support but that every step is being taken to give them the security they need to exercise their rights in our democratic society.  Has he spoken directly with the media about their concerns and what discussions has he had with the Prime Minister and the with Home Secretary about this?

Department for Culture, Media, and Sport Questions in Parliament - 15/01/2015

Today at DCMS questions I asked the Minister about what steps he has taken to protect the rights of free speech and free press in the wake of the horrific murders in...

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