Harriet Harman

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

Current News

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...

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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