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Shadow Armed Forces Minister visits National Museum of the Royal Navy to hear about their road to recovery

Concerned by the impact of coronavirus and the subsequent economic crisis faced by the nation’s armed forces museums, Stephen Morgan MP today spent time with the Director of the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) as part of ongoing support for the charity.

Stephen Morgan MP kicked off the socially distanced visit with a meeting led by the Museum’s senior management. First on the agenda was the fact the NMRN and Mary Rose Museum would be opening together later this month with a consolidated ticketing system, while the future of the Royal Marines Museum and public safety ahead of reopening was also discussed.

Mr Morgan then went onto a behind the scenes tour of HMS Victory. This included a tour of the public viewing platforms which are currently mid construction and the changes being made to the dry dock facility, making Mr Morgan the first representative in the city to see the work underway.

On the new viewing platform, Mr Morgan said:

“The new viewing platform will allow visitors the opportunity to see the craftsmanship that has gone into HMS Victory from an entirely new perspective.

This, coupled with the implementation of new hydraulic capabilities aimed at further preserving the ship, proves that the Historic Dockyard is at the cutting edge of delivering a high quality visitor experience.”

The city MP also took the opportunity to hear about the new consolidated ticketing function with the Mary Rose Museum, challenges faced by local museums ahead of reopening, and observed the changes being made to the dry dock being used to preserve HMS Victory.  

Commenting on the venture with the Mary Rose Museum, Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The National Museum of the Royal Navy, home to the world’s most famous warship, is a cultural institution that educates, inspires and informs people from across the globe about our nation’s naval history. While the Mary Rose acts as a porthole into the past, its preservation and excavation is considered world-leading.

I welcome the innovation and cooperative spirit demonstrated by both the NMRN and the Mary Rose, and following discussions today, remain hopeful that this joint venture will lead to both institutions successfully weathering the storm of Covid-19 – an outcome very important to our community.”

The visit comes in the wake of news that government would offer support to the museum, following lobbying by the Portsmouth South MP and others. Concerns over the future of the major cultural asset arose in recent months due to the severe loss of footfall; causing Mr Morgan to lobby Ministers in Parliament and to write directly to the Defence Secretary urging financial assistance.

The NMRN was facing disproportionate strain in comparison to other national museums as 81% of its funding relies on donors and visitor revenue, meaning that unless government stepped in the museum could face closure.

On financial challenges faced by NMRN, Mr Morgan added:

“I welcome news that government is finally willing to give this of significant national asset the support it deserves. However, I will continue to engage with the museum and Ministers to ensure its future remains secure.

Seeing the safety measures put in place today, alongside the adaptations made to normal service due to Covid, there is no doubt in my mind that every measure has been taken to preserve visitor experience and public safety.

Portsmouth is steeped in military history. It is vital that we preserve and protect this heritage so that future generations can understand just how significant our city is. I urge people to do their bit to support the NMRN by booking in a visit, in line with government guidelines.”

 

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City MP responds to The Times report on Aquind and Russian interference

Following the publication of the intelligence and security committee’s report this week, concerns about the growth of Russian influence in British political and public life have increased.

Potential links between Aquind Interconnector, a large national infrastructure project running through Portsmouth, and a Russian tycoon have prompted further questions. Investigative reports carried out by The Times has revealed that large sums of money have been paid by Aquind to the Conservative party.

Responding to The Times story, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This week the ISC reminded us that the Government failed to properly investigate Russian interference in our democratic process, and then tried to hide it. Unless these threats are dealt with, aggression will rise.

Now, we learn that hefty sums of money have been paid to the Tories by a Russian linked firm delivering a major UK infrastructure project effecting my city.

Alarm bells have been ringing for some time over the Aquind proposals. With the company exempt from some corruption rules, links to the ex-Chief of Russia’s state-owned arms company and hefty donations, this smacks of impropriety.

There are questions that need to be answered by the Conservatives in the interest of transparency. I will not stand idly by while foreign interests attempt to erode our democracy and national security.”

The full Times article can be seen here: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/name-russian-tycoon-behind-power-company-say-top-tories-0vqb0vw8g

 

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister hosts ‘Labour Listens’ event for forces communities across region

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP this evening hosted the Shadow Defence Secretary for a virtual roundtable for communities across the south east.

Giving people with a forces interest a chance to relay their concerns to the senior frontbenchers, the event is part of a UK-wide programme of discussions led by Labour’s shadow defence team.

The purpose is to link those in the forces and forces communities along with their families directly with Labour’s decision-makers, reaffirming the party’s stance as four-square behind our troops.

Stephen Morgan, Shadow Armed Forces Minister said:

“In Portsmouth it is impossible to miss the immeasurable value of our troops, whether it’s helping set up test centres to combat Covid or patrolling our waters to keep us safe.

To ensure we are delivering for them, we’ve got to understand the hopes and aspirations of the Armed Forces community, as well as the problems they face after a decade of declining numbers, morale and pay.

“We also want to talk about the pride we share in the excellence and professionalism of Britain’s service men and women, feelings I know many Portsmouth people share.”

The event falls in line with announcements made by the Labour leader on (27 June) Armed Forces Day, that Labour is open and listening to the forces community and must take onboard their views and concerns to win back trust.

John Healey, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

“I want to open up Labour again to our Armed Forces, their families and veterans across our country.

“Today’s event is part of an exciting new dialogue with forces communities. We want to say thank you to our Armed Forces for the role they play both at home and abroad. We will make sure we listen and learn from them.

“As Britain faces a period of greater global risk and conflict, I want Labour to hear their voices and views, and I want them to play a bigger part in our Party.”

 

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister demands Government’s plans for overseas troop safety

New Shadow Armed Forces Minister speaks up for troops and their families over Covid-19 cases from despatch box during defence questions today

Probing Ministers over any support offered to overseas troops and the figures relating to personnel infection rates, Stephen Morgan MP today demanded contingency planning from Ministers setting out how they would support personnel and their families stationed in areas likely to see outbreaks of Covid-19.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister said:

Our troops have rightly continued their duties overseas for the duration of this pandemic, keeping our citizens safe and helping to maintain international peace.

With personnel operating in countries such as Iraq, where there has been a spike in Covid-19 deaths and where there is a lack of infrastructure capable of effectively managing the pandemic, we need to see firm contingency plans that prioritise troop safety.

That is why today I put pressure on Ministers to outline their plans to protect troops along with their families while they serve our nation abroad. They are continuing to deliver for the nation. It is important government delivers for them.”

The city MP’s action over overseas troop Covid-19 data comes on the same day that government has abandoned its commitment to a daily figure for the number of people in the UK who have been tested for the virus.

Today’s action holding Minister to account over troop welfare is part of a wider piece of work being conducted by the Shadow Armed Forces Minister, and the Shadow Defence team.

Already Labour’s Defence teams’ efforts helped lead to the testing of all 800 crew on board HMS Queen Elizabeth following 2 confirmed Covid cases, lobbying efforts have been carried out to allow families of service people more comprehensive support networks, and work is being conducted to shine a light on dwindling morale and satisfaction.

Stephen Morgan MP added:

“Whether considering the efforts of our forces community at home helping combat Covid-19 or personnel continuing to protect national security overseas, the fact remains that our troops are of great value to our society.

With the Tories downgrading defence over the last 10 years with shrinking numbers, reduced capability and offering unfair pay, it is vital that opposition ask the tough questions that have our troops interests in mind.

The Shadow Defence team will continue to take action on the concerns of our forces community and work as the checks and balances to government decision making that for too long has neglected our troops interests.”

 

 

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Keir Starmer throws weight behind ‘reinvigorated’ Labour Friends of Forces on Armed Forces Day

Marking the 14th anniversary of Labour introduced Armed Forces Day and against the backdrop of a decade of Tory failure to invest in defence, Labour’s leadership has today supported the relaunch of a renewed Labour Friends of Forces (LFF), a key priority for city MP, Stephen Morgan.

With a new offer to members, fresh mission statement and support from the Labour leader, LFF has set out how exactly it will create an effective forum for bolstering the party’s connection with the force’s community and winning back the public’s faith Labour’s stance on defence.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“While the challenges faced by our nation continue to change through the ages, one thing remains the same – the immeasurable value of our troops.

Labour stands four-square behind our Armed Forces, their families and our veterans. But we have to be in listening mode. To win back the trust of the public and that of our troops, we need to ensure we are open and engaging with the communities we are seeking to serve.

With the new programme of events, offer to members and support of the leadership, this idea of listening will be at the core of everything Labour Friends of the Forces stands for.”

This year’s Armed Forces Day comes against a backdrop of Tory defence failure. Troop pay increases have been delayed for a second year running, for the fourth consecutive year the Ombudsman has found a vastly under-performing complaints system, and satisfaction along with morale has been declining for a decade as the armed forces continuous attitudes survey has revealed.

And, the current administration is not just failing the troops themselves. A decade of crude Tory defence cuts has left the Army alone falling 8,000 personnel short of the Government’s own targets.

Labour Friends of the Forces has announced a renewed offer to its members including direct line to frontbench Shadow Defence team; a programme of events spanning every region across the UK; cut-rate membership and access to a group of other individuals interested in defence.

The mission statement of LFF is to build the party’s relationship with serving personnel, veterans and their families; nurture and identify future candidates from a military background; improve the party’s understanding of issues effecting the service community; and create a forum for training, discussion and development for the group’s membership.

Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labour Party, said:

“I am proud of my country and proud of those who serve it. I want to open up Labour again to our Armed Forces, their families and veterans across our country.

Today’s event marks the start of an exciting new dialogue with forces communities with an ambitious new Labour Friends of the Forces scheme.

As we celebrate Armed Forces Day, I say thank you to our forces communities for the role they play both at home and abroad. I will make sure we listen to you and learn from you.”

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Why Keir Starmer’s backing of a reinvigorated Labour Friends of the Forces is more important than ever

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP, along with current LFF Chair Toby Perkins, outline the group’s bold new offer and why it is so important ahead of Armed Forces Day on 27 June.

Labour has a long history of standing four-square behind our armed forces personnel. From Clement Attlee’s frontline involvement in the Gallipoli campaign to Major Denis Healey’s ‘good war’ which culminated in him being the beach master at Anzio in 1944, the party’s military heritage is as rich as it is varied.

Our recognition that to become the party of the armed forces we must work harder to welcome those who have served, was a driving force behind the formation of the Labour Friends of the Forces and saw Major Dan Jarvis become a Labour MP in 2011.

Labour Governments have spent a greater proportion of GDP on defence but this hasn’t always cut through on the doorstep, and the party’s standing on defence has been weakened in recent years. This means that just 14% of voters think Labour is the best party on defence issues and only 28% of our heartland voters believe Labour would protect the UK from global threats. If Labour wants to win back credibility on this crucial issue, it’s a long journey to rebuild trust, by being united and putting protecting the public first.

Our new party leader recognises the challenges ahead and has said the first way to rebuild trust is to listen to people.

As we approach Armed Forces Day, we are delighted to lay another marker in the sand – the relaunch of Labour Friends of the Forces (LFF), and with it a bold package of commitments that will help the party listen and rebuild ties with those who have served and their families.

Armed Forces Day on 27 June, the brainchild of the last Labour government, is a celebration of our troops’ intrinsic value and ordinarily sees the presentation of medals to personnel along with commemorative activities.

This year, announced by the Leader of the Opposition and with his full support, Labour Friends of the Forces is proudly making renewed commitments to serve the forces community and setting out the means by which it aims to achieve this goal. A timetable of 8 events in just 10 months spanning every region in the UK, cut rate membership for forces affiliated personnel, a direct channel of communication to Labour’s defence frontbench and access to the continents’ leading defence minds form a bold new offer to LFF supporters.

Accompanying the groups’ new offer to its members is a reinvigorated set of objectives. A will to build the party’s relationship with serving personnel, veterans and their families; nurture and identify future candidates from a military background; improve the party’s understanding of issues effecting the service community; and create a forum for training, discussion and development for the group’s membership. The fact the leadership has thrown its full, weight behind these ambitious aims only adds to the significance of the group’s ambitious new plans.

But why is it so important for Labour to show leadership on Armed Forces Day? Because government is failing to do so. Troop pay increases have been delayed for a second year running, for the fourth consecutive year the Ombudsman has found a vastly underperforming complaints system, and satisfaction along with morale has been declining for a decade as the armed forces continuous attitudes survey has revealed. And, the current administration is not just failing the troops themselves. A decade of crude Tory defence cuts has left the Army alone falling 8,000 personnel short of the Government’s own targets.

These factors alongside statistics revealing that between 2010 and 2015, Britain’s defence budget fell by £8 billion, with no real confirmation of when this will step up again, demonstrates this government’s lack of commitment to our service personnel. Adding insult to injury is that fact that all this is going on against the backdrop of our troops playing such a vital role in combatting Covid-19.

Our armed forces deserve so much more than dwindling troop numbers, incessant cuts to the defence budget and a decade of failure in addressing lagging morale. Labour knows this, and through the Labour Friends of the Forces, seeks to provide a forum to listen and for tackling these issues head on.

Against the backdrop of Covid-19, where our armed forces continue to go above and beyond in delivering for the nation, it is important that political parties deliver for them. A decade of Tory defence decline presents an opportunity for Labour to return as the party to stand up for our troops once again.

This Armed Forces Day, with the support of our new leader, we are delighted to announce a reinvigorated group rooted in our service communities, for our service communities – Labour Friends of the Forces.

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP on the importance of recognising our troops on Armed Forces Day

First introduced by the last Labour Government, Armed Forces Day is an opportunity to pay tribute to the men and women who deliver for the nation.

A day for celebration rather than remembrance, it is as important as ever to recognise the pride we have in the excellence and professionalism of our service men and women. Just as our Armed Forces work to keep us all safe and our country secure, we must do all we can to support them.

While the challenges faced by our communities continue to change, one thing has remained steadfast – our reliance on our forces and their families when times get tough. Historically they have guided us through the darkest hours in our country’s history. Now, amid this pandemic, they are helping keep the nation going by providing vital PPE, supporting frontline services and setting up test centres across the UK.

While it is right that today is about paying tribute to the efforts of our troops, we would be doing them a significant disservice if we did not speak out on the issues affecting them most.

Ten years of cuts to the defence budget, troop pay increases delayed for a second year running, a fourth year of the Ombudsman finding a vastly under performing complaints system, while satisfaction along with morale has been declining for a decade as the forces attitudes survey has revealed. It is high time our troops treatment matched the degree to which we rely on them, and the high standards they hold themselves to.

So, this Armed Forces Day, despite the celebrations being curtailed due to Covid, we must all do our bit to recognise the efforts of our service community. Against the backdrop of the public health emergency and economic crisis, where our armed forces continue to go above and beyond in delivering for us, it is important that we deliver for them.

As the Shadow Armed Forces Minister, I want to open up Labour again to our Armed Forces, their families and the veterans who have already served our country. I want Labour to hear their voices and views. We’ve got to understand where we’ve gone wrong in the past and change. We’ve got to understand the hopes and aspirations of the armed forces community, as well as the problems they face after a decade of declining numbers.

As an MP representing a city proud to be heart and home to the Royal Navy, and as Shadow Armed Forces Minister, I will continue to ensure the Labour party is listening to the forces community and take action to speak out on the matters that affect them most.

Stephen Morgan MP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Recognising the immeasurable value of our reserves is as important as ever” – Shadow Armed Forces Minister on Reserves Day

Making up around a sixth of our armed forces capability, forming 100 national units across the tri-services and recruiting from all over the UK, our reserve forces are a powerful part in Britain’s military capability.

While at the peak in 2004, reservists made up 20% of those serving in Iraq and 12% of those in Afghanistan. These are often-unsung heroes who walk among us have been involved in crucial conflicts from across the globe. They continue to give up their spare time to keep our nation safe.

From medical expertise to unsurpassed cyber security capability, reservists make up some of the most able people in our armed forces. While we are aware of their involvement in major theatres of war, it is important to recognise too their contributions to civil society.

The ruthless nature of the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed their immeasurable value. Over 3,000 armed forces reservists have been called up to aid the military response to the coronavirus pandemic, providing support to the Covid Support Force by helping set up test sites and assisting in the delivery of PPE.

Looking back, reserves stepping in at the nation’s time of need is nothing new. We know that 2,100 reserve personnel provided support to the police and other civil authorities throughout Operation Olympics. This meant that during the 2012 London Olympic Games, they made up around 15% of the armed forces personnel working on the delivery of the Games. When Britain is on the backfoot, our reserves never fail stand up to be counted.

As we find ourselves in midst of Armed Forces Week and today on Reserves Day, I pay tribute to these brave men and women who continue to deliver for the nation.

As Shadow Armed Forces Minister, I know I speak for many within the nation when I extend my gratitude for their continued efforts in these challenging times.

Stephen Morgan MP is the Shadow Armed Forces Minister and Portsmouth South MP

 

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister shines a spotlight on veteran homelessness support

Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan is joining over 70 members of charity staff, Community Union representatives and Shadow Defence Team colleagues in taking part in a run, walk, and cycle challenge to help end veteran homelessness.

Between team members, the target is to either run, walk or cycle over 1000 miles between now and Armed Forces Day on 27 June. in support of charity FirstLight Trust.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP is walking his constituency boundary for Portsmouth South, equating to roughly 20km.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Ahead of Armed Forces Day on 27 June and after the relentless efforts of our troops amid Covid-19, we are reminded just how important our armed forces are.

I strongly support Community Union’s campaign to combat veteran homelessness and introduce measures that support the transfer from military to civilian life.

I urge people to give what they can to this worthwhile  cause and will continue to take action in parliament that puts the needs of our service-personnel first.”

The charitable efforts have been organised through Community Union, fundraising for the FirstLight Trust, an organisation that work on the ground to support veterans. From supporting ex-service personnel into employment to helping make the transition from military to civilian life, they offer wide ranging services.

Tom Blenkinsop, Community’s Operations Director, homelessness campaign lead and army reservist, said:

“At this time of year, our campaign aimed at ending veteran homelessness draws sharp focus on our need to remember our serving and former armed forces personnel in need at all times.

Many of Community’s members served and serve, they have family members who served and serve. It was Community members’ clear view to help end veteran homelessness.

But providing shelter to both our female and male veterans is not enough; it is simply one step. The transition from soldier to civilian is often the most difficult part of a veteran’s life.”

More information about the Community Union campaign can be found here

You can help make a difference and give to this campaign click here

 

 

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister says troops ‘let down’ in response to armed forces attitudes survey

The annual armed forces continuous attitude survey (AFCAS) is one of the main ways to gather information on the views and experiences of our personnel. For the tenth year running, it has shown government’s failure to address declining satisfaction and morale.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP, has called out Ministers for failing to address these deeply concerning numbers and drawn attention to the outstanding role our armed forces are continuing to do amid this pandemic.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister said:

“Since this government came to power, they have failed to address a growing feeling of dissatisfaction and dwindling morale among our armed forces.

Year on year the attitude survey has revealed deep set failings which government is yet to act on. I am deeply concerned that our troops are being let down.

Our armed forces deserve so much more than dwindling satisfaction in pay, morale and general wellbeing. It is high time that troop satisfaction reflects the amount the nation relies upon them.”

Commenting on the release of the annual Armed Forces Continuous Attitudes Survey, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, John Healey MP said:

“Crude Conservative defence cuts have undermined the wellbeing of our armed forces.

“These figures show a decade of discontent under the Tories, with satisfaction with military life, pay and pensions all falling since 2010.

“After years of neglect, Ministers must now rebuild military morale.”

The information from this survey helps shape policies for training, support, and the terms and conditions of service. It is also a useful indicator or how armed forces personnel feel, data usually difficult to obtain.

The 2020 survey published yesterday revealed that satisfaction with service life in general has fallen from 60% in 2010 to 45% in 2020, personal morale has fallen from 52% expressing high morale in 2010 to 41% in 2020 and satisfaction with basic pay has fallen from 52% in 2010 to 39% in 2020.

Stephen Morgan MP added:

“Beyond revealing a decade of failure to address troops’ concerns, the survey paints a damning picture of how government treats a service the nation is relying on it its time of need.

Armed Forces personnel are delivering for nation amid Covid-19 by helping administer PPE, setting up test centres, and aiding local authorities. It is a grave injustice that this government relies on them so heavily but refuses to act on their grievances for a decade.

I will continue to work with colleagues in applying pressure to Ministers to act on the findings of this survey and address the needs of our armed forces.”

The annual Armed Forces Continuous Attitudes Survey has been openly published and is available: www.gov.uk/government/statistics/armed-forces-continuous-attitude-survey-2020