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City MP backs call for action on animal cruelty during the lockdown

Labour has today called for the Government to take action on animal cruelty, with fears that there has been spike due to the lockdown.

Stephen Morgan MP has backed the Shadow Environment Secretary’s letter to his opposite number, the Environment Secretary, putting pressure the Government to deliver on a long-awaited increase of sentences for those found convicted of animal cruelty.

The RSPCA reported at the end of April that, since the Government announced the lockdown on Monday 23 March, their animal rescuers had already dealt with 21,137 incidents of animal cruelty and suffering animals which needed help.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Stricter sentences for animal abusers are long overdue. The point of parliament returning amid Covid-19 is so we can get important legislation like this sorted.

The fact animal abuse has grown amid this pandemic only enhances the need for government to do something about it. It would be a great loss of time, taxpayer’s money and resources if all the progress on this is lost so far.

We must send a strong message to all those who mistreat their pets that parliament will not waver when it comes paving the way for stricter penalties. I join colleagues in calling on government to seize control of this bill and show leadership in combating the abuse of animals.”

Due to Parliament sitting for fewer days because of the coronavirus crisis there is a real risk that the Private Members Bill that would increase prison sentences from the current six months to five years will fall.

This is because there are not enough sitting days that will consider private members bills between now and the expected Queen’s Speech in the autumn. Luke Pollard has asked the Government to take control of the existing Private Member’s Bill and adopt it as a Government Bill, to make sure it becomes law.

Luke Pollard MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, said:

“Increasing prison sentences for animal cruelty enjoys strong cross-party support but this bill has been delayed and delayed again. With the lockdown making this measure urgent, we are calling on the Government to ensure this measure becomes law urgently.

“We cannot have more dither and delay – it is our duty to make sure all pets are protected, and the Government must act now or more animals will suffer.”

 

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‘Major questions remain’ over plan for dentists to reopen says city MP seeking answers in Parliament

Government has announced that dental practices can start to reopen on the 8 June. However, practitioners and the British Dental Association (BDA) have expressed grave concern over the lack of warning and what this means for PPE and training amid Covid-19.

A poll conducted by the BDA of 2,053 practices in England suggests that just over a third (36%) plan to reopen on Monday. The BDA poll identified a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) as one of the major challenges to reopening, with only one third of practices saying they had enough to provide face-to-face care.

In an effort to get answers, Stephen Morgan MP has submitted a chain of targeted questions directly to the Health Secretary. Turning up the heat on the Secretary of State, he probed on how government is supporting the supply of PPE and raised concerns over the lack of warning and engagement.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The fact that government has failed to properly engage with practices before announcing the reopening and failed to take steps to secure PPE is another example of dentistry being treated as the Cinderella service.

Additional costs incurred for procuring PPE, providing training, and putting in place social distancing measures could undermine the financial stability of a number of practices. In addition, the lack of warning simply means that over a third will not be able to open. The effect of this is people requiring dental work will have to wait even longer before receiving essential healthcare.

I hope that turning the heat up on the Health Secretary through questions in parliament, I will help get answers to some of the questions raised by government’s unclear messaging on reopening.”

Decontamination and social distancing policies mean longer treatment slots, with surgeries sometimes sitting idle between patients – leaving many practices unable to maintain their financial viability in the face of fewer patients and higher costs.

BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said:

“Anyone expecting dentistry to magically return on Monday will find only a skeleton service. Those practices reopening now face fewer patients and higher costs and will struggle to meet demand.

Dentists returning to work still lack the support offered to our neighbours on the high street, and even clarity on key worker status when it comes to childcare. Ministers must change tack if dentistry is going to survive the new normal.”

Stephen Morgan MP has long argued that government must pay more attention to the silent creeping crisis in dentistry. Last year, when news broke that 1 in 5 Portsmouth children suffer from tooth decay by the time they are 5 years old, Mr Morgan took a number of actions.

This included meeting with senior NHS England officials, the Director of the British Dental Association, grilling the Minister responsible in parliament, and writing to the Health Secretary to push for improvements.

The city MP added:

“The cycle of complacency shown by Government towards NHS dentistry must come to an end. I have long argued for the need for a coherent oral health strategy that has patients at the heart of it and is focused on access and prevention, and NHS dentistry that is adequately commissioned and funded.

The recent developments arising due to the pandemic only increase the need for government to urgently address the lack of support for dentistry.

I will continue to engage with the BDA and local practices on behalf of constituents to ensure that concerns are raised in Parliament.”

 

 

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City MP urges Portsmouth businesses to have their say over coronavirus pandemic

Stephen Morgan MP has urged local businesses to take part in a survey organised by the University of Portsmouth seeking to shine a torch on some of the difficulties currently being faced.

On behalf of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Resilience Forum, the university launched the survey to help understand the evolving and emerging needs, challenges and aspirations faced by businesses.

The online survey will ask respondents a series of questions to collect views about the impact of coronavirus on their business, what support is needed and future business outcomes.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Many of the thriving businesses in this city have been greatly affected by this pandemic. Whether they have had to furlough workers or found themselves ineligible for government support, Covid-19 has had an effect on all.

I welcome this work being conducted by the University of Portsmouth that will help us understand more about circumstances faced by our business community. The more we know about the initial impacts of Covid-19 on business the better we can understand what additional support may be needed.

I urge those with business interests in our city to take part and help inform the discussion about what happens next.”

The survey results will be analysed and published in a freely available report for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Resilience Forum (and its members) in order to help businesses in the whole of Hampshire & Isle of Wight region, including Portsmouth and Southampton.

Stephen Morgan MP has been continually taking action on behalf of the small business sector since the onset of the pandemic. Lobbying the Chancellor, liaising with the BEIS department, working with the Federation of Small Business, raising matters in parliament through written questions and constructively engaging with Ministers on problems are just some of the ways the city MP has been taking action.

Peter Hooley, Director of Business Development at the University of Portsmouth, said:

“The University, led by the Faculty of Business and Law, is playing its part as a member of the Solent business community to support our partners and friends during the coronavirus pandemic.

 Data on the evolving and emerging business needs of the region will be critical to ensure that the community directs its efforts where they are most needed.

It is important that there is a clear understanding of business needs, challenges and aspirations underpinned by a solid evidence base.”

You can complete the survey, which will take about 10 minutes, here https://portsmouth.fra1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_82qoj7setyXCqNv

 

 

 

 

 

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Statement from Stephen Morgan MP on the killing of George Floyd

The shocking and tragic murder of George Floyd by US police has shaken the world. Stephen Morgan MP has expressed deep concern over the way President Trump has reacted to events.

The Portsmouth South representative has expressed solidarity with those carrying out peaceful and safe protests across the globe.

Mr Morgan has also raised the importance of reflection and real action on racism in our own communities and stressed that this is a ‘heinous reminder’ that hatred is alive in the world.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The harrowing footage of the murder of George Floyd has quite rightly shaken the world. Tragically this is not a one-off event. It is endemic of a deep-set rot of racism that has infiltrated every aspect of society.

If an innocent man can be killed in broad daylight by US police, then racism at every part of society must be present.

I support the peaceful protests across the United States, organised by the Black Lives Matter group. George Floyd must not become just another name. His shocking death should be the catalyst for change around the world”.

The Portsmouth South MP has stressed the responsibility on those in all communities, including Portsmouth, to take action to drum out racism wherever it is encountered. Mr Morgan added:

While the Black Lives Matter protestors in America are on the frontier of the battle for civil rights and their peaceful resilience is an inspiration, there are things that we can do here in Portsmouth to stamp the racist rot.

Although George Floyd’s tragic murder was across the Atlantic, it is a chilling reminder that racism is alive in the world. Voices must be heard otherwise complacency and failure to address racism in our own country will remain a grave injustice.

There remains considerable violence, prejudice and inequality against BAME communities happening across the UK. Down to the marrow of our society, there are economic, social and political injustices that stem from a lack of governmental support and action. I therefore renew my commitment to call out repression, fight injustice and work with others to create a fairer more equal city not just for today’s generation, but for tomorrow’s.

To build a better society we must start here in Portsmouth and we must stand in solidarity together against racism and injustice around the world”.

Following concerns raised by constituents, to see city MP’s statement on the export of riot control equipment to the US, click here

 

 

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City MP backs call to halt exports of riot control equipment to US amid Black Lives Matter protests

Stephen Morgan MP has demanded the urgent suspension of exports of riot equipment to the United States amid protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd by police.

According to the government’s latest Strategic Export Controls: Country Pivot report, the UK has recently issued licences for the export of a variety of riot control projectiles and equipment to the United States, including anti-riot/ballistic shields, anti-riot guns, components for anti-riot guns, portable riot control electric shock devices, and tear gas/riot control agents.

Mr Morgan has joined calls for making a stand following Donald Trump’s statement yesterday and hearing from constituents concerned over the escalation of issues in the US.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“In cities across America we have seen law enforcement authorities using excessive force in response to these protests, including against children and members of the media. I know that this has shocked many not just here in Portsmouth, but across the world.  

It has been the policy of successive governments over the past two decades to refuse licences for the export of arms and equipment that might be used for internal repression. It is vital that licences are refused in this instance to preserve the safety of Black Lives Matter protestors.

The fact we have an alliance with the United States only enhances the need for us to take urgent action. The Anglo-American relationship is built on the values we share.

The British public deserves to know what is exported by this country and how they are being used across the world. The American people deserve the right to protest peacefully without the threat of violent repression.

The UK government must now act immediately if there is any chance that this riot equipment could be used against peaceful, unarmed civilians.”

In a letter demanding the suspension of exports of riot control equipment to the United States, Emily Thornberry, Shadow International Trade Secretary, added:

“At a time when Donald Trump is gearing up to use the US military to crush the legitimate protests taking place across America over the murder of Black civilians, it would be a disgrace for the UK to supply him with the arms and equipment he will use to do so.

If there is a risk that any of these riot control projectiles and equipment are being used in the United States against peaceful, unarmed civilians, then the government must act immediately to stop their export.”

The Portsmouth South MP has backed calls to take two urgent actions.

Firstly, to publish a comprehensive list of all current export licences to the USA of riot control equipment, along with all available end-user data, to clarify who has purchased items and for purpose within the last five years. Secondly, to suspend all existing licences and halt the issue of any new licences for the export of riot control projectiles and equipment to the United States until you have determined whether any of these items are being used in response to the ongoing protests.

 

 

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Tackling recent issues in Portsmouth’s public spaces

Stephen Morgan MP is continuing to take action on concerns raised by constituents over inconsiderate and anti-social behaviour on Southsea Common, the seafront, Hotwalls and other public areas across the constituency.

Whilst the management of the city’s green and open spaces rests with the city council, the Portsmouth South MP has been concerned by the level and frequency of reports on rubbish dumped, lack of social distancing, inconsiderate parking and large gatherings which have led to drug use and anti-social behaviour in certain parts of Portsmouth.

Concerns have been raised that issues which are often seasonal have been acerbated due to the coronavirus crisis. Whilst some progress has been made, complaints and incidents continue and appear in some cases to be getting worse.

As result of further conversations, lobbying and liaison with senior officers, the following is an update on efforts by key public services and what we can expect next to manage the situation, which Stephen is encouraging as an MP:

Update – 2 June 2020

Prioritising issues, the plan now includes:

  • A specific district patrol plan has been developed in response to recent reported incidents resulting in a focus from the police’s response and neighbourhood teams
  • Further (section 32) dispersal orders in place (Hotwalls, 2-3 June)
  • Additional Special Constables from the police’s response teams will join neighbourhood teams to tackle local incidents and increase visible presence
  • A dedicated Covid Operation with a patrol car and officers is forming part of patrol plans
  • Additional support from the MOD Police in patrolling the seafront
  • A request for an additional Sergeant and team to support the patrols has been made to help increase a presence in problem areas.

Alongside this, the police continue to work with Street Pastors, a private security firm employed by the city council to patrol the Hotwalls and the city council’s community warden service.

Portsmouth City Council and Hampshire Police hold responsibility for keeping public spaces safe, and a cross-departmental group is problem solving issues raised in recent weeks. Stephen expects this group to take swift and successful to help stop the issues being encountered.

Stephen Morgan MP is continuing to work with different agencies to prioritise concerns, residents’ views are heard and ensure action is taken. Constituents are also encouraged to share problems and solutions with their local ward councillors.

You can see more information about the engagement that the city MP has had on this issue here: http://www.stephenmorgan.org.uk/keeping-us-safe/

Please continue to report individual incidents in the usual way:

  • Littering/flytipping: here
  • Anti-Social Behaviour: here
  • Hampshire Police: here
  • Parking: here
  • The public should continue to report crimes in the usual way by calling 101 and for emergencies 999.

 

 

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Show support to Portsmouth’s tourism online urges says city MP in virtual English Tourism Week

Stephen Morgan MP, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, is showing support for the first ever “virtual” English Tourism Week, backing 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.

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 activities, respecting lockdown restrictions, took place between 25-31 May. Stephen Morgan MP has been 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 city’s 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 city’s 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 city’s 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”.