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City MP hosts ‘School Call’ bringing together parents, teachers and unions over concerns on school reopenings

Last night, Stephen Morgan MP teamed up with NEU President Amanda Martin and brought together parents and teachers for an open consultation.

The constituency-wide conversation – which took place via zoom – follows Government’s controversial proposals to send some pupils back on the 1 June, a decision slammed by unions and parents alike.

The conference call included addresses from the National Education Union  President and the city MP about the national lobbying effort to make sure that when schools reopen, they are safe for both pupils and staff.

City MP Stephen Morgan set out his parliamentary actions before opening up for questions and agreeing to take forward a set of actions in support of concerned parents and schools’ staff.

Amanda Martin, the President of Europe’s largest teaching union, spoke on the NEU’s 5 tests, current gaps in evidence and the problems with comparing the UK with nations such as Denmark and the Netherlands.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Government’s current proposals for reopening schools put pupils and teaching staff at risk. The consensus among teachers, unions and parents in the consultation revealed deep set and justified concerns.

We all want pupils back at school, but everyone loses if the proper preparations are not made. Lack of accurate guidance on workplace safety, unsubstantial scientific evidence supporting the proposed return date and the non-existent national testing strategy need to be addressed before dates are set.

There is a lot at risk if this is not done properly. I have already taken action alongside teaching groups in holding government to account for this decision. I will continue to work on the set of actions agreed through our discussions yesterday.”

Prior to the meeting, Stephen Morgan MP had already written to the Education Secretary, submitted a string of written questions and established communication with every school in the constituency.

NEU President, Amanda Martin said:

“Lack of published scientific evidence, patchy workplace safety guidelines and an absence of a testing process mean that reopening schools in early June runs the risk of harm coming to teachers and pupils.

I will continue work alongside Stephen to apply pressure on government to meet the NEU’s 5 tests, which have been backed by the British Medical Association and Parentkind.”

Over 40 attendees took part in the consultation. The main concerns raised included transparency in government decision making, the need for science-based evidence, importance of ongoing communication, and the lack of planning for the looming mental health crisis.

Mr Morgan added:

“This is not about making government’s job harder. It is about highlighting the areas they must address to keep pupils and teaching staff safe.  

The agreed set of actions yesterday will build upon the work that we have already done to hold government to account.”

Actions agreed yesterday included lobbying government to meet the NEU’s 5 tests through parliamentary questions and ministerial engagement, maintaining regular communication, applying pressure to government to implement a strategy for dealing with mental health implications, and continued use of parliamentary process to access scientific data.

 

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Stephen’s School Call report

Lots of parents and school staff have been contacting Stephen over the last few days about schools reopening.

Stephen believes the Government didn’t think this through before making the announcement, and many headteachers – while trying to plan – are still uncertain what they are being asked to do. As an MP Stephen is doing what he can to help worried teachers and parents.

On Wednesday 20 May Stephen held a ‘School Call’ for parents and teachers from across the constituency to discuss views and concerns over the proposed plan by Government for children to start returning to school in the first week of June.

Stephen is calling on Ministers to work with trade unions and local government to agree safety measures, publish the scientific evidence and get much more of the test, trace and isolate system in place.

We all want to see children back in the classrooms but only when we’re confident it is sensible and safe.

The zoom call saw 40 parents and teachers join a discussion with Stephen Morgan MP, Amanda Martin, President of the National Education Union, and Cllr Suzy Horton.

A report from the discussion can be found here: School Call report

 

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Take a few minutes to help Portsmouth’s creative sector urges city MP

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has thrown weight behind Portsmouth Creates’ consultation with the creative sector to hear their concerns at this time of crisis

Portsmouth Creates, set up last year, is an independent organisation seeking to increase cultural investment in the city, by connecting, enabling and championing culture in the city.

Backing the organisation, Stephen Morgan MP is urging people to participate in a short survey and to share views on practice, business and operations amid Covid-19. This will inform Portsmouth’s response to the ‘Call for Evidence’ from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) ‘Enquiry into the impact of Covid-19.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Portsmouth is regarded as a culture hub not just within our region but nationally. Our city boasts world class festivals, outstanding food outlets, multiple theatres and internationally renowned museums.

As stark warnings are issued that the arts and culture could be most at risk during Covid-19, the work of organisations like Portsmouth Creates CIC becomes even more important.

It is vital that we get behind them in their efforts. I urge Portsmouth people to spare a few moments to help inform discussion on culture in our city.”

Amid the Covid-19 the Portsmouth South representative has been lobbying hard for PAYE freelancers and taking concerns to Government on behalf of local cultural institutions, submitting written questions and raising matters with the Culture Secretary.

You can do your bit too, stand up for Portsmouth’s creative community here: www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/QWBMDK2.

Please submit your response by Friday 29 May 2020 so that your views can be included.

 

 

 

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City MP backs call to help struggling PAYE freelancers

Acting on the behalf of local PAYE freelancers under strain, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has backed calls on government to offer more far reaching financial aid.

Holes in government support for freelancers is an issue that has been disproportionately affecting those working in the creative industry.

According to a BECTU survey, only 50% of creative industries workers have been able to access support through a Government income support scheme.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“From international-standard museums to media start-ups, Portsmouth has a thriving creative scene. The continuation of this is in the interest of the city economically and socially.

The fact that this sector is most at risk due to gaps in government support must be redressed. There are many freelancers out there who are unable to access any support through the Government’s financial assistance schemes.

If support does not come quickly, this could result in financial ruin for hundreds of hardworking Portsmouth people and risk the loss of a highly skilled section of the workforce.”

Despite direct calls last month from Labour’s Shadow Chancellor to look to address the gaps in the support schemes, no steps have been taken, leaving many workers in crisis and a very real risk of a skills blackhole in this vital, growing sector of the UK economy.

Within the creative industries sector there are a significant number of people who are unable to access either the job retention scheme (JRS) or the self-employed income support scheme (SEISS). Creative and cultural industries significantly contribute to the 5.3 million jobs across the DCMS sector, a sector that accounts for nearly 16% of all UK jobs.

Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens MP:

“Creative industries have become a vital, successful part of the UK economy – outgrowing the UK economy on the whole and contributing £13 million every hour.

But many in the creative industries have been left to go through this crisis without support and their concerns and proposed solutions to the Government have so far been ignored.

The Chancellor needs to listen to these pleas. We know that many talented people are now considering their futures in the sector. If we lose these skills, it will prevent this critical sector from surviving and playing its part in our recovery once the virus is beaten for good.”

Stephen Morgan has been taking action to lobby Government over the concerns of freelancers since the onset of the pandemic. Already he has written twice to the Chancellor, submitted written questions and helped struggling individuals in the constituency with specific casework.

Information to support freelancers from BECTU can be found here

 

 

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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.