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Portsmouth MP: ‘Government must commit to tackle air quality ahead of COP26 Presidency’

Stephen Morgan MP questioned Minsters in the House of Commons today to ensure the government commits to tackling air quality in the UK. The UK will assume the COP26 Presidency this year and will host the global climate conference in Glasgow this November.

This comes after the Official Opposition had pushed the government to tackle air quality in its recent Environment Bill to set parameters to ensure that the PM2.5 (particulate matter) target for air quality will be at least as strict as the 2005 WHO guidelines, with an attainment deadline of 2030 at the latest.

However, this proposition was voted down by the government.

As it stands, the legislation contains no firm targets, with the government committing only to setting one following a ‘review’. COP26 offers an opportunity for the UK to become a world leader on climate change, yet the decision could cause the UK to lag behind other European countries.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented,

“It cannot be right that on the year we are set to host the world’s biggest climate change conference, our own government refuses to commit to tackle air quality here in the UK.

“Air quality is already having real world impacts now, with our own city facing historic challenges with air pollution.

“If we are to emerge from this crisis and to be truly world leading in tackling the climate emergency, government should cut out the rhetoric and take action to face up to this challenge we all share.”

Mr Morgan continues to work with local groups to ensure the city council delivers its climate emergency and has consistently put pressure on national government to progress the climate agenda.

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City MP responds to Government’s roadmap for easing restrictions

Responding to the Prime Minister’s announcement today of a roadmap for the easing of Coronavirus restrictions, Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said:

“After a long and difficult winter, our city will breathe a sigh of relief that there is now a clear route to easing current restrictions.

“Children learn best in the classroom, so the confirmation of a return on 8 March is welcome. Ministers must now make sure the testing announced works on the ground and speed up the vaccination of teachers and staff.  

“The hospitality and retail sector have been among the hardest hit by this pandemic, and many will be unable to open until mid-April at the earliest. I will continue to push Ministers to announce support for these sectors – as well as those who continue to be excluded – in the Budget next week.

“The progress we have made to date is thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of our frontline healthcare staff and service personnel, but also the many ways in which our city has pulled together.

“In the immediacy, we must remember that the virus still poses a significant risk, continue to follow guidelines and seize the opportunity to be vaccinated when it comes.”

 

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City MP hosts event with Shadow Minister to tackle ‘mental health crisis’ triggered by the pandemic

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan will host a mental health discussion event with Labour’s Shadow Minister for mental health Rosena Allin-Khan MP this week.

The online event, which is open to all, will discuss the impact of the pandemic on mental health and the ongoing need for mental health conditions to be treated on a par with physical health.

The Centre for Mental Health in England has predicted that 10 million people – almost a fifth of the population – will need mental health support as a direct consequence of Covid-19, with 1.5 million of those expected to be under-18s.

Portsmouth City Council estimates that almost 53,000 people experience a mental problem each year, with half of all adult mental health problems present by the time the person is 14 years old.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“With millions of us staying at home, isolated from friends and family, Coronavirus has been a mental health crisis too.

“We know that patients, carers and staff have been heavily affected, with the impact being particularly acute among young people.

“As an A&E Doctor herself, Rosena knows only too well the challenges we face on the frontline. She will be setting out Labour’s vision on mental health and how we can improve care following the pandemic.”

The online event with Shadow Minister for Mental Health Rosena Allin-Khan will take place on Thursday 25 February 2021, 7-8pm. Full details and registration can be found at: https://events.labour.org.uk/event/326967

 

 

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Portsmouth MP: Wedding industry ‘needs clarity and support’

Stephen Morgan MP has called for the government to give the wedding industry the clarity and support it needs for its related businesses to reopen again post-lockdown.

The Portsmouth representative has written to the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng MP sharing concerns on behalf of his constituents and the wider sector.

It comes as 60,000 businesses and 400,000 workers are currently reliant on the weddings sector, which is worth an average of £14.7 billion to the UK economy each year, according to the letter.

Yet, despite the importance to the economy and the regional employment the sector provides in every part of the UK, the picture is extremely stark for the wedding industry, as businesses across the entire supply chain are reportedly on the brink of collapse.

Mr Morgan has highlighted that Portsmouth businesses need sector specific clarity in the upcoming roadmap out of lockdown announcement on 22 February, as well as urging Government consider tailored financial support for the sector, such as inclusion in the temporary VAT reduction to 5% and business rates exemption.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented,

“The weddings sector provides a great deal of revenue for businesses and employment for many across our city and the wider country.

“However, without the certainty and support the sector requires, the industry we knew before the first lockdown may not be the same one we see when we emerge from the third.

“Ahead of the government announcement on Monday, it is critical Government ensures these businesses will get the clarity and support they need to get back on their feet.”

Last week the parliamentary representative warned 15,000 jobs in Portsmouth could be at risk unless business tax relief, as well as other measures, are introduced in the forthcoming March budget.

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Portsmouth MP gets behind new COVID debt plan to boost business recovery

Stephen Morgan MP has backed the Official Opposition’s new plans to back British businesses, as it calls on the Government to help ease the Covid-debt burden faced by firms across the country.

Calling for the establishment of a British Business Recovery Agency, Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds says Labour’s priority is to “help businesses get back on their feet, secure our economy and get Britain on the road to recovery.”

British business is currently weighed down by £71 billion of Covid debt through Government-backed loans during the crisis – with the Chancellor encouraging banks to begin asking for repayments in March.

New analysis by Labour reveals that 850,000 business are at risk of closure in the next three months, putting 2.4 million jobs at risk.

Labour’s plan would ease the debt burden on business, secure the economy and help British business to rebuild by:

  • Converting the Bounce Back Loans (BBLs) scheme into a ‘student-loan style’ arrangement, so that businesses only have to start repayments when they are making money.
  • Creating a new British Business Recovery Agency that would manage the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme (CBILs) and Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILs) in order to create terms that secure the future of businesses, including employee ownership, preference shares and subordinated debt

It comes following the Portsmouth representative’s warning last week that 15,000 jobs could be at risk in Portsmouth unless the Chancellor acts.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

Businesses across our city have worked incredibly hard to keep going during this crisis and I know how much many have sacrificed to just adapt.

“That’s why many businesses in Portsmouth will need the breathing room when we exit lockdown to be allowed to be able to grow again before they are asked to repay their debts.

“It is economically illiterate to demand Covid loan repayments next month when it would risk crushing businesses and our recovery, which is why I fully support these plans to allow businesses to start repayments when they are able to.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) warned in December that the debt overhang could lead to tens if not hundreds of thousands of corporate failures in the first quarter of this year, with 40 per cent of businesses reporting their debt as unmanageable.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has also said that as much as £30 billion of public money will have to be written off if the Chancellor presses ahead with his current plans.

Anneliese Dodds MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said:

“Labour would rebuild Britain by backing businesses and supporting families through the crisis and then putting Britain on the path to growth.

“Instead of pushing business to the brink, Labour’s plans would protect small firms and give larger ones flexible options to manage debt. We would help businesses get back on their feet, secure our economy and get Britain on the road to recovery.”

 

 

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Portsmouth MP backs National Apprenticeship Week 2021

Stephen Morgan MP has offered his support for National Apprenticeship Week, recognising the contribution made by apprentices and their employers in Portsmouth.

Apprenticeships provide people with the chance to learn a trade and earn a wage whilst they progress, with the Official Opposition arguing investing in training opportunities will be central to rebuilding our economy after the pandemic.

However, there continues to be a downward trend in apprentice numbers, with figures showing the number of apprenticeships in Portsmouth has fallen by nearly 50% since 2015/16.

In July, the Government announced a cash incentive of either £2,000 or £1,500 for employers to take on a new apprentice. The ‘Plan for Jobs’ budgeted for 100,000 incentive payments, but new data shows just 18,670 apprentices had been taken on under the scheme by 8 January 2021 which runs to March 2021.

Labour is calling upon the Government to act now to create more apprenticeship opportunities by creating a wage subsidy from the underspend in the apprenticeships levy.

Backed by the Association of Employers and Learning Providers (AELP), this would create 85,000 new apprenticeships for 16-24-year olds this year.

Stephen Morgan MP, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said:

“I’m pleased to back National Apprenticeship Week, recognising the enormous contribution made by apprentices to our economy and wider society.

“The Government is failing to create the opportunities young people in Portsmouth need. I am calling on the Government to adopt Labour’s wage subsidy policy to boost opportunities for young people as we rebuild our country.”

Shadow Minister for Apprenticeships and Lifelong learning, Toby Perkins MP, said:

“Young people are being let down by the Government’s irresponsible handling of this crisis which has led to soaring unemployment rates and the worst recession of any major economy.

“The Government should adopt Labour’s proposal for a structured wage subsidy instead of their failing cash incentives and create the apprenticeship opportunities young people need to gain productive skills and long-term employment.”

Mr Morgan previously criticised the Chancellor for the government’s failure on apprentice numbers post-spending review and will now be looking to see how he may address the growing problem in his forthcoming budget.

 

 

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City MP: 15,000 local jobs at risk unless “smart” furlough scheme and business tax relief introduced

Stephen Morgan MP has warned 15,000 jobs could be at risk in Portsmouth unless the Chancellor delivers a “smart” furlough scheme to tackle Britain’s jobs crisis and for the temporary 5% reduced rate of VAT for the hospitality, tourism and culture sectors to continue by as much as another six months.

It comes following new analysis by the Official Opposition estimates that over 15,000 people were still furloughed by their employer in late January in Portsmouth.

According to the new analysis revealed today, seven months after Sunak launched his ‘Plan for Jobs’ last July, nearly 10,000 people are also currently claiming out of work benefits in Portsmouth.

However, Labour is now calling for Sunak to immediately announce an extension to the furlough scheme that is set to expire at the end of April, to remove uncertainty for local businesses and workers.

Meanwhile, the Shadow Chancellor is also calling for the temporary 5% reduced rate of VAT for the hospitality, tourism and culture sectors to continue for another six months or until three months after the lifting of health restrictions – whichever comes later. The reduced rate is set to expire on 31st March, when it will return to 20%.

Labour is also calling on the Chancellor to set the fourth grant of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) at 80% of pre-crisis profits before the forthcoming Budget announcement.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said,

“The Chancellor’s Plan for Jobs is clearly not working. We need urgent action to secure, recover and create jobs to help those on furlough to get back into work, as well as to help those claiming out of work benefits to find new employment.

“Extending the furlough scheme and providing tax relief to the hardest hit businesses will give workers and SMEs in Portsmouth the certainty they need to support their recovery.

“People need emergency action today, not more dither and delay until the Budget.”

Mr Morgan previously called for greater support for the hardest hit businesses and self-employed after last year’s Spending Review.

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‘Unfolding Scandal’ of Military Accommodation ‘falls far short’ of Armed Forces Covenant

Labour has criticised the government’s ‘appalling record’ on military housing, as data reveals that just half of service personnel are satisfied with the standard of their accommodation, the lowest since 2009.

The Army’s 2020 Continuous Attitudes Survey shows that a third of tri-service personnel said accommodation provision increased their intention to leave the service.

New data has also revealed that more than 9,000 military homes in England and Wales are awaiting repairs.

Since 2017, £300,000 has been paid in compensation for 9,088 missed maintenance appointments, with compensation given in the form of high street shopping vouchers.

Last week the National Audit Office’s report into Single Living Accommodation, which more than half of the Armed Forces call home, told a similar story.

The report concluded that “the Ministry of Defence is not meeting its commitment to provide high-quality subsidised accommodation to all service personnel.”

Meanwhile, the government continues to arbitrate its dispute with Annington Homes on the rent for Service Family Accommodation, currently occupied by a third of tri-service personnel.

The previous 1996 deal, dubbed “disastrous” by the Public Accounts Committee, held rents down by 58%, meaning service families could face rent hikes under a new deal.

The revelations come as the government’s Armed Forces Bill is due for its second reading on Monday.

Labour has criticised the Bill – which the government claims will ensure ‘fair treatment’ for members of the Armed Forces – for being too narrow and not going far enough to guarantee the rights afforded to service personnel under the Armed Forces Covenant.

Speaking ahead of the Bill’s Second Reading, Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The unfolding scandal of dilapidated military accommodation is a far cry from the ‘homes fit for heroes’ our service personnel should expect.

“The Tories appalling record on this issue is evident in every home that has trouble with basics like heating, hot water, with endless waits for repairs. This falls far short of the promises in the Armed Forces Covenant and those who serve deserve better.

“Labour stands squarely behind our service communities, and will press the government to make sure the Armed Forces Bill delivers quality, affordable housing for all service personnel, families and veterans.”

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister: Covenant must be delivered in full for every member of our Armed Forces

Stephen Morgan MP backed Service Personnel during the second reading of the Armed Forces Bill tonight at the House of Commons, but said the proposals were a ‘missed opportunity’ to make the Armed Forces Covenant a reality for all who serve.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister is leading Labour’s response to the Bill during its passage through the Commons.

Among other things, the Bill proposes a legal responsibility for public bodies to give ‘due regard’ to the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant when accessing public services such as housing, healthcare and education.

Labour criticised the Bill during the debate for being too weak, and that proposals would do little to correct the many ways in which service personnel are disadvantaged.

These include mental health, where the Covenant guarantees access mental health professionals who have an understanding of Armed Forces culture. Yet government statistics reveal that the average waiting time for veteran’s mental health treatment in England was 37 days in 2020, against a government target of 14.

On housing, the Covenant says service personnel are ‘entitled to publicly provided accommodation, it should be of good quality, affordable and suitably located’. Yet, just half (51%) of tri-service personnel say they are satisfied with the standard of their service accommodation.

In the Chamber, Morgan said the Bill ‘does little’ to tackle these issues head on and that the ‘complex legalese’ of ‘due regard’ would do little to make any real impact on the day-to-day lives of forces personnel.

Service charities including the Royal British Legion have also criticised the Bill for being too narrowly focused, containing nothing on pay or employment.

The latest Government statistics reveal forces personnel are seeing higher levels of unemployment after leaving service than the general UK population.

Speaking in the debate today, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Instead of lumping extra legal responsibilities on cash-strapped local authorities and other overstretched public bodies, the Bill should set measurable, enforceable, national standards, that central government is accountable for.

“Only then can we truly end the postcode lottery on the Armed Forces Covenant.”

Labour is also considering potential changes to made to the Bill that would compel ministers to report annually on the fighting strength of the military, following reports over the weekend that 32 of 33 infantry battalions are short of battle-ready personnel.

Commenting after the debate, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, added,

“By setting a legal standard that is below the existing voluntary offers in some areas, the government risks creating a two-tier covenant, and a race to the bottom on services for our forces communities.

“The threat poor conditions pose to our defence capability were made clear this weekend with leaked reports over the weekend suggesting 32 of 33 infantry battalions are dangerously short of battle-ready personnel.

“Labour will press the government to ensure the Covenant is delivered in full for every member of our armed forces, their families and veterans.”

The parliamentary representative has consistently referred to his Grandfather who was a D-Day veteran and founder of Portsmouth Normandy Veterans association, as his motivation for delivering justice for service personnel and their families in Portsmouth and across the country.

 

 

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City MP joins calls for “smart” furlough scheme as part of emergency action to tackle Britain’s jobs crisis

Stephen Morgan MP has joined the Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds today on calling on the Chancellor to introduce a “smart” extension of the furlough scheme to protect jobs as long as health restrictions remain in place, as part of an immediate, emergency Jobs Recovery Package to tackle Britain’s ballooning unemployment crisis.

The Chancellor initially triggered a one-size-fits-all wind down of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) in his Plan for Jobs last July. After several last-minute changes over the autumn and winter, the scheme is now set to expire at the end of April.

With 4.6 million people still on furlough, the Official Opposition is calling for the Chancellor not to repeat the mistakes of last year by winding down the scheme while public health restrictions are in place and demand is still severely impacted.

In addition, the Shadow Frontbench is calling for Sunak to immediately announce an extension to the furlough scheme alongside urgent reform to make it smarter, with new training to help furloughed workers improve their skills and tough conditions on employers to stop abuse.

Dodds is also demanding immediate action to recover jobs by overhauling the failing Kickstart scheme and to help create clean new jobs by reforming the shambolic Green Homes Grant.

Seven months after Sunak launched his Plan for Jobs last July, redundancies are at record highs, 1.7 million people are out of work and 4.6 million people are still on furlough.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented,

“The government’s plan for jobs just is not working. Seven months after its launch, we’ve got record redundancies, rising unemployment and the worst economic crisis of any major economy.

“We need urgent action to secure, recover and create jobs. This must include a smarter furlough scheme, an overhaul of the failing Kickstart youth programme, and reform of the shambolic Green Homes Grant as part of wider action to ‘Build it in Britain’ and support the creation of 400,000 clean, new jobs.

“I know many people in Portsmouth have been left behind by this government in terms of financial support, particularly the self-employed and creative industries, so I will continue to do all I can to push the government to deliver the support they deserve.”

Mr Morgan has consistently demanded further support for the ‘excluded’ and recently wrote to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to set out a ‘roadmap to recovery’ for creative industries.