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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: 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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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.

 

 

 

 

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Portsmouth MP urges Government to support charities at time of crisis

Taking action after hearing concerns from Portsmouth’s voluntary and community sector, city MP Stephen Morgan is calling on the Government to support charities as they help the most vulnerable through the public health emergency and economic crisis

The Portsmouth South representative, formerly a charity chief executive himself, has already this week written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer raising concerns from the city’s voluntary and community sector.

A number of local groups and charities across Portsmouth have been reaching out to older people, vulnerable and high risk groups, whilst residents have been setting up online support groups to share advice and information.

Now working with NCVO, an umbrella group for the charities, he is calling on the government to do more to support.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“We are in unprecedented times, but history has shown us what the charitable sector is capable of. I see for myself day in, day out, the difference voluntary and community groups make to people’s lives in Portsmouth.

They are already stepping up to protect the most vulnerable during this national crisis, and with Government support, they can do even more”.

A number of charities help alleviate the pressure on our NHS and social care services and provide support to people suffering from the economic and social impact of the pandemic, as well as helping with everything from mental health impacts to support for vulnerable families.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), and the Charity Finance Group have issued their own urgent calls to protect the charity sector.

Joining other MPs and these national associations calling on the Government to act Stephen Morgan MP added:

“Without an immediate injection of money, many charities of all sizes will soon close. Charity funds are running out, and some are already considering redundancies.

The NCVO predicts that charities will miss out on a minimum of £4.3bn of income over the coming 12 weeks. The figure could be far higher”.

The NCVO are requesting Government to:

  • Provide immediate emergency funding for frontline charities and volunteers supporting the response to the coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis
  • Provide a ‘stabilisation fund’ for all charities to help them stay afloat, pay staff and continue operating during the course of the pandemic
  • Establish an emergency grant fund
  • Confirm that charities are eligible for similar business interruption measures announced for business.
  • Urgently clarify the situation for the differing governance models of charities
  • Work with the UK’s largest philanthropic organisations and foundations, the National Lottery and others to identify grant funding which can be drawn down early over the coming days, or in addition from their reserves and existing grant programmes to help fill the growing gaps in the sector.

As well as this national lobbying the Portsmouth South MP is working with HIVE Portsmouth to ensure local voluntary and community efforts to help residents during this difficult time, are co-ordinated and helping the most vulnerable.

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City MP takes action to protect Portsmouth’s small businesses

Stephen Morgan MP has today taken local business concerns over Covid-19 directly to the government following concerns from city pubs, clubs and shop owners.

The Portsmouth South MP has raised concerns over the implications of the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday. Namely, the fact that the government is advising people not to visit pubs, clubs, restaurants, coffee shops, and other small businesses rather than issuing a blanket ban.

This runs the risk of insurers not covering a loss of earnings, which many small businesses claim could put them out of business.

The city MP also called for emergency action to protect the self-employed who have do have the same structural protection as in-house staff.

Mr Morgan said:

“In a time of crisis ambiguity can be problematic. The government’s advice not to visit small businesses has put a stop to earnings for countless Portsmouth people. But their failure to implement a blanket ban has largely voided any chance of insurers acting to safeguard those affected.

There are also many countless solo self-employed who do not possess enough savings to weather the storm the Covid-19.

While I understand the need to prioritise public health, the Government has a responsibility to safeguard the livelihoods of hardworking people and our communities’ economy. “

The Federation of Small Businesses has specifically cited the fact many self-employed people will have no HR department to give them guidance as to what to do, no sick pay to fall back on, and may well find that there is little work coming in.

Mr Morgan added:

“Portsmouth’s vibrancy is based on its thriving independent small businesses that are often family-run and dependant on regular footfall. We cannot afford to lose this part of our communities’ identity.

Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, I will continue to act as a voice for the community I proudly represent. We are a resilient city, but we also need the government to give us the tools to fight against this pandemic.

I will be liaising with those organisations that support small businesses in our community to see how they can coordinate a package of support for those affected in Portsmouth.”

The city MP has described small businesses as the nation’s bedrock and vowed to put pressure on government to take measures to safeguard their interests throughout this crisis.

Current advice from Government for employers and businesses can be found: here and here.

Mr Morgan is lobbying the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to support Portsmouth’s small businesses.

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Stephen Morgan MP addresses constituents in letter on Covid-19

Dear constituent

Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, as an infectious disease, is currently experiencing a global outbreak. We have all seen the media reports from China, Iran, and Italy, and many countries are now reporting cases. Here in the UK, the number of reported cases is rising every day.

Fortunately, the vast majority of people who catch the virus will only ever suffer from a mild-to-moderate illness with similar symptoms to the flu. But it is older people and those with pre-existing health conditions to whom the risks associated with contracting Coronavirus are greater.

Understandably concern is growing, including here in Portsmouth. There have been reports of people buying essential hygiene products such as hand sanitiser, soap, and toilet paper off the shelves. Panic is understandable in the face of the unknown.

The British Retail Consortium has advised against stockpiling, especially food items. They are working hard to ensure that supply chains are maintained during the Coronavirus outbreak, meaning that people have no need to worry about item shortages if stockpiling ceases.

Public Health England has said that the best way you can keep yourself, your loved ones and everyone else around you safe is to frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. And of course, maintenance of good general hygiene is encouraged.

Whilst it’s unclear how things are going to develop over the coming weeks and months, or the impact it could have on our freedoms, our city’s economy or on our public services, I encourage calm. Many of us are going to be absolutely fine even under the Government’s worst-case scenario.

I would, however, urge that we take care of our city’s oldest and most vulnerable; something that’s not a bad habit to get into anyway. Official advice from the NHS can be found at www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

I want constituents in Portsmouth to be reassured that measures are being put in place to prevent the spread of the virus where possible. I will keep raising our views and concerns in Parliament and work hard so that the services we all rely on, have the resources they need to keep us safe.

 

Stephen Morgan MP

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“Let’s make cycling easier and accessible to all” vows Portsmouth MP after teaming up with Brompton Bike Hire

City MP Stephen Morgan is taking action to make it cheaper and easier to get around Portsmouth by bike. He is working with others including Brompton Bike Hire to set the wheels turning.

The action follows meetings with Brompton representatives in Portsmouth in a bid to encourage the city council to do more to encourage active travel to tackle the climate crisis.

After direct discussions with the Portsmouth Cycle Forum and Brompton, the Portsmouth South MP has now written to the local authority to urge them to retain the current Brompton Cycle Hire Hub based at Portsmouth Harbour, encourage new sites for the hire scheme across the city centre and enable people on low incomes to access the bikes to get round the city.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“People have told me they want to get out on the bike more but either can’t afford it, don’t know enough about how to get involved or don’t feel safe. If we are going to tackle climate change and air pollution crisis, this needs to change.

The council working in partnership more with Brompton Bike Hire and locating additional hubs across our city’s communities will help people get moving in a greener way, and in turn make Portsmouth less polluted.

That is why I am continuing to lobby hard for a greater presence of the Brompton Hire Scheme here in Portsmouth.

I’ve long argued the council need to do more to encourage cycling and make it easier for people to get on a bike. This is an off the shelf solution ready to go”.

Julian Scriven, Managing Director of Brompton Bike Hire said:

“Brompton is committed to changing the way people move around cities.

We are delighted Stephen Morgan MP shares this vision and is demonstrating a real drive at both a local and national level to promote active travel”.

First installed in other parts of the country in April 2011, Brompton Bike Hire was created to address the clear need for a cycle hire scheme that is accessible to all, easy and cheap to install and run and economical to use.

 

The British company expanded rapidly across the UK including to Portsmouth, first providing a facility at the city’s park and ride station, then moving it to Portsmouth Habour station.

A focus of Mr Morgan’s action is helping people on low incomes to access a bike hire scheme. On this he added:

“Cycling should be for the many not just the privileged or brave. Following discussions with Brompton on their recent visit to Portsmouth I am delighted that they are willing to partner with housing associations and the council to offer free membership to those in social and affordable housing.

I will be continuing to work with local campaigners to lobby for more hubs to be put in areas of the city where they are most needed.

I have put this offer to the city council to help Portsmouth people. I look forward to a positive response to improve the assets available across all our communities.”

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Portsmouth MP backs Bill to reduce cost of school uniform

A proposed new law that will reduce the cost of school uniforms for hard-pressed families has won the backing of Stephen Morgan MP.

The MP for Portsmouth South has pledged his support for the Bill, introduced by fellow Labour MP Mike Amesbury, that would aim to strengthen existing guidance encouraging schools to keep down costs.

The Bill is gaining cross-party support and has won the backing of the government.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“According to research by the Children’s Society, families are spending an average of around £337 per year on uniform for each child at secondary school, while parents of primary school children spent £315 on average.

This is having a hugely detrimental impact on many of my constituents and I really hope that we can get this bill passed into law and alleviate what has become a financial burden for so many families.”

Mike Amesbury MP added:

“I’m delighted to receive the support of Stephen Morgan MP.

His backing is crucial if this bill is to become law and I firmly believe it will have a hugely beneficial impact not only to those people in both of our constituencies, but to families right across the country too.”

Mr Morgan was present in the House of Commons today as the bill had its second reading. It now must gain the support of MPs if it is to become law.

The Bill is progressing as the Children’s Society today launched the latest in their ‘The Wrong Blazer’  series of reports, making the case for action to tackle the cost of school uniform.  The organisation supports the Bill.

The Portsmouth South MP added:

“School is a place where young people should be able to aim high, work hard and achieve. They should be able to pursue their goals free from any additional pressure around uniform.

I know many Portsmouth families work relentlessly to support their children in their academic endeavours but when 1 in 8 families get into debt trying to keep up with uniform costs, change needs to happen.

I will continue to support legislation that works to this end.”

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City MP takes local child poverty concerns to very top as he delivers searing question in Parliament

Stephen Morgan MP has forced the Work and Pensions Secretary to answer concerns over child poverty in Portsmouth.

Mr Morgan’s line of questioning comes amid a bleak backdrop of 4.1 million children now growing up in relative poverty. A figure 500,000 larger than it was in 2010-11.

Mr Morgan said

“The Child Poverty Action Group published a study of children and food in low-income families. It detailed movingly the lives of children who go hungry and the impact on their health, education and friendships.

It showed that some children were ashamed to invite friends home because they had no food to offer them.

Under this government’s watch cases of this nature have been allowed to reach unprecedented levels. Today I put these heart wrenching accounts to the Minister responsible and demanded action over this grave injustice.”

The proportion of children in poverty who are under the age of five has risen from 51% to 53% (over 2 million children). The figures also reveal that 70% of children in poverty were living in working families in 2017-18 – up from 67% the previous year.

Mr Morgan added:

“In Portsmouth South we know that nearly 37% of children are living in poverty. In areas such as Charles Dickens, this is as high as over 50%.

Child poverty is one of the most potent drivers of ill health, not just in childhood but throughout life.

If government is letting down Portsmouth people at the beginning of their lives, this will adverse effects for decades to come. People in our city deserve better.”

Mr Morgan’s work on this issue follows a report by The Children’s Society detailing the hundreds of pounds parents are having to find for uniform costs, sometimes at the expense of food. The MP is backing a new law that would introduce statutory guidance for schools that would help to rein in the soaring costs of school uniforms and save parents money.

This is not the first time Mr Morgan has taken action over child poverty. The city MP backed a Private Members Bill tabled by a colleague, raised the issue in ‘Challenge Poverty Week’ and has highlighted the link between the benefit cap and poverty.