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Portsmouth MP: Government is failing to take proactive, responsible action on return to school

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has criticised the government’s chaotic approach to the return to school in January.

The City MP blasted the government’s failure today to provide the clarity parents and children need after a statement in the House of Commons from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, made at Labour’s urging.

Williamson announced that the government was triggering the ‘education contingency framework’ and pushing back the staggered return for secondary schools and colleges by one week.

However, he did not clarify in his statement to the House which schools will open and which will remain closed. He also failed to guarantee remote learning access for those students that need it and remained silent on any commitment to a staff vaccination programme.

Labour has also urged the Government to publish SAGE advice about the return of schools and colleges next week, after scientific advisers have said stricter restrictions, including school closures, may be needed. 

Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green MP, said: 

Parents, pupils and staff will be increasingly worried by the drip feed of media reports saying scientists have advised the closure of schools in January, yet the Prime Minister has failed to be clear about the advice he has received.

The education secretary must set out a plan for schools and colleges, and provide desperately needed leadership. He must also urgently publish the SAGE advice on schools.”

Responding to the Government’s statement today, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“Coronavirus rates are rising, and parents, staff, pupils and our city’s schools are crying out for clarity about the start of term next week.

“The government is failing to take the proactive, responsible action parents and pupils need on the return to school in January. Sadly they got little comfort or much-needed leadership from the Education Secretary tonight.

“I have always been clear that keeping young people learning safely should be a priority for Ministers. But the government’s failures – with a lack of funding for school safety measures to the delayed and chaotic announcement of mass testing – are putting young people’s education in Portsmouth at risk.

“I will continue to listen to concerns and act on them in Parliament for the sake of our city’s children and dedicated school staff”.

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UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement: My commitment to you on next steps

Today Parliament debated and voted to implement the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU, which provides a legal framework for the UK’s future relationship at the end of the transition period.

Brexit has been a fraught and lengthy process. It is an issue which has divided opinion here in Portsmouth and across the country for decades. I believe you cannot welcome this deal with any enthusiasm but I do want to set out the reasons why I voted in favour of implementation legislation today and importantly, what I will do next to hold the Government to account on what happens next.

I have always been a proud advocate for Britain’s future in Europe and have always tried to represent the views of the many thousands of Portsmouth people who feel the same, and also respect those who do not.

That has meant standing shoulder to shoulder with campaigners and using my voice in Parliament to support a public vote on any deal. It has meant working across the House and across party to prevent a no-deal and to protect workers’ rights and safeguard our environment. It has meant fighting hard to secure investment in Portsmouth Port to avoid disruption and traffic chaos.

I remain steadfast in my belief that Britain should be a modern, outward-looking nation, with close economic and cultural ties to its nearest neighbours in a world of superpowers. Whilst this deal puts that at risk, it must be seen as a foundation to build on with a Labour Government ensuring closer cooperation and prosperity for all.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement is not the deal we were promised. Instead of the Prime Minister’s much-vaunted “oven-ready deal”, what has emerged is the bare minimum that the public could have expected from a needlessly fraught process.

The months of dither, delay and theatrics have caused unnecessary damage to businesses and the wider economy, all in the middle of a global pandemic and the worst recession in three centuries.

There is no doubt that a better deal could have been reached, but that is not what was voted on today and it is important to recognise this.

There are only two choices facing the country: implement an underwhelming but mutually-agreed trade deal, or immediately face a disastrous no-deal Brexit.

I have always been clear that crashing out of the EU without a deal would be unthinkable. It would cause permanent and unacceptable damage to communities including our own. It would be bad for British business and it would be bad for Portsmouth people.

On an issue like this, I don’t believe we can sit on the sidelines. The tough, but necessary decision to accept the implementation of legislation is one that reflects the urgency to avoid a disastrous no-deal. It allows the country to focus once again on the day-to-day priorities that matter: fighting the pandemic and rebuilding the economy.

But I am absolutely clear that this does not give the Government a free hand for the future. The consequences of the deal are this government’s, and this government’s alone, to own. I can reassure you I will hold them to account every step of the way.

So my vote today was conditional. It is based on what you have told me that right now people and business want stability and certainty. It recognises what our partners in the EU have fought for – an agreement that they have collectively agreed and I believe can be put right.

The Brexit debate may be over. The fight for the future isn’t. Nothing in this trade agreement closes the door on a stronger future relationship with Europe. The first review point for the agreement is in 2026. There will be at least one general election before then.

That’s why in the coming days I will be setting out a series of demands on government must deliver for Portsmouth. I will be listening to constituents, local businesses and trade unions in the coming days to shape these priorities for our city. To be part of that task, please get in touch.

We can start now on beginning to build on this agreement to secure a more prosperous and fairer future for everyone. I urge you to help me here in Portsmouth with that mission.

Stephen Morgan MP

 

 

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With no option of renegotiating left, Labour votes in the national interest to reject a no-deal

Labour votes today (30 December) “in the national interest” to implement the legislation on the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU, therefore avoiding a disastrous no-deal Brexit.

While the deal struck with the European Commission and 27 Member States has many shortcomings, Labour made it clear in the House of Commons that it was still preferable to the severe damage of a no deal scenario and that it brought stability and some certainty for businesses already under huge strain from the pandemic.

In the debate today, MPs were not given an opportunity to vote on the deal itself, but merely the implementation legislation, just hours before the transition period comes to an end tomorrow night.

Opening the debate for the official opposition, Labour Leader Keir Starmer also criticised the late delivery of the deal, and how it falls far short of the government’s promises on services, security and cutting red tape for British businesses and producers.

Labour have made clear they will build on the foundations of the deal to make the UK the best place to grow up in and grow old in.

Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster who closed the debate said:

“For some stability, in the national interest, and up against the only other choice of a disastrous no deal scenario, Labour has voted for the trade deal agreed between the UK government and the 27 member states of the EU.

“But not only does this unambitious deal fall far short of what this government promised – months of dither, delay and theatrics mean it has come far too late for many businesses and caused unnecessary damage to the economy.

“This government must now deliver on its promises, and plug the gaps in their preparations for our businesses and borders – and fast. A Labour government will build on the foundations of this deal to change the UK for better.”

Stephen Morgan MP has a strong record of proudly speaking out in support of Britain’s relationship with the EU.

He has called in Parliament for a public vote on any deal. He has worked across the House and across party to prevent a no-deal Brexit and to protect workers’ rights and safeguard our environment. He has fought hard to secure investment in Portsmouth Port at risk of disruption and traffic chaos under a no-deal scenario.

Stephen Morgan MP commenting on the debate today said:

“Whilst it is a relief that a deal has been secured it falls vastly short of what the Prime Minister promised was oven-ready back in December last year, and it allows the country to avoid a disastrous no-deal Brexit.

“This is a thin deal and I have huge misgivings about it. Voting for or against it wasn’t an option before MPs today. The tough, but necessary decision to accept the implementation legislation is one that reflects a long-term effort to avoid a disastrous no-deal Brexit. It also allows the country to focus once again on the day-to-day priorities that matter to people: fighting the pandemic and rebuilding the economy.

“Portsmouth people will know only too well that after all the dither and delay the consequences of this deal and its weaknesses are this government’s to own”.

Commenting on Keir Starmer’s remarks that Labour will build on the deal, the Portsmouth South MP added:

 “A Labour government will hold Ministers to account on this deal, and will forge a new future for our country, leading the way globally, but working with our neighbours and those with shared values on crucial issues like tax justice, tackling climate change and workers’ rights.

“The deal falls far short of what the government promised. It neglects services which makes up 80% of our economy and weakens our security measures. I will hold Ministers to account on the promises they make and break to the British people.

“That’s why in the coming days I will be setting out a series of demands on what government must deliver for Portsmouth. I will be listening to constituents, local businesses and trade unions in the coming days to shape these priorities for our city.”

 

 

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UK-EU trade deal: Have your say

The Government has now published the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement following news on Christmas Eve that a deal had been struck. The deal sets out the relationship the UK will have at the end of the Brexit transition period. 

Since being elected MP, Stephen Morgan has had thousands of letters, messages and conversations with constituents to hear views on Brexit and the UK’s future relationship with the EU. He has also been meeting with local businesses to understand and address the uncertainty of a no-deal and liaising with the area’s branch of the European Movement.

In this latest survey, in order for Stephen to continue to represent your views in Parliament, he is keen to hear your ideas.

 Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Let me be clear: I campaigned to remain in the EU, and wanted people to have a final say. Sadly after the result of the General Election last year that is no longer possible.

There are two paths for the country now. A no-deal or a deal.

I want to hear from you with your views on what should happen next as I continue to hold the Government to account”.

To complete the short survey and tell Stephen what you think click here.

 

 

 

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“If Ministers are serious about turning around the misfortune of nation’s shopping areas, they need to commit to further investment in cities like our own”

Responding to news that Portsmouth has secured funding from the Future High Streets Fund, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I have long argued that Government needs to do better, the council do more, to bring our city’s high streets back from the brink which have been neglected for too long. That is why I have repeatedly lobbied Government over the challenges our shopping areas face and backed a bid to Ministers for much-needed funds.

Covid has made the crisis on our city’s high streets even worse, with more store closures, further job losses and shopping areas looking unloved. Whilst this investment is welcome, and a step in the right direction, yet again Portsmouth’s communities are short-changed by this Government. 

If Ministers are serious about turning around the misfortune of nation’s shopping areas, they need to commit to further investment in cities like our own”.

Portsmouth submitted a bid for £10.5m to Government with proposals for projects to the value of £4.9m for Commercial Road and £5.6m for Fratton Road.

The Minister responsible regrettably confirmed today (26 December 2020) to Stephen Morgan MP that figures fall short of what was requested.

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‘Glass half empty’ approach to support fails our pubs warn Labour

Labour warns of ‘last orders’ for pubs as government ‘glass half empty’ approach fails to provide adequate support to closed businesses on the high street

  • New analysis shows cash crisis facing pubs with an estimated £3.8 billion of lost income in crucial Christmas period
  • 36,000 pubs in England have been forced to close – or 9 out of 10 pubs in England
  • Labour is calling for a Hospitality and High Street Fightback Fund that would boost cash support to pubs and hospitality sector saving jobs and livelihoods
  • New analysis by the Labour party has revealed that 93 per cent, or 9 out of 10 pubs in England, have been forced to shut and are set to lose out on thousands of pounds in trade over the critical Christmas period.
  • 85 per-cent of pubs in England were closed in the run up to Christmas. This number will jump to 93 per-cent – with over 3,000 more pubs closed from (today) Boxing Day after new restrictions came into force across large parts of the country.

In November and December last year, pubs and bars across the UK made £3.8 billion in sales to tide them through the first quarter of 2020.

The Official Opposition is warning that thousands of pubs could go bust as they have seen takings tumble, debt mount up, and cash reserves reduced during the coronavirus crisis. The turnover for pubs and bars to August 2020 was less than half of what it was in 2019.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The failure of government to properly support pubs means that three quarters of pubs are receiving up to half the amount of cash support that they received in the first national lockdown.

“This comes after months of reduced sales and the cost of making themselves Covid-safe pushing many to the brink of bankruptcy. This latest analysis confirms what I am hearing from many Portsmouth publicans and is a stark reminder of the extent to which our much-loved local pubs are struggling. Government must act to protect our nation’s pubs”.

The Portsmouth South MP is urging the government to use a portion of the £2 billion in business rate relief that supermarkets have pledged to return to HM Treasury to establish a Hospitality and High Streets Fightback Fund targeted at those firms that have been hardest hit throughout the crisis. 

Labour is calling for the remainder to be used to immediately support self-employed people excluded from support throughout this crisis.

The party is also calling for reform of the unfair Additional Restrictions Grant so that funding is allocated to supply chain businesses based on which Tier a local area is in and how long they have been in it, to reflect business need.

Lucy Powell MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Business and Consumers, added: 

“Pubs are a vital part of Britain’s high streets. They bring people together and help communities thrive. They’ve had the toughest of years as a result of the pandemic and, if the government doesn’t step up and put a proper support plan in place to secure their future, it will be last orders for many.

“Boris Johnson is failing our pubs. His glass half empty approach is a real threat to their future. Labour is calling on the government to use part of the £2 billion supermarkets are returning to set up a Hospitality and High Streets Fightback Fund to save businesses and jobs now.”

 

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City MP connects with local veteran on Christmas Day as part of ‘Christmas Calls’ campaign

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has connected with a Portsmouth veteran as part of The News and Age UK Portsmouth’s ‘Christmas Calls’ campaign, designed to combat loneliness for elderly people in the city this festive season.

The campaign pairs up each participant with someone from the Portsmouth area who may be facing Christmas Day and the festive season alone.

Stephen spoke to Linda, a 75-year-old Women’s Royal Air Force veteran, who has lived in Portsmouth for 21 years.

They discussed her RAF service, and how she subsequently moved to the city to be closer to family.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Loneliness and isolation will sadly be much more common for many of us this Christmas as we endure renewed coronavirus restrictions. But this fantastic campaign has allowed me to connect with Linda and rekindle the spirit of kindness and friendship that characterises the season.

“As a former trustee of Age UK Portsmouth I know just how valuable their work is to communities, particularly in the wake of the pandemic.

“I am proud to have taken part in The News and Age UK Portsmouth’s fantastic campaign to combat loneliness within our community.

I hope many will continue to stay part of the scheme beyond this period too.”

 

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“There are two paths for our country right now” Portsmouth MP responds to UK-EU deal

Responding to news the UK Government has finally struck a trade deal with the EU, Stephen Morgan MP has said that whilst a better deal could have been negotiated, there are just two paths now left for our country: to move forward with this negotiated deal, or without one and the trading on WTO terms.

Following the Government’s press conference this afternoon and initial briefings on the deal, the Portsmouth South MP said:

The Prime Minister said he would deliver the British people an ‘oven ready deal’ but what he has announced today is not what his Government promised the country.

It is appalling that we got so close to the end of the transition period causing huge uncertainty for our economy and for British business with little over a week to prepare.

This deal is the bare minimum that Portsmouth people and our local businesses could have expected from this unnecessarily fraught process. What’s worse, it comes with a backdrop of the worst recession in three centuries and in the middle of a global pandemic. 

There are two paths for our country right now. A no-deal, which I’ve long argued would cause unimaginable damage for our city, or this thin agreement, with responsibility for it squarely at the steps of Number 10. I will therefore be looking very closely at the detail of the deal in the coming days ahead of Parliament’s return.

Whilst Labour accepts this deal is better for the national interest than a no-deal, the consequences are well and truly this government’s to own.

For the sake of the future of our city and Portsmouth people’s prosperity, I will continue to hold Ministers to account over their promises every step of the way”.

This is the deal Labour would inherit if elected in 2024 and it will be the job of the party in Government to build on it to make it succeed. That is why Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer MP has confirmed Labour will accept this deal and vote for its implementation in the national interest when it comes to Parliament next week.

MPs will be recalled to Parliament on 30 December following the Prime Minister’s press conference today. It is expected MPs will have a vote on the implementation of legislation for the deal.

 

 

 

 

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City MP demands Health Secretary acts to protect Portsmouth as new Coronavirus variant spreads

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock with four practical steps to tackle the more virulent strain of coronavirus in the city.

The call came as Portsmouth was placed into the new Tier 4 measures on Sunday, just hours after stronger Tier 3 measures had taken effect. This was done without prior consultation with local stakeholders.

The Portsmouth South representative outlined a series of measures the city now needs, to combat the new strain of the virus, prevent frontline NHS services from being overwhelmed and support struggling local firms.

They are:

Data transparency and testing

The letter reads:

“Government must urgently publish any data it has about the threat posed to Portsmouth by the new variant of Coronavirus and undertake more sophisticated testing to track its spread within the community.”

Currently, just 5% of testing swabs undergo the genomic sequencing needed to identify the new strain.

“What are plans for mass testing in Portsmouth?” Mr Morgan writes.

Support for frontline healthcare settings

The letter reads:

“Queen Alexandra (QA) Hospital in Cosham is seeing a fresh spike of cases in recent weeks. Please urgently consider what further targeted support can be provided to frontline healthcare services in Portsmouth to prevent them becoming overwhelmed in the coming weeks, and ensure that supplies are not rationed.”

Vaccine rollout

The letter reads:

“I am proud to say QA was one of the first hospitals to begin inoculating patients, but that will not be enough. I understand there are plans to establish a regional hub to serve Portsmouth, but that the commencement date has been pushed back. I strongly urge you to keep the original date of 4 January and ensure that all Tier 4 areas are prioritised for vaccine hubs.”

Support to struggling small businesses

The letter reads:

“Many shops, leisure and beauty businesses in my constituency just getting back on their feet have had the rug pulled from under them, joining struggling restaurants and pubs already shut. Portsmouth businesses are doing the right thing and closing to keep people safe, but Government cannot keep leaving businesses in the lurch.”

This continues the local MP’s efforts to lobby the Treasury for improved support for local businesses.

Stephen Morgan MP added:

“With infections rising and our city in Tier 4, we are at an important moment in our battle against Coronavirus. It’s essential that we have the data and vaccination infrastructure necessary to combat the spread, as well as further financial support for our local traders, who will now miss out on vital Christmas revenue.

“Time is of the essence and we cannot be caught on the backfoot again. I am urging the Health Secretary to act with the speed demanded by the scale of the challenge we now face”.

The latest intervention follows a series of parliamentary questions, briefings and meetings since the Government’s announcement of Portsmouth moving up the tiered system.

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Almost 175,000 businesses hit by Christmas closures under last minute Tier 4 restrictions

Labour is today calling on the Government to stand up for businesses and ensure those hit by unexpected Tier 4 restrictions have access to the economic support they need to survive through a Hospitality and High Street Fightback Fund.

Almost 175,000 businesses in Tier 4 areas across London, the South East and the East of England have been rocked by last-minute instructions to close, including more than 13,000 hairdressers and beauty salons, more than 8,600 gyms and leisure centres, and more than 45,000 retail businesses including clothes shops, homeware and book shops.

Yet the vast majority of businesses are only able to access an emergency cash grant worth around half or a third of the support on offer during the national lockdown in March, including 99% of hairdressers and beauty salons and 92% of gyms.

Calling for better support from Government for small businesses in Portsmouth, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Last week I called for the £2bn recently returned to HM Treasury by supermarkets in unneeded business rates relief to be urgently redeployed into a Hospitality and High Streets Fightback Fund to help struggling small businesses on our high streets and those excluded from support.

“Now at the last minute Portsmouth has entered Tier 4, the Government can’t keep leaving businesses in our city in the lurch. Ministers must urgently boost support for closed traders through a Hospitality and High Street Fund to protect Portsmouth’s small businesses and local jobs now.”

Ed Miliband MP, Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary added:

“Businesses are facing a Christmas nightmare on the high street, forced to close at the last minute by Tier 4 restrictions.

“Many shops, leisure and beauty businesses just getting back on their feet have had the rug pulled from under them, joining struggling restaurants and pubs already shut.

“Businesses are doing the right thing and closing to keep people safe, but Ministers are not doing the right thing by them. We need these businesses on the other side of the crisis but the support is hopelessly inadequate, and the Business Secretary seems to be asleep at the wheel”.