Impossible to overstate the importance of tackling climate change. Thanks to everyone who came to Parliament to demand action!
Read my South London Press article here.
Plastic pollution is one of today’s great environmental challenges and the urgency and seriousness of the situation has never been clearer.
A recent report has shown that 14 million items of plastic such as bags, bottles, disposable cups and food wrappers are dropped or blown into UK waterways every year. I believe we need to make it more convenient for people to go plastic-free, and where we use plastic, we must ensure it is not just claimed to be recyclable but is actually recycled.
The Government has committed to working towards a target of eliminating avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042 and has consulted on several issues relating to plastics, including a tax on plastic packaging and a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for drinks containers.
The Government has also announced a ban on plastic straws, drinks stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds. I am disappointed this announcement falls short of EU proposals to ban the ten single-use plastic products most often found on European beaches.
I am frustrated that we continue in a cycle of consultations on issues that have support right across the country, such as introducing a DRS. We must take a root-and-branch, comprehensive approach to dealing with our waste which reduces the amount created, recycles the maximum amount of waste produced and protects our environment from pollution.
The Government published its draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill in December 2018, which proposes creating a new environmental watchdog – the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP).
At the 2017 general election, I was elected on a manifesto that proposed establishing an Environmental Tribunal which could hold government fully to account, rather than the proposed OEP which would be accountable to the Government and not to Parliament.
While this is a step in the right direction, I am concerned the Bill’s proposals will require a clear commitment to a level of funding which the Government has previously refused to provide for our public services.
I assure you the broader Environment Bill will be carefully scrutinised when it is introduced to Parliament.
Read my recent Southwark News article demanding government action on climate change: https://www.harrietharman.org/demanding_the_government_declare_a_climate_emergency
Plastic pollution is one of today’s great environmental challenges and the urgency and seriousness of the situation has never been clearer. A recent report has shown that 14 million items...
Access to affordable, quality childcare is essential for parents to able to work and it helps children get a good start in their life.
Yet after all the progress on childcare when Labour were last in government, working parents are now finding it harder to get the childcare they need.
Under this Tory government since 2010, the cost of childcare is rising faster than people’s wages. 1,000 Sure Start children’s centres across the country have closed and many more have reduced the services they provide.
And this is hitting hard-working parents in Southwark.
The Government’s scheme of 30 hours free childcare a week for 3 and 4 year olds is not working. Because The Government has failed to ensure that funding keeps up with the rising costs of providing childcare for nurseries to actually deliver the extra hours of free care the Government has promised parents.
Providers are being asked to deliver more, whilst facing a real term funding cut between now and 2020. The current funding level was set almost 4 years and doesn’t take into account significant operating cost increases in that time, such as business rate rises, rent, increases to the National Minimum Wage and pensions.
This has left parents and child carers subsidising the Government’s new offer. Which is simply not sustainable.
If this funding crisis continues, more childcare centres will close. More parents will be unable to afford a childcare place meaning they will be unable to work and earn for their family. This hits single parents and those on low incomes disproportionately hard.
I am backing the parent-led Early Years Alliance’s Fair Future Funding campaign and will continue to do all I can in Parliament to demand the Government properly funds universal childcare. All parents with children in primary school must have the certainty that childcare is available from 8am to 6pm.
Universal childcare is the missing part of our welfare state - a product of an old reality decades ago, where women did not get to go out to work, but stayed home to look after children. We need a universal free childcare system to reflect the reality of parents’ lives today and to liberate parents from the expense and worry of juggling home and work.
Access to affordable, quality childcare is essential for parents to able to work and it helps children get a good start in their life. Yet after all the progress...
Attacks on MPs are not just criminality against individuals; even more importantly than that, it is a fundamental attack on our democracy.
How does the hon. Gentleman think we should address this issue? Obviously, there are actions the Government need to take, and we know they are concerned, but in a way the issue is wider than that. It is an issue for all the parties and for the House as a whole, not just for the Government. What does he think about the mechanisms for taking action? One of the things I have considered—I do not know whether he thinks this is a good idea or whether he has an alternative proposal—is that we should have a Speaker’s conference on this issue. That would need the Government’s support. It would bring together the CPS, the police, the political parties.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that might be a way to go beyond discussion and take action?
Read the full debate in Parliament here.
Attacks on MPs are not just criminality against individuals; even more importantly than that, it is a fundamental attack on our democracy. How does the hon. Gentleman think we should...
Older people suffer disproportionately from loneliness and social isolation. Many over-75s have a disability or mobility issues and may not be easily able to leave their homes, and Age UK has found that 400,000 elderly people regularly go a week without meeting up with people or speaking on the phone to family and friends.
The free TV licence Labour introduced in 1999 is one of the few universal benefits available to older people and is particularly important given that for millions who live on their own this is their connection to the outside world, and over a third of older people say their television is their main source of company.
Currently everyone aged 75 or over is entitled to a free licence and the Conservatives promised voters in the 2017 election that they would protect this right until at least 2022.
But now they are trying to go back on their promise. From next year, millions of people aged over-75 could lose their right to a free TV licence and if they don’t pay, end up in court despite the Conservative manifesto promising this wouldn’t happen.
There are 4,140 people aged 75 or over in Camberwell and Peckham who would lose out. And for many loneliness is worse when they don’t have their family nearby as the next generation move out of Southwark because homes are too expensive here and they can’t get a council home.
It is so dismaying that pensioner poverty, which was halved when Labour were last in government between 1997 and 2010, is now on the rise again. Under the Tories 300,000 more older people are living in poverty than in 2010. This is unacceptable in a wealthy country such as the UK.
Age UK has warned that if the Government goes ahead with these cuts, thousands of older people could be forced to go without TV or cut back on essentials such as heating or eating and a further 50,000 pensioners will be living in poverty.
It would be wrong for the Government to take free TV away from vulnerable and lonely older people.
I am working with MPs from across the House including the Labour front bench, Liberal Democrats, SNP and the DUP, to demand the Government urgently reconsider and maintain funding for free TV licences for over-75s.
Older people suffer disproportionately from loneliness and social isolation. Many over-75s have a disability or mobility issues and may not be easily able to leave their homes, and Age UK...
We’re all hearing about the catastrophic effects of global warming and doing what we can to recycle, use reusable bags and coffee cups and worrying about supermarkets using so much plastic packaging.
Last month, Southwark became one of the first councils to declare a Climate Change Emergency and commit to combating greenhouse gas emissions and rising global temperatures. The council has already worked to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 37% since 2010. And aims to achieve carbon neutrality in the borough by 2030, which means to remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as we put in to it.
But while we step up our own efforts locally, what is really urgent now is that the Government must take decisive action.
Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old Swedish activist who is leading the charge on climate change around the world, visited Parliament and challenged all of us as MPs last week: “I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
And she’s right. Climate change is not a theoretical future. It is already here - wildfires, droughts and floods are hitting people around the world – and disproportionately hurting poorer communities in Africa, Asia and Far East.
The science is clear, we must act now to have any hope of reversing global warming. This cannot wait. It is for today’s governments.
This message has hit home to the thousands of school students and Extinction Rebellion protesters who, inspired by Greta, have demonstrated in recent weeks. Their message is that the Government must do much more to reduce the carbon dioxide we are releasing into the atmosphere.
In response to people reducing food waste in their homes, to the leadership Greta Thunberg has shown and to the thousands of people protesting and writing to their MPs, the Government should set clear, measurable targets to move away from harmful energy sources like burning coal and gas. And use tax breaks to make clean energy more affordable for people to use, like onshore wind farms, solar panels and electric cars.
Labour are taking this forward in Parliament this week by bringing forward a motion to make our Parliament the first in the world to formally recognise the climate emergency. I am backing this.
We are demanding the Government urgently implements new targets on renewable and low carbon energy and transport, properly funds environmental protection, reverses species decline and puts forward proposals to move towards a zero waste economy, including phasing out single-use plastics and investing in making homes more energy efficient through double glazing and draught proofing.
We need to work together across the House of Commons to try and trigger a wave of action here and from other governments around the world to halt global warming, reduce pollution, make our cities healthier and better places to live, protect our green spaces and deliver climate justice in the UK and around the world.
And switching to a carbon neutral green economy and using more solar and wind energy will create thousands of new jobs.
Unless we step up the action now, people in the future will look back on our generation and say “you knew what was happening, but you did nothing to prevent it”. As well as each of us, and the council changing the way we do things. It is time for the Government to wake up and act with the urgency that the science demands.
We’re all hearing about the catastrophic effects of global warming and doing what we can to recycle, use reusable bags and coffee cups and worrying about supermarkets using so much...
Earlier this week, news emerged that rape victims will have to hand their phones over to the police
- or else risk prosecutions not going ahead. Harriet Harman explains why these controversial consent forms must be stopped now.
There’s a long-standing problem in ensuring men don’t get away with rape. It’s a very difficult thing to stand in a witness box and face what the defence will throw at you as a victim in court. What the defence try and do is to turn the tables to make you feel like you’re on trial rather than the rapist. For years, in fact for decades, it has always been the case that it’s difficult to encourage women to report rape - let alone to be prepared to take it all the way to court.
That’s the background. There is a very low percentage of rape reporting and an even lower percentage of women feeling able to support the case in court. There is also a long-standing rule that it’s up to the prosecution to prove their case – somebody is innocent until proven guilty and this is what happens across all cases. The prosecution shouldn’t sit on evidence which would actually help the defence show that a crime hadn’t been committed. The disclosure rule used to involve the odd letter or statement from a witness about something they saw. Now, people leave their whole lives on the line – their relationships with family and friends, their work, all their pictures, all their hopes and fears; it’s all written down online. There have been a couple of cases where the defence have, late in the day, come across text messages which have shown that the man wasn’t guilty. It’s this that’s led to an overreaction from the prosecution and the police, who are now saying that unless you hand over every one of your devices with passwords and allow them to go back five years and look over every single picture, text and whatsapp message, then they won’t go ahead with the prosecution.
This is something that makes it much harder to support a prosecution because it involves not only an invasion of the victim’s privacy and every aspect of her private life being scrutinised, but also those of her friends and family because of what they’ve said to her over message or through pictures that they’ve shared. All this will now be in the hands of the police and will be vulnerable to being used in court.
The way to solve this problem is to enable the woman, if she feels that the police are going too widely and on a fishing expedition for information, to be able to challenge it and have the decision to mine her phone scrutinised by an independent person to ensure that it’s not an unwarranted invasion of privacy. A woman contacted me on the morning that this was discussed in the House of Commons to say that she’d been seriously sexual assaulted by someone who was a complete stranger, so there was no question of a relationship that they needed to discover between him and her. They were just asking for information, so they could find anything that might discredit her. She felt that she was being put on trial.
The defence think that the way to get off a rape or sexual assault charge is to prejudice the jury by saying that she’s the sort of woman who had sex with a lot of people and therefore she wouldn’t have said no to him. Or that she’s the sort of person who, because she’s had sex with lots of different people, has no integrity. It’s about blackening the woman’s character and a way of getting him off. Shamefully, that still goes on in our courts today. Just because a woman has had sex with A and B, it doesn’t mean she wasn’t raped by Mr C. It goes back to the idea that a woman who has had sex is immoral and a fallen woman, therefore not someone whose word should be trusted against a man who’s standing in the dock. We don’t subscribe to that attitude that a woman can’t be believed because she’s morally doubtful on the basis that she’s had sex.
This is a very serious problem. We already have a big problem with rape prosecutions and this could potentially make it even worse, but we have a solution that would protect the victim without subjecting the defendant to the possibility of wrongful conviction. It’s important to remember that rape is often a repeat offence. If a man gets away with doing it to one woman, he’s likely to do it again. We need to get this form withdrawn and a process in place so that a woman can challenge it. We can’t let this be yet another obstacle in securing justice for rape victims.
Rape prosecutions are already woefully low, let's not make it even harder for women to come forward GETTY Earlier this week, news emerged that rape victims will have to hand their...
Important news that Peckham Rye station to get a lift. Locally many have campaigned for years for safety & accessibility for wheelchairs, buggies, elderly, & people with restricted mobility. We need the work done soon.
Important news that Peckham Rye station to get a lift. Locally many have campaigned for years for safety & accessibility for wheelchairs, buggies, elderly, & people with restricted mobility....
This week we mark World Autism Awareness Week. It is thanks to vital campaigns like this led by the National Autistic Society and Cheryl Gillan MP as Chair of the APPG on Autism, that there is now a growing understanding of what the NAS describes as a lifelong developmental condition.
It is only recently there has been recognition that people on the autistic spectrum have difficulties with communication and social interaction. While we’ve come a long way with public awareness, there’s much to do to ensure that the support that there is there for people with autism and their families fully meets their needs.
We estimate 1,377 people in Camberwell and Peckham are autistic. Taking account of their families, this means autism is part of 5,508 people’s daily life.
The government cutting Southwark Council’s budget by almost half since 2010 means that they’ve had to cut the services they provide.
Parents I met at Cherry Garden and Tuke Special Schools in Peckham this month told me how they struggle as the cuts hit them.
It takes longer for their children to get the diagnosis they need. Which means a delay in getting the necessary support - without which they and their family suffer. One mother told me that the hours of help she gets for her 12 year old child had been cut from 24 to 16. Another mother told me she couldn’t apply for a primary school until her son’s care plan was in place, but this had been delayed so she feared he would miss out on a school place altogether or start the year without the right support. And Tuke School can no longer afford to run their invaluable after-school and summer holiday clubs that parents used to rely on.
I’m full of admiration of how these parents stoically battle for their child with autism and their other children, often struggling through complex systems without support.
Parents have got to be fully included in the key decisions about where their child goes to school and the care and support they get.
For some families care at home proves impossible. As chair of Parliament’s Human Rights Committee I’m leading an inquiry into the Assessment and Treatment Units where some autistic young people are detained. We’ve heard from parents whose children have been sent to units which far from helping them have made them worse. We’ve heard when parents raise concerns they are treated as a nuisance by services. But parents are the people with lifelong commitment to that child so we need to make sure that they can help shape the services that support their family. We’re also shortly hearing from MPs who’ve spoken passionately of their own experience, including Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP and Jonathan Reynolds MP, who have autistic sons.
There is invaluable expertise in our schools, health and council services but we must never forget that parents are the experts and services must be properly funded.
This week we mark World Autism Awareness Week. It is thanks to vital campaigns like this led by the National Autistic Society and Cheryl Gillan MP as Chair of the...
Thanks to the 1000+ Camberwell & Peckham people who contacted me ahead of the . 3 years on yet more uncertainty for people, businesses, NHS and security. Bleak. My votes last night, including for Customs Union, & :
Thanks to the 1000+ Camberwell & Peckham people who contacted me ahead of the #IndicativeVotes. 3 years on yet more uncertainty for people, businesses, NHS and security. Bleak. My votes last...
All of us watching the news were outraged that after 5 people were murdered in just one week in London the Government refused the Met Police’s request for extra money to tackle knife crime. On 10th March every London Labour MP wrote to the Chancellor to redouble our demands that the Government give the police the resources they need. This is a national crisis. Labour are calling for an emergency committee coordinated by No.10 to develop a clear vision for all parts of government, and actions for police, prevention programmes, youth centres, schools, councils and mental health services. It is time for Theresa May to step up and provide focus and leadership. I met Southwark Police Chief, Simon Messinger, to discuss the local response.
All of us watching the news were outraged that after 5 people were murdered in just one week in London the Government refused the Met Police’s request for extra money...
Over the last 2 weeks there have been lots of important votes. I have voted:
-AGAINST the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, which was defeated by 149 votes.
-FOR the cross-party amendment to reject a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances. The Government voted against but we won by 4 votes.
-FOR the Official Labour Opposition amendment to extend article 50 and seek a new Brexit approach. This was lost by 16 votes.
-FOR the Hilary Benn amendment to allow MPs a series of votes on all the different options. The Government voted against this and it was defeated by 4 votes.
Read more here.
Over the last 2 weeks there have been lots of important votes. I have voted: -AGAINST the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, which was defeated by 149 votes. -FOR the cross-party...
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.
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...
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
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...
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.
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....
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.
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...