You can find out what I have been up to in Parliament and my work in Lewisham, or read my latest blog posts below.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to be drawn in the ballot for PMQs and used the opportunity to raise the Youth Violence Commission with the Prime Minister.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to be drawn in the ballot for PMQs and used the opportunity to raise the Youth Violence Commission with the Prime Minister. Read more
It's been a very busy start to 2018 - here I've outlined my contributions in parliament since the beginning of the year which I have not yet shared on my website.
1. Universal Credit
On Tuesday 9th January I took part in a Westminster Hall debate on the effects of Universal Credit on the private rented sector.
I raised the case of some constituents who were denied benefits for six months due to confusion around their change over to universal credit. They were then told by the DWP that they would only be getting four weeks of backdated payments. It was only after my office intervened that they were given the full backdated payment and avoided being evicted from their home. You can watch my contribution here.
The move to universal credit has been disastrous for many families across the country and my office has dealt with over 30 cases of people having to wait weeks to receive their first payment.
You can watch my question here.
2. BBC Equal Pay
Also on 9th January, I raised the issue of BBC equal pay.
The BBC website has reported that since 2011 so few equal pay cases have been formally recorded as having a successful or an unsuccessful outcome at tribunal that the Ministry of Justice has both figures at 0%. We know that these figures do not reflect the reality and that a large proportion of cases are either withdrawn or settled away from tribunal. I asked the Secretary of State whether he agrees that this method of reporting prevents us from having a true understanding of the actual figures involved.
You can watch my question here.
3. Mental Health in Prisons
On 10th January I took part in a Westminster Hall debate on Mental Health in Prisons.
The average cost of a new prisoner is £119,000 a year and the ongoing cost is in excess of £40,000 a year. I therefore believe it is exceptionally important to invest in mental health provision before people end up in prison. Making sure we assess the numbers who are in prison and having accurate records means we are able to do that beforehand.
You can watch my question here.
4. Temporary Accommodation
Also on 10th January I raised the issue of voter registration in temporary accommodation at Cabinet Office questions.
Over 75% of the almost 200 families who have contacted me about their housing issues in temporary accommodation are not on the electoral register, meaning vast swathes of our residents are losing their right to vote in elections. As this Government continue to fail when it comes to housing, I feel ministers should look in to this issue as a matter of urgency to ensure as many residents are able to exercise their democratic right come election time.
You can watch my question here.
5. Knife Crime Epidemic
On 11th January I raised the issue of youth violence during business questions.
On New Year’s Eve, another four young men were tragically stabbed and killed in London. I asked the Minister when the Government will publish its serious violence strategy and urged that the Government look at the root causes of youth violence as part of that strategy.
You can view my question here.
6. County Lines
On 17th January I took part in a debate on County Lines Exploitation.
I asked the minister whether databases are being shred and there is cross-working among the different areas, and how the Government will ensure that manage that better.
You can view my question here.
7. Knife Crime Epidemic
Most recently, on 18th January I raised the issue of knife crime again during business questions.
In 2017, 80 people were stabbed and murdered in London, and there were 37,000 knife-crime offences—an increase of 26%. This is an epidemic which demonstrates that the current approach is not working, and a new approach is needed. We need a cross-departmental debate in Government time on how to tackle the root causes of youth violence.
You can watch my question here.
It's been a very busy start to 2018 - here I've outlined my contributions in parliament since the beginning of the year which I have not yet shared on my website. ...
I've had lots of emails recently from constituents with concerns about the EU Withdrawal Bill and the Labour Party's position on Brexit.
I thought it would be helpful to share Keir Starmer's (Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU) speech at the end of the EU Withdrawal Bill's Third Reading in Parliament. Here, Keir outlines the six chief defects with the EU Withdrawal Bill and the Labour Party's position.
You can watch the full speech below:
I've had lots of emails recently from constituents with concerns about the EU Withdrawal Bill and the Labour Party's position on Brexit. I thought it would be helpful to share...
On Friday 19th January, my colleague Karen Buck’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill 2017-19 will receive its second reading in the House of Commons. The Bill seeks to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require that residential rented accommodation is provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation.
This Bill is long overdue. While the majority of landlords provide decent homes that tenants are happy with, there is currently no established minimum standard for private renters.
Instead, tenants are reliant on over-stretched council environmental health teams to stamp out dangerous homes, rather than being able to take matters into their own hands. This Bill will enable tenants to themselves take legal action against landlords who fail to maintain rented homes to a safe standard.
Since the tragedy at Grenfell, I have repeatedly raised the issue of tower block safety in Parliament and Lewisham Council have carried out safety checks in blocks throughout the borough. This is of course at great expense to the Council, and still, no Government funding has been offered.
I recently questioned Sajid Javid whether the Government was attempting to bankrupt councils, which you can watch here.
Last year, Conservative MPs voted against a similar Labour amendment to the government’s Housing and Planning Bill, designed to ensure that all rented accommodation was safe for people to live in, which was defeated by 312 votes to 219. Speaking at the time, the local government minister, Marcus Jones, said this would result in “unnecessary regulation and cost to landlords” that would deter further investment and push up rents for tenants.
At the General Election, I stood on a manifesto which pledged a consumer rights revolution for renters to bring private renting into the twenty-first century, by introducing minimum standards to ensure that rented homes are free from serious faults such as unsafe wiring and appliances, problem damp and vermin. It also promised to name and shame rogue landlords and introduce tough fines for those who fail to meet minimum standards.
After seven years of failure on housing, I am pleased that the Government have chosen to back the Bill. Unfortunately, I am unable to attend the debate on Friday, due to several longstanding constituency commitments, though many of my Labour colleagues will indeed be present and I fully support the Bill which I believe will create a more robust, secure and safe private rented sector.
On Friday 19th January, my colleague Karen Buck’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill 2017-19 will receive its second reading in the House of Commons....
I have received many emails from constituents recently regarding postnatal mental health. I share concerns over this issue entirely and believe it is essential that mothers with a mental health problem have access to the treatment and support they require.
Whilst it is common for new mothers to suffer from postnatal mental illness, according to the Half Hidden campaign, only half receive the treatment they need.
I believe that mental health must be given the same priority as physical health. One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem at some point, yet tens of thousands receive inadequate or no treatment at all.
The lack of sufficient funding for neonatal services across the board is extremely worrying. Since 2010, mental health funding has been cut, the number of mental health nurses has fallen by 6,600 and remaining mental health budgets have been raided to plug holes elsewhere in the NHS. Despite commitments made by our Prime Minister last year to address mental health, so far the Government have made little meaningful progress on this issue.
I have previously raised the issue of neonatal care and mental health in parliament, including this written question to the Minister in regards to Baby Care Units:
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, with reference to recommendation 11 on page 41 in the report by Bliss, Hanging in the Balance, published in 2015, what progress his Department has made towards ensuring that all parents and staff on neonatal units have access to psychological support in line with national standards.
This is the response I received:
The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health included a specific recommendation for NHS England to improve perinatal services. The aim is that by 2020/21, there will be increased access to specialist perinatal mental health support in all areas in England, in the community or in-patient mother and baby units, allowing at least an additional 30,000 women each year to receive evidence based treatment, closer to home, when they need it. The Department and NHS England have committed a total investment from 2015/16 to 2020/21 of £365 million to support this expanded service. For National Health Service staff, NHS England launched a £5 million programme of health and wellbeing support in 2015, which included measures to help staff deal with stress and mental ill health.
I have received many emails from constituents recently regarding postnatal mental health. I share concerns over this issue entirely and believe it is essential that mothers with a mental health... Read more
I have recently received a number of emails from constituents regarding changes to university staff pensions. I have long believed that decent pay and working conditions are vital for those who work in education, and that all university staff should have access to a secure pension in future.
I am therefore concerned about plans by Universities UK (UUK) to close the defined benefit portion of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and replace it with a defined contribution scheme.
These proposals would see employers and staff pay an extra £500 million a year more from the sector’s payroll and retirement income would depend on returns from money invested in the stock market. Analysis by the actuarial consultancy First Actuarial has shown that a lecturer starting work today could be £208,000 worse off over the course of their retirement as a result of the changes.
I fear this would significantly reduce the security of retirement income for academic staff in many UK universities and that further erosion of USS benefits could reduce their ability to attract and retain staff in an increasingly competitive sector, making careers in these institutions less attractive.
At the 2017 General Election, I stood on a manifesto pledging to restore confidence in the workplace pension system and put people, rather than profit, at its centre, by enabling the development of large and efficient pension funds – meaning more cash for scheme members and lower costs for employers.
As rightfully stated by our Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, “the USS is the largest private pension scheme in the UK and it is vital to our economy as well as to the education sector that it continues to enjoy the confidence of its current members and their employers”.
Therefore, although the Government have dismissed intervening (viewing universities as autonomous institutions responsible for their own pension provision) I believe that it should step in to review the situation and urge Universities UK to work with University and College Union to find a better solution.
I can assure that I will follow this issue closely, keeping my website updated on any developments.
I have recently received a number of emails from constituents regarding changes to university staff pensions. I have long believed that decent pay and working conditions are vital for those...
Many constituents have been in touch with me recently regarding the Trade Bill, which received its second reading in the House of Commons on 9 January. The Bill arises from the Government’s decision to leave the customs union and therefore the need to establish provisions relating to our trade arrangements once the UK ceases to be a member of the European Union.
Labour is committed to transparency in trade policy, with full parliamentary scrutiny of future UK trade and investment agreements. However, the Government has published a Trade Bill that seeks to concentrate power in the hands of the executive, against the interests of Parliament and of wider democracy.
I believe it is important that trade negotiations are informed by a prior comprehensive, independent sustainability impact assessment of the social, economic and environmental consequences of any potential deal. I believe that there should also be consultation with industry groups and civil society organisations.
The current Trade Bill however fails establish a suitable framework for future trade agreements, setting out only time-limited arrangements intending to replace current EU arrangements in the meantime.
Nevertheless, I can assure that I and my Labour colleagues will keep up pressure on the Government on any proposed upcoming trade agreements and ensure they are scrutinised fully.
The Trade Bill passed its second reading on 9 January and will proceed to committee stage.
Many constituents have been in touch with me recently regarding the Trade Bill, which received its second reading in the House of Commons on 9 January. The Bill arises from...
The Government's domestic violence strategy does not include fully funding refuges. Today I asked the Home Secretary why this was the case. The Government must start doing more to ensure any woman fleeing domestic violence has access to immediate, vital support.
The Government's domestic violence strategy does not include fully funding refuges. Today I asked the Home Secretary why this was the case. The Government must start doing more to ensure... Read more
I have received a number of emails recently about faith school admissions, particularly in relation to Catholic schools.
I have received a number of emails recently about faith school admissions, particularly in relation to Catholic schools. Read more
The 8th and final day of the committee stage of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill took place on December 20th. Voting on this day was divided into 2 parts: impact assessments and the control of ‘exit day’, plus other remaining issues from previous days.
The 8th and final day of the committee stage of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill took place on December 20th. Voting on this day was divided into 2 parts: impact assessments... Read more