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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.”

 

 

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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.”