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Shadow Armed Forces Minister seeks views of reservists across Portsmouth

Recognising the crucial role that reservists play in the operational capability of the armed forces, Stephen Morgan MP is offering troops the opportunity to voice any concerns or ideas on how to improve life for reserves.

The MP’s action comes in the wake of the Reserves in the Future Force 2020 programme drawing to a close and government embarking on The Reserve Forces 2030 Review. These two government-led programmes seek to both grow the numbers and role of reserve troops.

Government has drawn fire as recent statistics have shown they have yet again failed to meet their recruitment targets. Concerns have been raised that the overall trained strength of personnel within the FR2020 programme on 1 April 2020 was 33,000, a deficit of 2,141 against the target.

In addition, Ministers have been criticised for refusing to classify reserves as veterans when it comes to National Insurance contributions, sparking outrage as many reserves saw action in major theatres of war such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Morgan’s event will give reserves a platform to discuss these matters and any others effecting the reserve community.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“With reservists playing integral roles in almost all modern theatres of war and harbouring a great deal of experience such as our cyber capability, it is vital that these troops are effectively integrated across our armed forces.

Government has a responsibility to make becoming an armed forces reserve both an attractive prospect and beneficial to maintaining national security.

That is why I am hosting a roundtable meeting, to ensure that as the reserve force grows, the views and concerns of our troops are at the forefront of discussion.”

The City MP is encouraging people to register their interest in taking part in an online event or by sharing views by emailing stephen.morgan.mp@parliament.uk

 

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City MP calls for urgent government support for EFL clubs in response to Covid-19

Stephen Morgan MP has called for the government to provide emergency financial support and guidance for EFL clubs, with many struggling to stay afloat financially due to the government ban on fan attendance in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

This comes as EFL clubs, which includes Portsmouth Football Club, lost £50m of gate income in the 2019/20 season by playing matches behind closed doors (Championship) or curtailing the season (Leagues One and Two) and will lose a further £200m if crowds do not return during the 2020/21 campaign.

EFL teams typically have a higher dependency on ticket, confectionary and merchandise sales.

The Premier League is also reportedly set to meet today to discuss a £250m emergency support package for the EFL, but the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South has called for urgent government support and guidance.

Stephen Morgan MP said,

“For EFL clubs like Portsmouth FC, it is becoming an increasingly untenable position to be expected to continue operating without further government support.

“EFL clubs are in a very different position to clubs in the Premier League, as lower league clubs depend much more on revenue streams dependent on fan attendance, which now looks very unlikely to happen for the foreseeable future.”

This comes following comments made by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in June that football should ‘support itself’ through the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Morgan, added,

“As I have said before, our football club’s success is our city’s success. EFL clubs are intrinsically part of the fabric of their communities. Whether that be through the jobs or income the club brings to the local economy, or the fantastic work of the community foundations like Portsmouth’s very own Pompey in the Community (PiTC).

“If the government is serious about ‘levelling up’, it will provide the financial support and clarity EFL clubs like Portsmouth urgently need.”

Mr Morgan has also written to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Oliver Dowden MP, raising this issue, following an online event with Portsmouth fans and the opposition’s DCMS team last month.

The MP has vowed to continue to take action to help the club and fellow fans.

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Schools have crucial role to play in ensuring relevance of Remembrance for today

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has written to all headteachers in the constituency urging schools to mark Remembrance by taking advantage of new educational resources from The Royal British Legion.

As the national champions of Remembrance, the Legion is committed to ensuring that Remembrance is understood and available to every child and community in the UK.

Seeking the participation of schools for Remembrance in classrooms comes at a time when question have been raised over ceremonies across the country whilst local councils await guidance from Government on ensuring events are delivered safely.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“To highlight the importance of Remembrance the Legion has produced a suite of educational resources for children to enjoy in the classroom and at home.

These resources come in a variety of formats, from book clubs and lessons to assemblies and arts projects. Created in partnership with the National Literacy Trust and others, the resources will enable teachers, parents and families to bring Remembrance to life.

I urge schools in Portsmouth and across our country to use these helpful resources ahead of Remembrance later this year”.

The resources have been designed to support primary and secondary schools, at what has been a very challenging time, to deliver National Curriculum linked learning and support the wellbeing of children.

They are available to download for free from the Teaching Remembrance hub at: www.rbl.org.uk/teachingremembrance

 

 

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Portsmouth MP urges government to fix ‘broken’ pension credit scheme for over-75s TV licences

Stephen Morgan MP has outlined fresh concerns over the 3.7 million pensioners that are now required to start paying for TV licences, after the government’s delay to removing the concession for all over-75s expired on 1st August 2020.

In 2019 it was announced the universal free TV licence would be scrapped, except for over-75’s in receipt of Pension Credit from 1st June 2020.

This comes as many pensioners are reportedly either unaware or unable to access their pension credit, or fall just outside the requirements to qualify for the scheme, but are by no means living comfortably.

According to national charity Turn2us, an estimated 1,716 pensioners in the city of Portsmouth are not claiming their pension credit – which entitles them to a free TV licence.

Stephen Morgan MP commented,

“The government’s decision to force a political decision upon a BBC that is already receiving serious cuts to funding is completely unacceptable.

“But to then set up a pension credit scheme that is bureaucratic, ill-communicated and that still leaves many pensioners exempt from the scheme that are nowhere near living comfortably is just incredibly poor governance and lacking in vision.”

In addition, during lockdown and beyond, the importance of access to amenities for pensioners has been underscored.

According to Age UK, over 950,000 people aged 70+ in England (12% or one in eight) were shielding from the virus. Meanwhile, 38% of over-75s (2.1 million people) agreed that television was their main form of company, and 40% of over-75s (2.2 million people) live alone.

Mr Morgan added,

“During lockdown, now and in the months to come, TV will be incredibly important to help reduce loneliness for pensioners and to also ensure they remain updated on latest developments – particularly on Covid-19.

“The government needs to revisit this scheme urgently as weenter the winter period and I will be taking further action in Parliament to challenge them on this important issue.”

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South is set to table a range of parliamentary questions and look to arrange a cross-party Westminster Hall debate to challenge on the government’s TV licence policy, on behalf of pensioners in Portsmouth.

Mr Morgan has previously written to two Culture Secretaries lobbying for government on this issue, spoken out in favour of keeping the benefit during parliamentary debates; grilled Ministers in the House of Commons during relevant questions; submitted a string of targeted written questions to the department responsible; and written a joint letter with the Portsmouth Pensioners Association to the Prime Minister.

The government’s pension credit team can be reached on 0800 99 1234.

 

 

 

 

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Portsmouth MP urges city residents to download new Covid-19 NHS app

Stephen Morgan MP has encouraged Portsmouth residents to download and utilise the new NHS Covid-19 app, that was launched by the government on Thursday. This comes following a rise in infection levels both locally and nationally, along with the introduction of new government restrictions.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South has underlined the importance of everyone who can to use the app, for both their own safety and other people who reside in and visit the city.

The app was launched nationwide to help control COVID-19 transmission alongside national and local contact tracing. Features of the app include contact tracing using Bluetooth, risk alerts based on postcode district, QR check-in at venues, symptom checker and test booking.

Since Thursday, businesses are now required by law to display the official NHS QR code posters so people can check-in at different premises with the app.

Stephen Morgan MP, commented,

“I urge everyone across the city who can to download and make use of the NHS Covid-19 track and tracing app. This is particularly important now as we have seen the recent rise in infection levels both here and across the country.

“I also would encourage our local businesses to make sure they are now displaying the NHS QR code posters to allow customers to check-in to their businesses.”

You can find out more about the app and how to download it via the government website.

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 Overseas Operations Bill must protect our troops

Labour’s Shadow Defence team is looking to forge a constructive consensus on legislation to protect our Armed Forces from vexatious claims following controversial Bill before Parliament.

Key provisions of the Overseas Operations Bill the Shadow Defence team will seek to change include:

  • The potential breach to the Armed Forces Covenant as the Bill, currently drafted, removes the court’s discretion to extend time for civil claims under s.7 of the Human Rights Act beyond six years, or twelve months from the date on which the key facts were known, whichever is the longer.
  • The risk of undermining our commitment to the Geneva Conventions, The Convention Against Torture and Rome Statue, as the Bill introduces a presumption not to prosecute crimes after 5 years from when the allegation took place, which includes torture and other war crimes. The treaties require states to investigate, and where appropriate, prosecute allegations of torture and war crimes. Any state that is unable or unwilling to so risks dragging their Armed Forces personnel in front of the International Criminal Court.
  • The Bill currently does nothing to propose reforms to the flawed investigations process. It is focussed on changes to prosecutions, when the Government’s own data shows that the 3,400 allegations made only led to seven prosecutions, of which all but one have been dropped, the rest would need to be addressed by changes to investigations practices.

The Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, John Healey said:

“We all want the same thing. We want to protect British troops and we want to protect British values. And this should not mean a matter of party politics.

“We will seek time overhaul investigations, set up safeguards against vexatious claims consistent with our international obligations and guarantee troops retain their right to compensation claims when MoD failures lead to injury or death of our forces overseas.”

Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces, Stephen Morgan MP, added:

“Labour will always defend the interests of our Armed Forces who serve our country with courage and distinction. Those British service personnel who have been subject to vexatious legal claims and years of judicial reviews have been let down by successive governments. There is a problem for British troops but this Bill gets the solutions badly wrong.

It undermines Britain’s proud long-standing adherence to the Geneva Conventions, by bringing in a presumption against prosecution after five years which covers torture and other war crimes.

The bill risks UK service personnel being dragged to the international criminal court in the Hague, instead of being dealt with in our own British justice system.”

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister conducts tour of HMS Prince of Wales

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan today visited HMS Prince of Wales, a Queen Elizabeth-Class aircraft carrier docked in Portsmouth, for an extensive tour of her capabilities and time with personnel.

Alongside HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Prince of Wales forms the largest, most powerful, and technologically advanced ships built for the Navy, capable of carrying up to 40 aircraft and a crew of up to 1,600. The flight deck is four acres and four fighter jets can be moved from the hangar to the flight deck in one minute. The MoD forecast that it will complete the carriers build project for £6.405 billion, an increase of £193 million (3%) from the £6.212 billion agreed in the re-baselined project in 2013.

Led by the vessels Commander of Logistics, Mr Morgan spent time in both main galleys, the operations room, the Hangar, and was given access to the ship’s Highly Mechanised Weapon Handling System.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“HMS Prince of Wales is a fine example of our nation’s Naval might and is a testament to the capabilities of our Great British shipyards.

I had the honour of visiting the vessel in Rosyth two years ago, while she was still preparing for active service, and the opportunity today to see her progression highlights the dedication of our Naval personnel.

As one of the most powerful surface warships ever constructed in the UK, HMS Prince of Wales is a reminder of what we can achieve when we have a Labour government at the helm.”

As well as observing the vessel’s equipment and capabilities, Mr Morgan spent time with the personnel onboard learning what life is like living on an aircraft carrier. The Shadow Armed Forces Minister reiterated that ‘It’s the people who make our armed forces the best in the world’. With time spent in the overflow accommodation, medical center, and flight deck the visit gave the Shadow Armed Forces Minister insight into all the elements needed to maintain the ship’s capability.

Mr Morgan was joined by Public Accounts Committee for the visit, who are carrying out an investigation into the cost-effectiveness of the carrier strike project entitled – Delivering Carrier Strike. The inquiry looks at exploiting commercial opportunities, delivering capability, and analysis of value for money.

Mr Morgan said:

“I was delighted to welcome and join the Public Accounts Committee, the oldest and most prestigious committee in Parliament, on a visit to HMS Prince of Wales today.

Showcasing our Naval capability and the skill of our shipbuilders, the Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers are a source of great pride for our city and our nation. A product of the last Labour government, they tell a story of a time before the recent decade of crude Tory defence cuts.

I will continue to follow closely the work of the PAC and advocate on behalf of building ships in Britain, which is best for our economy, jobs and shipyards.”

The construction of the Queen-Elizabeth Class carriers, which has supported over 10,000 British jobs and reinvigorated British shipyards, was commissioned by the last Labour government in 1997. Mr Morgan has continually called for greater commitments to British shipbuilding and the need to build in Britain.

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Stephen Morgan MP calls to set aside party politics to get Overseas Operations Bill right

Stephen Morgan MP has called for the government to forge a constructive consensus on legislation to protect our Armed Forces from vexatious claims. 

The purpose of the Overseas Operations Bill is to provide greater legal protections to Armed Forces personnel and veterans serving on military operations overseas.

The Shadow Defence team has vowed to fight for serving troops and veterans for their right to justice from the government, arguing the bill protects the government, not armed forces personnel.

However, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister has argued the bill does not in fact offer the legal protections that it is said to provide, and risks damaging Britain’s international reputation.

Speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon, Stephen Morgan MP said,

“Unfortunately, the government has got important parts of this Bill badly wrong.

“In its current form it risks damaging our reputation and failing to protect of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

“If I have one message for the Minister it is this: As this bill continues its passage through Parliament, commit to improving it alongside us.

“Let’s work together to protect our troops, their reputation and our international standing.”

The Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, John Healey MP, added,

“We all want the same thing. We want to protect British troops and we want to protect British values. And this should not mean a matter of party politics.

“We will seek time to overhaul investigations, set up safeguards against vexatious claims consistent with our international obligations and guarantee troops retain their right to compensation claims when MoD failures lead to injury or death of our forces overseas.”

You can read the full text of the Member for Portsmouth South’s speech via his website, or see a clip here.

 

 

 

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP – Overseas Operations Bill – Full Speech

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

I would like to start by paying tribute to our armed forces – and join colleagues from across this House – in expressing gratitude to those who serve.

They truly give us a reason to be patriotic.

Mr Speaker, there is consensus across the House here today.

Labour, the Government, and the Armed Forces all want the same thing.

We all agree that we must protect our troops from vexatious claims.

And, we all agree that we must defend those that serve our country overseas with courage and distinction.

Government promised to bring forward legislation to do just that in their first 100 days of government.

Now, 284 days later, they have disappointingly got crucial elements of this Bill badly wrong.

The question we must be asking is: what does this mean for our troops?

It risks breaching the armed forces covenant and rolls back on their employment rights.

It fails to properly protect against vexatious claims.

And, it undermines Britain’s proud adherence to the international laws like the Geneva Convention that we helped create.

But it is not too late.

There is still time for Ministers to work with us to get this right.

The Government’s introduction of a 6-year limit for bringing civil claims will prevent troops who suffer injury from taking cases to court.

Over the last 15 years, there have been 25 cases brought by injured British troops against the MoD – for every 1 case brought by alleged victims against our forces.

That means the main beneficiary of this Bill is the MoD. Not our personnel.

This Bill should be designed to protect troops, not the purse strings of Government.

So, I put it to the Minister, if this Bill is for our armed forces community, why does it deny them the same employment rights as civilians?

Mr Speaker, Labour is also deeply concerned this Bill does not meet its primary objective – it does not do enough to protect our troops from vexatious claims.

In letters sent to the Defence Secretary by the Defence Committee, the point is made that this Bill does nothing to prevent arduous investigations processes.

It just protects from prosecutions.

It does nothing to deal with the serious failings in the system for investigating allegations against British troops.

Something that the defence minister himself admits –

“Had they been done properly – and self-regulation had occurred – we probably wouldn’t be here today”.

This means that perhaps the toughest, most intrusive aspect of the vexatious claims process is not dealt with in this Bill.

And this is not the only way in which it leaves our troops open to ’lawfare’.

By going back on our commitments to the Geneva convention, it risks dragging our people in front of the International Criminal Court.

I put it to the Minister, does he really want to make it more likely that the ICC could open investigations against British troops?

Mr Speaker, there are also a set of wider issues here.

Vexatious claims are not the only major problem our forces face.

Action on this issue is not a licence to neglect others.

Low pay.

Ten years of falling morale.

A decade of falling numbers.

And a housing crisis across the tri-services.

If the Minister is serious about tackling its poor track record on Defence, we need to see action on all these issues.

This presents an opportunity to turn the tide, break the mould, and work with Labour to get this right.

Mr Speaker, in this country we are proudly patriotic.

And, reinforcing that patriotism, that love for our country, is the high regard in which our armed forces are held.

When you see Union Flags on the shoulder patches of service personnel overseas, that means something.

It means honesty. It means respect for the rule of law. It means justice.

From Sandhurst to Britannia Naval College, there is a reason is why countries from around the world send their officers to be trained in our military institutions.

But, Mr Speaker, this Bill puts all that at risk.

It is at odds with the rules based international order we helped create.

In its current form, this Bill would make Great Britain the only nation among our major allies to offer a statutory presumption against prosecution.

As the previous-chief of the defence staff, the ex-attorney general, and the former-defence secretary have said:

“it undermines Britain’s proud long-standing adherence to the Geneva convention.”

Great Britain has proudly stood, and must stand, against the use of torture – and against the use of rendition.

Mr Speaker, I urge the Minister:

Do not undo the work of Churchill.

Do not undo the work of Attlee.

Do not chip away at our nation’s proud reputation.

I put it to the Minister, how can we expect Great Britain to speak with authority on international law to China, Russia and Iran if we go back on our own commitments?

In years gone by, a commitment made by this proud nation meant something.

Last week this government tarnished that reputation by breaking international law with the Internal Markets Bill.

I urge the Minister to commit to working with us to make sure this Bill does not do the same.

So, Mr Speaker, unfortunately, the government has got important parts of this Bill badly wrong.

In its current form it risks damaging our reputation and failing to protect Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

But it is not too late. As I said, there is consensus across this House today.

There is still time for Ministers to work with the opposition to get this right.

Protecting troops from vexatious claims does not need to be at odds with our commitments to international law.

It does not need to be a trade-off between safeguarding our armed forces and eroding the reasons why we are patriotic.

As many Members of this House have said today, this should not be a matter of party politics or point-scoring.

Labour stand foursquare behind our troops.

We want to work with Government to build the broadest consensus possible around a Bill tailored to supporting our forces and safeguarding human rights.

If I have one message for the Minister it is this:

As this bill continues its passage through Parliament, commit to improving it alongside us.

Let’s work together to protect our troops, their reputation, and our country’s international standing.

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City MP responds to new Covid restrictions

Responding to the announcement of the Prime Minister of new Covid restrictions, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Here in Portsmouth we have all played our part by working together in fighting this virus through largely following government guidelines. But we can’t be complacent.

Whilst infection levels have remained relatively low compared to the rest of the country, we have seen a rise in the last few weeks.

With the concerns over recent handling of the pandemic and real challenges with the testing strategy, Government’s new measures must make a difference and save lives”.