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City MP keeps pressure on to suspend removal of free TV licence for over 75s amid Covid-19

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has made renewed calls on government to halt the withdrawal of the TV licence for the over 75s, joining a cross party group in sending a targeted letter to the Culture Secretary.

The action follows the city MP’s successful campaign urging government to delay the removal of the benefit on the 16 March.

The group is seeking an indefinite suspension of the benefit roll back, citing the fact elderly people are currently confined to their homes due to the pandemic as the driving force.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“While I welcome government taking heed of our action and postponing the roll back of this vital social benefit for the over 75s, this does not go far enough in solving the issue.

Current projections suggest that the Covid-19 pandemic could go on for some time. We cannot have a situation where government is confining over 75s to their homes but taking away, what is for some, their only source of information and contact with the outside world.

Government must accept that removing a benefit from the group most at risk during a pandemic is unacceptable. I will continue to work with others, from across the House, to be a voice for our older community members.”

In 2017, the Conservatives stood on a manifesto that pledged not to touch benefits for the elderly. In November 2019, they went back on this promise and Government forced through policy that saw the free TV licence snatched away from over 75s.

The results are 1.3 million of the poorest over 75s left with another big bill to contend with. 3 million households worse off, and 500,000 people living with dementia facing a new difficult bill.

Mr Morgan added:

“Prior to Covid-19 I listened to organisations such as Age UK and Portsmouth Pensioners Association, as well as wrote out to 10,000 people locally affected.

The reports then suggested that taking away this vital benefit would plunge more older people into social isolation and cause financial difficulty for those forced to choose between food and company.

These factors are now even more relevant as people are confined to their homes, community meetings suspended and loved ones prohibited from visiting relatives who are not in their household.

I will continue to fight for the continuation of the universally free TV licence for the over 75s on the grounds that it is a vital lifeline for many valued older community members.”

Stephen Morgan MP has been taking action on this issue since government first suggested the removal in 2019. Since then Mr Morgan has written out to constituents, hosted meetings with local organisations and Age UK, written to three separate government Culture Secretaries, raised the issue in parliament, conducted survey research in Portsmouth and joined cross party lobbying.

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Government now need a ‘comprehensive plan’ to return home stranded Britons

Responding to the Government announcement tonight on Britain’s trapped abroad due to the coronavirus crisis, Stephen Morgan MP has said the government now needs to produce a comprehensive plan to help return home desperate British nationals.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The Foreign Secretary’s statement tonight was welcome, but long overdue. Hundreds of thousands of Britons are stranded abroad. They are in desperate need of urgent action by Government.

We were promised a detailed plan today. Instead we got more of the same.

My constituents stuck abroad are telling me they feel abandoned by Government. Worried families are at their wit’s end. I am hearing from vulnerable people needing to get back to loved ones, and other travellers running out of essential medical supplies.

Earlier today I wrote to the Foreign Secretary, continuing to take action for Portsmouth families affected, offering practical ideas to help address the issues British nationals are facing abroad.

Rather than vague promises, we now need Government to set out a comprehensive, fully funded plan to bring our British nationals home. That’s what Britons stuck abroad deserve, and their loved ones back home expect”.

 

 

 

 

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Government ‘must do better’ to bring home Britons says City MP

Portsmouth South’s MP Stephen Morgan is piling on the pressure calling for the Foreign Office to do better to bring home British travellers stuck abroad.

The call comes after the MP has been liaising daily with the Government about constituents unable to return home due to the coronavirus crisis.

Stephen Morgan MP shares people’s frustrations about the lack of information and advice that they have received from the Foreign Office, especially problems getting through to speak to people on the phone.

The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has admitted the Government has been struggling to manage the level of calls that they were receiving and have now  doubled their call centre capacity.

As well as lobbying the Foreign Secretary to take urgent action, the city MP has been in daily contact with the Foreign Office about individual cases of Portsmouth people who have had difficulties getting back to the UK from around the world, liaising with the families affected, as well as sharing information with the Shadow Foreign Secretary to push for further action by Government.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“It is clear from the daily correspondence I am getting from constituents stuck abroad and cases I am hearing about from other parliamentarians, that the Foreign Office’s current efforts to support people to return to the UK have not been adequate.

This is causing a huge amount of distress to those affected from our city and their families.

I will continue to prioritise helping Portsmouth people who are encountering serious problems abroad and have not received adequate assistance from the Foreign Office.

The Government must do better and now prioritise the resources needed to bring Britons back safely and swiftly”.

Despite calls, the Government has not been able to give an exact figure for the number of British nationals currently stranded abroad, only estimating numbers between 500,000 and 700,000 people.

Labour has called for more comprehensive information on the scale of the problem and for Government to work with airlines to get data on how many people have been able to get home so far, so that resources can help secure the return of all British travellers.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry MP added:

“While I appreciate that the FCO staff are all working very hard, the direction from those at the top hasn’t been good enough and it is clear from the emails that I have received and the cases MPs have sent my way that they need to take further steps to provide a more comprehensive repatriation offer to Brits stuck overseas.

I have made it very clear that the government should not be leaving people to the mercy of exploitative private airlines who are ripping vulnerable people off, without helping them to get home”.

The Portsmouth South MP believes that leaving people to rely solely on commercial options to return to the UK is not acceptable and is calling on the Government to work more closely with the airline companies to find a solution.

 

 

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Covid-19: City MP continues stand up for Portsmouth’s self-employed

As a direct response to the Chancellor’s statement made on 26 March, Stephen Morgan MP has lobbied the Government again over protections for all of Portsmouth’s self-employed as gaps in the proposals announced last night emerge.

While the Portsmouth South representative has welcomed steps made by government to provide support to this group, he has vowed to scrutinise the detail to help the self-employed in the city.

Listening to further concerns expressed by constituents he has this evening lobbied the Chancellor for further improvements to the package of support being proposed.

Self-employed people in the city have already shared issues over the impact that lengthy waiting times for financial aid will have, the lack of coverage for the newly self-employed and overall lack of detail of the proposals.

In relation to when payments will be made, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The Chancellor’s statement announced yesterday was a step in the right direction and did cover some of the requests that I put to him last week. However, there are measures that still need to be taken.

News that self-employed people will have to wait until June before seeing any financial respite is deeply concerning. Frankly, it will be too little too late for many and could force some into continuing to work, which could have dangerous implications for the spread of Covid-19.

I have asked the Government to urgently reconsider this decision and pay these hard-working people promptly. They are a crucial part of Portsmouth’s economy; if we are all in this together we cannot afford for some to go under.”

The Chancellor yesterday announced that tax returns from the 2019 financial year would be used to project earnings covered under the scheme. This means that those who recently transitioned to self-employed status will miss out and have to claim Universal Credit.

On more encompassing support, Mr Morgan said:

“Constituents are increasingly contacting me to exemplify the gaps in the Chancellor’s proposals. One constituent has made me aware that he became a sole trader during the 2018-2019 tax year. He transitioned from a PAYE employee to self-employed towards the end of that tax year, and therefore the 2019 tax assessment is not an accurate indication of his earnings.

He will be left heavily out of pocket under the government’s current proposals. I have therefore requested that the potential option of using April 2020 tax returns is explored so that a fairer, more accurate package of support can be offered.

Comprehensive support must be offered to all, not a select few. We cannot leave people behind at this time of emergency.”

The city MP has vowed to continue relaying constituents concerns to the highest level in a bid to ensure ‘nobody is left behind’ and assist  the Government in securing comparable support for the self-employed.

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“The devil will be in the detail” says City MP over proposed support for self-employed

Responding to the Chancellor’s much-anticipated support package for the self-employed announced tonight, Portsmouth South’s MP Stephen Morgan has vowed to keep a ‘close eye on the details’ of the proposals as concerns are raised by constituents.

The MP has previously said it would be ‘perverse’ to leave out the self-employed from Government support being put in place to help those whose livelihoods are increasingly disrupted by the events of recent weeks. Hundreds have shared views with the Portsmouth South MP who has been taking their case to HM Treasury.

With as many as 7,100 self-employed people in the constituency facing uncertainty, progress in finding a solution was cautiously welcomed this evening by the city MP who has vowed to continue to scrutinise the detail.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Research by the IFS has shown that the pockets of the self-employed have been hit hard as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s why I’ve been calling for proper protection for Portsmouth’s self-employed. Taking action, I’ve been listening to local concerns and lobbying the Government, joining calls from the Federation of Small Business for action, and writing an urgent letter to the Chancellor directly.

After days of delay and uncertainty, the Government’s new measures announced tonight can be cautiously welcomed”.

Specifically, on the proposals announced by the Government this evening, the Portsmouth South representative added:

“While I am relieved that the Chancellor is listening, as always with big announcements by this Government, the devil will be in the detail.

Asking people to rely on Universal Credit when more than 130,000 people are queuing online will be worrying to many people. There is a real risk that without support until a few months’ time, the self-employed will feel they have to keep working, putting their own and others’ health at risk.

My concern is that if people cannot get access to the protection scheme until June, it will simply be too late for millions. People need support in the coming days and over the next fortnight. Our city’s self-employed need security now, it is not feasible to wait until June.

Tonight’s announcement deserves robust scrutiny to ensure they are up to the mark. I will continue to keep a close eye on the detail of these proposals from HM Treasury to make sure the self-employed in Portsmouth have comparable protections during this economic crisis”.

The MP has vowed to continue to work constructively with Government, and lobbying Ministers for action, to protect Portsmouth people and to ensure the best possible response to the coronavirus crisis.

If any self-employed people or small business requires help, support is available from the FSB at www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/covid19

Information about the government’s support can be found at www.businesssupport.gov.uk

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City MP says ‘government must do more’ to protect front line health and social care workers

Stephen Morgan MP, also Shadow Local Government Minister, has today lobbied government over their failure to provide Covid-19 tests and protective equipment to frontline health and social care staff, writing an urgent letter to the Health Secretary calling for action

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has vehemently stated the best way to ‘attack’ Covid-19 is increase the rate of testing. Mounting evidence also suggests that ensuring healthcare professionals are tested, and removed where results are positive, can greatly impact the spread of the virus.

On testing frontline staff, the city MP said:

“Despite 4 months warning from other countries and global bodies, government is not testing frontline health and social care staff for Covid-19. Why is this important? Because evidence suggests you can get Covid-19 twice meaning health and social care staff, vulnerable patients and their families are at even greater risk.

Government is not only failing to test relevant workers; they have not yet even provided a date for when they will. I have today put pressure on the Health Secretary to provide clarity to this situation and made the case for an immediate strategy for boosting tests for these brave men and women.”

Mr Morgan also applied pressure to the Health Secretary over the apparent lack of equipment for the health and social care workforce.

This joins calls from the head of NHS Providers, the Chief Executive of Women’s Resource Centre and trade unions who have expressed ‘deep’ concern over the Health Secretary’s lack of action to provide masks, aprons, gloves and hand sanitizer to at-risk front-line staff.

On equipment issues, Mr Morgan said:

“Evidenced reports of frontline healthcare providers being told to spend £100 of their own money on safety equipment and further reports of incorrect, ineffective masks being issued is not what these heroes and heroines deserve. It also puts their often-vulnerable patients at risk.

Why don’t these vital workers have the equipment they need? When will they get this equipment? Why are they being forced to fork out fortunes on their own protective get up?

Today I have demanded answers to these questions directly from the Health Secretary. These are unacceptable conditions for healthcare workers and the British public.”

The city MP also hit home the fact that the social care system was under considerable strain prior to this pandemic and that current conditions could push it beyond breaking point.

On social care, Mr Morgan added:

It is important to look at the state of social care before the Covid-19 outbreak. It was already massively underfunded and understaffed with 120,000 vacancies across the country. With additional pressures now placed on services, this could exceed 200,000 vacancies if 20% of the workforce have to self-isolate.

This means it is a life or death situation for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable care receivers. I therefore urge you to take action to protect these life-saving workers.

This crisis follows a decade of social care cuts that have left a system on its knees. Urgent and drastic action is needed to both protect staff and vulnerable care receivers.”

Mr Morgan’s parliamentary action echoes the concerns of many who work in health social care and have contacted him since the crisis began.

He has vowed to continue working constructively with Ministers and scrutinising the government’s decision making around the Covid-19 outbreak to ensure care givers and receivers are not put at risk.

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Covid-19: Portsmouth MP responds to PM’s statement

Responding to the Prime Minister’s statement tonight, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

“We are in unprecedented times and public health and safety must come first.

This outbreak demands strong leadership to protect lives. We have seen over the course of the last few weeks other countries taking further far reaching social distancing measures to prevent the spread of the virus, so tonight’s announcement is long overdue, but welcome.

We now need to understand the details of the enforcement, who can and can’t travel to work and guidance for employers and workers. The Prime Minister must set this out very clearly.

Government must now give detail to provide clarity and certainty for Portsmouth people.  

We all have a part to play. Proudly, Portsmouth people have shown in the past we can rise to a challenge. It is time to do so again”.

Stephen’s frequently asked questions page will be updated once Government advice has been published. Information will be updated here

 

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The Coronavirus Bill before Parliament

The Coronavirus Bill (Bill 122 of 2019-21) was introduced to the House of Commons on 19 March 2020. The Bill is part of the Government’s response to the pandemic and is intended to enable the Government to respond to an emergency situation and manage the effects of a pandemic.

The Government has stated that the Bill enables action in five key areas:

  1. Increasing the available health and social care workforce – for example, by removing barriers to allow recently retired NHS staff and social workers to return to work (and in Scotland, in addition to retired people, allowing those who are on a career break or are social worker students to become temporary social workers)
  2. Easing the burden on frontline staff – by reducing the number of administrative tasks they have to perform, enabling local authorities to prioritise care for people with the most pressing needs, allowing key workers to perform more tasks remotely and with less paperwork, and taking the power to suspend individual port operations
  3. Containing and slowing the virus – by reducing unnecessary social contacts, for example through powers over events and gatherings, and strengthening the quarantine powers of police and immigration officers
  4. Managing the deceased with respect and dignity – by enabling the death management system to deal with increased demand for its services
  5. Supporting people – by allowing them to claim Statutory Sick Pay from day one, and by supporting the food industry to maintain supplies

I recognise the need for urgent government intervention to arrest the spread of this virus and offset the economic impact it is already having on the country, and have joined others to make it clear to Ministers the essential areas where there needs to be common ground for my support.

The government must ensure the most effective action is taken to protect people in every community, for reasons of public health as well as social justice. That is why I believe the following conditions need to be met:

  1. The legislation must be renewed every six months by a fresh vote in parliament – people understand the need for temporary restrictions to our way of life. But given how far-reaching these are proposed to be, people’s elected representatives must be able to decide whether to renew the legislation at least every six months, up to its expiration after two years. We will carefully scrutinise the Bill in areas that affect our civil liberties.
  2. Jobs and incomes need to be underpinned with a comprehensive income protection scheme; European-level statutory sick pay for all workers from day one; and increased Universal Credit, with a suspension of sanctions and an end to the 5-week wait – The government must take action to ensure everyone has enough to live on so that those with symptoms are able to self-isolate without fear for their jobs, livelihoods and homes. The government’s current package of support for workers is clearly inadequate.
  3. Rent suspension and a ban on evictions for six months – Rent needs to be suspended for those adversely affected by the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The government’s three-month ban on evictions should be extended to six months, in line with the renewal period we propose for the emergency legislation.

I will be supporting amendments to the Bill this week which address the above concerns and put these safeguards in place. I will continue to lobby the Government based on the feedback I am hearing from constituents.

The House of Commons Library has published briefings on various aspects of the Bill which can be viewed here

 

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Chancellor must do ‘whatever it takes’ to support city’s self-employed says Portsmouth MP

In an urgent letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, today Stephen Morgan MP lobbied the Government for support for the self-employed who have been writing to the city MP as a result of the hardship caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a series of actions the Portsmouth South representative today lobbied government writing an urgent letter to the Chancellor.

The city MP said:

“There are 7,100 self-employed people in my constituency. Many are getting in touch with me desperately worried about making their rent, mortgage and other bill payments.

I appreciate your efforts to introduce a retention scheme for employees as announced on Friday.

However more and more self-employed people in my constituency are now asking me what help the Government is going to be put in place for them. Many of whom are being told by Ministers they cannot continue their work. 

Some feel they have been abandoned and are being treated as second-class citizens”.

The self-employed already lack all of the legal protections of redundancy and other rights already in place to help protect employees, including those they employ themselves, from a sudden lack of income.

The Federation of Small Business has stated that the self-employed are also the most likely section of our nation’s workforce to suffer from a disability or health condition.

Stephen Morgan MP added:

“It would be perverse to leave the self-employed out of the new measures HM Treasury is putting in place to help those whose livelihoods are most disrupted by Covid-19.

The Government must now provide comparable support for the self-employed to end the uncertainty thousands face here in Portsmouth”.

In the letter the MP has asked for assurance that the Government is making plans and sought clarification on timescales.

 

 

 

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Chancellor must go further and protect self-employed

Responding to new measures announced by the Chancellor to deal with the coronavirus and economic crisis, Stephen Morgan MP, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, is calling on the Government to go further as 7,100 self-employed people in the constituency face uncertainty, and protect councils and charities on the frontline.

Following the statement made by the Chancellor last night, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“After much lobbying, the Government has finally shifted direction. I welcome a number of the measures the Chancellor is now making to help protect people during this public health emergency and economic crisis.

The Chancellor keeps saying he would ‘do whatever it takes’. To show these aren’t just empty words, he can and should go further.

That means giving security for people who are self-employed and it means easing the strain on councils and charities who are on the front line of defence in combating the coronavirus pandemic.

It would be perverse to leave the self-employed out of the new support being put in place to help those whose livelihoods are increasing disrupted by the events of recent weeks.

I will continue to work constructively with Government, and lobbying Ministers for action, to protect Portsmouth people and to ensure the best possible response to the coronavirus crisis”.

The self-employed already lack all of the legal protections of redundancy and other rights already in place to help protect employees, including those they employ themselves, from a sudden lack of income.

The self-employed are also the most likely section of the workforce to suffer from a disability or health condition.

If any self-employed or small businesses in the constituency is looking for help, support is available from the FSB at www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/covid19.