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Portsmouth MP blasts Health Secretary for ‘underpaid’ local NHS staff

Stephen Morgan MP has called on the Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP for failing to pay Portsmouth NHS staff a ‘fair wage’.

The Portsmouth MP has written a letter to Mr Hancock demanding ‘unacceptable’ levels of NHS staff pay are addressed following a city-wide petition conducted by the city MP’s office searching for local views on the issue.

It comes as 35,948 patients are currently awaiting treatment from Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, according to the latest data from NHS England, despite staff being ‘burnt out’ and a significant backlog of treatment still to work through.

In addition, according to analysis of the same data from Mr Morgan’s office, close to 2900 patients have been awaiting treatment for either a year or longer.

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

Our NHS staff have gone above and beyond to support our city and the wider region through this past year, so it cannot be right that many of them continue to be underpaid.

“Pay levels for our NHS heroes in Portsmouth is unacceptably low and it really important they get the pay rise they deserve.

“Hearing from constituents who have shared their views with me, it is clear morale is low and a pay rise would help to give them the boost they so clearly need, as well as ensure we retain and hire as the focus must now be on dealing with backlog in treatment.”

Mr Morgan wrote to the government for a fair NHS staff pay rise in March after it was revealed 300,000 staff worked unpaid hours in the past year, as well as liaising with local nursing representatives in Portsmouth and argued for a pay increase in the House of Commons budget debate.

 

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City MP urges Southern Water to clean up Langstone Harbour

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has written to Southern Water urging them to step up efforts to clean up Langstone Harbour.

The letter, addressed to Chief Executive Ian McAuley, raises ongoing concerns from Portsmouth residents that diluted sewage is being released into the harbour.

Issues with capacity at the nearby Budds Farm treatment facility leads to Combined Sewer Overflows, which present a health and environmental risks.

Last week, it was reported that six discharges had been made in a single day following a system failure.

The Harbour has seen regular use by swimmers, sailors, windsurfers and kitesurfers during the pandemic, with more expected over the summer as Covid restrictions ease.

In the letter, Mr Morgan urges Southern Water to set out its plans to address treatment capacity, tackle excessive discharges and calls for an urgent meeting to discuss the issue further.

Stephen Morgan said:

“I remain deeply concerned by the frequency and volume of sewage discharges into Langstone Harbour, which pose an unacceptable health risk.

“Southern Water must take responsibility and set out clearly how they intend to protect water users and our natural environment.”

The letter is the latest in a string of actions taken by the Portsmouth South MP to clean up the harbour, including engagement with the Solent Protection Society, Hayling Sewage Watch and the Environment Agency.

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Cronyism scandal: Kwasi Kwarteng agreed to lobby for AQUIND following letters from Tory donor

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng expressed strong support for the AQUIND interconnector following sustained lobbying from the company’s Director Alexander Temerko, new documents reveal.

Letters obtained through a Freedom of Information request reveal Kwasi Kwarteng stated the government’s ongoing support for the controversial project and agreed to lobby French officials to support it at their side of the channel.

A letter dated 17 March 2020, when Kwarteng was Minister of state in department he now leads, said “I do not think that there is much doubt that the UK government and Ofgem support the project.”

The letter continued: “please be assured that our support for the project remains. I will ensure that my officials continue to take suitable opportunities to communicate the benefits of the project in discussions with the French government.”

Another piece of correspondence, sent on 3 October 2019 was singed off with an affectionate handwritten note: “excellent to see you at [Conservative party] conference this year!”

The letters raise fresh concerns about the government’s handling of the contentious infrastructure project and comes amid a series of cronyism allegations against Conservative figures at the very top of government.

Kwasi Kwarteng will have the final decision about whether the project goes ahead later this year.

But it continues to face strong opposition from Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan as well as local campaign groups and has been mired in controversy.

AQUIND remains a major Conservative donor. The party has been given £1.6 million by Temerko or companies he has directed since 2012, and £55,000 by Aquind since last August.

Further conflict of interest concerns were raised earlier this year when Lord Wharton – former Conservative MP and paid adviser to AQUIND – was set to oversee the regulation of universities including Portsmouth, which will be impacted by the project.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said:

“Against a backdrop of government cronyism, these revelations raise further questions about the nature of AQUIND’s relationship with government Ministers who are in charge of whether the project goes ahead.

“The project would cause untold damage and disruption with no clear benefits to our local area.

“Beneath the cosy relationships Ministers have with their billionaire donors are choices that affect the day-to-day lives of people as Portsmouth.

“They deserve total transparency from this government and a real say in the decisions about the project.”

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City MP: Levelling Up Fund must bring benefits to Portsmouth people’s doorsteps

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP HAS met with Portsmouth City Council’s Chief Executive and other council officials to help secure funding for the city post-pandemic and bring much-needed investment to Portsmouth.

Nationally the Government’s new flagship “Levelling Up Fund” has been criticised for prioritising the Chancellor’s own local authority, where houses are currently on sale for £2.5 million, for regeneration funding ahead of areas often neglected by Ministers for financial support, including here in Portsmouth.

The Chancellor’s own local authority of Richmondshire, as well as the constituencies of four other members of the Cabinet, are prioritised to bid for Levelling Up Funding.

Newark and Sherwood, Pembrokeshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Great Yarmouth local authorities, which include the constituencies of the Chancellor, the Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart, Scottish Secretary Allister Jack and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis respectively, were all included in the first tier of eligibility for priority funding, under plans announced by the Chancellor at the Budget.

Their areas were selected for funding ahead of authorities such as Barnsley, Flintshire, Coventry, Plymouth, Salford and the Wirral, all of which were included in the second tier for priority funding.

To ensure transparency by Ministers, Labour has previously demanded the Government publish the metrics used to determine areas for priority funding. Bids will be determined by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The news follows months of controversy after a town in the Communities Secretary’s own constituency, Newark, was selected for funding as part of the £3.6 billion Towns Fund by the then communities minister Jake Berry, while Jenrick selected Darwen, in Berry’s constituency.

Ministers at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, will determine bids under a number of criteria.

Following the meeting with the city council today, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“Labour supports funding for every region but it is crucial that it is done transparently, fairly and with a say for local communities. This Government cannot pit regions and nations against each other for money that should reach communities as a matter of course.

“Piecemeal pots of funding do not make up for a decade of cuts to local communities in Portsmouth: it just highlights this Government’s failure to bring prosperity to our city.

“Cosmetic projects that don’t fix major inequalities between our regions are not good enough: the real yardstick of success will be if this Government puts opportunities on everyone’s doorsteps and leaves every part of our country feeling like a good place to grow up and grow old in”.

The council will be working up ideas for the area based on priorities set by Government including transport, regeneration and town centre and cultural investment. Up to £20m is available to bid for.

On specific ideas for regeneration the MP added:

“We must ensure future funding from Government finally ends the two decades of decline to our city centre. This is a huge issue locally yet sadly successive council leaders in Portsmouth have promised the earth, but failed to deliver. Investment at the scale our city’s heart needs is long overdue.

“Today I made clear to officials again that we must ensure funding helps create and protect jobs, tackles the climate crisis and makes a difference to the lives of Portsmouth people.

“I will be working closely with others in the development of a bid from our city, and will take a watching interest in proposals on potential regeneration sites”.

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Ministers shirk responsibility to deliver for Armed Forces in once-in-a-Parliament legislation

A cross-party group of MPs has raised concerns that government Ministers are outsourcing their responsibility for serving personnel and veterans in a report published today.

The Armed Forces Bill is set to make local authorities and other public bodies legally responsible for delivering the promises in the Armed Forces Covenant. But services provided by central government functions – including the Ministry of Defence – are currently exempt.

Service charities have raised concerns that long-standing problems for service communities will not be covered by the legislation in practice, including service accommodation, social care and visa fees for commonwealth troops.

General Sir John McColl, Chief Executive of Cobseo, said: “There is a moral requirement for Government to comply with the Covenant. That is fine as long as it works, but in some cases it absolutely does not work.”

General Sir John raised the ongoing plight of commonwealth veterans, who are forced to pay eye-watering fees to remain in the country they have served. The Royal British Legion estimates that up to 300 people per year are affected.

The Royal British Legion’s Laura Pett said: “The fact that only certain aspects of housing, healthcare and education—namely, those that are not the responsibility of the Secretary of State—are also omitted is further cause for concern.”

The National Audit Office has found that thousands of armed forces personnel were living in sub-standard accommodation.

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation conceding that “too many” were affected by problems with heating and hot water in evidence to the Committee.

At present the Bill would do nothing to address this crucial issue, which 26% of tri-service personnel say increases their likelihood of leaving service.

The Defence Secretary mysteriously vetoed the Committee’s planned virtual visit to service accommodation at the last moment.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This government is missing a once-in-a-Parliament opportunity to make real improvements to the lives of service personnel, veterans and their families.

“The Armed Forces Covenant should represent a binding commitment to service communities. They will see straight through this government’s attempt to outsource responsibility for delivering it.

“In a year where our armed forces have stepped up to support frontline efforts to tackle the Coronavirus as well as their ongoing commitments abroad, it simply isn’t good enough.

“Ministers should listen to the concerns raised in this report and strengthen the Bill when it returns to the Commons and deliver on their repeated promises of support for our forces”.  

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Shadow Defence Minister: Armed Forces Bill risks reinforcing “postcode lottery” on services for veterans

Stephen Morgan MP urged Ministers to hear service charity concerns that the Armed Forces Bill will reinforce the “postcode lottery” veterans face when accessing services.

Speaking in the House of Commons following the publication of a cross-party report, Mr Morgan said the Bill’s narrow focus on housing, healthcare and education, risked creating a “two-tier” Covenant and a race to the bottom on standards in those areas left out.

In practice, this means many long-standing problems facing armed forces, veterans and their families will remain unaddressed. Social care, pensions, employment and immigration are among the long list of areas witnesses told the Committee will not be covered by this once-in-a-Parliament piece of legislation.

The Confederation of Service Charities Chair General Sir John McColl specifically highlighted the eyewatering visa fees that Commonwealth veterans face as an instance where the government’s current “moral requirement” to comply with the Covenant “absolutely does not work”.

The government has also not included the Lyons Review recommendation that civilian courts should have full jurisdiction over murder, rape and serious sexual offences committed in the UK. In evidence to the Committee, Judge Lyons said he was “surprised” to find the most serious cases being tried in the service justice system and argued that this had not been Parliament’s original intent.

Stephen Morgan MP, Shadow Armed Forces Minister and Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented:

“The government must listen to concerns raised by MPs of all parties and service charities that this Bill will not address long-standing issues for service communities.  

“Following input from across the sector and service communities themselves, government must now listen to the recommendations outlined in our report today.

“Labour will continue speaking up for our Armed Forces, veterans and their families, and ensure that the promises in the Covenant are delivered for all of the nation’s service personnel.”

Mr Morgan has been leading the Official Opposition’s response to the Armed Forces Bill during its passage through Parliament.

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Local MP backs national campaign to ‘Shop Kind’ as Portsmouth Co-op signs up

Stephen Morgan MP has given his support to the national campaign to ‘Shop Kind’, as local co-operative stores sign up.

The campaign aims to build positivity and encourage kindness to both shopworkers and consumers in stores.

Southern Co-op, which operates The Co-operative Food stores, as well as funeral and coffee services across the south, is working with some of the UK’s biggest retailers, the Home Office and independent charity Crimestoppers who have launched a new and timely campaign urging the public to ShopKind after the reopening of more stores and shops across the country.

Abuse and violence towards shopworkers is a bigger problem than many people might think, with at least 400 shopworkers abused every day.

The campaign is backed by the Home Office and supported by major high street retailer as well as the nation’s independent shopkeepers, and the shopworkers Union Usdaw.

The Association of Convenience Stores’ 2021 Crime Report, published last month, shows that over the past year there have been over 1.2million incidents of verbal abuse, and around 40,000 incidents of violence against people working in convenience stores. Of these, more than a quarter involved a weapon, such as a knife, hammer, axe, or syringe.

Two-thirds of retailers (65%) had experienced Covid-related threats, with the most common causes of abuse being: reminding customers to wear face coverings, reminding customers of social distancing measures and queueing outside stores.

Backing the campaign city MP Stephen Morgan and Fratton resident Nikki Coles visited the Coop on New Road, Fratton.

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

“As restrictions slowly begin to ease and shops reopen, it is really important we are mindful of those key workers who have helped keep us going over the past year.

“The abuse they have received is completely unacceptable, particularly at a time when we should be thanking them for their sacrifices.

This behaviour cannot continue and as we gradually unpick the economy, we should use this as an opportunity to end such behaviour.

It is why I fully support the national ‘Shop Kind’ campaign.”

Nikki Coles, Labour’s candidate for Fratton, added:

“No one in Fratton or across our city should have to face violence and abuse just for doing their job, and nothing is more important to us than the safety and wellbeing of shopworkers who work tirelessly within communities – they deserve thanks, not abuse, threats and violence.

They also deserve for the law to better protect them as they go about their daily working lives”.

Portsmouth Labour representatives have previously backed Usdaw’s ‘Respect for Shopworkers Week’, last November, following a visit to a local Co-op supermarket in Portsmouth.

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Stephen Morgan MP opens new community pop-up shop open in Landport

Stephen Morgan MP opened the Landport Larder today, where residents can now purchase food for a fraction of the cost of supermarkets thanks to a new community pop-up shop.

For just £3.50 a week, people can select 10 items from a selection of tins, chilled items, and fresh fruit and veg. This would cost an average of £15 from the supermarket.

The larder has been set up by Enable Ability at Landport Community Centre, with support from Abri, one of the south of England’s largest housing providers.

The Landport Larder will be open Tuesdays, from 10am – 1pm at Landport Community Centre.

Customers will need to bring a bag to take items home in and will need to wear a mask while in the centre.

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

“It’s great to see initiatives like the Landport Larder offer much needed support to our communities.

While we know that the pandemic has hit us all hard, it has also brought communities together, supporting each other and coming up with new, creative ways to help others.

I hope we see more initiatives like this to create a positive legacy for what has been a hard time for us all.”

Paula Windebank, Community Development Officer at Abri, added:

“We’re proud to support the Landport Larder and help our community access fresh, healthy, affordable food.

It’s part of our five-year £15m investment to create thriving communities and empower lives, making sure we’re delivering change where it’s needed most.”

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Portsmouth MP welcomes new commission to rebuild Britain’s high streets and revitalise town centres

Stephen Morgan MP has thrown his support behind Labour’s new independent Commission ‘Rebuilding Our High Streets’, launched by the Shadow Chancellor today. The commission will seek to bring together experts from businesses in retail, leisure and hospitality, as well as representatives of the trade union, local government cooperative and social enterprise sectors.

The announcement comes as new figures reveal that over the last decade high streets across the UK have lost:

  • 9,775 shops
  • 5,785 pubs
  • 7,400 bank branches
  • 1,195 libraries

Meanwhile, the South East has lost 1080 shops, 945 pubs and 120 libraries over the same period.

The Commission will meet regularly over the course of the next six months to offer independent advice to the Party on issues such as:

  • How the high streets of the 2020s and beyond can be supported to thrive, as great places where people can shop, socialise, meet, work and live.
  • Bringing empty commercial properties back into use for existing and new businesses.
  • Levelling the playing field between bricks and mortar businesses and online firms.
  • Promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in our high streets, reflecting the needs of local communities.

The UK’s high streets have been hit by unprecedented challenges throughout the pandemic and face more threats in the coming year. These include government changes to planning rules in August, which will allow shops to be converted into low quality flats over the heads of local communities, and the staged return of business rates, with firms liable to pay full rates again in April next year.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said,

“This year has brought unprecedented challenges to businesses and organisations across the country that depend on the local high street, none more so than here in Portsmouth.

“Labour is determined to deliver a brighter future for our high streets as part of our mission to make Britain the best place to grow up and grow old in, which is why I’m proud to support the Rebuilding Our High Streets Commission.

“Our vision is not one harking back to one of the past, but finding ways to make our town centres places we can be proud of and where communities can come together. This Commission will offer independent advice to Labour on how we achieve that.”

Mr Morgan has had regular meetings with local businesses and organisations linked to Portsmouth’s high streets throughout the pandemic, working on their behalf to get the support they need.

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Portsmouth MP urges young people to vote early to ‘ensure their voices are heard’

Stephen Morgan MP has urged the young people of Portsmouth to vote early to make sure they have their say in the forthcoming local elections on Thursday 6 May.

It comes as new analysis from Labour has shown that less than 10 percent of young people have registered for a postal vote, compared to more than a quarter of those over 65, with four days to left until the deadline to register to vote by post in England.

With less than half of 18-25-year-olds voting at the 2019 General Election, turnout among young people is expected to be historically low at the May elections amid the pandemic.

Mr Morgan has said that young people must be at the heart of Britain’s recovery from this crisis, with successive Conservative governments weakening Britain’s foundations and robbing too many young people of the opportunities they deserve.

Labour warns that Government inaction on postal voting threatens UK democracy and public health and is calling for councils to receive dedicated Government support for postal vote sign up efforts ahead of the deadline for postal vote registration in England on 20 April.

With those aged 18 and older due to be vaccinated by 31 July in England, many young people are unlikely to be vaccinated by election day.

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

“After the devastating year they’ve had, young people must have their voices heard in this election.

“Young people have played a central role in our city’s response to this crisis, with many volunteering to support the most vulnerable in our community and fighting as key workers on the front line to protect our families. The Tories continue to treat young people as an afterthought in this crisis – these are they key workers of the future.

“Young people are not expected to be vaccinated ahead of the May polls, which makes postal vote sign-up critical. “