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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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...
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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:
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.
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...
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...
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.
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...
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 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.
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...
The Joint Committee on Human Rights publishes our report on the Right to family life: Children whose mothers are in prison. After hearing powerful evidence, we propose urgent reform to...
Thank you to the 100s of constituents who have taken the time to email me. It is really important for me to hear from you as we face unprecedentedly dangerous times with the Government seeking to override Parliament and the country threatened with leaving the EU without a deal.
As you know, I backed and campaigned for Remain.
I was bitterly disappointed that, by a narrow margin, the vote was to Leave.
I still believe that there is no deal which is better than the one we currently have as a full member of the EU.
The worst of all worlds is No Deal.
In the votes so far I have voted:
• Against leaving the EU with No Deal and
• For a further referendum
Fearing that there is a majority in Parliament against No Deal, the Government is seeking to override the will of Parliament, including by reducing the time available before October 31st by proroguing (suspending) parliament and by contemplating denying royal assent to any Bill to block No Deal.
I will, by working with my Labour colleagues and with MPs across the House of Commons, be seeking to do all I can to protect our country from the dangers of a No Deal Brexit and from an undermining of our democratically elected Parliament.
As the situation is fast-moving, I will report my votes on Twitter as they happen.
Thank you again for writing to me. I share your concerns.
Thank you to the 100s of constituents who have taken the time to email me. It is really important for me to hear from you as we face unprecedentedly dangerous...
Hearing from a brave young woman detained in Yarl’s Wood with her mum for 3 months at the launch of the new All-Party Group on Immigration Detention chaired by Alison Thewliss MP. MPs from all parties determined to introduce a time limit of 28 days and to end arbitrary indefinite detention.
Hearing from a brave young woman detained in Yarl’s Wood with her mum for 3 months at the launch of the new All-Party Group on Immigration Detention chaired by Alison...
We regard ourselves as a civilised society with a respect for human rights. And it is right that we should take extra care to support young people and those with disabilities. But the brutal truth is that we are failing to protect some of our most vulnerable children and young people - those with autism and learning disabilities. And indeed, worse than that, we are currently detaining and inflicting terrible suffering on them and causing anguish to their distraught families.
The horrific reality is that children and young adults with autism and learning disabilities are being sectioned under the mental health act and taken to specialist hospitals with poor conditions, far away from their families. They are being detained for months, or even years on end when they should be in their community. The recent Panorama programme showing the taunting and abuse of vulnerable young patients in Whorlton Hall exposed this horrific reality and it has put the inhumane treatment of people in institutions back under the spotlight, eight years on from a similar scandal at Winterbourne View hospital.
The pathway from diagnosis to detention is tragic. What happens is this: A family grow worried about their child and raise concerns with the GP and with the child’s nursery or school. It takes ages before they get an assessment and yet more time passes before they get a diagnosis of autism. All the while, families are struggling on their own, without the appropriate help for their child.
Parents who ask for government support soon find they have to battle for it - on top of holding down a job, whilst also trying to provide a peaceful home not only for their child with autism but also for their other children. Their living situation becomes impossible.
As the child gets older, families find it harder to cope. The problems mount and the mother gives up work so she can be there for her child at all times. The family income suffers, which leads to them relying on a complex, inadequate benefit system. Families ask for extra care support, but due to austerity, find their care package is going to be cut back. There are not enough specialist beds or local services to support the child.
As the situation worsens, parents are told that their child will have to go into hospital temporarily. Families are not being told about the proposal before it goes to the panel which makes the decision. They are not allowed to attend the panel. Then, the child is taken miles away from their home and placed with strangers - losing the familiarity and routine which is so essential to their wellbeing.
The parents are desperately concerned. They have difficulty visiting their children. But their concerns are treated as hostile and they are seen as a problem. The child gets worse and suffers physical restraint and solitary confinement - which the institution calls ‘seclusion‘. The child gets even worse, so plans to return home are shelved. The days turn into weeks and then months.
This is such a grim picture, yet they are the stories of families up and down country. And their experiences have come across powerfully in their evidence to the inquiry being undertaken by the parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, which I chair. The media has exposed some of this, and we’ve had a compelling report too from the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield.
Action is urgently needed – and the solutions are not complicated. First, there must be extra resources so that diagnosis is prompt. There must be extra funding too to support the child continuing to live with the family at home. (Institutional care is, in fact, more expensive to the public purse but it comes from the NHS rather than cash-strapped councils). Parents must be supported to continue to work. Councils’ housing policies must ensure that families with a child with autism can be appropriately housed.
The family should be recognised as the people who know the child best and care for him/her the most and must be put at the heart of the decision-making process. Residential hospital care - where it’s absolutely necessary and not just because of lack of community support - must be near the child’s home to allow the parents to visit regularly.
The parents should be asked regularly if they are happy with the care their child is getting and any concerns immediately acted on. There should be proper complaints procedures which can be anonymous. And there remains a major question mark over the Care Quality Commission, the regulator of this provision. It had certified Whorlton Hall as ‘good’. In doing so it provided parents with false reassurance and helped shield their children’s abusers. A regulator which gets it wrong is worse than no regulator at all.
Our country is prosperous and values human rights. We cannot turn away from the suffering of these children and their families. It’s time to act.
We regard ourselves as a civilised society with a respect for human rights. And it is right that we should take extra care to support young people and those with...
2 women a week are killed by their current or former partner in the UK. And domestic abuse affects 2 million people - mostly women - every year.
Over the years I’ve been MP I’ve supported women and children in Camberwell and Peckham who’ve suffered this terrible violence. I’ve heard their devastating stories and made their voices heard in Parliament.
Women suffering domestic abuse need to know how they can get help and a safe space. Refuges provided by councils and charities are vital places of safety for women fleeing violent homes. Refuges save lives.
Yet victims of domestic abuse face a dangerous postcode lottery of access to refuges because of deep government cuts to local council funding.
I asked every local authority how much they had spent on domestic violence refuges since 2010. What I found was shocking. At least 34 refuges have been forced to close their doors since 2010 because of cuts. Every council in London has been forced to cut spending on refuges since 2010.
Locally Southwark Council has worked hard with Solace Womens Aid to prioritise and protect vital DV support services. And last year Southwark was the first council housing service in the country to receive accreditation by the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance.
But despite their best efforts because the council has faced cuts of almost half of their total budget since 2010, they have had to cut services.
After years of struggle to improve domestic violence services, with refuges living hand to mouth, the publication of the Domestic Abuse Bill this week represents a historic opportunity to put refuges on a sustainable footing and ensure victims can get the support they need wherever they live.
There are many welcome measures in the Bill - it creates a wider definition of domestic abuse, it establishes a domestic abuse commissioner to champion victims and survivors, it will end the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts, it gives new powers to courts and places new duties on councils, and extends protection to women in Northern Ireland.
Refuges save lives and they need to be on a secure footing. I am urging the Government to set aside a percentage of gross national income to safeguard refuge funding and end the hand-to-mouth existence of these vital places of safety. Southwark Council and over 40 councils are backing this.
The important thing is to establish the principle - the money would be a tiny percentage of government spending overall but be hugely important for women and children fleeing violence.
The Prime Minister will be gone next week and there is no time to turn the Bill into law before the new Prime Minister takes over. Boris Johnson has not been what you might call a champion of the cause of tackling domestic violence. I am urging the new Prime Minister to commit to taking this Bill forward, properly funded.
2 women a week are killed by their current or former partner in the UK. And domestic abuse affects 2 million people - mostly women - every year. Over the...