Many people say that prostitution - men paying for sex with women - has always been with us and always will be. But I don't agree with that view. Prostitution is bad for women, men and neighbourhoods and there is something we can and should do about it.
There are a number of contested propositions about prostitution. Some argue that it is a choice women make and that they should be allowed to make that choice. They say that just because I don't want to be a prostitute I shouldn't interfere with their choice, their right to sell their body for sex. I think there are only a very small number of women for whom prostitution is genuinely a free, positive, strong choice. Most women find themselves in prostitution because of mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction. Many have had troubled or abused childhoods or have been brought up in the care system. Many have been tricked into prostitution by human traffickers who have brought them from abroad and then forced them into the sex trade. These women need protecting and help to lead a better, safer life. If that means interfering with the "right" of the very few women who choose to sell sex or the "right" of men to buy sex, then so be it.
Some argue that prostitutes are "sex workers" and that their "job" should be protected not eliminated. But prostitution is not the sort of "work" that anyone would like to admit their mother does. Who wants their daughter to grow up to be a prostitute? - No-one. Surely we have higher ambitions for women than that they should sell their body for sex.
Some say that I should listen to the voice of organisations like "The English Collective of Prostitutes". I have, and I don't agree with them because I have also listened to the voices of women who were victims of trafficking whose cases I dealt with when I was Solicitor General in charge of the Crown Prosecution Service.
Some say that it's a way for a woman to earn a lot of money. Most money in prostitution doesn't go to the women but to pimps and criminal gangs.
Some say that it's not just about women, there are male prostitutes too. I think the arguments about protection of women apply in the same way to men who fall into prostitution.
What about a man's "right" to pay for sex, especially if he couldn't get sex anywhere else? His right to pay does not justify his exploitation of women. Some say "but if men can't pay for sex they'll resort to rape instead". Men do not have a "right to sex" and if they commit rape they should be put in prison.
Some say that if you make it a criminal offence to pay for sex you will drive it underground and make women even more dangerous for women.
I think we should follow the example of the Nordic countries where the woman prostitute is treated as a victim and helped and men paying for sex are guilty of a criminal offence. We should tackle the criminal gangs who deal in guns, drugs and women's bodies. And I think we should ban the small ads in local newspapers which are advertising prostitution.
Many people say that prostitution - men paying for sex with women - has always been with us and always will be. But I don't agree with that view. Prostitution...
The crucial EU Withdrawal Bill vote this month was the “meaningful vote” amendment. Since 2016 I have consistently voted for Parliament to have a say on the final deal. In the face of deep government divisions it would have been better from the start for them to face up to the fact that Parliament’s involvement will make a perilous situation better.
Last week, facing the prospect of a humiliating defeat on the ‘meaningful vote’, Theresa May was forced to enter negotiations with her backbenchers and offer a concession. But the amendment she put forward was not good enough and she’s gone back on her word to them. I voted for the amendment which would have ensured that if the PM’s withdrawal agreement is rejected by MPs - or no deal is reached at all - it would be for Parliament, not the Prime Minister, to decide the next steps. I am deeply disappointed that this was defeated by 320 votes to 303 votes.
I and Labour MPs are working to protect the country as best we can and are seeking to enshrine in law a commitment to avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland, to retain workers’ rights and environmental protections and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The crucial EU Withdrawal Bill vote this month was the “meaningful vote” amendment. Since 2016 I have consistently voted for Parliament to have a say on the final deal. In...
A number of people in Camberwell and Peckham have contacted me about the important issue of access to taxis for blind and partially sighted people and share their experiences of being turned away by minicab drivers because their guide dog.
It is wrong and discriminatory for taxi or minicab drivers to refuse to take people based on their need for assistance from a trained dog. This directly undermines the living standards of those affected and denies them the freedom and mobility necessary to carry out basic tasks. Indeed blind and disabled people must be able to rely on taxis to take them, as unfortunately despite progress being made, in many instances it remains difficult to access other modes of transport.
It is essential that blind and partially sighted people are included in consultation by the Government on Private Hire Vehicles.
Labour is also committed to strengthening the Equality Act to ensure disabled people have the tools they need to confidently challenge discrimination, and have equal access to justice so that prejudice is not left unchallenged.
A number of people in Camberwell and Peckham have contacted me about the important issue of access to taxis for blind and partially sighted people and share their experiences of...
Many constituents have contacted me surrounding the important issue of the UK trades with other countries after Brexit.
The Government lacks any coherent approach to Britain’s future trade policy aside from apparently wanting it to be decided behind closed doors. Tory backbenchers are pressuring the Government to support a ‘soft touch’ trade policy that will only encourage a race to the bottom on standards that will worsen inequality and poverty both in the UK and in the developing world. It is absolutely essential that Parliament is given a proper say on each trade deal to ensure proper scrutiny.
Brexit poses a difficult question for Britain. Britain should use our new position to take the lead in breaking down global barriers to trade. It is essential that our new trade policy works for the many not the few. Labour believes the UK should use trade deals to raise international standards, tighten global rules on corporate accountability and crack down on abuses in global supply chains, alongside encouraging greater global trade.
Labour is committed to a post-Brexit trade policy that supports development in the Global South and the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals – eradicating poverty, reducing global inequality and boosting industry, innovation and infrastructure in the developing world.
I will continue to work with my Labour colleagues to insist the Government adopts a trade policy that seeks to raise standards and boosts development rather than encourage a race to the bottom and will continue to vote against the Government’s trade legislation which does not ensure proper Parliamentary scrutiny.
Many constituents have contacted me surrounding the important issue of the UK trades with other countries after Brexit. The Government lacks any coherent approach to Britain’s future trade policy aside from...
A number of people have contacted me this week to ask me to support the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill, introduced by my Labour colleague Karen Buck MP, on Friday 19th January.
I am strongly backing the Bill. It is a basic expectation that rental homes should be warm, dry, free from damp and safe. The Tory Government has failed to tackle rogue landlords and ensure that renters have proper protections. Currently landlords are under no obligation to make sure that the properties they let out are fit for human habitation. The only obligations that exist are to repair damage to the structure of the building and fix broken heating, gas, water or electricity installations. This does not cover common issues such as fire safety, inadequate heating or poor ventilation, which can lead to condensation and mould growth.
Local councils have powers to enforce fitness standards, but only 50% of councils have served a notice in the last year. This Bill would give tenants the power to take legal action against landlords who fail to maintain safe standards for rented homes and would enforce a responsibility on landlords to make homes fit for people to live in.
If successful the Bill will make important changes to protect tenants and improve the living conditions for 3 million low-income families living in substandard housing. I welcome the Government’s announcement that they will be supporting the Bill and I will continue to support its progress as it passes through the Commons.
A number of people have contacted me this week to ask me to support the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill, introduced by my Labour colleague...
Many people have contacted me about the important issue of John Spellar’s bill to introduce an ‘Agent of Change rule’.
Local music venues are an important source of entertainment for local communities, and are critical to aspiring full-time musicians entering into the professional music industry, but they are increasingly under threat. Since 2007, more than half of London’s 430 live music venues have closed. A major reason for this is new residential developments submitting noise abatement orders against local music venues.
New developments should not be able to force long-standing local venues to close due to sound pollution. We need to strike a balance between building new homes and protecting our existing businesses.
An Agent of Change rule would fix this problem by making the person or business carrying out the change responsible for managing the impact of the change. This would mean developers building near an established live music venue would be responsible for the costs of providing adequate soundproofing, rather than money-pressed music venues.
I and my Labour colleagues will always stand up for our local music industry.
Many people have contacted me about the important issue of John Spellar’s bill to introduce an ‘Agent of Change rule’. Local music venues are an important source of entertainment for...
Many constituents have contacted me on the important issue of Parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals. I share your concerns and have signed EDM 128.
It is important that future trade deals do not lead to a race to the bottom and are used instead to maintain and build on existing standards. This is why it is so important that Parliament is given proper time to scrutinise new deals.
The Trade Bill and Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill made it clear that the Government wants our trade policy to be decided behind closed doors. They want to use Brexit as an excuse for a power grab from Parliament, using Henry VIII powers to avoid scrutiny or debate.
Labour is committed to transparency and we are seeking to amend future trade legislation to ensure MPs can challenge future trade proposals that would negatively affect their constituencies or the economy. I was disappointed that last week the Government voted against Labour’s reasoned amendments to both the Trade Bill and Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill highlighting these very concerns.
I will continue to work with my Labour colleagues to ensure the power of Parliament and regulatory protections are not undermined as we leave the European Union and enter into new trade agreements.
Many constituents have contacted me on the important issue of Parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals. I share your concerns and have signed EDM 128. It is important that future trade...
Israel is the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts. Labour will continue to urge the UK government to raise the issue of child military detention with their Israeli counterparts and I understand the Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt MP, is committed to doing so.
There can be little progress unless both sides are sure of their security. Sadly, at present the opposite is true. Peace and security are becoming ever harder to achieve because of the climate of increasing aggression and extremism and settlement building.
We need an end to the fear Israeli citizens feel whenever they hear air-raid sirens warning of rocket attacks or the latest reports of terror attacks on ordinary Israeli citizens. And we need an end to the anger and unfairness that has been felt by many Palestinian people since 1967, with their children growing up afraid, in poverty and deprivation, their homes bulldozed to make way for illegal settlements, and their futures offering just more of the same. It is a vicious cycle of fear and despair.
Israel is the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts. Labour will continue to urge the UK government to raise the issue of child military...
Yesterday, I and my Labour colleagues voted for Dominic Grieve’s amendment 7, to give Parliament a say on the final terms of the UK’s exit from the EU and I was pleased members from across the house voted to ensure the amendment passed 309 votes to 305 votes.
This is a great win for Parliament. The Government will now be required to pass a statute on the terms of the final exit deal, before changing any regulation or creating new bodies.
Parliamentary scrutiny of this process is vital to ensure that the final deal works for the whole country and protects jobs and the economy. People did not vote to take power from Brussels to give it to Ministers without any accountability to Parliament.
I will continue to work with my Labour colleagues and members across the House to improve the Government’s flawed Bill and protect existing rights and protections.
Yesterday, I and my Labour colleagues voted for Dominic Grieve’s amendment 7, to give Parliament a say on the final terms of the UK’s exit from the EU and I...
Many constituents have contacted me on the important issue of ensuring Animal Sentience is enshrined in UK law after we leave the European Union.
For most of us it’s not a question. It’s obvious that your pet can feel pain or be happy.
On 24th November I voted in favour of New Clause 30 to the EU Withdrawal Bill to transfer EU law on animal sentience into UK law and was so dismayed that the government voted against this.
But I am pleased that following that vote and the pressure from Labour MPs, Caroline Lucas MP and campaigners such as yourself, the Government has been forced into a major U-turn this week and they’ve announced a new draft Bill to ensure high standards of animal protection in the UK and ensure government must now ‘pay regard to animal sentience when making new laws.’
Labour will continue to hold the government to account on the delivery of the Bill.
Many constituents have contacted me on the important issue of ensuring Animal Sentience is enshrined in UK law after we leave the European Union. For most of us it’s not...