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Still ways to safely back Portsmouth’s tourism sector amid Covid-19 says city MP in support of virtual English Tourism Week

Stephen Morgan MP, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, has taken part in the first ever “virtual” English Tourism Week, showing support for the industry and highlighting its importance to the local economy.

Overall the tourism industry in Portsmouth supports about 12,500 jobs and brings around £40 million to the local economy year on year. Between 2016 and 2018 an average of 658,000 domestic overnight trips were taken to Portsmouth per year, and in 2018  the top overseas tourism markets for Portsmouth were Germany, France and the Czech Republic. This year, there are concerns that Covid-19 could cause severe harm to businesses within the tourism sector, leading the city MP to encourage alternative participation in the city’s attractions.

English Tourism Week is an annual celebration of the tourism industry, a week dedicated to showcasing England’s tourism offer. For this year’s virtual event, being held from 25-31 May, Stephen Morgan MP is working with VisitEngland to shine the spotlight on the importance of tourism to the local, regional and national economy and pledge their support to the sector’s recovery.

Mr Morgan said:

“Our city boasts world-beating museums and historical assists spanning centuries, we must ensure that we all do our bit to preserve them for both the good of our cities culture and economy.

The Mary Rose Museum, D-Day Story and other major attractions have all taken measures to allow visitors to enjoy their experiences online.

On English Tourism Week, I urge all those who are disappointed not to be out enjoying our cities attractions to go online and see the outstanding efforts made to ensure some kind of visitor experience remains.”

VisitEngland Director Andrew Stokes said:

“English Tourism Week is all about highlighting the economic benefits that tourism brings to local economies, celebrating our diverse and exciting sector, and showcasing the quality, range and value of English tourism.

“While we cannot run events as usual this year, the spirit of the week has never been more important.  Tourism has been one of the first and hardest hit economic sectors due to the Covid-19 pandemic and this year’s virtual week is dedicated to showing support for the industry, the millions of people who work in it and the hundreds of thousands of businesses impacted.

“It is also about looking towards the future recovery and doing everything we can right now to ensure that tourism can bounce back to once again become one of the most successful and vibrant sectors of the economy.”

Tourism is one of England’s largest and most valuable industries, supporting hundreds of thousands of businesses, employing more than 2.6 million people and generating more than £106 billion a year for the English economy.

Stephen Morgan MP has been taking a number of steps amid this pandemic to support Portsmouth’s normally thriving tourism sector. He has already written to Minister’s on behalf of individual museums to outline financial struggles, asked parliamentary questions on small business support available to cultural assets, and remains in communication with the management of the cities tourism sector.

For more information about this year’s virtual English Tourism Week please see: https://www.visitbritain.org/english-tourism-week

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City MP responds to SAGE verdict that it is unsafe to reopen schools on 1 June

On 28 May 2020, the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies stated that it there was not evidence suggesting that it would be safe for schools to reopen. Despite this, Government remains committed to opening early next month.

Alongside teachers’ unions, and after listening to constituents’ concerns, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has taken a number of important actions to hold the government to account for this decision-making.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Government continues to repeat that we must be led by science but continues to ignore the advice of Independent SAGE when it comes to school reopening.

Returning to school is a priority for the sake of pupils’ education and well-being however I believe schools should only open when it is safe to do so.

Teachers do a fantastic job in educating our children and young people and have been working throughout this pandemic to support the families they work with.

Whilst I welcome efforts made by the city council in engaging schools and teaching unions, I remain concerned that the Government has failed to provide assurances to parents, school staff, and pupils, only publishing their plans a few days before the end of half term”.

On 28 May 2020 the Prime Minister said the Government will move forward with its plan for some pupils to return to schools in England from 1 June 2020.

On the same day, the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies stated that “decisions on school opening should be guided by evidence that there are low levels of Covid-19 infections in the local community in which the school is situated and the ability to rapidly respond to new infections through a well-functioning, coordinated, local test, track and isolate strategy.”

SAGE argued that it has “seen no compelling evidence that these conditions have so far been met across the country”. They continued to say, “Until they are, it is not safe to open schools everywhere on June 1.”

The city MP added:

“The Government has repeatedly been asked to set up a taskforce of education unions, parents’ organisations and health experts to agree upon a series of practical safety measures that must be met before any date for reopening was confirmed.

It is vital that the Government carries the confidence of trade unions, school staff and parents. It must work closely with them to ensure safety concerns are addressed.

I will continue to hold government to account for, what has been so far, deeply misguided decision-making.

The need to get this right could not be more important, all choices must be informed by evidence and fact. Pupil and teacher safety must come first”.

Stephen Morgan MP has been taking a variety of actions on schools returning for some time, concerns over the safety and well-being of pupils and school staff.

Already he has written out to all schools in the constituency during this crisis, hosted a ‘School Call’ open consultation with parents; liaised with teaching unions and city council; written to the Education Secretary with local concerns; and continues to raise the matter in Parliament.

He continues to join frontbench colleagues in calling for government to set up taskforce. A copy of the report from Stephen’s School Call and the concerns raised by participants can be found on his website.

 

 

 

 

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Covid-19: Report reveals surge in city’s unemployment claims even greater than previously thought

Independent research conducted by the House of Commons Library has found that ‘unadjusted’ unemployment claims amid Covid-19 in Portsmouth South have drastically risen.

The unadjusted claimant count includes those who were claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or were claiming Universal Credit and are required to seek work.

The figures show that in Portsmouth South, unadjusted unemployment claimants were a staggering 123% higher in April 2020 than April 2019. They also reveal that there was a 66% surge between March 2020 and April 2020. The stats also reveal that Portsmouth has been hit 8% harder than the UK national average.

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The fact we are in a crisis means that we should allow for a slight increase in unemployment claimants, but there is truly no excuse for a 123% surge within just a year. These figures also reveal that Portsmouth South is being hit harder than the rest of the UK. Time after time, our community bears the brunt of Tory austerity.

Behind each figure is a family forced to live on far less and people struggling under the financial pressures of this crisis.

Countless constituents have got in touch with me to express that they aren’t eligible for government support. From not being covered because they are paid in dividends to not being eligible for furlough, people are falling through the gaps.”

These unadjusted figures include those who were claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or were claiming Universal Credit and are required to seek work. Unlike the ‘alternative count’ the ‘unadjusted count’ is not adjusted to consider the roll-out of Universal Credit.

This gives a more accurate picture of how the number of claimants has changed in response to the coronavirus pandemic and shows the scale of the problem is actually far greater.

Labour is calling on the government to agree five urgent social security measures to provide immediate support to people affected by the coronavirus crisis:

  • Convert Universal Credit advances into grants instead of loans, ending the five-week wait
  • Remove the £16,000 savings limit which disqualifies individuals from accessing Universal Credit
  • Suspend the benefit cap
  • Abolish the two-child limit in Universal Credit and tax credits
  • Uprate legacy benefits to match the increase in Universal Credit, providing an immediate increase in Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance

Mr Morgan added:

“I have already written to the Chancellor twice, submitted a string of written questions, backed Labour’s calls for urgent social security measures and continue to help individuals with casework relating to a lack of financial support.

We all want government to get this right. We all lose if they do not. I will continue to constructively highlight where gaps in their support exist and lobby hard for more far reaching financial packages. My work goes on in parliament holding this government to account for its substandard social security record.”

Figures for both series (unadjusted and alternative) are available on the House of Commons Library’s dashboard:

https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/social-policy/welfare-pensions/benefits/constituency-data-people-claiming-unemployment-benefits/

 

 

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The British people were looking for at least an apology today

Since the Dominic Cummings story broke Stephen Morgan MP has been inundated by messages and emails from Portsmouth people angry and frustrated by Mr Cummings’ actions and the Government’s handling of the crisis.

The most heartfelt has been from those who have lost loved-ones as a result of Covid-19, unable to see relatives due to the restrictions to pay their respects.

Responding to the statement in the garden of Downing Street, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The actions of the Prime Minister’s most senior political adviser are an insult to the sacrifices made by the British people.

We now know from the Downing Street garden statement that Mr Cummings broke at least three lockdown rules: returning to work when his wife was ill; driving to his parents’ home in Durham and taking a day trip to Barnard Castle.

Many families in our city faced similar dreadful dilemmas yet respected the restrictions on daily life and obeyed the lockdown.

As constituents are telling me, it’s one rule for Mr Johnson’s closet adviser and another rule for everyone else.

The British people were looking for at least an apology from Dominic Cummings for breaking the lockdown. They got none. A huge amount of damage has now been done.

I will continue to hold the Government to account to address constituents’ concerns”.

 

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“This was a test of leadership for the Prime Minister and he has failed”

Responding to the Prime Minister’s statement tonight following media reports that his most senior government adviser broke the government’s own lockdown rules on several occasions, Labour have said this was a test for Mr Johnson which he has failed.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“What we heard from the Prime Minister this evening is the opposite of everything people in our city has been living in order to get through this hideous pandemic.

We can be rightly proud of the enduring determination we have seen across our communities to do the right thing for everyone, and not just live by own instincts and self-interest.

As one constituent has written to me this evening, they have tragically lost three close family members during this crisis receiving a phone call about the last bereavement as they heard the excuses from the Government on TV. I share their anger and frustration and in their words are ‘appalled by the Prime Minister’s arrogance and disregard’. 

This is not leadership from the Mr Johnson. The sacrifice Portsmouth people are making is real and for many the actions we’ve learnt this weekend really hurts”.

Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Labour Party, added:

“This was a test of the Prime Minister and he has failed it.

 It is an insult to sacrifices made by the British people that Boris Johnson has chosen to take no action against Dominic Cummings. The public will be forgiven for thinking there is one rule for the Prime Minister’s closest adviser and another for the British people.

The Prime Minister’s actions have undermined confidence in his own public health message at this crucial time.

Millions were watching for answers and they got nothing. That’s why the Cabinet Secretary must now launch an urgent inquiry.”

 

 

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“No one in our city deserves this behaviour from those at the top of Government” says city MP

Responding to news reports this weekend that the Prime Minister’s senior adviser broke the government’s own lockdown rules on several occasions, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP says ‘no one in our city deserves this behaviour from those at the top of Government’.

Reacting to the story unfolding in the last couple of days the Portsmouth South representative said:

“The British public deserve answers on Dominic Cummings’ behaviour. The Prime Minister needs to come to the press conference this afternoon and explain what happened. There cannot be one rule for the Prime Minister’s most senior adviser and another, for the rest of us.

Everyone has made incredible sacrifices sticking to the rules. Our police and local authorities have worked tirelessly to encourage us to respect the restrictions. It has been stressful and difficult for all in our city.

I’ve heard so many heart-felt stories from Portsmouth families unable to see loved ones, grandparents who have not seen their grandchildren for months, or relatives not able to attend funerals of those who have tragically passed away during this crisis.

The coronavirus response requires the trust and confidence of the British public. I understand why Portsmouth people are so angry about this and how it is being handled. No one in our city deserves this behaviour from those at the top of Government.

The Cabinet Office must now investigate this incident thoroughly and swiftly”.

 

 

 

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Portsmouth MP pleads with constituents to respect restrictions

Responding to recent concerns from constituents about anti-social behaviour and people not following social distancing guidance on Southsea Common, the Hotwalls and in parks across the constituency, ahead of the Bank Holiday Stephen Morgan MP has written an open letter to all residents urging continued ‘respect for the lockdown restrictions’.

In the personal letter, published on all social media platforms on Saturday morning, the city MP pleads with constituents by saying:

“As we approach another sunny Bank Holiday, we must redouble these efforts. If we fall at the last hurdle, we could face months more social distancing measures and run the risk of harm to our loved ones”. 

A copy of the letter can be found below:

Open letter

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister says troops ‘let down’ in response to armed forces attitudes survey

The annual armed forces continuous attitude survey (AFCAS) is one of the main ways to gather information on the views and experiences of our personnel. For the tenth year running, it has shown government’s failure to address declining satisfaction and morale.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP, has called out Ministers for failing to address these deeply concerning numbers and drawn attention to the outstanding role our armed forces are continuing to do amid this pandemic.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister said:

“Since this government came to power, they have failed to address a growing feeling of dissatisfaction and dwindling morale among our armed forces.

Year on year the attitude survey has revealed deep set failings which government is yet to act on. I am deeply concerned that our troops are being let down.

Our armed forces deserve so much more than dwindling satisfaction in pay, morale and general wellbeing. It is high time that troop satisfaction reflects the amount the nation relies upon them.”

Commenting on the release of the annual Armed Forces Continuous Attitudes Survey, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, John Healey MP said:

“Crude Conservative defence cuts have undermined the wellbeing of our armed forces.

“These figures show a decade of discontent under the Tories, with satisfaction with military life, pay and pensions all falling since 2010.

“After years of neglect, Ministers must now rebuild military morale.”

The information from this survey helps shape policies for training, support, and the terms and conditions of service. It is also a useful indicator or how armed forces personnel feel, data usually difficult to obtain.

The 2020 survey published yesterday revealed that satisfaction with service life in general has fallen from 60% in 2010 to 45% in 2020, personal morale has fallen from 52% expressing high morale in 2010 to 41% in 2020 and satisfaction with basic pay has fallen from 52% in 2010 to 39% in 2020.

Stephen Morgan MP added:

“Beyond revealing a decade of failure to address troops’ concerns, the survey paints a damning picture of how government treats a service the nation is relying on it its time of need.

Armed Forces personnel are delivering for nation amid Covid-19 by helping administer PPE, setting up test centres, and aiding local authorities. It is a grave injustice that this government relies on them so heavily but refuses to act on their grievances for a decade.

I will continue to work with colleagues in applying pressure to Ministers to act on the findings of this survey and address the needs of our armed forces.”

The annual Armed Forces Continuous Attitudes Survey has been openly published and is available: www.gov.uk/government/statistics/armed-forces-continuous-attitude-survey-2020

 

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“It falls on all our shoulders to help people through the front door” says Portsmouth MP encouraging men to access mental health support

During Mental Health Awareness Week, city MP Stephen Morgan joined local mental health providers and service users to discuss ways to encourage men to access mental health support.

Welcoming efforts by Solent NHS Trust to bring services and people together to raise awareness and help co-ordinate local provision, Stephen Morgan MP listened to practitioners and service users in a zoom conference call.

On the challenges men face as a result of Covid-19, the city MP said:

“I share the concerns of the Mens’ Health Forum on the impact of Covid-19 on the physical and mental wellbeing of men and the risks of a spike in addictive behaviours and suicide.

With restrictions on being able to go outside, not seeing loved ones and anxiety about family and friends getting coronavirus, 60% of adults are reporting that their mental health has got worse during lockdown and over a third describe their mental health as currently poor or very poor”.

Mahdi Ghomi, Clinical Director and Consultant Psychologist at Solent NHS Trust, said:

“We are delighted to have hosted our first ‘Men & Mental Health’ Zoom chat and grateful to our guests, including Stephen Morgan MP, for their very positive engagement.

Men are historically under-represented in mental health services and yet are sadly at a greater risk of dying from suicide attempts. The NHS is here to help men in our communities to have a voice and feel enabled to access the mental health support they deserve.”

Mental health charity MIND are calling on the Government to take a number of steps to prioritise mental wellbeing during this public health emergency.

Their demands include ensuring the continued availability of mental health services; ensuring people with mental health problems detained under the Mental Health Act can be treated in a safe environment, have their rights protected, and have access to support to help them recover; prioritising support for young people’s mental health and wellbeing as part of plans for re-opening schools; and ensuring urgent investment in the mental health workforce and estate to support mental health services to deal with additional demand from the coronavirus crisis.

These demands have been acknowledged by Stephen Morgan MP and continue to inform his ongoing work on the availability of mental health support and as a champion for investment in these services.

Recognising the work of local service providers and charities supporting men with their mental health, Stephen Morgan MP added:

“Not just in Mental Health Awareness Week I want to shine a spotlight on the important work of Solent NHS Trust, Solent Mind and charities and local groups across our communities who are working tirelessly to ensure the continued availability of mental health services.

The zoom call acted as a reminder that it falls on all our shoulders to help get people through the front door to seek mental health support.

I will continue to work with others to put support for people with mental health problems, and for our nation’s mental health, at the heart of their coronavirus response and the country’s recovery plan”.

 

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Covid-19: How Portsmouth’s services are working hard to keep us safe this weekend

Following concerns raised with Stephen Morgan MP over recent days about anti-social behaviour on Southsea Common, the Hotwalls, other public spaces including parks in Milton, Fratton, and across the whole constituency, Stephen continues to take action on behalf of constituents to ensure the police, council and other bodies are doing all they can to address issues.

As result of further conversations, lobbying and liaison with senior officers today, the following is an update on efforts by key public services and what we can expect this weekend for the Bank Holiday to manage the situation:

Hampshire Constabulary efforts

 Stephen is in regular contact with the District Commander and his senior leadership team and receives a full briefing on the police’s response to the coronavirus crisis weekly.

The police locally have dedicated Covid patrol teams, who will be resourced for Portsmouth this weekend. They also have response and patrol teams with a patrol plan to focus upon locations, where the community have guided the force to consider in relation to groups gathering and breaches of Covid-19 guidance compliance taking place.

Community Wardens will also be patrolling across the city including supporting the Hotwalls area and Southsea Common.

Working with the city council additional security will be provided in some locations and a community advisers foot team will be pro-active in engaging with the public again on social distancing.

Street Pastors will also be providing support engaging with members of the public, and the Ministry of Defence police will be on duty assisting across the constituency.

Portsmouth City Council efforts

Stephen has also been liaising with the city council over what they can do to address issues being raised.  Officers have assured me they are very aware of the gathering of groups in recent days but inform me the vast majority of users of both the seafront and parks spaces are families and the general public practicing effect social distancing which having picnics, BBQs or taking exercise.

The council are taking forward our concerns with some additional measures to ensure public open spaces are as safely accessible as possible.

They have arranged a wide range of staff to be present across the seafront and city parks and specifically this weekend there will be officers supporting and responding to any physical damage all across the seafront from beach huts to notice boards; teams managing the deployment of resources across the open spaces; grounds maintenance providing the cleansing service across the grassed areas; a Community Advisor team – walking patrols who operate from the Hotwalls to Canoe Lake offering pro-active advice on social distancing and general information and the Seafront Management responsive to issues as they arise

In addition to these, council staff at PCC have also contracted additional security to have a presence at the Hotwalls area, especially when we feel the weather and tides are likely to be attractive to visitors. They are scheduled to have a presence in this area throughout the weekend.

On top of this they have are deploying 350+ additional high visibility signs to support social distancing right across the seafront area. The signs are gradually being enhanced with further messaging to support the recent government changes to how people can use spaces, and these are being rolled out from today.

The council’s social media will also remain very active from encouraging only sensible involvement in water activities in light of there currently being no lifeguard presence across the seafront, to ensuring the public are clear on the road closures.  The road closures remain in place to support safer social distancing and to support the increased numbers of cyclists using the seafront area.  A specific Bank Holiday campaign is asking people to please follow the guidance, stay home as much as they can – and do not visit Portsmouth yet.

The council has instigated a daily checking of provision such as beach huts and sites where fitness equipment is located, again to ensure the correct messaging out to the public and also to ensure that any fencing or closure measures we have had to put in place remain secure.

We are very aware of the gathering of groups of young men on the Common in the last couple of days but up the vast majority of users of both the seafront and parks spaces are families and the general public practicing effect social distancing which having picnics, BBQs or taking exercise.

What enforcement powers do authorities have?

The police and local authorities have the powers to enforce the requirements set out in law if people do not comply with them. If you breach these regulations, the police may: instruct you to go home, leave an area or disperse; instruct you to take steps to stop your children breaking these rules if they have already done so; or; take you home, or arrest you, where they believe it necessary

The police will act with discretion and common sense in applying these measures and we expect the public to act responsibly, staying at home in order to save lives.

However, if the police believe that you have broken the law – or if you refuse to follow their instructions enforcing the law – a police officer may issue you with a fixed penalty notice for £60 (reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days). If you have already received a fixed penalty notice, the amount will increase to £120 and double on each further repeat offence, up to a maximum of £960.

Stephen understands the government are keeping this under review and will increase the penalties if necessary to ensure compliance.

Update on incidents in recent days

Four people have been arrested following a public order incident at Southsea Common. Officers were called at 6.09pm on Thursday 21 May to a report of a fight amongst a large group of people. Shortly afterwards, we received a report that a group of males were trying to gain access to a property in Nightingale Road. Officers arrived and four people were arrested.

Those arrested are:

  • A 21-year-old man from Essex, arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon in a public place
  • Two 17-year-old boys from Portsmouth, both arrested on suspicion of wounding with intent and possession of a psychoactive substance with intent to supply
  • A 16-year-old boy from Portsmouth, arrested on suspicion of wounding with intent and possession of a psychoactive substance with intent to supply

All four remain in police custody. A meat cleaver and bottles were seized. Three boys attended Queen Alexandra Hospital following this incident. No serious injuries were reported.

As a result of this incident and the associated anti-social behaviour, a dispersal order has been authorised, which will run from 4pm today (Friday 22 May) until 3:59pm on Sunday 24 May and covers the areas of Southsea Common and immediate surrounding roads and The Hot Walls in Old Portsmouth.

The order gives a police officer the power to order a person to leave the area for a 48-hour period with no return. Refusal to comply with the order is a criminal offence.

The order, which has to be authorised by a police inspector, is made under the Anti Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (Section 34).

Government support to Portsmouth

Stephen continues to lobby Government to make sure local public services have the resources they need to respond to the pandemic. He remains concerned by how stretched local services are and the impact this has. He has written to the relevant Secretary of State to urge for the department to give the council and police extra power and resources to deal with the anti-social behaviour being undertaken in the constituency. He will continue to work with others on this important lobbying work.

Separately the Government have published new guidance on enforcement this week which Stephen is keen to ensure local service providers utilise as quickly as possible.

Updated 23 May 2020 at 08.00