International Women’s Day is the moment every year when we pat ourselves on the back for the progress we’re making on women’s equality and bemoan just how much further we still have to go. But having made monumental change from the position of women in my mother’s generation, we have learnt a few lessons. *change is possible - even when everyone is telling you it isn’t. *it needs resilience and persistence - even the most obvious change can take decades. *you will face a backlash which is often personal and threatening. The more progress you make and the more women’s voice are heard the greater the misogynist backlash. And it’s always nasty. *It’s not possible to make change as a woman acting alone. It’s the solidarity of women working together which does it - not a few inspirational leaders. *don't stand around waiting to be popular. Women who fight for equality are labelled awkward, aggressive or abnormal. But *women sticking their neck out for change will always have the support of millions of women who, like us, rail against unfairness and the discrimination they all face in their own lives.
And that’s how we’ve gone from a situation where women were defined by their role in a household dominated by a man - daughter, housewife, mother, - to a situation where nearly everyone agrees that women are not inferior to men. But though we’ve won the arguments the reality still needs more work. Few would argue that women should be paid less than men at work. But 8 out of 10 employers still pay their women less than their men. No-one condones domestic violence - like they used to. But still women’s eyes are blacked, their ribs broken and their children terrorised by men who are their husbands or boyfriends. No-one would, any more, argue that men should make the decisions and women should abide by them. But where decisions are to be made whether it’s in politics or business or any other field, it’s the men making the decisions even if they have to rely on women to implement them!
But though it’s depressing to see misogyny centre stage in America’s White House and the burning injustice of women in the developing world, we shouldn’t understate what we’ve achieved. The Women’s Movement’s quest for women’s equality has been the most enduring successful political movement of my lifetime. And the prospects for more progress are strengthened by the arrival in Parliament of more women than there have ever been. And whilst it used to be only on the Labour side that women were arriving in numbers, there are now women in the Tories who see themselves as feminists and are pressing for progress. With more than 200 hundred of us, if we women MPs can find a way to work together on a consistent basis, we might just turn out to be the most coherent force in a fractured parliament.
Original article appeared in the Times on International Women's Day - 8th March 2019 https://t.co/Bupu4d9CMY
International Women’s Day is the moment every year when we pat ourselves on the back for the progress we’re making on women’s equality and bemoan just how much further we...
Great to welcome anti-poverty campaigners ATD Fourth World , Thrive Teeside & Joseph Rowntree Foundation to Parliament on 5th March. We agreed it’s important to have people with lived experience of poverty at the heart of policymaking and we’re urging the Government to implement section 1 of the Equality Act to tackle wealth inequality.
Great to welcome anti-poverty campaigners ATD Fourth World , Thrive Teeside & Joseph Rowntree Foundation to Parliament on 5th March. We agreed it’s important to have people with lived experience...
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[email protected] cllrs @jackbuck123 @paulwfleming & Lorraine updating me on their sterling work to protect & support #Aylesbury residents. More reliable heating/hot water. Swift fair compensation.
It is so dismaying that EU citizens who have been such an important part of our community, who have had families here and lived in Southwark for decades are now facing the anxiety of having to ‘settle their status’ as the UK leaves the EU.
The Government says that EU citizens are “our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues and we want them to stay.” They will only have to prove they are existing residents.
That is, of course, exactly what was said to the Windrush Generation. But everyone now acknowledges that terrible mistakes were made and people who were here for years were wrongly detained as illegal immigrants.
With no independence or accountability in the system Home Office mistakes are inevitable. So it’s vital that as the Government subjects 3m EU citizens to our immigration system, they make sure lessons have been learnt from Windrush and those injustices are not repeated.
As Chair of Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights I’m leading an inquiry into this. We heard harrowing evidence from people wrongly detained, separated from their children and threatened with deportation. The evidence on their files that they were long term residents was ignored, the pleas of their families swept aside.
I have helped countless people in Camberwell and Peckham challenge Home Office decisions. Like one Chinese man who was detained for 33 days and threatened with removal. He is now back home with his partner.
Those we get to hear about are only the tip of the iceberg. But we know that £21m was paid out by the Home Office in just 5 years to compensate people for wrongful detention.
If you are suspected of a crime you can’t be detained by government - only by the police - who are independent of government. If the police need to detain you beyond 36 hours they have to bring you to court - also independent of government.
But if the Home Office suspects you of being in breach of immigration laws, there is a complete absence of independence in the decision-making. A civil servant – nameless and faceless behind closed doors - ticks a box to detain you. The first you’ll know about it is there’ll be a banging on your door in the early hours of the morning, you’re bundled into a van and taken to a detention centre.
You have no idea whether you’ll be in the detention centre for a day, a month, or a year. The Criminal Justice System imposes time-limits at every stage of detention. But the Home Office can hold you in immigration detention indefinitely.
It should not be the case that you have fewer protections as an immigrant than you would if you had actually committed a crime. For any individual traumatised by indefinite detention, that’s reason to change the policy. But it is now happening on such a scale that it is really important to deal with it.
In the 1990s there were only 250 detention places. Now there are over 2,500 and more than 27,000 people are detained every year.
I am working with Yvette Cooper MP, Hilary Benn MP, Dominic Grieve QC MP, David Davis MP and Andrew Mitchell MP to amend the Brexit Immigration Bill to ensure that in future no-one is deprived of their liberty unless the decision is taken independently and to make it illegal for anyone to be held in an immigration detention centre for more than 28 days.
In light of the injustices exposed by Windrush and the fear that this could happen to EU nationals after Brexit, I am confident the Government will accept this change which has widespread support across Parliament, from the SNP, Lib Dems, the DUP and the Labour frontbench.
Unaccountable, arbitrary, indefinite detention is a human rights abuse. It’s long overdue to end this historic injustice.
It is so dismaying that EU citizens who have been such an important part of our community, who have had families here and lived in Southwark for decades are now...
Immigration and Social Security Co-Ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, Second Reading, House of Commons
This Bill repeals the law relating to free movement and brings EEA nationals and their families under the general UK immigration control.
When EEA nationals and their family members become subject to our immigration laws they will be required to have leave to enter and to remain under the 1971 Immigration Act.
The government have said that the 3m EU citizens are “our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues and we want them to stay.” They will only have to register that they are existing residents.
No one doubts the government’s sincerity on that but that is, of course, what was said to people of the Windrush Generation and everyone now acknowledges that terrible mistakes were made by the Home Office and people who had been here for years were wrongfully detained as illegal immigrants.
So it’s right as we subject 3m EU citizens to our immigration system, that we should at this point ask ourselves whether we’ve learnt the lessons from the Windrush cases and that we do not repeat those injustices on EU citizens.
In our inquiry into immigration detention it was clear to the Joint Committee on Human Rights that there are 2 problems which need to be addressed:
1 - the lack of independence in the detention decision and
2 - indefinite detention
If you are suspected of a crime you can’t be detained by government - only by the police - who are independent of government. If the police want to continue to detain you beyond 36 hours they have to bring you before a court - which is, of course totally independent of government.
But for someone who the Home Office suspects of being in breach of our immigration laws, there is a complete absence of independence in the decision-making.
A civil servant - nameless/faceless - behind closed doors can tick the box to detain you. The first you’ll know about it is that there’ll be a banging on your door in the early hours of the morning, you’ll be bundled into an immigration enforcement van and taken to a detention centre.
With no independence in the decision-making and with no scrutiny or accountability, mistakes are inevitable. Those we get to hear about are probably only the tip of the iceberg. But we do know that £21m was paid out by the Home Office in just 5 years to compensate for wrongful detention.
And terrible mistakes are certainly what happened with the Windrush cases.
It is routinely said that they were unable to prove their residence here. That is not the case for the detainees we saw. We looked at their Home Office files (which the Home Sec was good enough to release to them) and it was not that there was no evidence of their residence here. There was masses of it. Including records of National Insurance Contributions going back to the 1970’s. If there had been any independence in the decision-making these people would not have been detained. Yet they were detained not once but twice - the papers on their files ignored, the pleas of their families swept aside.
After the right to life, the right not to be unlawfully detained is one of the most important human rights.
It should not be the case that you have fewer protections from wrongful detention as an immigrant than you would if you had actually committed a crime.
We should ensure that in future no-one is detained unless the decision is taken independently. The Home Office must make their case. But someone independent must take the decision if you are to be deprived of your liberty.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights will put forward an amendment to this bill to that effect and we hope that the Government will agree to it.
Another of the deplorable aspects of our immigration system - which under this Bill EU citizens are now to be subject - is that there is no time-limit when you are detained. You are taken from your home, or your workplace and you have no idea whether you’ll be in the detention centre for a day, a month, or a year.
Evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights identified the indefinite nature of the detention as one of the most cruel aspects of it.
The Criminal Justice System imposes time-limits at every stage of detention. From the first bringing before a magistrate to the sentence which sets out the time in prison.
But the Home Office can hold you in immigration detention indefinitely.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights agrees with the Hon Member for Royal Sutton Coldfield (Andrew Mitchell); for Beaconsfield, (Dominic Grieve); Leeds Central, (Hilary Benn); Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper); and Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) that there should be a time limit of 28 days on immigration detention.
And we will bring forward an amendment to the Bill which lays down that if the detainee is not deported by this time then they should be released or they should be brought before a judge where the Home office could apply for a further 28 days.
We hope that the Government will accept this amendment which has widespread support in the House. Including from SNP, Lib Dems and DUP and the Labour frontbench.
This is not a party issue. The Labour government should have ended the scandal of indefinite detention - but we didn’t.
Here in the UK we pride ourselves on our commitment to human rights - so how is it that indefinite Home Office detention has been a feature of our system for so long.
I suspect one of the reasons is that it used to be only a very small number of people, exceptional cases, where immigration detention was used. In 1993 there were only 250 detention places. Now every year about 27,000 people are detained.
Unaccountable, arbitrary, indefinite detention is a human rights abuse. It is a cruel anomaly in our system and I hope the government will use the opportunity of this bill to end it. It is long overdue.
Immigration and Social Security Co-Ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, Second Reading, House of CommonsThis Bill repeals the law relating to free movement and brings EEA nationals and their families under the...
Great to welcome Southwark Council’s #FizzFreeFeb launch to Parliament on 29th January. Vital campaign to tackle child obesity and improve health. Thanks to Southwark Cabinet Member for Public Health, Cllr Evelyn Akoto for leading on this!
Great to welcome Southwark Council’s #FizzFreeFeb launch to Parliament on 29th January. Vital campaign to tackle child obesity and improve health. Thanks to Southwark Cabinet Member for Public Health, Cllr...
The decision to detain an immigrant is made behind closed doors by the Home Office. And detention can be indefinite. With no independence, scrutiny or accountability mistakes get made - as we saw with terrible consequences in the Windrush cases. So it is vital lessons are learned and the Windrush injustices are not inflicted on any of the 3m EU nationals who are now to be subject to our immigration laws. The Joint Committee on Human Rights which I chair, is seeking to amend the new Immigration Bill to make the detention decision independent of the home office and to limit detention to 28 days. Watch my speech.
The decision to detain an immigrant is made behind closed doors by the Home Office. And detention can be indefinite. With no independence, scrutiny or accountability mistakes get made -...
Today in parliament there was a brief - and rare - moment of cross party delight! Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom announced that, at last, MPs will have baby leave.
2 weeks for men and 6 months for women when they can, if they choose, vote by proxy.
Until now MPs’ babies have been invisible to parliament’s procedures. The rules were for a Parliament that was for men (93% men when I was first elected in 1982) while their wives looked after their families so they could decide the affairs of state.
The handful of women that there were in the House either had no children or their children had grown up. So I shrouded my 3 pregnancies under tent-like maternity dresses and depended on the whips to grudgingly grant me permission to be off when I was in labour and in the weeks after. I either had to be in the Commons wracked with guilt about my tiny baby or at home wracked with guilt about my constituents.
Fast forward to now. There are more women - now 32% of MPs. And they are younger. Last year 4 babies were born to women MPs. And the men have changed too. Many of the younger men have been brought up by feminist mothers and believe that they should respect their wife’s work and play an equal part in the care of their children. The sons of the women’s movement are now in all parties.
Broadcasting of TV means that you don’t have to be in the chamber to see our debates. Though we set the rules for maternity and paternity leave, we still have no rules for ourselves. New mothers and fathers can be excused from the vote. But you’d have to go and ask your whips’ office and they’d have to get agreement with the other side’s whips. You wouldn’t have to come in to vote but your vote would not be counted.
Women MPs don’t want to choose between their newborn baby and their right to vote. New fathers don’t want to have to choose between being in the labour ward or the Division Lobby. The new system of proxy voting will, if no MPs object, be brought in on Monday. In time for Tuesday’s crucial Brexit vote.
New MP fathers or mothers (and those who are adopting) will be able to choose a fellow MP to cast their vote for them. It’s long overdue. It’s 100 years since women won the right to sit in Parliament - and 31 years too late for me! But we have a new crop of Brexit babies on the way. Tories, Chloe Smith and Suella Braverman are expecting as are Labour’s Emma Reynolds and Luciana Berger - who’s due soon. Tulip Siddiq has just had baby Raphael. She should be able to vote on Brexit decision day next week without having to bring him in.
Getting change in an ancient institution like Parliament is hard. We’ve all worked together. MPs who’ve been there for years have joined forces with the new intake. MPs from all parties have worked together. Men MPs have backed up the demands of women. Tomorrow we’ll no doubt be back to the shouting and jeering of Prime Minister’s Questions. But just for a brief moment we can savour a small united step as MPs move parliament into the 21st century.
Today in parliament there was a brief - and rare - moment of cross party delight! Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom announced that, at last, MPs will...