Harriet Harman

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

Current News

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We are all starting to see more people sleeping rough on the streets and park benches. Since 2010 the number of people forced to sleep outside has increased by 169% and is now at its highest level ever.

Under the last Labour government, years of sustained action reduced rough sleeping by 75%, but much of that progress is being undone. In every year since we left government the numbers have risen steeply. More than 1,137 people are now sleeping rough in London alone, almost the same as for the whole of England in 2010.

Less visible forms of homelessness are also rising. 300,000 people are living in temporary accommodation or ‘sofa-surfing’ while their council tries to find them somewhere to live. The number of children staying with their families in hostels has risen by 70% under the Tories to over 120,000.  Insecure, unstable accommodation can be deeply damaging. I’ve helped a number of families where despite both parents are working but due to spiraling rents they can’t keep up with payments and end up homeless, sharing a room in a hostel with their children, often having to share bathrooms with other families, their children facing long journeys from the new hostel to school or even being uprooted to new schools entirely.

As well as the chronic lack of decent, safe and affordable housing, people become homeless for a number of complex reasons, including mental health problems, family breakdown, addiction, benefit changes or unemployment – and the current scourge of homelessness is made worse by Tory cuts to vital services that support vulnerable people in times of crisis.

Mental health services are understaffed and stretched to breaking point. Services to help people overcome drug and alcohol addiction have had almost half of their funding cut since 2010. In England more than 30 refuges for women and children escaping domestic violence have closed since 2010, with 155 women a day turned away and left homeless because of lack of space.

Increasing numbers of people are unable to work or get support due to Home Office delays in processing their immigration applications and the government’s shambolic Universal Credit scheme with an in-built delay of 6 weeks has left people without money to pay their rent and facing eviction.

Southwark Council is working hard to support people and reduce homelessness. They are spending £3m this year on outreach services and are working with charities, such as St Mungo’s, to provide overnight food and shelter. But the government has cut Southwark’s budget by 60% by the government since 2010 and however excellent their support services are they will not be enough to replace what has been lost.

No one should have to wonder where they are going to sleep tonight, or live with the fear that comes with insecure or temporary housing and Labour is committed to ending rough sleeping. We are demanding the government provide 8,000 affordable homes for people with a history of sleeping on the streets, restore council budgets, ring-fence mental health funding and halt damaging welfare cuts. The scale of homelessness is a scourge on our society – we can end it and we must.

 

Homelessness is a scourge on our society - we can end it and we must: South London Press column

We are all starting to see more people sleeping rough on the streets and park benches. Since 2010 the number of people forced to sleep outside has increased by 169%...

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This year marks 100 years since the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave millions of women the chance to vote for the first time and stand as a parliamentary candidate. To celebrate this important milestone, The House magazine, supported by Lloyds, hosted a panel event last night which I was delighted to be a part of with Jess Phillips MP, Tulip Siddiq MP, Seema Kennedy MP, Layla Moran MP and Rachel Maclean MP.

We discussed ways for parties to work together to improve the representation of women in British politics at all levels, from local councils to the Cabinet table.

We then heard brilliant speeches from the Minister for Women and Equalities, Amber Rudd, and the Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, Dawn Butler, on their reflections as women in Parliament and in Ministerial roles.

Lloyds Banking Group are working with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Women in Parliament to develop the Women in the Real Economy mentoring programme, which partners a senior woman Lloyds leader with an MP to help a young woman from that constituency reach their full potential.

'Deeds Not Words - How To Reach a 50/50 Parliament': Event

This year marks 100 years since the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave millions of women the chance to vote for the first time and stand as a...

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1 in 4 of us will suffer a mental health illness at some stage in our lives.  We will all know someone who has gone through depression or anxiety, or a more complex condition such as bi-polar disorder and I have helped a number of people living in Camberwell and Peckham who have got into problems arising from mental ill health.

For too long we, as a society, haven’t felt able to talk about mental illness with the same openness as we talk about our physical health. Indeed it was only in 2012 that MPs spoke for the first time in a debate in Parliament about their own mental health problems. Kevan Jones, the MP for North Durham, spoke about how he coped with depression and Dr Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes, spoke about the severe post-natal depression she suffered.

Challenging the taboo and stigma is important. But we need to ensure that mental health services are given the same priority as other services. If you have cancer or suffer a broken leg, the NHS has targets for treating you as quickly as possible. But if you’re depressed or anxious it can be 6 months before you’re able to see a mental health specialist. NSPCC research shows that 150 children a day are rejected for treatment and only 1 in 3 children and young people will get the support they need. With just 0.7% of the NHS budget going on children’s mental health, the government must urgently provide more money.

The South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) in Camberwell is the largest provider of mental health services in the UK. Their pioneering work is essential in preventing children and adults reaching crisis point. They are at the forefront of tackling mental illness stigma and run innovative support programmes in the community, using former patients to help support people recovering from a crisis, and making it easier for more people to access help quickly using social media like Twitter.

SLaM is doing a very important job.  But Tory cuts since 2010 have left the Trust with 112 fewer mental health nurses and a 23% staff shortage, with over 1,000 vacancies. These cuts cause more distress to patients and end up costing the taxpayer. The Maudsley Hospital is at full capacity with 100% bed occupancy and the time a patient stays in the Maudsley has gone up from 15 days to 25 days. Some patients stay longer because there is nowhere they can go when they are discharged. If you don’t have the right support in place when you leave hospital, you are more likely to relapse and end up going back in. The bed crisis is causing knock-on pressure on the neighbouring A&E at King’s College Hospital which has seen an increase in people needing mental health support because they have nowhere else to go.

This month I am having meetings with groups of SlaM’s community healthcare specialists, governors, and the Chief Executive, Dr Matthew Patrick, to discuss how we can work together to insist the government gives them the resources they need to protect patient care. The hospital cannot improve or retain staff without money. That’s why I am backing Labour’s call for the government to ring-fence mental health budgets and strengthen patients’ legal right to talking therapies.

Fighting to protect local mental health services against Government cuts - Southwark News Column

1 in 4 of us will suffer a mental health illness at some stage in our lives.  We will all know someone who has gone through depression or anxiety, or...

Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Women & Equalities, replies to my letter of 10th January 2018 regarding #GenderPayGap reporting & ending the unequal pay gap.

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Ending the Unequal Pay Gap - response from Secretary of State to my letter

Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Women & Equalities, replies to my letter of 10th January 2018 regarding #GenderPayGap reporting & ending the unequal pay gap.  

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You can read the full report of my visit to Australia for the International Progressive Campaign Forum and International Labor Party conference here.

International Labor Conference - Sydney, Australia

You can read the full report of my visit to Australia for the International Progressive Campaign Forum and International Labor Party conference here.

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Monthly report January/February 2018

Read more

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As always when there is a Tory government, local people and local hospitals suffer, waiting lists for operations grow and more operations are cancelled.

For every delayed or cancelled operation there is a human impact. In the last year at King’s College Hospital, 928 operations were cancelled for non-medical reasons — 4x as many as in 2009 when Labour were last in government. The Prime Minister talked about cancelled operations being “part of the plan”. We can never let there be a plan with cancelled operations as part of it. For the individual concerned, there is the psychological impact of gearing themselves up for an operation and then finding it cancelled, everything is organised around it, including time off work, their family taking time off work or coming to stay when they are recovering. Prompt treatment allows people to get on with their lives.

King’s College Hospital and its dedicated staff are enormously important, both as a centre of international excellence and of local necessity - at the heart of GP services, social care and mental health services and are doing all they can to maintain standards of care.  But the Government have been imposing deep cuts at King’s at a time when more patients are coming through the door and there is less money per person.

When Labour left government King’s was rated excellent and one of the top hospitals in the country by the Care Quality Commission. Now after 7 years of Tory government it’s dropped to ‘requires improvement.’ This is not King’s fault, it is the government’s fault.  Although King’s critical care has improved since 2015 and care for patients with dementia and major incident response was rated outstanding, this week it was announced by the Care Quality Commission that King’s College Hospital’s rating will remain as ‘requires improvement’.

You cannot improve an organisation by cutting it to the bone. In the last 2 years, King’s has already cut £80 million, double the average rate of other hospitals. On 16th January in the debate called by local MP for Dulwich and Norwood, Helen Hayes, on King’s finances, I spoke in Parliament to stress that the problem at King’s is not the leadership, or the growing number of patients, or the dedicated staff, it is about lack of money. I am dismayed the government has allowed a tone of blaming King’s leadership to creep into debate. Funding pressures are being felt right across the country in the NHS. 

King’s A & E department is facing additional increasing pressure because of wider cuts, which have stretched local mental health and GP services. Mental health services are essential in preventing children and adults reaching crisis point but Tory cuts since 2010 have left the South London and Maudsley Trust with 112 fewer mental health nurses and a 23% staff shortage, with over 1,000 vacancies. These cuts cause more distress to patients and end up costing the taxpayer more by increasing pressure on A & E departments as people have to go to hospital to get help. That’s why I’m backing Labour’s call for the government to ring-fence mental health budgets to protect patient care. 

I met with the new interim Chair of King’s, Ian Smith, on 23rd January and stressed that he and his team have my full support to fight to improve services, but it is vital that the government now does the same and makes it clear they are on King’s side.  I am writing to the Health Secretary to ask him to guarantee that King’s are not forced  to make cuts that will take us back to the situation we had under the last Tory Government in the 1980s, when people routinely spent all night on trolleys in King’s accident and emergency. Years of Labour investment from 1997 transformed King’s so that by 2010 it was meeting all of its main waiting time targets, but once again now, almost 1 in 5 patients at A & E have to wait more than 4 hours to be seen and King’s is regularly more than 100% full, with meeting rooms and storage space used for beds.

In 2018 my priority for my constituency work is the NHS, and I will be working with patients, staff, unions, local Southwark MPs Helen Hayes and Neil Coyle, Southwark Council and Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group to ensure the government gives King’s, SLaM and primary care services the resources they need to protect patient care.

In 2018 my priority for my constituency work is the NHS - Southwark News

As always when there is a Tory government, local people and local hospitals suffer, waiting lists for operations grow and more operations are cancelled. For every delayed or cancelled operation...

Sexual_harassment_cross-party_committee_report_-_debate.pngThose who have suffered sexual harassment need to have the confidence that their complaint will be taken seriously. This is even harder sometimes if the person the complainant is accusing is in a position of power.

Today I spoke in the Chamber to join other Members in commending the work of the Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom, who lead a cross party group of MPs to come up with solutions to improve the complaints process. Her approach has been very serious and committed but also inclusive, involving—right at the heart of the process and on an equal footing—the shadow Leader of the House and the shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, Dawn Butler, who has been able to consult and involve us in the process.

The working group has been able to ripple the discussion widely. Of course, we all have an interest in ensuring that grotesque abuses do not happen in this House, that it is a safe and decent place to work and that any wrongdoing is called to account.

People have talked about the balance between a fair system for the complainant and a fair system for the person who is complained about. Obviously that is right. The media spotlight can be very harsh indeed on a Member of Parliament just on the basis of an accusation made, but it can also be very harsh on a complainant, and we have to bear that in mind. Timeliness is very important for a Member against whom a complaint has been made, but it is also important for someone who has complained. I know that that has been at the forefront of the working group’s mind.

This is an important moment of progress, but it is also a work in progress. The working group has established a response and a system and set up an independent complaints process, but it is very important indeed that colleagues in all parties stay on the case to ensure that this actually works.

 

You can find out more about the working group's recommendations and catch up on the debate in Parliament today here

Backing cross-party proposals to tackle sexual harassment in Westminster

Those who have suffered sexual harassment need to have the confidence that their complaint will be taken seriously. This is even harder sometimes if the person the complainant is accusing is in...

 

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100 years after women won right to stand for UK Parliament - there are now over 200 women MPs.

My article in the Independent - 5th February 2018:

My mother, born in 1918, could vote. But when she was growing up, women’s exclusive focus was to be on the husband and family. Women who worked were women who hadn’t achieved their ‘primary purpose’ of marriage and children. How much have we really moved on?

The spirit of the women who fought for the right to vote was rooted in the revolutionary belief that women were not second class citizens, not inferior to men and should not be subordinate to men.

Their campaign was met with vilification and violence, with imprisonment and force-feeding. When you demand equality and change, no one says, “Oh that’s a good idea, we’ll change everything we’ve been doing for the past centuries.” They resist. 

To fight for equality always was, and still is, to confront conventions and the establishment. And they fight back. It’s only women’s persistence and solidarity which makes change.

For each generation, there is further to go. The suffragettes won the right to vote. My mother, born in 1918, could vote. But when she was growing up, women’s exclusive focus was to be on the husband and family. If women did work it was only for “pin money” or they were women who hadn’t achieved their “primary purpose” of marriage and children. If a man beat his wife then she’d probably brought it on herself and, anyway, it was a private matter and right for him to keep her in order.

One hundred years ago, women won the right to be elected to Parliament. But in the ensuing decades, it seemed that there was an invisible glass ceiling which kept the number of women MPs at around 3 per cent. My generation – I’m 67 now – were determined not only that women should have the right to sit in Parliament but that they should be there in equal numbers to men.

We wanted to use the rights won a century ago to make change. And to do that we had to be in Parliament and in government. We wanted to work as well as have children. But maternity pay and leave was rudimentary, pregnancy discrimination rife, part-time work undervalued, pay unequal and childcare non-existent. We got rid of the vow to obey our husbands but have yet to get a marriage vow of equality in the home and an equal share of child-rearing.

We have won the argument for change. But the battle still is to make that a reality. It’s accepted that high-quality, affordable childcare is good for children and parents. But women and men are still tearing their hair out trying to get the nursery place they can afford for the hours they need.  

It’s against the law now to discriminate against part-timers. Yet the women working part-time as they bring up young children are completely marginalised at work.  

Fathers have the right to paternity leave but few can afford to take it up. 

Domestic violence is recognised as wrong and a crime. But still two women every week are killed by a current or former husband or partner. And refuges are being shut after austerity cuts.

We must celebrate the incredible advances previous generations have made. But as we recognise the battles they fought and won, we need to regather our strength and determination for further battles. We can’t stop yet. The job’s not yet done!

 

As we approach the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, it's painfully obvious how much more work there is to be done

  100 years after women won right to stand for UK Parliament - there are now over 200 women MPs. My article in the Independent - 5th February 2018: My...

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This afternoon I spoke in Parliament's debate to mark 100 years since the first women won the right to vote, to say that I fully support the Government’s move to ask the Law Commission to consider the case for making it a criminal offence to threaten and abuse parliamentary candidates.

This is about misogynists seeking to silence women who dare to speak out—it is particularly virulent against younger women and black women. Voters have the right to choose whoever they want, man or woman, to represent them, and once that representative is elected to Parliament it is their right and duty to be able to get on with the job without being subjected to intimidation, threats or violence. This is about our democracy. Although as women, inside and outside of Parliament, we have made tremendous progress, we still have so much further to go, so I hope MPs on all sides of the House will give it their full support.

You can catch up with the full #Vote100 parliamentary debate here.

Backing move to make abusing parliamentary candidates a criminal offence in Vote 100 debate

This afternoon I spoke in Parliament's debate to mark 100 years since the first women won the right to vote, to say that I fully support the Government’s move to ask the Law...

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