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Emergency action needed to protect renters say Labour

The official opposition are today setting out a five-point emergency action plan to prevent people from being forced from their homes as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Current measures set out by the Government in the Coronavirus Act fall well short of adequately protecting people from homelessness when they cannot pay their rent. Shelter reports an estimated 1.7 million people living in rented accommodation expect to lose their jobs in the next three months due to the coronavirus crisis.

Most people in rented accommodation have no savings and when the current freeze on evictions expires in June, an estimated 2.6 million people are likely to be in rent arrears, according to Citizens Advice.

Labour’s measures would use temporary legislation to protect people from bankruptcy and homelessness due to rent arrears, providing the kind of protection to people living in rented homes that is already in place for commercial tenants and owner-occupiers.

Labour’s five-point plan to protect people from eviction:

  1. Extend the temporary ban on evictions for six months or however long is needed to implement the legal changes below.
  2. Give residential tenants the same protections as commercial tenants, by protecting them from being made bankrupt by their landlords for non-payment of rent.
  3. Bring forward the government’s proposal to scrap Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions and outlaw evictions on the grounds of rent arrears if the arrears were accrued because of hardship caused by the coronavirus crisis.
  4. Once evictions are prevented, grant renters at least two years to pay back any arrears accrued during this period.
  5. Speed up and improve the provision of Universal Credit, as Labour recently called for, and consider a temporary increase to the Local Housing Allowance to help prevent risk of homelessness.

Responding to the plan, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

Labour wants to make sure people are not made homeless or at risk of homelessness as a result of the coronavirus.

That is why we have urged the government to make temporary changes to the Universal Credit system which would help more people, and to the system of government assistance under the furlough and self-employed support schemes and we want them to make further temporary changes to the laws on eviction to protect people who struggle with rent.

The five point plan announced today, if adopted by Government, will help protect Portsmouth people during this time of crisis”.

Thangam Debbonaire MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, added:

“Current protections for people renting their homes are woefully inadequate. Unless the Government acts now, many thousands of tenants will be at risk of losing their homes.

The Government has paused evictions for three months and answered Labour’s call to increase the Local Housing Allowance. Both are welcome, but do not go far enough. It will take time for people to recover from this crisis and they need all the support we can give them to prevent what would be an unprecedented and devastating spike in homelessness.

In the long term we need to fix the housing crisis – with stronger rent regulations and much more affordable and social housing – so that everyone has a home that is safe, secure, environmentally sustainable, and that they can afford to live in. What we need right now is an emergency package to set us on that path.

Every Thursday we clap for key workers but many of them live in homes that are overcrowded, unsafe or expensive. When we emerge from this public health crisis, we cannot go back to business as usual.”

 

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Resilience and recovery. Why the lessons learnt from VE Day go beyond the events of 1945.

We are unable to leave our homes. Our public services are creaking under the weight of a pandemic. There is no notion of what comes next, and we are all concerned about the wellbeing of our loved ones. Why is it so important for us to spend time thinking about events that took place long before most of us were even born?

Over 450,000 British men, women and children died in World War Two. The majority of them in the European theatre or as a result of bombing raids launched from the continent. Without this unfathomable sacrifice, the surrender of the most tyrannical regime the world has ever seen would not have taken place. Time does not erode the significance of this event, and in celebrating and reflecting, we preserve the actions of those before us. As the number of people with living memory of the events slowly slip away, the importance of commemoration grows. Not only for their sake, but for the sake of future generations who can draw vital lessons from actions that took place 75 years ago.

Lessons of resilience and stories of recovery have the ability to instil in us the hardy mentality that saw this country through the darkest period in its history. Many of the hard-fought freedoms secured by the actions of those during World War Two are the ones we find ourselves without today. Most are unable to leave their homes, loved ones are at risk of harm, and spending time with those close to us is impossible for many. In taking stock of the actions performed by those during World War Two, we will find the strength to deal with the present. The continuation of celebrations act as a reminder. This country has overcome hardship before, and we can do it again.

Reflecting on the events that unfolded in the wake of VE Day highlight that when backed into a corner and pushed to our limits, Britain is capable of transforming society for the better. The 1945 Labour landslide secured by Clement Attlee brought with it a of tide of radical social policy that has indisputably enriched our society and changed the political landscape indefinitely. Our much-cherished National Health Service, cradle to grave welfare, modern day workers’ rights and efforts to tackle wealth disparity are all firm foundations helping to fight the crisis today, borne out of the crisis 75 years ago. Spending some time thinking about this reminds the nation that we are capable not just of overcoming hardship but transforming society for the better.

The lessons learnt by celebrating VE Day go beyond inspiration and commemoration. They also help us learn the value of working together. On 8 May, standing before an ecstatic sea of people stretching from Whitehall to Buckingham Palace, Prime Minister Winston Churchill leant from the Ministry of Health balcony and declared “This is not victory of a party or of any class. It’s a victory of the great British nation as a whole”. Why is this important? Because it shows that in times of crisis, we must come together to fight a common enemy.

There is a great deal more that unites us in this country than divides us. Understanding the intrinsic nature of putting differences aside will help us now in the battle against this pandemic. Bombs in the Blitz did not discriminate, neither does Covid-19. A united front helped defeat the former, it falls on our shoulders to make sure it defeats the latter too.

Between 1939 and 1945, 383,700 British armed forces personnel laid down their lives in the fight against tyranny. 75 years later, in the midst of a very different crisis, they are still delivering for Britain. From supplying PPE to frontline staff to supporting local authorities and the NHS, three quarters of a century on our military personnel are standing up to be counted in our time of need. We owe it to all generations of service people to celebrate their actions and remind them that we recognise all they have done, and all they are doing.

So, as we hit the 75th anniversary of VE Day, celebrations are more important than ever. Lessons of resilience and fortitude can be learnt from the adversity faced by past generations. Radical social change and transformation prompted by the crisis then can help us forge new paths of compassion now. Stories of cooperation and alliance show us the benefit of putting differences aside. Covid-19 has not lessened the importance of our VE Day commemorations. It has enhanced it. The bunting must go up. The photo albums must be opened, and the stories must be passed on.

Now more than ever, as a nation, we must come together and celebrate safely in whatever way we can.

Stephen Morgan MP writing for Politics Home marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day

 

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Portsmouth MP responds to news Britain has highest Covid-19 deaths in Europe

News broke yesterday that the UK has the highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe prompting further scrutiny about the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, whilst tragically social care deaths continue to rise and testing remains below the Government’s target and way behind other countries.

With this in mind, city MP Stephen Morgan has today called on government to adhere to seven core principles set out by the Leader of the Opposition to ensure public safety.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I have made it clear I want to work constructively with government when it comes to handling the coronavirus crisis, but the latest information about extent tragic deaths shows serious mistakes were made at the onset of this pandemic.

The government was slow to implement the lockdown, slow on testing and slow to get PPE to frontline workers. We need to learn from those failings. It is vital that government is properly planning for what happens next and putting measures in place to support our NHS and social care services.

That is why I am joining others in calling on the Prime Minister to adhere to seven core principles that work to ensure public services, businesses and people are supported and kept safe.”

There have now been over 30,000 deaths recorded across the UK, making the country the worst affected in Europe. Even more worryingly, the University of Cambridge has said reported figures are “substantial underestimates” of the true number who have died with the virus.

Already, thousands of people have signed a petition calling for an inquiry including Dr Claudia Paoloni, president of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists. While the British Medical Association council chair, said the figures were extremely concerning “given that the UK was originally affected by the outbreak later than many other nations”.

The Portsmouth South MP added:

“The way government handles the exit strategy will shape Britain’s road to recovery. People’s lives will depend on it. It needs to be a carefully measured plan that considers mistakes made and lessons learnt.

Over the coming days and weeks, Labour will work constructively with the government on the 7-point proposals to ensure the country has the best possible response to this crisis.

I want to support the Government to get this right and that is why we need a national consensus on what happens next”.

Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer MP added:

“Our priority is protecting the public’s health and saving lives. That is why we supported the lockdown and again support the restrictions staying in place at this time. However, we need to be honest with the public about the challenges ahead.

We are in this for the long haul. It is imperative that the Government is properly planning for what happens next and properly supporting our NHS and social care services”.

For more detail about the seven principles click here

 

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“Job security does not need to be at odds with climate security” says city MP lobbying over plans for Britain’s recovery

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan is urging Government to ensure that Covid-19 does not hinder progress towards tackling the climate emergency.

Writing to the Transport Secretary and submitting a string or parliamentary questions, Stephen Morgan MP has been listening to the views of constituents and local green groups by stressing to Government that support to the transport industry should also help secure targets focusing on reducing emissions.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“As a gateway to the UK from continental Europe, our city has a proud and long association with the maritime sector and wider transport infrastructure for our country. I want to see this tradition continue for the future prosperity of the UK but also for the sake of local jobs and our city’s economy.

Government is currently being lobbied over deals for the aviation and maritime sectors so that these services can weather the Covid-19 storm, there is no reason why any packages of support should be at odds with continued efforts to tackle climate change. The Transport Secretary must ensure that his department’s assistance sits alongside important commitments to cut emissions”.

Stephen Morgan MP is not alone in his calls. The Government’s top climate advisers have also urged a focus on low-carbon work programmes as the economy restarts and people get back to work.

This mirrors the findings of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, who have outlined that fulfilling the UK’s need for low-carbon infrastructure, from electricity networks to cycle lanes, would create jobs in the short term, while government money could also be used to encourage advances in science and innovation that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the future.

Writing to the Transport Secretary based on these important findings, the Portsmouth South representative added:

“In 2018, the transport sector became the biggest contributor to climate change. Government must be the driving force behind enabling a culture and practice change, and in planning Britain’s recovery from Covid-19, it has that opportunity.

I therefore urge you to seize this opportunity that Government has to ensure that climate change is at the heart of your departmental decision-making. There is no reason that sector and job security need to be at odds with tackling climate change.

Many of my constituents expect any government financial assistance to the transport sector to recognise the climate emergency. There is no merit in dealing with a crisis today, by creating one for tomorrow.”

Other major organisations joining the city MP, the Select Committee and the top government advisers calling on Government to take equity stakes include Greenpeace, Flight Free, the IPPR and New Economics Foundation thinktanks, and Tax Justice. The Portsmouth South MP has also vowed to push for investment in active travel solutions as part of thinking on recovery plans for the region.

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Portsmouth MP urges people to “pocket memories” of VE Day in call for photos and stories

Stephen Morgan MP is encouraging Portsmouth residents to share their family members’ short stories and photos of celebration marking the end of the Second World War.

The call has also been put out to share memories of Portsmouth at the time, as part of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day later this week.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister has already called on residents to get creative and celebrate safely. Now he has urged fellow city residents to mark the occasion by gathering photos, stories and memories from those who lived through the war as a legacy of the commemorations.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“During the D-Day 75 commemorations last year, my family and I enjoyed looking through my late grandfather’s collection of photos from his time in the Royal Army Service Corp, and the images of him as a veteran with my grandmother enjoying life together in Southsea after the war.

Reflecting on these memories not only acts as window into the world as seen by our loved ones, it also paints a picture of the war that shaped everything as we know it.

The more we can do to understand the sacrifice and experiences of that generation, the better equipped we will be to take on the challenges we face today”.

Initially memories provided to the Portsmouth MP will be shared online and depending on the volume received, may be used for archive purposes to help record the city’s commemorations.

On the ask for memories from Portsmouth residents, the MP added:

“At this time of crisis for our country, I want to make sure everyone in Portsmouth has a way to pay tribute to the contributions generations before us made for the peace and freedoms we enjoy today.

Our city played a crucial part in the allied victory, a price we paid for heavily in the bombing campaigns. Sharing memories and photos of this time helps us to understand the significant damage done to our city and how much has been done to rebuild it. Portsmouth featured heavily in Britain’s post war planning and reconstruction.

Despite today’s challenging circumstances, we as a city must be proud of our past and ensure that these men and women are always remembered.

To help mark the 75th anniversary in our city, I am asking constituents to share with me just a couple of sentences of a story or memory, or a photo if you have one, to remember a loved one and give thanks for everyone who fought for our country.

I hope as many people as possible will help me pocket our city’s past memories of VE Day and find a way to take part”.

Contributions of all kinds should be emailed to stephen@stephenmorgan.org.uk for collation by volunteers between now and Saturday 9 May 2020.

The Royal British Legion Industries are also encouraging members of the public to mark the anniversary by placing 25cm tall ‘Tommy in the window’ figures at www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/remembrance/teaching-remembrance

 

 

 

 

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“Survival of Gosport Ferry now in Government’s hands” says Portsmouth MP following continued lobbying

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has joined with neighbouring council leaders, the Commodore of HM Naval Base and other MPs to lobby government into taking action to save the much-loved Gosport Ferry service.

The city MP’s latest efforts follow a string of parliamentary written questions putting pressure on Government to act and a letter sent to the Transport Secretary last week, highlighting where support must be offered. This can be seen here.

The most recent letter from the political leader and other local representatives details the measures that local authorities have been taking to save the service, including offering a deferment in licence fees and pontoon charges before urging government to step up.

In signing the letter from local leaders, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Cash strapped councils have shown leadership by offering relief to the crucial ferry service by offering the deferral of charges amounting to £42,000 per month. Now it falls on government to do their bit.

Sadly government support packages have not supported Gosport Ferry so far bringing uncertainty to those who work for the company and those who benefit from the service. Today, along with other stakeholders, I have urged government to redress this and offer a package to balance the shortfall.

This is an essential service relied upon by our region. The varied mix of signatories to the letter, led by local councils, is a testament to that. The survival of the ferry service is in the hands of government, we must now see urgent action from them.”

All signatories, including two Government Ministers who represent constituencies in the region, suggest that “the value of Gosport Ferry may not have been fully appreciated” by government and pushed for urgent action.

Stephen Morgan MP added:

“Liaising with senior members of Gosport Ferry, the trade unions, staff affected and constituents who have told me the value of this service, I have already taken a range of actions to help.

I remain committed to working with others to highlight the gaps in government support and what this means for vital transport infrastructure in our region. I will continue to lobby Ministers to ensure they take notice of just how important our region is. Government must not forget that.”

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Government must listen to concerns over easements says city MP

Concerns are increasingly being raised that public bodies, including schools and councils, could be forced to make major changes to public services at short notice and without time to prepare when easements come from the current coronavirus lockdown.

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan is calling on Government to ensure engagement with key groups to make sure services are fully prepared for when restrictions start to be lifted.

Listening to these concerns, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I fully supported government’s decision to extend the lockdown which is saving lives. The issue we must address now is looking towards getting Britain on the road to recovery.

The British public have made great sacrifices to make the lockdown work. They deserve to be part of a frank conversation about what comes next.

That means engaging with teachers, trade unions, businesses, local authorities and other community leaders in the coming days about how such a strategy can be put in place to serve the interests of public health, the economy and people’s jobs.

Making major announcements without engaging with key stakeholders will plunge the country into new challenges.

Other nations in the UK and countries around the world are publishing exit strategies and having honest conversations with the public about what new arrangements might look like. The UK government is behind the curve on this.”

The MP has submitted a string of parliamentary questions urging the Government to consult organisations such as Local Resilience Forums, the Local Government Association and British Retail Consortium before plans by Ministers are announced.

 

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“In looking to the past, we will find the strength to deal with the present” says city MP on VE celebrations

Shadow Armed Forces Minister and city MP Stephen Morgan has urged Portsmouth people to celebrate safely on Friday 8 May for Victory in Europe (VE) Day.

This year is particularly significant as it marks the 75th anniversary since the Allies’ formal acceptance of the unconditional surrender of Nazi forces in 1945. After the success of D-Day 75, Portsmouth was set for widespread street parties and public events.

While the major celebratory events have had to be cancelled due to social distancing measures amid Covid-19, the Portsmouth South MP has urged people across the city to celebrate and pay tribute in alternative ways.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Many of the hard fought for freedoms secured by the brave people 75 years ago are the ones we find ourselves without today due to Covid-19. That makes the recognition and celebration of their actions even more important.

In looking to the past, we will find the strength to deal with the present. The continuation of celebrations is vital. This country has overcome hardship before, and we can do it again.

The efforts we can expect this coming week will be about celebrating victory over the most tyrannical regime the world has seen and spending time thinking about those who sacrificed so much for us.

I will be spending time paying tribute to my own grandfather, who set sail from Portsmouth on D-Day and spent time fighting in the European theatre.”

While social distancing requirements have scuppered some major celebration plans, which had included a veterans’ procession and street parties, across the country people have been showing ingenuity and coming up with alternative ideas.

On this, Stephen Morgan MP added:

“In true Portsmouth fashion, people are coming together to find safe, creative ways of celebrating. Some are placing a specially designed image of a Second World War soldier in their windows, while others are planning to cut out and put up homemade bunting.

I urge people from across our city to celebrate this important landmark in not just our nation’s, but the world’s history, by getting involved in their own way.

Understanding our shared heritage of remembrance helps bring communities together. We can’t let anything get in way of recognising the sacrifice of service people.”

Official commemorations will begin at 11am on Friday with a national moment of remembrance and a two-minute silence, according to government guidelines.

A pack with ideas for homemade VE Day bunting, original recipes, games, and educational and creative activities for children has been produced by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, so families under lockdown can create their own experiences at home. This can be found here

The Royal British Legion has also launched its “Tommy in the window” campaign, producing specially designed figures of soldiers. More information and educational material can be found here

 

 

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Covid-19: City MP takes action to save Gosport Ferry

Stephen Morgan MP has today written to the Transport Secretary urging immediate government measures to support Gosport Ferry. The action follows reports that the business runs the risk of ruin due to the financial implications of Covid-19.

Mr Morgan has called on government to address the fact that their transport funding package, announced earlier this week, does not offer any tangible support to Gosport Ferry, which has lost 90% of its normal passenger volumes.

This is just the latest of the city MP’s actions, as he has already submitted a string of parliamentary written questions and raised the issue with the local authority following discussions with the ferry company’s senior management.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Gosport Ferry is vital to not just Portsmouth, but the region. Some rely on it for business and commuting, others for their employment or leisure.

Government has a responsibility to ensure it continues to serve our community. The £17 million package, announced earlier this week, offers no guidance as to what this will mean for businesses like Gosport Ferry.

I am minded to support government in this time of crisis where suitable, but it is unclear what, if anything, they have done to help this service to date. I will continue to lobby the relevant Ministers to make announcements to help this vital regional transport infrastructure.”

Gosport Ferry has been connecting Portsmouth and Gosport since 1875, it carries over 3 million passengers each year and is a vital link for commuters, businesses and leisure travel. Covid-19 social distancing measures have heavily affected their revenue which has left the future of the company hanging in the balance.

Mr Morgan added:

“What have they done to support this service so far? What steps are they taking to ensure the continuation of the service post Covid-19? Can they guarantee the security of the business?

These are the questions that Government’s funding package failed to answer so far which is why I have today put them to the Transport Secretary. Uncertainty at this time could cost jobs and livelihoods for Portsmouth people. I will continue to push for government support for all transport infrastructure struggling under the strain of Covid-19.”

The Portsmouth South MP is committed to working with the city council and neighbouring Members of Parliament which protects this vital transport link for Portsmouth and Gosport and will be taking further action next week following concerns raised by constituents.

 

 

 

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City MP continues to take action as WASPI women hit hard by Covid-19

Long running supporter of the WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaign, Stephen Morgan MP, has today written to the Work and Pensions Secretary urging swift action to help women born in the 1950s suffering at the hands of the pandemic.

The WASPI movement campaigns against the way the state pension age for men and women was equalised. Prior to the pandemic, millions of 1950s women had been made worse off, some losing up to £47,000. Reports are suggesting that these women are now being disproportionately hit by the impacts of Covid-19.

Writing directly the Secretary of State after listening to local concerns, Mr Morgan has raised that women affected are facing increased loss of earnings, trouble with Universal Credit and gaps in government support before he outlined potential solutions.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This is the generation of women that rebuilt Britain, it is unacceptable that they are being disproportionately affected by Covid-19. They suffered injustice prior to the pandemic, it is not right that they continue to have support refused.

Some face a loss of earnings as cleaners and exam invigilators whose ‘top up’ income has now dried up. Others are self-employed and have fallen through gaps in government support.

That is why I have written to directly the Work and Pensions Secretary requesting government explores the early payment of Pension Credit and State Pension to those effected.”

Shelagh Simmons from Solent WASPI said:

“Government implemented legislation that has caused severe financial turmoil for millions of 1950s women. Now we are asking them to provide emergency support during this pandemic

Early access to Pension Credit and State Pension will go some way to alleviate the pressures faced, and we are grateful to Stephen Morgan MP for taking action and asking the Government to make an assessment of these requests.”

Evidence suggests that many 1950s women work in the gig economy. The sector least supported by government Covid-19 schemes. This, coupled with low incomes undermining eligibility for universal credit, is resulting in severe loss of earnings for WASPI women.

The city MP has urged the government to assess the impacts of Pension Credit, which could offer immediate financial relief to those affected. While early access to State Pension has the potential to boost disposable income, likely to give a welcome kick to the economy as Britain gets on the road to recovery.

Stephen Morgan MP added: 

“I have been working closely with WASPI women for some time. I am committed to continuing to engage with them through this pandemic and beyond.

It is important that no one is left behind, particularly in a crisis, and that government is aware of the fact that there are gaps in the support they are offering.”