Find out what I have been up to recently in Parliament and in Lewisham, or read my latest blog posts below.
On Monday 13th March Diana Johnson MP introduced a ten minute rule bill to decriminalise abortion. The bill was successfully voted through by 170 votes to 142 and will now be brought forward by a cross-party group of MPs.
A large number of constituents contacted me ahead of the bill, the vast majority of them asking me to support it but a few asking me to oppose it. I was in the Commons to vote in favour and would like to take this opportunity to explain my reasons.
In England and Wales, abortion remains a criminal act punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment under the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861. The Abortion Act 1967 set out conditions under which a woman could have a legal abortion (i.e. by obtaining the signatures of two doctors and meeting specified conditions, which are much stricter after 24 weeks’ gestation) but did nothing to change the criminality of procedures which did not meet those conditions.
Evidence suggests that some vulnerable women are potentially committing a criminal offence because they are unable to access legal abortions and instead buy pills online. Practitioners are also deterred from working in the field by the threat of legal action.
I firmly agree with Ms Johnson’s proposal that abortion should be taken out of criminal law. The existing safeguards (including those mentioned above, as well as the banning of sex-selective abortion and the fact the procedure can only be carried out by licensed practitioners) can be retained by Parliament. There is no evidence from countries such as Sweden, Canada and Luxembourg which have already decriminalised abortion to suggest that this has led to an increase in late-term abortions. The UK currently has the harshest penalty of any country in Europe and it is time that this was addressed by Parliament.
On Monday 13th March Diana Johnson MP introduced a ten minute rule bill to decriminalise abortion. The bill was successfully voted through by 170 votes to 142 and will now be...
Thank you to everyone who has contacted me recently about sentencing for animal cruelty. I am aware that several organisations, including the League Against Cruel Sports and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, have expressed concern that sentences they do not always appear to match the abuse suffered by the animals, especially in the case of extreme cruelty such as dog fighting. I agree that any sentences given by the courts must reflect the seriousness of these crimes. It is important that we send out a strong and powerful message that animal cruelty must stop.
The Government is yet to make any significant changes in this area and recently stated that it has no plans to introduce an animal abusers register. I believe that ministers should consider increasing magistrates’ sentencing powers and ensuring that the most serious cases of animal abuse are heard at the Crown Court. Any review should consider the prevalence of these offences and whether the current sentencing guidance is being applied properly.
As many of you will know, two Private Members’ Bills have been introduced with the aim of increasing the maximum sentences available for the offences of animal fighting and animal cruelty. The Animal Fighting (Sentencing) Bill and the Animal Cruelty (Sentencing) Bill were scheduled to have their Second Reading debates on Friday 24th February 2017, but this was objected to in both cases. The bills have been relisted for 24th March but they are very low on the order paper and unfortunately therefore have no chance of being debated.
I would like to reassure my constituents that my Labour Party colleagues and I support efforts to increase sentences for those convicted of animal abuse and will continue to press for clear and enforceable penalties against anyone who commits animal cruelty offences.
Thank you to everyone who has contacted me recently about sentencing for animal cruelty. I am aware that several organisations, including the League Against Cruel Sports and Battersea Dogs &...
Microbeads (tiny pieces of plastic added to some cosmetic products) have been in the news recently after a Government consultation on banning their usage closed at the end of last month. A large number of constituents have contacted me to voice their concerns.
Globally, around 8 million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans every year. This is hugely damaging to our marine animals and ecosystems: it is estimated that 90% of birds have plastic in their stomachs and serious concerns have also been raised about small plastics (such as microbeads) entering the human food chain.
I have long supported a ban on microbeads in cosmetic products and I welcome the Government's commitment to legislate for this ban in October 2017. I know that Greenpeace has expressed concerns that the consultation did not cover all products containing microplastic ingredients, but it is worth noting that the Government has said it will gather evidence on the environmental impact of microbeads found in other products, including those for domestic use, before it considers what more can be done to tackle other plastics (such as microfibres) which affect the marine environment. I await the Government's response to the consultation.
To reduce marine litter and plastic pollution more widely, I believe that we need to rethink the way we manage resources and in particular to transform how plastics travel through our economy. The Government's commitment to ban microbeads in cosmetic products is an important first step but further action is undoubtedly still required.
Microbeads (tiny pieces of plastic added to some cosmetic products) have been in the news recently after a Government consultation on banning their usage closed at the end of last...