SPEECHES & ARTICLES

Here you will find an archive of some of the noteable articles David has written, and speeches David has delivered. 

February 05, 2013

Same Sex Marriage


Below is the video of the speech delivered by David Lammy MP during the Same Sex Marriage Bill debate on 5 February 2013.

Due to a 4 minute limit on backbench contributions, a longer version of the speech is copied below.



*********************

Before I begin, let me say that as a minister, I had the privilege of taking through the Gender Recognition Act through this House.

I want to say to the Minister that taking through a Bill that can affect so many people’s lives in such a positive way – that makes an indelible mark on our living, breathing constitution in the process – is an enormous privilege that will live with her for a long while to come.

Mr. Speaker, it is impossible not to feel a sense of history today.

It was the Houses of Parliament that commissioned, deliberated and published the Wolfenden Report over half a century ago.

It was in this Chamber that Leo Abse fought tooth and nail for its recommendations to be implemented and homosexuality to be decriminalised.

It was in this Chamber that the age of consent was equalised, where it was determined that homosexual couples had the same right to adopt as heterosexual ones and it was in this Chamber where Civil Partnerships were legislated for.

But let’s not pretend that this journey has been smooth and this House has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the LGBT community, each step of the way.

Let us not forget that it was this Parliament that passed section 28.

It was in Parliament where the Earl of Harlsbury referred to homosexuals as a “reservoir for venereal diseases”; where Lord Swinfen claimed that gays and lesbians were “sexually disabled”.

It was from the benches opposite that Kenneth Hind – the former member for Lancaster West - that asked this chamber, rhetorically, if it really wanted “gays” teaching primary school children.

And it was this House that congratulated those burning of books deemed to be “homosexual propaganda” outside of a Catholic Primary School.

It was this House that turned a collective blind eye to the police beatings of LGBT rights activists at the first pride marches.

It was this House that spoke in glowing terms about the Reverend that went on hunger strike in protest at a council that dared to challenge the homophobic consensus.

That is why today should be one of atonement for the House.

…An opportunity for us to put in place the last piece in the equality jigsaw for the LGBT community.

…Where we can finally allow gay men and women the same rights to express their love through the institution of marriage.


Separate is not equal
Of course there are opponents.

There are those that say this is all happening too quickly.

…That the speed of change for LGBT rights is happening too abruptly for them to comprehend.

…That the country they live, the traditions they live by and the people they live next to are transforming in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, upset and undermined.

They are not homophobic, they are not racist, but they say “not now, later”.

And I sympathise.

As much as I would want Britain to always be the beating heart of radical and progressive change, it isn’t.

It has always had a small “c” conservative spine that runs through it.

...An instinct that change should always be organic.

A need for change to be owned by the people, not imposed from up high.

And we must respect that.

And I will be respecting that when I vote for this Bill.

…Because it does command the support of the country.

…Because it does respect religious freedom and tradition by permitting – rather than mandating – religious organisations to conduct the ceremonies.

…And because it is the end of an organic journey from criminality to equality for the gay community that began over half a century ago.

This change is right, this change is necessary and its time is now.

But there are still those that say that this is all unnecessary.

“Why do we need Gay Marriage when we already have Civil Partnerships”, they say.

“They are the same - separate but equal”, they claim.

Let me speak frankly.

“Separate but equal” is a fraud.

 “Separate but equal” is the language that tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus.

“Separate but equal” is the motif that determined that black and white could not possibly drink from the same water fountain, eat at the same table or use the same toilets.

 “Separate but equal” are the words that justified sending black children to different schools from their white peers – schools that would fail them and condemn them to a life of poverty.

It is an excerpt from the phrasebook of the segregationists and the racists.

It is the same statement, the same ideas and the same delusion that we borrowed in this country to say that women could vote – but not until they were 30.

It is the same naivety that gave made my dad a citizen in 1956 but refused to condemn the landlords that proclaimed “no blacks, no Irish, no dogs”.

It entrenched who we were, who our friends could be and what our lives could become.

This was not “Separate but equal” but “Separate AND discriminated”,

 “Separate AND oppressed”.

 “Separate AND browbeaten”.

 “Separate AND subjugated”.

Separate is NOT equal, so let us be rid of it.

Because as long as there is one rule for us and another for them, we allow the barriers to acceptance to stand unchallenged.

As long as our statute books suggest that the love between two men or two women is unworthy of being recognised through marriage, we allow the rot of homophobia to fester.

We entrench a society where 20,000 homophobic crimes take place each year.

…where 800,000 people have witnessed homophobic bullying at work in the last five years.

…And where even in 2013, gay men and women fear holding hands in certain streets in certain villages, towns and cities for fear of being ostracised, abused or even assaulted.

Let me be clear - I am proud that I voted for the introduction of Civil Partnerships.

It was an important step for LGBT rights in this country.

They enshrined gay couples with almost all of the rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

But they did not provide a parity of esteem.

Civil Partnerships were one step, now it is time for the next.

What is Marriage?
I am an Anglican.

Church is one of the few moments I can share with my family where we are all in the same room.

When I was younger, it was the priest who helped fill the father-shaped hole in my life after he left.

And it was the church that gave me the choral scholarship at Peterborough Cathedral that propelled me to where I am today.

It is with deep regret that the many letters in my postbag condemning this legislation are from some of the very same people I share a pew with on a Sunday morning.

I know them to be caring, loving and understanding people.

I know that most are not, in fact, homophobic.

I know that they resent the fact that those on the extremes of our faith have poisoned an important debate with references to polygamy and bestiality.

So let us use today to return to the discussion of what marriage ought to mean.

When I married my wife, I understood our marriage to have two important dimensions:

First, it was an expression of our love, fidelity and mutuality over the course of our life.

The Bible is complicated.

But its enduring message is not that homosexuality is wrong, it is to “love thy neighbour”.
It offers no caveats.

“Love thy neighbour” whether they are black or white, rich or poor.

“Love thy neighbour” whether they are short or tall, gay or straight, man or woman.

Love him, even if he used to be a she.

So how can we claim to love our neighbour if we do not allow them to love someone else in turn?

And what dangerous turn has our faith taken if a loving relationship between two people is a cause for concern rather than celebration?

The second dimension – as I understood it that day – is made clear by the [Catholic] Church briefing for today:

“Marriage has…been the enduring public recognition of [the] commitment to provide a stable institution for the care and protection of children, and it has rightly been recognised as unique and worthy of legal protection for this reason.”

So let me remind the House:

Homosexual couples can adopt.

Homosexual couples can appoint surrogate mothers.

Homosexual couples can secure a sperm donation.

Thanks to the Adoption of Children Act of 2002, homosexual couples across the country are raising children.

So opponents need to understand this:

The battle over whether homosexual can be worthy parents was fought ten years ago.

Like it or not, there are thousands of children who are being brought up the right way, in the proper way and in a caring and loving way in the homes of homosexual parents.

Attempting to reverse engineer that fact will prove futile – that Act will not be torn up, amended or overruled.

So if you truly believe that marriage is the best institution for raising children, then - at least out of a pragmatic desire to give those children the best start in life – you should be supporting this Bill through parliament.

Let me finish by pleading with those that say same-sex marriage is a violation of Christian thoughts, traditions and values:

Today, for the first time, we have the chance to allow ALL of our neighbours to marry the person that they love.

Today, for the first time, we have the chance to allow ALL families to raise their children in the institution most capable of giving them the love and nourishment that they need to prosper and succeed.

This is not a violation of Christian values - it is their triumph.
 

March 31, 2013

Bedroom Tax

 

The article below was originally published in the Guardian on 1 April 2013.

The article refers to the impact of the benefit cap that is being piloted in Tottenham before being rolled out nationwide and refers to David Lammy's public meeting on the benefit cap last month.


*************

In a packed and stuffy meeting room at a council leisure centre, the Tottenham MP David Lammy rouses his specially invited audience with a question: "I'm getting a feeling some of you might be a bit worried. Are you worried?"

The response from some of his constituency's most vulnerable residents, all of whom stand to lose up to £100 a week from benefit cuts coming into effect this month, is a loud and unanimous "Yes!"

From 15 April, about 900 families in Lammy's north London constituency – one of the most deprived in the country – will be hit by the household benefit cap, which limits the total weekly amount each unemployed household can receive in benefits to £500. Haringey, the local authority, is one of four councils testing the cap, which will be rolled out across the rest of the country over the next six months.

Lammy had written to all 900 and nearly 200 turn up on this chilly March morning, many of them mothers with young children in tow. There is palpable anxiety, and an undercurrent of anger. The first some of them knew of the imminent cut to their income, says Lammy, was when they opened his letter.

More than half such families will lose between £50 and £100 a week in housing benefit as a result of the benefit cap, he estimates. Those who face smaller losses may be able to scrape together the shortfall and keep their tenancy, but at the cost of buying food or heating their home. Others will be unable to pay their rent, and will end up in arrears, then homeless or forced to move out of London to low-rent areas of the country.

Some of those present are technically homeless, and have been living in council-provided temporary accommodation, often for years. Lammy is asked if Haringey will evict people who can't afford to pay the rent: "The answer is yes … Let's be brutally honest. If in a year's time people have huge arrears, Haringey will be put in a very difficult position."

Families can sidestep the cap if they find a job that offers 16 hours a week for single parents, or 24 hours for couples. But jobs are scarce in Tottenham, and as one mother points out, even if work is found, childcare is expensive. There is widespread alarm. "In each face here I can see fear, worry and anxiety," says Maurice, 57, an unemployed courier.

After the meeting Lammy says the welfare changes have generated a "real fear" about homelessness among his poorest constituents: "The local authority will have to think very hard about its responsibilities. We cannot evict people on to the streets with no alternative: this is not America."

The household benefit cap is just one of nine changes coming in this month, laying bare the sheer enormity and complexity of the coalition's welfare reforms. Others include the bedroom tax (typical weekly loss per household, £14), the abolition in many areas of the country of council tax benefit (£3 a week), and the 1% cap on benefit increases (£3 a week). Six of these changes will take £2.3bn from the pockets of the poorest households in 2013-14, according to the charity Child Poverty Action group (CPAG).

That figure does not include the replacement of disability living allowance with personal independence payments, to be phased in over three years from April. By 2016, an estimated 500,000 will lose this benefit, squeezing an estimated £1bn a year out of the incomes of disabled people. Disabled people will be disproportionately affected by the wider changes, with tens of thousands being hit simultaneously by up to six different welfare cuts.

The CPAG figure does not include two other changes: the localisation of the social fund, which has been replaced by 150 council-operated local welfare schemes; and the biggest reform of all, the introduction in October of universal credit, the ambitious attempt by work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith to merge a string of unemployment benefits and tax credits into a single payment for working-age people.

Duncan Smith argues universal credit will simplify the system, making it easier for people on benefits to make the leap into work. According to the government, a third of the 8 million households it covers will be better off. But about 450,000 disabled people will lose financially, according to Disability Rights UK, while 400,000 of the poorest households – such as single parent households with children – will be worse off by 2015, according to the Chartered Institute of Housing.

This latest phase of benefits reform will bring to 42 the bewildering number of social security cuts introduced by the coalition since May 2010. Collectively, these cuts mean households will cumulatively receive £16bn less than in 2010-11, says the CPAG. By 2015, ministers are aiming to save £18bn a year from the welfare budget, and they have signalled a further £10bn cut from 2016. The spending review in June is expected to set out further measures to contain the growing welfare bill.

Social analysts are concerned that deprivation levels are going back to those of 30 years ago, with the poorest families worse off than they were under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.Debt and food poverty are growing, homelessness is increasing, and demand on food banks is soaring – a sign of more people falling through the welfare net. The social impact of this impoverishment of Britain's poorest families – with more than 60% of such households in work – will unravel recent achievements in tackling poverty, say campaigners. According to Alison Garnham, chief executive of the CPAG, the coalition "is on course to leave behind the worst child poverty record of any government for a generation".

Others see the welfare agenda as presaging a profound shift in the relationship between the state and its most vulnerable citizens. "Last year I warned that we risk a decade of destitution. Some thought I was being over-dramatic," says Julia Unwin, head of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. "I am more convinced than ever that we have a perfect storm brewing; the reforms to welfare, the economic slowdown and spiralling costs, together with an increasingly spiteful tone in how we describe people in poverty, risks the UK becoming a nation where people face destitution."

August 28, 2013

Speech on Syria


Below is David's speech during the House of Commons debate on Syria. Please check against delivery.

*************

It is impossible to have watched events unfold in Syria over the past few years and think anything other than “if not now, when?”

It is impossible to have watched the footage of the past week and not feel the instincts of liberal interventionism pulsating in our consciousness, telling us that we cannot be isolationists; we cannot turn a blind eye to mass murder and we cannot wash our hands of the responsibility to act.

And it is impossible not to think back to the difference British intervention did for the people of Kosovo and Sierra Leone and wonder how it can be replicated for the people of Damascus and Aleppo. 

But tempering those instincts should be the resounding message ever-present in the annals of history and seared into the memory of many in this House: liberal interventionism can fail.

It can fail if we have no vision for the outcome, no definition of success and no route mapped to the exit.

It can fail if we allow our thirst for justice trump the patience to secure the greatest possible legitimacy for our action.

And it can fail if we forget that our first responsibility is not to make matters worse than they already are.

A Vision for the Future
Mr. Speaker, Iraq is not a reason to absent ourselves from our responsibilities in Syria. 

But it is a reason to exercise caution, evoke clarity and define a conclusion.

This government seeks out a blank cheque to use the British armed forces in Syria without convincingly and coherently answering the most crucial questions:

What constitutes “success” in the context of a military intervention?

If a negotiated settlement is the goal, then will military intervention make that more or less likely? 

Are we comfortable that our intervention is limited to punishing the use of chemical weapons rather than explicitly to protect the lives of the Syrian people? Is it fair for the Prime Minister to imply that this is a humanitarian intervention when his only ambition is for Britain to be the dispassionate referee of a brutal civil war?

If a “short and limited” military intervention does not lead to the cessation of the use of chemical weapons and instead leads to an escalation of hostilities or even retaliation, do we escalate our involvement further or back away entirely? 

If we escalate, are we comfortable with the slow creep that will place the lives of more war-weary members of our armed services soldiers at risk? 

If we back away, will we accept that our brief intervention only led to an intensification of an already gruesome conflict at a potentially astronomical cost to British life, exchequer and security?

We need to know the scale of our intervention, the limit of our commitment and the nature our involvement before we can be asked to affirm it. 

Parliament cannot be expected to vote on pure sentiment; it needs to vote on specifics.

The battle of perception
Mr. Speaker, we should remember that conflicts do not take place without context.

This particular one will not take place without history.

Neither will it take place without suspicion of our intentions or outright hostility to our presence.

Syrian government assertions that French, British and American agents launched the chemical attacks to pave the way for intervention may attract ridicule in this chamber but let us not be so naive as to think that there will not be many willing subscribers to this conspiracy theory across the Middle East.

We must never underestimate the cynicism that surrounds our motives and those of our allies.

We must never underestimate that even the most humanitarian of objectives can be misconstrued as a nefarious attempt by the west to project its power.

We must never underestimate that we must first win the battle of perception before all else.

Any intervention needs to be demonstrably scrupulous.

It needs to be a project of more than just the usual suspects.

And it needs to be the last resort of a process that has visibly exhausted all diplomatic means.

But the recent ratchet-ing up of rhetoric has come at the expense of reason and eschewed responsibility.

The cacophony of tough words and the insidious indication that attacks could take place as early as this weekend has not facilitated diplomacy or the forging of alliances.

We need cooler heads rather than broader shoulders:

The government must abandon the march for “war by the weekend”.

It must assure this House that any military intervention will only be countenanced after the weapons inspectors have been given time to investigate, free from external pressure.

It must confirm that military intervention will only be countenanced if the inspectors’ report conclusively confirms existing suspicions, has been considered by the UN and all reasonable attempts have been made to remove Russia’s roadblock to UN action.

And it must confirm that military intervention will only be countenanced if it has sought validation from the parliaments of Syria’s neighbours as well as our own.

The process maybe long and arduous but it is necessary and right. 

Taking short cuts will only rebound on us at a later date and at a greater cost.

Conclusion
Mr. Speaker, the instinct to intervene is understandable. 

It can be justified and right. 

But it must be accompanied by unimpeachable legitimacy in the present and a water-tight vision for the future. 

Nothing that has been said today, or this week, has convinced me that this government or our allies have fully achieved either.

Without these I fear that any military intervention can only make matters worse.

I fear that it will drag us into a conflict whose intensity we can only magnify, searching for a conclusion we haven’t defined and destabilising a region that has already been ripped apart by decades of violence, hatred and mistrust.

I have enormous respect for those that call for military intervention – it is undoubtedly an honourable cause borne in principled motives.

But there can be no comfort in doing the wrong thing even if it is for the right reasons.

Please reload

 

 

 

David Lammy

From Tottenham. For Tottenham.