This week there was a debate on government spending on Prison and Probation. I responded to this outlining the huge failures but how none of this is surprising when there has been 13 Ministers for Prison and Probation in 13 years.
They are never in post long enough to get to grips with the issues, to take responsibility for their spending and be held accountable, or to set a long-term strategy and ensure stability.
If we are to fix this, we need continuity at the top. We need stable management that delivers a proper plan for prisons and probation, instead of rehashed announcements and gimmicks, and we need leadership that is laser-focused on reducing waste, driving efficiency and cutting reoffending. The Tories have had 13 years to deliver that, and they have failed.
A Labour government will deliver stability so the complex issues facing these services can be tackled. You can see my speech here.
This month we marked the 75th anniversary of HMT Empire Windrush bringing passengers from the Caribbean to the UK. This was a seminal moment in our history creating a new generation of Black Britons, the seeds of what is now known as the Windrush Generation.
Members of this generation heeded the call to come to the UK and help rebuild our country after the war. From the NHS, to education, to business they helped build our national infrastructure we rely on today. They gave so much and yet asked for so little in return.
We owe so much to them, and I was so proud to bring our Shadow Foreign Secretary, David Lammy to attend the Pineapple Club at Anerley Town Hall to mark the occasion. The Pineapple club is a fantastic organisation that serves retirees from the Afro-Caribbean community.
For 30 years now members come together from all over South East London each week to Anerley Town Hall for an incredible community lunch along with music, activities, and dominoes! Along with David it was an honour to meet so many first generation Windrush citizens and their descendants.
Joining them for lunch we heard so many incredible stories and their lived experiences showcased how far we have come as a society over these last 75 years. I was so proud to join them to celebrate the anniversary and so proud that we have such fantastic resource like this in our area.
But the bitter side to all of this is the continuing injustice so many from the Windrush generation face. Not only did they face incredible difficulties settling in the UK, but years later many were cut off from accessing the very basics – work, housing and healthcare - by the Government’s hostile environment policy.
This is a scandal that continues to cast a shadow over our country’s reputation for fairness. And still today, delayed compensation for all those denied the citizenship that was rightfully theirs continues to add insult to injury.
It was incredibly powerful to hear David speak about this and how a Labour government would end the blockages and delays and deliver the compensation that many from the Windrush generation are entitled to. They built our hospitals, powered our industry and transformed our culture, they should be celebrated not punished.
Despite this bitter undertone to the visit, I was so proud to mark the anniversary at the club. The energy in the room, sense of community and joy of people coming together was beautiful and shows our South East London community at our best. I look forward to visiting the group again.
Over a week ago the report into bullying allegations by the Justice Secretary Dominic Raab was finally published. Whilst he did resign, he failed to actually take on board the points made in the report or even apologise. Instead, he tried to frame the whole situation as some kind of Kafkaesque plot by civil servants to oust him. An absurd and disgraceful statement to make and just further evidence of the utter incompetence amongst the senior ranks of this government. See my tweet on the subject here.
Alex Chalk has now been appointed as the new Justice Secretary and I hope this means that some of the legislation Raab has brought forward, that we have been doing a lot of preparatory work for in the background, will now be shelved. This includes the Bill of Rights which seeks to tear up the Human Rights Act and the Prisoners section of the Victims and Prisoners draft Bill which contains some concerning measures.
But after 13 years of the Tories and 11 different Justice Secretaries our Criminal Justice System has been broken. I recently outlined in Politics Home how as the party of Law and Order, Labour in government will fix it and make the system ‘trauma-informed’ to help tackle the deep-rooted trauma that often lies behind offending and prevent further crime. See here.
Last Saturday marked 30 years since Stephen Lawrence was killed in a racist attack. As a teenager growing up in Lewisham at the time, I still remember the huge hurt this caused, and this injustice was one of the things that led me into politics.
The Macpherson report, published in 1999 concluded that the original investigation into Stephen’s murder had been incompetent and that the Met police were institutionally racist. Over two decades on from this, the Casey Review, published last month said that 'the Met has yet to free itself of institutional racism'.
This is beyond shameful. But as we know, the toxic culture at the Met goes beyond this. The Casey Review also identified institutional misogyny, homophobia, and discrimination “baked into the system”.
Shockingly the report detailed how both Wayne Couzens, who raped and murdered Sarah Everard, and the serial rapist David Carrick were influenced by Met errors and the toxic cultures in the force. Carrick believed his position made him “untouchable”, whilst the Met’s failure to catch Couzens for previous offences made him feel “invincible”. Despite clues to their danger both were given a gun, passed vetting and posted to respected commands.
But failures like this aren’t just isolated to the Met. A recent FOI looking at the number of officers across the UK between 2020 and 2022 being investigated for sexual and domestic violence offences, including rape, sexual assault and abusing their position for sexual purpose, found there were 244 closed cases and 73 ongoing. Not a single one had resulted in a conviction.
While it has always been the approach of police forces to label criminality by officers as the work of “bad apples”, this litany of ignored incidents speaks volumes. The public need to have absolute trust and faith in those that are there to protect them. That’s why Labour has long called for a complete overhaul of police standards, including new mandatory national standards on vetting, training, and dealing with misconduct within the police.
As well as this, we need a new approach to policing that gets officers back on the streets and ensures there are specialisms to deal with rising violence against women and girls. That’s why we have outlined how we will deliver 13,000 more neighbourhood officers, specialist rape and sexual assault units in every force and domestic violence call handlers in every control room.
The Casey review is an urgent wake-up call for the whole of policing. But I’m worried the government doesn’t have the understanding or the political will for the change needed. Until they do, reports like the Macpherson and the Casey Review will just keep coming and coming with nothing ever changing. We cannot let this happen.
This week we had the Budget, and I outlined how our economy isn’t working for ordinary people.
In my speech I detailed how constituents are struggling to afford the basics, living in poor quality & overcrowded housing, waiting hours for ambulances and unable to get GP appointments.
It is time for a Government who understand what ordinary working people are going through, who make the tax system fairer, who ensure access to decent housing, and who deliver strong public services.
All of that is possible, but only when there is a Labour Government. You can see my speech here.
Last week, I raised the fact that whilst UK households face the heaviest tax burden since the 1940s, the government has failed to abolish the non-dom status or end tax breaks for private schools and private equity bosses. I outlined how Labour - as the party of fair taxes - would do these things and use the money for more doctors, teachers & nurses. See me raising this here.
Education is close to my heart. Growing up, my mum taught in primary schools across Lewisham and Southwark and my dad was a headteacher in Bromley.
I am immensely proud of the work they did and the young lives they transformed. But it wasn’t always easy. Education in the 80s and 90s was characterised by underinvestment and low pay. I remember clearly, when interest rates spiralled under John Major’s Conservative government, how my mum would worry about how to pay the bills.
My Dad was a branch president of Bromley National Union of Teachers and has been a proud Trade Unionist all his life. He instilled in me the principles of fairness and hard work.
It’s why I became an employment rights lawyer, representing Trade Union members day in, day out. Very often my clients had been dismissed or treated less favourably because they had taken part in industrial action.
No worker ever wants to have to take strike action and we should not forget that they do not get paid when they do so. It is always a last resort to challenge injustice.
And teachers face similar challenges today than the ones my parents faced in the 1990s - with the cost-of-living crisis, inflation, and 13 years of neglect to education.
Education budgets have been slashed, real terms pay is down 13% and schools now face a recruitment and retention crisis.
But instead of getting around the negotiating table this government have dug their heels in and introduced the Minimum Service Levels Bill in Parliament. This anti strike legislation is indefensible.
Under this Bill, workers in a wide range of sectors could now be sacked for taking strike action that has been agreed by a democratic ballot of trade union members.
This is a gross infringement on workers’ rights and from my experience, it is likely to be counterproductive in reducing industrial unrest.
As well as an attack on working people it’s also a distraction from the government’s failure to prevent these strikes in the first place.
A Labour government would have got around the negotiating table with the trade unions. We would be recruiting more teachers to improve workloads, paid for by ending private schools’ tax loopholes. Similarly, we would be undergoing a huge expansion of the NHS workforce, paid for by ending non-dom tax status.
Teachers and school staff worked tirelessly during the pandemic to keep children learning and to minimise disruption to their education. Every day they go above and beyond for those they teach.
It is the Tories who are letting down our children, not hard-working teachers. The Government needs to recognise this.
Lots of people have been facing difficult times recently and as we enter winter, it will become more difficult for many. This has all been made worse by the Tories' economic incompetence, crashing the economy with their ‘mini-budget’.
And whilst mortgage increases, and energy prices are causing difficulties, inflation and rising food costs are making it even harder for families to get by.
A constituent made me aware of one case - an elderly lady admitted to hospital from a house she could not afford to heat. Her temperature was 26 degrees and she died shortly after being admitted to A&E. I raised this case in Parliament.
This is a tragedy, and highlights that for so many people right now, it's not about turning the thermostat down to save costs but not being able to turn it on at all. We need a proper plan from the Government to protect people this winter.
Our community has responded by starting up warm hubs and I have visited a number of these in Bellingham, Sydenham and Penge. The fact the community has come together like this is wonderful, but in a country as well off as ours this shouldn’t be needed.
But after 12 years of the Tories, this is their record. And yet instead of coming up with a real plan to tackle energy insecurity they’re sitting on their hands, continuing to give multi-billion-pound tax breaks to oil and gas companies - money that could be used now to help families.
Meanwhile Labour have outlined how we will bring down bills once and for all with our plan to create GB Energy - a publicly owned energy generation company - and through our plan to insulate homes which could have already helped eight million pensioners and families save up to £1,000 on their annual bills if the Government had listened to our calls.
We are being let down badly, but I will continue to challenge the Government and hold them to account for their decisions which are making life harder for so many.
We have so much to be proud of in our community and these last few months I’ve been really pleased to be out and about seeing so much of our local work.
First, it was great to visit the Crystal Palace Community Trust at Anerley Town Hall. They are a brilliant charity who do so much for our local area.
They have a range of services on offer including benefit advice sessions, digital skills drop-ins, year-round youth clubs and a number of sessions for older residents including the very friendly Crystal Palace eagles over 50’s club! Find out more here: www.cpct.org.uk
It was also a huge pleasure to visit St John’s Primary School in Penge with my dad. He used to teach at the school in the 1970s and it was wonderful to hear his stories, meet current pupils and celebrate the fantastic work the school has done in recent years in the face of significant challenges.
Finally, I had a fantastic time with my children at the Penge Halloween Trail. It was such a lovely event for our community. Thank you to all the brilliant local businesses who took part and to the Penge Tourist Board for organising it.
But whilst we have so much to be proud of in our community, I also recognise how difficult times have been recently for so many. And this has been made worse by the Tories economic incompetence, crashing the economy with their ‘mini-budget’.
As a result, one local teacher told me they will have to find an extra £750 a month to cover their mortgage payment increases. Money they simply don't have. I raised this in Parliament and called on the government to apologise and reverse their actions.
Small businesses too are facing pressures all made worse by the Tories economic incompetence. As many of you may already know the much loved SE20 Cycles in Penge was facing an energy bill of £11,000 before winter even started.
They are a viable business but it’s only because of our brilliant community coming together and organising a local Crowdfunder that they were able to pay this. I raised this situation in Parliament with the Chancellor and called for more business support but received a poor answer.
And whilst mortgage increases, and energy prices are causing difficulties, inflation and rising food costs are also making it even harder for families to get by. After 12 years of the Tories, this is their record on the economy.
I am so proud of our community and everything we have here, but I believe we are being let down badly. I will continue to challenge the government and hold them to account for their decisions which are making life harder for so many of us.
The Tories have a new leader and in their first few weeks the Prime Minister and Chancellor have already crashed the economy by handing enormous, unfunded tax cuts to those who earn millions and the very richest companies.
Whilst this week they have u-turned on their plan to scrap the 45p tax rate a lot of damage has already been done. Because of this, working people will be paying higher prices and higher mortgage rates for years to come.
In the Chancellor’s budget, I challenged him on why he hadn’t published the Office for Budget Responsibility’s assessment on the impact of this ‘mini-budget’. We have never had a budget before that did not have this assessment and you can see my questions and the Chancellor’s evasion here.
It’s clear that the Tories have returned to failed trickle-down economics: the idea where you make the rich even richer and hope some of it trickles down to the rest of us. But growth doesn’t come from the top down, it comes from the talents and efforts of millions of people and thousands of businesses.
The Prime Minister needs to urgently recall parliament and reverse this disastrous ‘mini-budget’ now before they do even more damage.