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Covid-19: “My message to everyone in our city is simple. Stay home. Save lives”

Responding to the Government’s announcement tonight (Thursday 16 April 2020) on the extension of the’ lock down’ for at least another three weeks, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Portsmouth people have shown tremendous resolve by staying home to protect the NHS and to save lives. It is absolutely the right decision for the lock down to be extended today for a further three weeks.

The silent pressure on families and communities cannot be underestimated. To maintain hope, the government must be very clear with the British public what we can expect next. Across the country people are making huge sacrifices.

Many will be struggling with their health and mental health, heightened concerns about making ends meet, or extended periods of separation from their loved ones.

Ministers must now start setting out the position on how restrictions can be eased at the appropriate time, and the strategy for widespread community testing, contact tracing, or a national vaccine programme.

It is vital that the government takes the public with them to ensure hope is not lost. I will continue to work constructively with Ministers to protect Portsmouth people at this unprecedented time.

For now, my message to everyone in our city is simple. Stay home. Save lives”.

 

 

 

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IPSA funding during Covid-19

In the midst of a crisis it is important for people to have up to date and accurate information. Recently, you may have seen misleading headlines suggesting that MPs are getting an additional £10,000 to work from home. This is not the case. I want you to know exactly where this money has come from, who it is for, and how it might be used.

I have a small core team of people who help me support Portsmouth South. In line with government guidance, they have now been instructed to work from home.

The independent body in charge of supporting MPs and staff – the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) – has decided to introduce a contingency budget for office equipment.

This is because not all those who now working from home due to the coronavirus outbreak have their own computers, printers and scanners.

You may also be interested to know that I have not yet used any of this money and do not have any current plans to use it.

My small office team are all working from home and I’m liaising with constituents via email, video conferencing and phone. I am also using my website, social media and e-bulletins to keep people updated with the latest information.

The number of people contacting me for assistance has more than trebled over the last 5 weeks as many people struggle with the impacts of coronavirus. This additional funding reserve could help us deal with that increase from home, if necessary. It cannot be used to increase staff pay, or MP’s pay.

MPs themselves are not getting extra money. Funds can only be used if it is needed. As is rightly the case with all allowances used by MPs, any MP making a claim from the budget will have to provide receipts, show it is justified and details will then be published. It is right that the public has access to an open and transparent process.

Since MPs do not receive any money, it cannot be donated. But as part of Labour’s shadow cabinet and as your local MP I’m working hard to get the protective equipment, testing and proper pay our frontline workers need and deserve.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, has released a statement providing additional information on this:

“It is wrong to characterise this extra £10,000 allocated by IPSA as MPs giving themselves additional funds. On the contrary, this money is being used to enable MPs’ staff to set up home working to support distressed constituents at a time of crisis. Many MPs have seen their casework soar as a direct result of coronavirus.

“Enabling staff to work remotely is the best and the safest way for them – and the constituents they are in contact with – to communicate and work together during these difficult times. The additional budget is there to draw down on if it is needed and required – and it will have to be accounted for in the usual way.”

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“We must see a strategy for getting Britain on the road to recovery” says city MP joining calls for Covid-19 recovery plan

Stephen Morgan MP has doubled down on the Labour leader’s calls for government to issue a plan for getting Britain on the path to recovery.

Citing a need for transparency around ongoing restrictions and for British people to have a sense of what comes next, Mr Morgan has urged government to publish their strategy for coming out of lockdown.

Mr Morgan also joined frontbench colleagues in supporting an extension to the period of lockdown, which government is expected do shortly.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Millions of people have stuck to the lockdown rules and are acting in a community minded manner. This must continue. Government also has a responsibility to keep people informed and must be open about when restrictions are likely to end.

Our communities must be reassured that government is on top of producing an effective exit strategy from this crisis. Transparency is key not only to the wellbeing of the population but also to the development of plans and to garnering agreement over the best route out.

I will continue to constructively engage with government and apply scrutiny to their decision-making so that communities like Portsmouth are privy to transparent, frank political decision making and are well-prepared for when our country comes out of this crisis.”

Leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer said:

“Plans need to be in place sooner rather than later. Science in the end can’t tell you what the political strategy is for coming out of lockdown, because that involves political decisions as well as scientific decisions.

If we can get a consensus that this is the right strategy going forward, I think that will give trust to the public as well.”

Keir Starmer has made calls on Dominic Raab MP to commit to laying out the criteria the government will use to inform how and when it intends to ease the lockdown. He has also urged him to publish the exit strategy as a matter of urgency.

 

 

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City MP praises work of care providers during Covid-19 and consults over concerns

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has written out to over fifty care providers and residential homes to thank staff for their tireless efforts for our city and asking workers to keep him informed over PPE shortages

The latest action follows a series of steps to put pressure on Government to take urgent action to address the supply of personal protective equipment in the social care sector and pushing for regular testing for those working on the frontline.

The MP has lobbied the Health Secretary, submitted urgent parliamentary questions as well as written to the Prime Minister directly calling for greater measures to help NHS and social care services succeed in keeping people safe and well.

Writing to staff teams in over fifty care settings, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Thank you and all your staff who are contributing such vital care for residents during this public health emergency.

During this crisis many of your staff will have family responsibilities and personal caring duties on top of their work responsibilities. 

On behalf of our whole community I would like to convey our thanks and admiration for the selfless work they continue to do”.

Ensuring local providers have a good supply of the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is a top priority for the city MP who is liaising with the city council, local resilience forum and Government departments over concerns.

Looking ahead to when the country recovers from the coronavirus crisis, the MP hopes lessons will be learnt in recognising the efforts of those working on the frontline. He added:

“I trust that when this pandemic has passed, society may recognise more clearly the interdependence we all have upon each other and show its appreciation to you and others on the frontline performing essential caring roles in more tangible ways”.

An online petition has been set up to show to Government the strength of feeling in Portsmouth for protecting staff on the frontline. To show your support for these efforts go to www.stephenmorgan.org.uk/covid-19/protecting-the-frontline/

 

 

 

 

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Portsmouth MP promoted in Starmer’s new top team

The official leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer MP has today named Stephen Morgan MP as Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces.

The city MP Stephen Morgan has secured the key role in the shadow defence team following the election of Keir Starmer as the new Labour Leader last week.

The promotion comes after the Portsmouth South MP served on Labour’s frontbench as Shadow Local Government Minister for Communities, and temporarily as Shadow Defence Procurement Minister.

Responding to the appointment, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The protection of its people is the first priority of any Government. Our armed forces work hard to keep us safe and secure so that we can live our lives to the full without fear.

I am hugely proud of our nation’s armed forces and the role Britain’s highly skilled workforce play in supporting them.

It is a privilege to be asked, and accept, an opportunity to serve in Keir Starmer’s top team.

I look forward to working alongside the newly appointed Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey, and colleagues, being a strong national voice for our armed forces and challenging hard on the opposition frontbench on behalf of service personnel and the British public when the Government falls short”.

Since being elected an MP in 2017 in the heart and home of the Royal Navy, the Portsmouth South representative has been taking action to support Britain’s armed forces. Mr Morgan has taken particular interest in the pay and conditions of personnel, campaigning for bespoke mental health support for those who serve, and lobbying government to take measures to tackle veteran suicide.

Mr Morgan’s new responsibilities include operations, operational legal matters, force recruitment and retention, and international defence engagement among a number of other areas.

Shadow Defence Secretary, John Healey MP, said:

“I’m delighted Stephen is part of Labour’s new shadow defence team. He’s a proven national voice on defence matters with a track record of holding the Government to account on behalf of our armed forces. He’ll be a major asset to our front bench team.

Stephen has parliamentary experience raising defence matters and has spent time engaging with our troops and the defence industry. I am confident he will serve the opposition and our country well as the new Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces.”

Recognising the challenges ahead, the new Shadow Minister added:

“My Portsmouth-born grandfather, who played such an active part in the Royal Army Service Corp for the D-Day landings, was one of the main reasons I was inspired to get into politics. I want to make sure that those who bravely serve our nation are recognised and valued by society.

Today amidst the coronavirus crisis at home, and a global pandemic not respecting any border, our armed forces are already stepping up and are ready and responding to the challenges Covid-19 bring.

Our armed forces are well disposed to support the nation in its time of need. We are already seeing our troops helping on the ground and in our communities by supporting our NHS and other emergency and frontline services in keeping us safe.

For that, and for the tasks they are set to do for our nation as times get tough, I am hugely grateful”.

Now, more than ever, during this time of crisis, with 2,680 armed forces personnel helping combat Covid-19, checks and balances to government decision-making will be essential.

As well as being an active member of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, the MP specialised in defence and military capabilities when sitting on the Public Accounts Committee and served as the Shadow Defence Procurement Minister (January 2020 – April 2020) constructively engaging with the country’s defence and aerospace industries.

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“Government has taken steps in the right direction but must go further” says City MP as he works with local domestic abuse campaigner

Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan has worked with local activist Kirsty Mellor to bring government’s attention to the increase in domestic abuse amid this pandemic, while acknowledging the Home Secretary’s efforts so far.

The pair have issued a letter directly to the Home Secretary outlining what Covid-19 means for domestic abuse, the areas where improvement is needed in the current system, and to push for more detail on how the government plans to address the issue.

The letter follows news that The National Domestic Abuse Helpline has recorded a 25% increase in cases, while visits to the website have increased by 150%. And Women’s Aid has recorded a 41% spike in traffic.

Mr Morgan said:

“The UK’s biggest domestic abuse charities have issued chilling warnings over concerns on the risk of increased incidences across the nation.

Government has taken a step in the right direction in acknowledging the danger and in issuing new guidance, which was welcome. However, we need to see detailed planning on how government will fund, resource and support domestic abuse services amidst this pandemic.

This is a matter of life and death for women and men across our country. That is why, alongside Kirsty Mellor, I am applying scrutiny to government’s decision making on this and pushing for further action. I remain committed to working constructively with Government to ensure the interests of those vulnerable to abuse are always put first.”

Since 2010, most councils in England, Wales and Scotland reduced funding for refuges, with cuts of nearly £7m over the past eight years. And the situation is getting worse: an estimated 21,084 referrals to all refuges in England were refused in 2017-18 because there was insufficient funding or no space for the victim.

Local campaigner, Kirsty Mellor said:

“Domestic abuse is a stain on our society. Prior to this pandemic case numbers were rising while refuge numbers were dwindling.

Action was needed before, now there are increased pressures, a radical strategy is necessary to avoid an unprecedented domestic abuse crisis.

While the government is acknowledging the problem, it must do more. I hope we can all work together to come up with viable solutions for the good of our community.”

The newly appointed Shadow Home Secretary also undertook decisive action by putting pressure on his government opposite number by calling for increased funding, more refuge space and an urgent review of current practices.

Shadow Home Secretary, Nick Thomas Symonds MP in his letter said:

“I am writing to ask you to work with colleagues across government to urgently bring forward a package of emergency bespoke financial support for the organisations who are doing vital frontline work to ensure that they can provide a crucial safety net to some of the most at risk women, children and communities throughout this crisis.”

Information about domestic abuse services locally can be found here: https://www.portsmouth.gov.uk/ext/environmental-health/crime-and-nuisance/domestic-abuse

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Looking for something to do this weekend? Then enter my constituency colouring competition!

Looking for something to do this weekend?

Then enter my constituency colouring competition!

All around Portsmouth we can see colourful rainbows decorated by families offering a sign of hope during this challenging time for our city and our country. Teaming up with local graphic designer and friend Sarah Houghton she has used her amazing talents to produce a Portsmouth poster for people’s windows.

Please feel free to colour it in, then scan it or send me a photo of it in your window and prizes will be awarded to the best!

To download the poster click here: Final colouring competition

Open to all. Entries should be submitted to stephen@stephenmorgan.org.uk by no later than Friday 17 April

 

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Labour leadership: Stephen Morgan MP welcomes news that Keir Starmer has stormed contest

This morning the Labour Party announced that Keir Starmer has won the Labour leadership contest, securing him as official Leader of the Opposition.

The new party leader won on the first round of ballots with an impressive 56.2% of the vote. Angela Rayner was also elected as Deputy Party Leader.

Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Minister Stephen Morgan has been supporting and campaigning for Starmer and Rayner throughout the long campaign, nominating both candidates back in January.

Welcoming Keir Starmer as the new leader of the party, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This leadership election has been long and it is fair to say it hasn’t ended in the way that any of us in the Labour Party expected because of the coronavirus crisis. It has been a huge privilege to be part of a campaign where the party has come out of it better, more united and ready to build another future.

Labour is at it’s best when it is a force for good and a force for change.

It is fantastic to have a Labour Leader who has invested so much time coming to Portsmouth to hear our city’s concerns, understand the challenges our communities face, and campaigned alongside us.

I am excited about working with Keir and the party as we build the path back to power and to transform our city and our country for the better”.

On Portsmouth, Keir Starmer MP has said:

“This is a great city and I’m beginning to really get a grip of what we need to do here. We also have to understand how the likes of Stephen Morgan MP increased his majority.

To win more seats we need people like him who are well-known and liked around the place; there’s a real sense of engagement.”

Commenting on the challenge ahead for the new party leadership, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“We are in an unprecedented time for our country where checks and balances on the Government’s actions are needed more than ever. There is no doubt in my mind that Keir’s strategic mind, forensic analysis and commitment to social justice, will be greatly needed not just by Labour, but by the nation amidst this crisis.

For now, Labour’s focus must be on supporting people to get through this pandemic, and as Britain recovers from this crisis, being a strong and effective party with the ideas and drive to build a fairer, more just society where no one is ever left behind”

Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner were both nominated by Portsmouth Labour Party. Local activists joined phone banking sessions helping to contact over 300,000 party members and supporters across the country.

A packed rally in the city in late February hosted by the city MP saw guest speaker and Pompey footballer Christian Burgess warm up the crowd before Keir Starmer addressed the audience.

 

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Support to city’s small business must continue says Portsmouth MP

Since the Covid-19 lockdown began, small businesses have struggled. Many have been unable to pay employees sick pay and evidence suggested one fifth could go under.

The Chancellor has taken steps to mitigate against these impacts, but small businesses have described the support offered as patchy and restricted. On 2 April, the Chancellor updated government support and announced changes.

Stephen Morgan MP, who has been speaking up for small business amid the crisis, has responded to the Chancellor’s latest announcements. The city MP has welcomed the acceptance that previous support was not adequate but continues to highlight gaps in the package going forward.

The Coronavirus Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) before yesterday’s announcement yielded poor results with less than 1,000 out of 130,000 loans so far approved. The Government yesterday announced changes to this which only go part way in solving the issue.

Mr Morgan said:

“At this time of crisis, it is important that we all work together, and I am supportive of the Chancellor taking on board the calls from small businesses. However, I know from speaking to business owners that the original CBIL Scheme offered did not offer enough support to small businesses.

The scheme which some described as ‘fiddly’ placed too much weighting on power given to banks. This resulted in many small businesses in our community raising concerns directly with me around cash flow and loan application decisions.

I have been lobbying Government on this issue, highlighting the need for more comprehensive support packages and faster loan payments”.

The most important U-turn by the chancellor, Mr Sunak, is a change to the power held by banks. In their original CBILS banks were told that loans could only be offered to viable businesses that could not access finance on normal commercial terms.

Now “all viable businesses affected by Covid-19” will be eligible – taking on board Mr Morgan’s calls for more far reaching support.

While this issue does go part way supporting the city’s small businesses, no solution to the banks slow processing was offered.

Mr Morgan said:

“From speaking to small businesses in our community I know cash flow is one of the major issues faced. We all saw headlines earlier this week suggesting one fifth of small businesses could go under. The question we need to be asking is, do the chancellors new measures change this?

I am deeply concerned that a flood of lending was promised but is yet to happen. Banks claim that they are working flat out, but government must have processes in place that guarantee faster payments and an increased cash flow to small business amid this crisis. An issue of this importance cannot be left for the banks to run.

I will continue to keep a close eye on government’s steps to aid small businesses, we must work together to secure the future of our city’s business community”.

Stephen Morgan MP has been acting as voice for small business throughout the pandemic. Over three weeks ago he began discussions with the Federation of Small Business, has written to the Chancellor to highlight gaps in CBILS, has corresponded with the Solent LEP, raising issues in parliament and continuing to help with individual casework.

Some businesses may also be eligible for a Small Business Grant Fund. Government is providing additional funding for Local Authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBRR), rural rate relief (RRR) and tapered relief. This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.

Key support for available for city businesses:

 

 

 

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City MP calls on government to keep ban on asbestos post Brexit transition period and to protect Health and Safety Executive resources

Stephen Morgan MP is calling on the government to make a firm commitment to maintaining the ban on asbestos  after the Brexit transition period comes to an end on 31 December 2020 and as the UK negotiates trade deals with other countries.

The MP for Portsmouth South is also asking the government to rule out any further cuts to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which is responsible for enforcing compliance with asbestos-related health and safety legislation. The agency received around £100 million less from the DWP in 2019-20 than it did in 2009-10 and saw its number of inspectors reduced by 25% between 2010 and 2016.

In October 2019, the HSE, which sits under the Department for Work and Pensions, reported that there are currently over 5,000 asbestos-related disease deaths per year in the UK, although this is expected to decline over the next decade and beyond.

While the government has committed in recent weeks to maintaining a “high level of protection of human health and the environment” post-Brexit, there has been widespread concern among campaign groups that this may change in the future, particularly when the UK comes to negotiate trade deals with other countries including the USA where regulations allow use of products containing asbestos – such as certain car parts like clutches and brakes, building materials like roofing felt, tiles and cement products, heat-resistant fabrics, packaging, gaskets and coatings.

It was also reported earlier month that, in 2019 the US Food and Drug Administration confirmed that asbestos had been found in several cosmetic products, including make-up marketed at children, prompting campaigners to warn that a UK trade deal with the US could see the relaxation of stringent laws prohibiting the use of dangerous ingredients in imported cosmetics.    

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The significant damage that asbestos-related diseases can do and the devastation they can cause to individuals and families is all too clear.

We should not be lowering standards once we come to do trade deals with other countries that don’t have the same restrictions on asbestos that we do in the UK.

It is vital that the ban on the manufacture and supply of all asbestos products in the UK is kept in place.”

Margaret Greenwood MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said:

“I am concerned that any reduction in standards as a result of trade deals could put more lives at risk from asbestos-related conditions and increase cost to the DWP in social security payments and also through the work of the HSE.

Promises the government has made with regard to asbestos have to be kept firmly in mind when it is negotiating trade deals with countries whose asbestos regulations are not as stringent as the UK’s.

Labour is calling on the government to maintain the ban on asbestos.”