Harriet Harman

Labour candidate for Camberwell and Peckham. I am not currently an MP as Parliament has been dissolved until after the General Election on 12th December 2019.

Current News

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Monthly report - April / May 2019

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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.

 

Opposing government cuts to 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...

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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.

Demanding the Government declare a Climate Emergency

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...

Rape prosecutions are already woefully low, let's not make it even harder for women to come forward

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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.

"We already have a big problem with rape prosecutions and this could potentially make it even worse"

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.

"It goes back to the idea that a woman who has had sex is immoral and a fallen woman"

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.

Why we mustn't demand rape victims hand over their phones - Harpers Bazaar

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...

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Monthly report - March / April 2019

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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.

Peckham Rye Station: improving accessibility

  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....

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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.

 

 

Mark World Autism Awareness Week by properly funding support for autistic people and their families #WAAW

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, & :

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Brexit Indicative Votes

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...

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.

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-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.

 

Key Brexit Votes

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...

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Monthly report - February/March 2019

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