Today in Parliament I challenged the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, to take steps to help ease King's College Hospital's funding crisis and protect patient care:
"He must be aware of the importance of King’s College Hospital to people in Camberwell and Peckham. In 2009 it was rated “excellent” and one of the top hospitals in the country; now it is missing its A&E waiting time targets and a key cancer treatment target, there has been a fourfold increase in the number of cancelled operations, and it is in special measures.
The Government must take some responsibility for that. They must not wash their hands of it. Will they step up to the plate and help King’s by, for instance, giving it the resources that it needs?"
Read the full debate here.
Government must take responsibility for King's going from "excellent" to special measures" - My Question to Sec of State
Today in Parliament I challenged the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, to take steps to help ease King's College Hospital's funding crisis and protect patient care: "He must be aware of...
Today MPs will have the chance to debate, and vote, to bring in a system for baby leave for women and men in Parliament. We set the rules for maternity pay and leave for people at work. We’ve legislated for paternity leave and pay. But for MPs ourselves there is no system at all. It used to be the case that there were hardly any women MPs (only 3% when I was first elected) and those women who were in Parliament were older and either didn’t have children or their children had grown up. Now there are over 200 women MPs - in all parties - and many of them are young. It’s a normal sight now to see a pregnant bulge in the Division lobby. Since 2010 17 babies have been born to women MPs. No-one thinks there’s anything wrong or unusual about that. Yet the issue of what happens when they go into labour and in the early weeks and months of their child’s life is swept under the Commons’ green carpet. And it used to be the case that for the men MPs their babies were entirely a matter for their wife. I was in a Committee discussing a Bill when one MP’s pager buzzed and he announced “point of order I've just had a baby”. We all said “hear, hear” to congratulate him and then he, and the Committee carried on! Nowadays most men want to be there for the birth of their child and play a part in those early weeks and months. And that goes for the many new, younger men in Parliament in all parties too.
Erskine May, the bible on parliamentary procedure, says nothing about MPs having babies. Nor do the Standing Orders of any of the parties in Parliament. So when a woman is pregnant, a colleague will tell her to go to her Whips, tell them she’s pregnant and ask for time off. That was an ordeal for me 35 years ago. I didn’t want to ask the Whips for a “favour”. I didn’t want to be beholden to them. I didn’t want to discuss my pregnancy with men who I knew thoroughly disapproved of a pregnant woman being in the Mother of Parliaments at all. I imagine it was even harder for a man MP to ask the whips to be off votes for a baby.
The attitudes in the whips offices are now lightyears from what they were and they arrange a “pair” for an MP who needs to be off. This is where your whips agree for you to be off the vote and they get the other side’s whips to allow one of their MPs not to vote so the party balance of numbers remains. But there’s still no system or rules to rely on. You shouldn’t have to ask. It shouldn’t need 2 whips offices to agree.
And there’s one further major problem with the current situation. When you are off with a baby your vote is not recorded. Your constituency is voiceless. The record shows that you just weren’t there, that you abstained. It looks, from Hansard, like you just couldn’t be bothered to vote. Social media resounds with the criticism of MPs who didn’t vote on this or that key issue. The campaigners have no way of knowing that the MP was in labour at the time the vote was called. The newspapers hound MPs for falling down on their duties. Manchester MP Lucy Powell (who is probably our most hyperactive MP) was denounced by The Sun as one of the laziest MPs in Parliament when she missed votes having her baby.
And the constituency shouldn’t lose its voice if their MP is giving birth or has rushed to attend his wife’s labour. The MP's vote is the way the view of that constituency is recorded. That dilemma faced the new MP for Bury North, James Frith. His wife had given birth a matter of hours before a vital EU vote. He could have asked for a pair. But then it would look to all the world like he’d not bothered to turn up. So he did vote but it would have been better if he’d been able to cast his vote by proxy.
That is why women and men MPs from all parties have joined me, Tory Maria Miller, Lib Dem Jo Swinson and SNP Hannah Bardell, in asking the Commons to agree on Thursday - that MPs should be entitled to apply for a proxy vote for a period after they’ve had a baby or adopted a child. So when a vote is called another MP votes for them. There’s no scope for abuse. Whether you’ve had a baby or adopted is a matter of fact. There’s a reluctance to change rules in Parliament. But on this, Parliament itself has changed. It’s long overdue for the rules to change to catch up. It’s 35 years too late for me but better late than never!
Today MPs will have the chance to debate, and vote, to bring in a system for baby leave for women and men in Parliament. We set the rules for maternity pay and leave for people...
Pressure is mounting on the government over unfair questioning of rape complainants in court as today a campaign launches led by 2 former Solicitor Generals - eminent lawyer Dame Vera Baird QC, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, and Harriet Harman QC MP – to tackle the issue of rape complainants being questioned in court about their previous sexual history.
The law to stop this problem, Section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, is not working properly in courts up and down the country.
The wide-ranging campaign coalition - made up of sexual violence support services, cross-party MPs, Peers and charities - is having its first meeting in Parliament today and is calling on the Government to change the law to tackle the problem, of which there is overwhelming evidence, that in a significant minority of rape trials the complainants’ previous sexual history is being used in evidence - often without the defence even making an application to the judge for permission:
- Groundbreaking research from Dame Vera Baird QC, ‘Seeing is Believing’, based on court observers watching 30 rape trials over 18 months in Newcastle Crown Court, found that rape complainants’ previous sexual history was used as evidence in 11 out of the 30 trials - 37%. In the majority of these cases it related to sexual activity with men other than the defendant. In almost two thirds (7 of the 11, 63%) of the cases where previous sexual history was used in evidence the proper procedure to apply for the judge’s consent ahead of trial with notice to the prosecution was not followed. There was either no application or it was made at trial without notice. In one trial the defence barrister said that it was to show that: “she is an adulteress”.
- A national survey of Independent Sexual Violence Advisers by Limeculture in 2017 into the application of Section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 found in 28% of cases where previous sexual history was used as evidence there was no application.
- The Fawcett Society Sex Discrimination Law Review undertaken by a team of legal experts and chaired by Dame Laura Cox, DBE, a retired High Court Justice, which was published on 23rd January 2018 concluded that “evidence from a survey of ISVAs finds that this procedure (s41) is often ignored, resulting in victims having their sexual history used in court without prior notice. To combat this, victims should have a right to legal representation whenever an application to use section 41 is made; and the Government must review the law – in particular, whether the use of sexual history evidence should be used at all for the purposes of establishing consent”.
The coalition is calling for a change in the law so that:
- A complainant’s sexual activity with anyone other than the defendant is not allowed to be used as evidence to show consent.
- The complainant is given a right to participate and be represented in the hearing of any application for her previous sexual history to be used in evidence.
- No judge can hear a rape case unless they’ve been on the sexual violence training course.
The opportunity for this change is likely to arise in the forthcoming Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill.
Dame Vera Baird QC, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner said:
“In the 70s, 80s and 90s we fought to protect women from being unfairly judged on their sexual history, back then the argument would run, ‘she consented to me as well because she’ll have sex with anyone’. That’s why in government in 1999 Labour brought in Section 41 to try to curtail the use of complainants’ sexual conduct with other people as evidence of consent, but the research is clear that the law is not working as Parliament intended it to and we are now having to fight that fight again.
“We cannot allow rape trials to be inquisitions into the complainant’s sex life. The fear of a complainant being confronted with evidence relating to sex with other men is, and has always been, a huge deterrent to reporting rape. We know the government’s review does not reflect the situation in court rooms across the country and call on them to use the opportunity of the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill to protect complainants and ensure they are treated fairly in the court room”.
Harriet Harman QC MP said:
“This is not what women should have to put up with and it’s not what Parliament intended. And it’s not a fair trial if prejudicial, irrelevant evidence is allowed in. The government cannot go on ignoring the evidence of the scale and nature of the problem. We need a change in the law to ensure that trials are fair and that complainants do not face the ordeal of their sexual history being dragged through the courts. The forthcoming Domestic Violence and Abuse bill presents an opportunity for legal change and there is now a wide-ranging coalition to ensure that the process in court reflects what Parliament intended and what is fair to complainants”.
For further information contact Rachel Smethers: 0207 219 2057 / Rachel.email@example.com
Notes to Editor:
- See ‘Campaign document’ attached for proposed amendments to the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, fact file, ISVA testimonies and full list of signatories.
The Government’s review of S41 of the 1999 Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act claimed that in 92% of cases there is no previous sexual history evidence questioning in trial so the law does not need amending. Harriet Harman and Vera Baird wrote to AG and MOJ on 8th January 2018 to argue that the work they commissioned is completely flawed because:
- as the government admitted in written answer no. 117913 to Harriet Harman QC MP dated 13th December 2017 that the Crown Prosecution Service do not require caseworkers or prosecutors to note if an application under s41 is made,
- any application made during the course of a trial is unlikely to be recorded as in most trials there is not a Crown Prosecution Service caseworker present and there is no requirement on them or the barrister to report and
- guilty pleas were included in the “research”. If there’s a guilty plea there is no point in a s41 application by the defence since the only role for the defence would be in relation to sentencing.
- In the AG written statement to Parliament of 14th December 2017 he stated that “the law makes clear that sexual history evidence cannot be used…to infer that a complainant’s sexual experience – with anyone – or sexual reputation made it more likely that they consented”, is simply wrong. That is exactly the basis on which the judge in the Ched Evans case allowed the s41 application. The Court of Appeal ordered a retrial because sexual history evidence with men other than the accused ‘might support a defence of actual consent’.
- The Limeculture survey is based on answers from 36 Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAS) about 550 trials they attended between April 2015 and April 2017 and finds that Section 41 of the Youth Justice Crime and Evidence Act 1999 is consistently being used, and used in breach of guidelines across the country. The responses from the ISVAs who took part in the survey show high levels of variation in when section 41 is applied and at what point, either before or during the trial, the complainant is informed that they would be questioned about their previous sexual history.
New Cross-Party Coalition Launches Challenge to Attorney General & MoJ On Use Of Rape Complainants’ Previous Sexual History In Court
Pressure is mounting on the government over unfair questioning of rape complainants in court as today a campaign launches led by 2 former Solicitor Generals - eminent lawyer Dame Vera...
On 25th January, I was honoured to be invited to give the inaugural Alice Bacon Memorial Lecture at the University of Leeds.
Alice Bacon was Yorkshire’s first woman MP elected in 1945, one of the 15 new Labour women MPs elected in 1945 and the 43rd women MP to take her seat in the House of Commons. Alice represented the constituencies of Leeds North East and Leeds South East between 1945 and 1970 and was a powerful voice for Leeds in Parliament, respected on all sides for her wit. Alice was just one of 3 women elected in 1945 to make it ministerial rank, with Barbara Castle and Margaret Herbison.
“Unless we write about ourselves, unless we write about what other women have done, history will tell us what men did, but it will not tell us what women did. We certainly can’t rely on the men to include us in their memoirs. And that’s why I wrote my book.”
You can watch the full lecture here.
Unless Women Write About Ourselves History Will Only Tell Us What Men Did: My Speech for the Inaugural Alice Bacon Memorial Lecture
On 25th January, I was honoured to be invited to give the inaugural Alice Bacon Memorial Lecture at the University of Leeds. Alice Bacon was Yorkshire’s first woman MP elected...
King’s College Hospital is enormously important. It is a centre of international excellence and of local necessity. It sits at the heart of GP services, social care services and mental health services. It is a pivotal part of the local community and we are proud of the 15,000 dedicated staff who are on the frontline 24/7 including treating victims from the Westminster and London Bridge terror attacks and Grenfell Tower fire. On 16th January 2018 I spoke in Parliament to demand the government give King's the resources it needs to protect patient care and to make it clear to everyone at King’s that we are on their side and want to help them, not make an example of them.
My speech in full:
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes) for introducing this debate. She has proved herself a real champion for her constituents. She fully recognises and champions King’s College Hospital, which many of her constituents need to use and where many others work. She is my constituency neighbour, and my constituents find themselves in the same situation. King’s is enormously important. It is an organisation of international excellence but also of local necessity. It sits at the heart of GP, primary care and social care services, and of mental health care services, both at the Maudsley Hospital and in the community. It is a pivotal part of the local community.
I will confine my remarks to two key points. The first is about the tenor of the debate. I hope Members do not treat King’s like a recalcitrant teenager who has overspent their allowance, or argue that its managers, chair or board are somehow profiting or salting away public money into offshore tax havens. King’s is doing its very best, in good faith, and all its people want to provide the very best service they can. That must always be at the heart of our debates. A tone of blaming King’s sometimes creeps in, but we should be grateful to it and thank it. On the deficit, it may be inconvenient for the Government to see figures with “King’s” written next to them going in a particular direction, but they should understand what is going on there, not tell King’s off as if it is at fault. It is doing one thing, and one thing only: trying to provide the very best care to people who use its national specialties, to regional referrals and to local people who need it. Let us always start on the footing that it is doing its best and that we are grateful to it for that.
My second point is that we need always to concentrate—I do not mean this in a cheesy way—on actual people. I baulked when I heard the Prime Minister talk about cancelled operations being “part of the plan”. Please, let there never be a plan with cancelled operations as part of it. Let us think of the situation for people. For anyone who has an operation booked, there are all sorts of things around that operation. Quite apart from the fact that it screws up their confidence and courage, they have to get time off work and, if they have a young family, their mother-in-law might have to book time off work, too, so that she can come and stay when they go in to have their operation.
An operation looks like one little entry in the Department of Health computer, but for the individual concerned, quite apart from the psychological effect of gearing themselves up for an operation and then finding it cancelled, everything is organised around it. We must not mess people’s lives around by assuming that cancelling an operation, of all things, is normal and can be used as a management tool. I hope that the Minister says that that is not at all what the Prime Minister meant, and that we will not manage our hospitals by booking operations and then cancelling them.
We must remember the human impact of longer waiting lists and cancelled operations. Someone’s hip replacement operation being postponed might be the thing that ultimately causes their job to be given to someone else. They might take sick leave and then take more, and their manager might finally say, “We’ve tried our best, but we just can’t carry on like this. We’re going to have to get somebody else in.” People lose their jobs while they are waiting for hospital treatment. Prompt treatment allows people to get on with their lives. An elderly person who is waiting for a cataract operation, for example, will not go out much, because they cannot see. They will not have the confidence to go out and meet their friends. If the operation is heavily delayed, by the time they have it they may have lost their social circle, lost what they do and become de facto housebound. For every single person who has to wait or whose operation is cancelled, there is a human cost. It is important to focus on that.
There is also the question of accident and emergency. I have watched the TV programmes and have visited King’s A&E on numerous occasions. The odd person is there just because they want to spend four hours sitting somewhere, but most people are there because they have had an accident or they have an emergency. They might have tried to find somewhere else to be seen, but they are there, and they are worried. They are often in pain, and they often have worried relatives with them. We must not drift back to the situation we had before 1997 under a Tory Government. I remember that well. People routinely spent all night on trolleys in King’s accident and emergency. I know what that situation was like, and we must not drift back to it. That would be really unfair on people. In this day and age, when much of the hospital has been rebuilt, we should not go back to that situation.
I hope the Government recognise people’s concerns. I hope that they are generous not just with their money but with their commitment to King’s; that they help it to go forward; and that they do not talk euphemistically about savings. Everyone knows what cuts are—cuts are when more people are coming through the door and there is less money per person. I thank Bob Kerslake for his work as chair, and I am disappointed that, because of the circumstances, he felt he could not stay on. I will meet the new interim chair shortly, but I hope that everyone at King’s—the staff, the management and the chair—feels that the Government are on their side and want to help them sort out the situation rather than blame them, make an example of them and talk about King’s as if it is anything other than the wonderful hospital we believe it is.
King’s College Hospital is enormously important. It is a centre of international excellence and of local necessity. It sits at the heart of GP services, social care services and mental...
My letter to the Equality and Human Rights Commission today regarding pay transparency. The justified anger must now spur the change for equal pay. As the equalities watchdog the EHRC must lead and the Government must give them the funding they need to do this:
My letter to the Equality and Human Rights Commission today regarding pay transparency. The justified anger must now spur the change for equal pay. As the equalities watchdog the EHRC must lead and... Read more
Harman, left, and Baird said the government used “completely flawed” research
Two senior legal figures are challenging the attorney-general and the new lord chancellor over claims that the law is protecting rape complainants from being questioned at trial about their previous sexual history.
Two former solicitors-general, Harriet Harman, QC, an MP who served as deputy leader of the Labour Party, and Dame Vera Baird, QC, now a police and crime commissioner, accuse Jeremy Wright, QC, and the then lord chancellor David Lidington of using “completely flawed” research to claim that the law is working as it should.
In a letter issued today, Harman and Baird say they are seeking a meeting with the Wright and Gauke for an explanation of how the research was relied on and to suggest how the law could be improved.
In 2016 Wright and Lidington commissioned research into the workings of section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, which prevents the use of sexual history by the defence to discredit the complainant unless the judge agrees.
The case of the footballer Ched Evans, who was acquitted of raping a 19-year-old woman, led to concerns that the rule was being breached.
The study looked at 309 rape cases and found that in 92 per cent, no evidence of the complainant’s sexual history was permitted to be introduced by the defence, and applications to do so were made in only 13 per cent of cases.
However, in their letter, Harman and Baird say they are “disappointed and baffled” by the research report and accompanying statement.
They say that it fails to challenge the findings of other evidence about the use of section 41 and that it cannot be accurate because the Crown Prosecution Service does not require its prosecutors or caseworkers to note if a section 41 application is made. Any application at the start of or during a trial is unlikely to be recorded because in most trials there is no CPS caseworker present and no requirement for the prosecuting barrister to report.
“The numbers in your report are therefore not based on anything which could be regarded as reliable. Yet on this basis you conclude the law is being correctly applied and does not need amending,” they write, adding: ”We seriously challenge this.”
The cite a proposed Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill as an opportunity to amend the legislation. They also question why the research report included trials involving “guilty pleas” because there would be no point in a section 41 application by the defence in such cases.
In a statement to the Commons in December, Wright said: ”These findings strongly indicate that the law is working as it should, and strikes a careful balance between the need to protect complainants and ensuring that defendants receive a fair trial, consistent with the common law and Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”
However, he added: “Whilst this is reassuring, we want to do more to provide vulnerable victims, and the public at large, with complete confidence in our criminal justice system.”
Harman, left, and Baird said the government used “completely flawed” research Two senior legal figures are challenging the attorney-general and the new lord chancellor over claims that the law is...
This afternoon I spoke in Parliament to praise Carrie Gracie, former China Editor at the BBC, for the principled stand she has taken in denouncing unequal pay on behalf of women not just in the BBC and broadcasting but in workplaces up and down the country, I demanded the government to reverse the cuts of almost 70% to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to ensure they have the funds to tackle the pay discrimination which is now laid bare.
From April 2018 all organisations with more than 250 employees will be required to publish their gender pay gap every year. The exposure of the persistence and extent of the pay gap will anger women employees. But it is important that this information is the spur for change, empowering women to demand change, rather than just increasing the justifiable resentment which women feel.
-It is crucial that a woman at work is able to see clearly how the pay gap in the organisation for which they work compares with other similar organisations.
-It is crucial for women to be able to track the progress their organisation is making in narrowing the pay gap year on year.
-It is crucial for the government and local government to see the regional pattern of the pay gap.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has the responsibility to monitor this, to ensure companies publish their pay gaps and to set targets for companies to close the gap. But in order to ensure that the EHRC are able to carry out this important task and right this wrong, it is vital that the government gives them the money they need.
You can read my full statement below or watch the debate here.
I think what we should be doing today is to be thanking Carrie Gracie for the principled stand she has taken. She has done this on behalf of women, not just in the BBC, not just in broadcasting, but women throughout the country who suffer pay discrimination. As a broadcaster and as a journalist she is exceptional, but as a woman facing entrenched pay discrimination, I’m afraid she is the norm.
He rightly says that when it comes to the transparency, the requirement to publish the pay gap, which is in the 2010 Equality Act, it’s for the regulator, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, to police that, to monitor it, to make sure companies publish and to set targets that they close the gap. But, will he commit that this Government, in order to ensure that they are able to carry out the important task, to remedy this discrimination, that they redress the cuts of up to 70% that have fallen upon the Equality and Human Rights Commission?
This is a pivotal moment. We need the Equality and Human Rights Commission to be able to do their job. They need the funds to be able to ensure we right this wrong.
Matthew Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport:
Well, I pay tribute to the leadership that the Right Honourable lady, in Government and since, on this issue, because making sure that equality of opportunity pervades our country is important, and that means gender equality too. She’s rightly been an outspoken voice in favour of gender pay equality and equality across the board.
What I would say about the EHRC, is that it is their actions, and they have a duty to act and now they are indeed acting, and that is a question of judgement as much as it is a question of judgement.
This afternoon I spoke in Parliament to praise Carrie Gracie, former China Editor at the BBC, for the principled stand she has taken in denouncing unequal pay on behalf of...