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Immigration Bill

Some constituents have been in touch with me about the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill which was debated in the House of Commons today – Monday 18 May 2020.

I deeply concerned by the Bill in its current form. This is because I believe it harms our NHS and social care sector, risking creating a shortage of nurses, carers and other key health workers in the middle of a global pandemic.

Labour believe rushing this Bill through Parliament during the current coronavirus crisis when many of those workers are saving lives and keeping the country running is unnecessary.  This legislation, which will hand over sweeping powers to the Government to create a new immigration system, without proper parliamentary scrutiny, that labels so many of the workers who are keeping our country running day by day as unskilled and unwelcome. That is unfair.

The new immigration system proposed by the Government contains a salary threshold of £25,600 that will exclude health and social care workers we desperately need from our country and will have a devastating impact on the health and social care sector. It values workers by what they earn and not what they contribute to our society.

In Portsmouth we rightly show our appreciation and gratitude for NHS staff and carers not just on Thursday evenings, but all year round. Yet this Bill will mean that care workers we need to fill vacancies would no longer be able to come to this country under the Government’s proposed immigration system – I don’t believe that is in the national interest.

For these reasons tonight I voted against the Bill at its Second Reading stage in Parliament.

Stephen Morgan MP

 

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Minister probed in Parliament over securing Gosport Ferry’s future by Stephen Morgan MP

In his latest action to support the continuation of Gosport Ferry post Covid-19, the Portsmouth South MP has raised the ferry services continuation with Ministers’ today at Transport Questions.

Mr Morgan has already liaised with Gosport Ferry’s top team, taken part in meetings with the city council along with other stakeholders, written to the Transport Secretary directly and submitted written parliamentary questions to keep pressure on Government to act.

Today, the city MP followed up on this action by asking Transport Ministers to flesh out the support they could offer to the vital ferry service.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I know how important the Gosport Ferry is for my constituents and commuters along the south coast which is why I have been working with others to secure its future.

It’s a lifeline service for many who rely on it for work, business and leisure. The coronavirus crisis has shone a spotlight on how crucial the crossing service is for the people of Gosport, and Portsmouth”.

Local stakeholders have submitted proposals to the Government to help secure the ferry’s future following discussions with the Secretary of State for Transport last week.

Mr Morgan added:

Government has already given positive signals and has engaged on the issue so far. However, we cannot afford to lose steam.

Portsmouth jobs, businesses and livelihoods are what is at risk. I will continue to take action on behalf of residents to ensure a suitable solution is reached to secure the ferry’s future.”

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Portsmouth MP backs ‘Pompey Street Space’ campaign and wastes no time promoting the plan in Parliament

Backing efforts by local groups and community representatives, Stephen Morgan MP today took action in support of the new Pompey Street Space campaign as part of his ongoing work to tackle the city’s climate emergency

Launching this morning, the Pompey Street Space is a newly formed campaign calling for the council to make our city safe for residents to walk, wheel, shop and cycle whilst keeping 2m apart. Since the lockdown the number of residents walking and cycling has risen hugely. The cleaner air, more audible bird song and peaceful streets have been a revelation for many of how our city could be.

The city MP is encouraging Government through the hybrid-Parliament to ‘lock-in’ the emission reducing practices that the city has adopted amid Covid-19. 

While Mr Morgan has been taking action to promote active travel in the city for some time. Today he threw his weight behind the Pompey Street Space campaign in signing a collective letter to the local authority and raising the community campaign in the House of Commons.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Active travel uptake amid this crisis has increased by up to 125% on some days. This shows that our city is capable of making decisive efforts to change behaviours and in turn, tackle climate change.

Now it is up to government to seize the opportunity and ensure Portsmouth people can continue to use green travel free from fear and with confidence. That means putting an end to the piecemeal approach to transport infrastructure and allowing councils rapid access to new vital funds.

Social, economic and environmental returns to active travel investment will be seen almost immediately. I will continue to take action with others to promote greener travel and look forward to supporting the work of Pompey Street Space to make this vision a reality.”

Active travel – such as walking and cycling – has soared amid the pandemic while traffic has seen around a 60% decline, slashing harmful emissions.

Portsmouth is the fourth most congested city in the UK and one of the worst outside London. Organisations such as the World Health Organisation have deemed current city pollution levels as ‘illegal’, while Friends of the Earth have described them as ‘Dangerous’. This means an increased risk to 11,000 people living the city who have heart and respiratory conditions.

Local climate activist Nick Sebley said:

“Stephen has been a solid ambassador on climate issues since his election and we welcome his support for the Pompey Street Space campaign.

We are presented with a unique opportunity to make our community fitter, healthier and greener. Portsmouth people have shown they have what it takes to be pioneers in addressing the climate emergency, it now falls on government’s shoulders to ensure the continuation of these practices.”

The community-led campaign is calling for the council to take three important steps immediately:

  1. Widen narrow pavements in busy streets so that people can keep two metres apart whilst walking, queuing for shops etc.
  2. Create a comprehensive city-wide network of roads that give priority to cyclists and pedestrians
  3. Create more commuter cycle routes to allow people who usually travel by public transport to get quickly and safely to work by bike.

Mr Morgan added: 

“As we emerge from this crisis, we cannot go head first into another. Climate change poses a real and severe threat to life that disproportionately effects people in our community.

Government has a duty to listen to the calls of trailblazing campaigns, like Pompey Street Space, to create the right conditions in communities that will allow green and active travel to continue to thrive. For that reason I wanted to flag this new initiative from our city to Ministers today.

According to the Government’s own research, at least £6bn of extra funding is required to meet their own targets of doubling cycling by 2025.

If Ministers are serious about active travel, then they need to get serious about investing in communities like Portsmouth”.

Stephen Morgan MP has a long running history of climate change action. He has hosted Brompton along with Keir Starmer in Portsmouth to promote active travel, hosted major public events with expert speakers to share best practice, regularly speaks out at local events, has worked in conjunction with XR and Friends of the Earth and continues to raise issues in Parliament.

 

 

 

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“Still work to do in tackling discrimination in armed forces” says Shadow Armed Forces Minister

Today – Sunday 17 May – on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP praises progress made since the ban on serving was lifted but says there’s no room for complacency until all LGBT personnel can ‘thrive without fear of who they are’.

Since discriminatory rules were struck down by the European Court of Human Rights, the nation’s armed forces have launched major reforms to become LGBT inclusive, with all four branches of the British military – the Army, Navy, Air Force and Royal Marines all marching together at Pride in London, dedicated recruitment campaigns launched, and efforts to challenge fears of homophobic attitudes.

These efforts have praised all services for their diversity and inclusion work in recent years, with all three making it into the Stonewall Top 100 Employers list.

Recognising the progress made, Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“IDAHOBIT gives us the opportunity to reflect on progress made in tackling hatred and discrimination affecting the LGBT community, and also take stock the challenges still to overcome.

20 years ago, Labour lifted the ban on LGBT people serving in the armed forces.

Since then, from dedicated staff networks to all services marching at Pride, from senior army officers being the face of Stonewall campaigns to our military services being recognised as amongst the best places to work, our armed forces have been on a long journey from a ban to being a beacon of best practice for the LGBT workforce”.

In a report commissioned last year by the armed forces, Air Chief Marshall Wigston found that a third of LGBT service people had faced negative comments or behaviour from colleagues because of their sexual orientation while at work, whilst the continuous attitude survey reports that 12 per cent of those surveyed were the victims of bullying, harassment or discrimination in the past year, but only six per cent made a formal complaint.

Evidence reflected in this report indicates a significant number of people in the military have experienced discrimination but have not felt able or been able to come forward to report it. The Armed Forces Ombudsman also found this week that the armed forces service complaints system is not ‘effective, efficient or fair’.

The challenges ahead, Shadow Armed Forces Minister added:

“While significant progress has been made, there’s still some way to go to ensure no individual faces hatred or discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and all LGBT personnel feel safe and free to be themselves.

That means continued efforts on education, leadership development and creating a culture in the forces where everyone can thrive without fear of who they are.

There’s no room for complacency. Today acts as a call to action for everyone who supports equality in our armed forces, and in wider society.”

 

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Stephen Morgan MP: Fight for equality far from over

Sunday 17 May marks International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT), a day of celebration to mark the anniversary of the decision, in 1990, to remove homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases published by the World Health Organisation.

This year’s anniversary comes at time of rising hate crime committed against the LGBT community and a third of LGBT people reporting that they are scared to display public affection for ‘fear of violence’.

There has been much widespread criticism of the way in which hate crime cases are dealt with under the current Government. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has found inadequate responses in 89 of 180 cases it reviewed.

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has been campaigning for some time for greater government action to stop the increase in hate crime in society.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

Today’s anniversary represents a global annual landmark drawing attention to the tenacity and strength of the LGBT rights movement, the battles fought and won, and the struggles ahead.

Against the backdrop of rising hate crime, last year’s string of heinous public attacks and a rise in right-wing populism, mean that this show of solidarity is needed more than ever.

In highlighting to the public, businesses, local authorities and media the discrimination still affecting the LGBT community, today is a reminder that we must come together to say to government that complacency will not be tolerated when it comes to hate.”

The rate of LGBT hate crime per capita rose by 144% between 2013-14 and 2017-18. In the most recent year of data, police recorded 11,600 crimes, more than doubling from 4,600 during this period.

Hate crimes against transgender people have nearly quadrupled in the last five years, to 2,333 reports last year, whilst campaign group Stonewall said 81% of people who experienced LGBT hate crime did not report it to the police.

The Portsmouth South MP has said that with increased pressures amid Covid-19 and Pride celebrations later this year cancelled across Britain, the need for continued action is greater than ever.

The city MP added:

“Portsmouth’s growing Pride festivities have understandably been curtailed due to Covid-19. With the backdrop of increasing hate crime, we cannot allow this to deter us as a city from marking LGBT achievements and campaign for the protections still needed.

We must also see leadership from government in addressing this surge in hate crime plaguing our society and a focus on increasing people’s confidence in reporting hate crimes with people knowing they will be treated seriously by public bodies.

I will continue to work with others on this issue of concern and put pressure on government where further action is needed.”

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister calls on MoD to review armed forces complaint system after annual assessment reveals more failings

For the fourth year running, the Ombudsman has found the armed forces service complaints system to be not ‘effective, efficient or fair’.

This has prompted Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP to call on government to take measures to sort the system for serving personnel.

The Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces provides independent and impartial oversight of the Service complaints system – the internal workplace grievance system for members of the UK Armed Forces.

In their annual assessment, the Ombudsman finds that the time taken to resolve complaints; the negative impact on an individual’s wellbeing; and the continued lack of confidence in the system was affecting personnel across the armed forces.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Our armed forces are exposed to pressure and conditions that would be unimaginable in other jobs. The demands of the role mean that if something is not quite right, it can affect every aspect of a person’s life.

 There must be an effective, clear and just grievance system that personnel can have faith in.

The fact the Ombudsman has ruled the complaints system is still not meeting acceptable standards for the fourth consecutive year means service people are at risk.

We must see leadership from Ministers in addressing this issue.”

Key findings within the report show in 2019:

  • 766 Service complaints were deemed admissible across the Armed Forces
  • The 3 largest areas of complaint concerned: career management (37%), bullying, harassment and discrimination (25%), and, pay, pensions and allowances (15%)
  • SCOAF (Service Complaints Ombudsmen Armed Forces) logged 754 contacts, made 144 referrals on behalf of current or former Service personnel and received 322 applications requesting an investigation
  • 82% of applications requesting an investigation were accepted by SCOAF
  • 50% of all SCOAF investigations found in favour of the complainant: review of admissibility decisions 42%; undue delay 53%; substance 68%; and, maladministration 51%

The Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces, Nicola Williams, said:

“The reformed Service Complaints system still needs fundamental structural changes to ensure that Armed Forces personnel have the confidence to raise a formal complaint, in a system that operates efficiently, effectively and fairly as possible.

Currently, I am concerned that personnel are dissatisfied with the length of time taken to resolve a complaint; causing undue delay, including my office; which is having a significant impact on complainants’ wellbeing and mental health. 

Further work in this area is needed to address these issues, and with the support of the Ministry of Defence and the single Services, I am confident that we can build a better system for all Service personnel.”

Stephen Morgan MP also expressed concern that with the additional pressure on military personnel amid the coronavirus crisis, efforts need to be undertaken to ensure the system is fit for purpose.

On Covid-19 and the complaints system, Stephen Morgan MP added:

“13,000 service personnel are absent from duty due to Covid-19 and troops are being asked to go above and beyond their traditional spheres to assist with this pandemic.

The additional pressures endured this early into 2020 could mean that the complaints system is put under even greater strain. The system is not performing adequately now.

Immediate measures must be taken by Ministers to see to it service personnel have the opportunity to confidentially raise grievances as we emerge from this crisis.”

The Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces can full annual report can be found here.

 

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New report finds Government “not doing enough” for military charities to support veterans

Portsmouth MP welcomes report findings and new support for charities but says government must now ‘provide proof in the delivery’

Statistics collated by the solicitor’s firm Bolt Burdon Kemp and Veterans Lifeline have revealed the lack of mental health support military veterans receive from government amid the Covid-19 crisis.

The data comes as the government today announced some funding for veterans’ charities, but questions remain about what delivery looks like and whether government should be providing services for veterans rather than helping charities.

On the support announced by government today, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I welcome that government has taken notice of what I and others have been saying that we need an urgent plan to address the feeling of abandonment among some in the veteran community.

However, it does leave a number of questions unanswered. How long will it take for payments to be made to charities? Who is eligible for the grants? When will the difference be seen at the coalface?

Had these announcements come earlier these are questions we could have posed at today’s departmental questions. I will continue to work with colleagues in the Shadow Defence team to make sure government not only promises improvement, but delivers for our nation’s veterans.”

The research published today includes the lack of mental health support with only 26% of charities thinking that the government supports the mental health of veterans; not enough overall support – 74% of charities say that the government and armed forces are not doing enough to support veterans; and; government and armed Forces’ onus – 79% of charities believe that the responsibility to support veterans should lie more with the government and armed forces.

On the statistics Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Sadly, these statistics do not come as a surprise. They reflect what the Shadow Defence team are hearing after listening to veterans’ charities and groups as were raised in Defence Questions today.

Social isolation, financial turmoil and pressure on mental health resulting from this pandemic means that support for our veterans’ community is needed now more than ever. It is therefore deeply concerning that government has closed services such as the Veterans UK helpline and urged some ex forces personnel who may be older to instead get in touch by email on by using the app.

The fact this decision has been made against the backdrop of VE Day, Captain Tom making ground-breaking contributions to our NHS, and our service personnel playing a crucial role in combating Covid-19, sends out the wrong message to our armed forces who continue to go above and beyond for the nation.”

The Ministry of Defence has cut support to veteran services, including the telephone helpline leaving thousands of potentially vulnerable ex-forces personnel without anyone to talk to.

Officials admit that more than 2,000 veterans have been forced to email for help instead of calling the MoD. They have also stopped processing new applications for war pensions, war widow pensions and compensation, and appeals have been postponed.

Shadow Defence Secretary, John Healey MP added:

“Closing the Veterans UK helpline and asking older veterans who could be in their eighties or nineties to send an email instead is not good enough. Ministers should make it a priority to safely restart this service for those who need it”.

 

 

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Shadow Defence team pile pressure on Government over coronavirus protections for our armed forces  

The Shadow Defence team are piling on the pressure calling on the Government to ensure protections from coronavirus and testing for armed forces personnel.

The lobbying of Ministers continued today during departmental questions in the House of Commons and follows a letter from the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, John Healey MP to the Defence Secretary calling for new measures to protect armed forces personnel from coronavirus, and a string of parliamentary questions by Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP.

The Portsmouth MP said:

“Our armed forces are increasingly playing a major role in the UK’s response to coronavirus.

Be it working closely with the NHS, being drafted in to support Local Resilience Forums and performing coronavirus testing, or the COVID Support Force on hand to take action, our armed forces are on the frontline supporting our communities in settings such as hospitals and prisons.

At the end of April only 1,222 personnel had been tested for coronavirus – less than 1% of the UK forces service personnel. That begs the question, why have Ministers been so slow to test our troops?

The armed forces are delivering for us. Government must deliver for them too with regular testing and proper protections”.

Shadow Minister Stephen Morgan MP has been probing the Government over its support to service personnel with a series of questions to the MoD over testing and social distancing to access to ventilators.

Labour is calling for measures to protect personnel, including:

  • testing armed forces personnel and publishing the results as other countries are doing, with priority given to the COVID Support Force
  • postponing large-scale training exercises where these cannot be done safely, to prevent outbreaks that other country’s armed forces have experienced
  • ensuring support for deployed personnel including full PPE for frontline staff in the UK, withdrawal from non-essential overseas postings to places where it is easier to protect personnel and urgent provision of adequate medical supplies to deal with any coronavirus outbreak.

The interventions come amidst concern over the risk to armed forces personnel around the world. US and French navy ships have recently experienced coronavirus outbreaks, with the first US death on active duty reported on Monday.

On this Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The United States is amongst the countries publishing aggregate data on testing of military personnel, but the Ministry of Defence does not currently provide this information. We must and should learn from our allies in protecting all personnel”.

Thanks to the pressure put on Government by the Shadow Defence team, the safety of crew onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth was prioritised when sailing was delayed allowing time for personnel to be tested before a training exercise.

John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, added:

“Coronavirus is showing again how our armed forces help keep us safe. It is vital the Government does everything it can to keep them safe too.

Ministers should step up measures to protect military personnel from coronavirus, including making testing available and publishing the results, postponing large-scale training events wherever needed and supporting personnel deployed overseas.”

 

 

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Covid-19: Government’s publishes ‘recovery plan’

Today the Government released a 50-page document following the address last night, and statement today in Parliament, by the Prime Minister.

The document is attempting to flesh out the latest Government plans as easements start to take place from lockdown.

The plan provides some more detail about what people and employers can and cannot do amid Covid-19, ahead of further guidance expected in the coming days.

It includes some limited information about how more people will be encouraged to go back to work, how some schools and businesses will potentially open in June, and how from July, remaining businesses such as hairdressers may be allowed to open.

Stephen Morgan MP added:

“Today’s announcement comes against the backdrop of more Covid-19 deaths bringing the count tragically to 32,065, the highest in Europe. This is a stark reminder of the need for government to get this right.

Whilst I welcome the publication of guidance today, I am deeply concerned by the lack of clarity not only for people potentially heading back into workplaces on Wednesday, but also for those coming into the country.

The government new plan has failed to address whether quarantining new arrivals only applies to airports and there are fresh allegations that the Transport Secretary has told the Airline industry that quarantining will be too complicated to enforce.

There seems to be an issue with mixed messaging and a lack of clarity. We can’t afford for this much chaos this late in the game.”

The government full 60-page recovery plan document can be seen here

 

 

 

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“More questions than answers” city MP reacts to PM’s statement

In an address to the nation, the Prime Minister tonight said there was “no immediate end to the lockdown” but made a number of changes to the current rules affecting a variety of businesses and impacting on peoples’ lives.

Responding to the Prime Minister’s statement today Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP raised concerns over the lack of clarity over the Government’s plans.

The city MP said:

“The Government’s priority must be protecting the public’s health and saving lives. That is why I supported the lockdown in the first place and again support the restrictions staying in place at this time.

Sadly tonight’s statement from the Government lacks detail causing confusion for our communities and for our businesses.

When we need maximum clarity, the Prime Minister has decided to go it alone on messaging, whilst his Ministers toured the TV studios making things worse. This exposes a serious lack of coordination from Government, when the message to the public must remain clear and simple.

Portsmouth people told me they wanted a clear plan today. Instead all we got was more questions than answers from this Government”.

Labour has set out seven core principles that it is urging the Government to adopt to ensure public services, businesses and people are supported and kept safe.

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

“This statement raises more questions than it answers, and we see the prospect of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland pulling in different directions.

The Prime Minister appears to be effectively telling millions of people to go back to work without a clear plan for safety or clear guidance as to how to get there without using public transport.

What the country wanted tonight was clarity and consensus, but we haven’t got either of those.”