| Harriet Harman |
|Born||Harriet Ruth Harman|
London, United Kingdom
|Alma mater||Goodricke College, University of York|
|Children||2 sons 1 daughter|
UK Labour politician given the task of "reforming" the Welfare State.
Harriet Ruth Harman is a British politician and solicitor who has served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Camberwell and Peckham, formerly Peckham, since 1982. A member of the Labour Party, she has served in various Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet positions.
Harry Lamborn, the Labour MP for Peckham, died on 21 August 1982. In the subsequent by-election held on 28 October 1982, Harman was elected to succeed Lamborn with 11,349 votes (50.34%), a majority of 3,931 over Social Democratic candidate Dick Taverne, a former Labour MP for Lincoln. The Conservative Party candidate was John Redwood, who came third, and went on to be elected MP for Wokingham in 1987.
Harman was involved in a European Court of Human Rights case against MI5. During a 1984 television interview by Cathy Massiter, it was revealed personal files were held by MI5 on Harman and on the (by then former-) General Secretary of the NCCL, Patricia Hewitt. They successfully argued that there had been an infringement of their rights because MI5 was not a legally constituted and democratically accountable organisation, this being the minimum standard in democracy. The success of the case led to enactment of the Security Service Act 1989.
In 1984, Harman became a Shadow Social Services minister and served as a Shadow Health minister in 1987. After the 1992 general election she entered the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury (1992–1994) and later served as Shadow Employment Secretary (1994–1995), Shadow Health Secretary (1995–1996) and Shadow Social Security Secretary (1996–1997).
After Labour's victory in the 1997 general election, she became Secretary of State for Social Security and the first ever Minister for Women. She was given the task of reforming the Welfare State. She also headed up New Labour's controversial cut to single parent benefit despite the majority of those affected being women. There was public outcry at this perceived attacked on the living standards of some of the poorest women and children. According to The Independent, a group of women protesters shouted "Labour scum" as the measure was approved in Parliament – albeit with a rebellion of 47 Labour MPs and the abstention of many others. Harman was sacked from the position in 1998. According to many in the media, this was the result of a series of public rows with junior minister Frank Field, though others also cited her decision to cut benefits to lone parents as a factor.
Harman voted with the party on all but a few instances during its period in government.
In January 2009, Harman proposed a rule change to exempt MPs' expenses from the Freedom of Information Act. Her parliamentary order aimed to remove "most expenditure information held by either House of Parliament from the scope of the Freedom of Information Act". It meant that, under the law, journalists and members of the public would no longer be entitled to learn details of their MP's expenses. Labour MPs were to be pressured to vote for this measure by use of a three line whip. Her proposal was withdrawn when the Conservative Party said they would vote against, and in light of an online campaign by mySociety. The failure of the motion led to the disclosure of expenses of British members of parliament.
In December 2010, it emerged that Harman was amongst 40 MPs who had secretly repaid wrongly claimed expenses between 2008 and 2010. In November 2010, Harman's parliamentary private secretary Ian Lavery had blocked a motion designed to allow the repayments to be made public.
- Annie Machon, Spies, Lies and Whistleblowers: MI5, MI6 and the Shayler Affair, Book Guild, May 2005,
- Annie Machon, Spies, Lies and Whistleblowers: MI5, MI6 and the Shayler Affair,
- https://web.archive.org/web/20090518081436/http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=42836 |