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Shadow Defence Ministers visit Airbus Portsmouth to celebrate British built space success

Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan was joined by Labour’s Defence Spokesperson in the House of Lords, Lord Vernon Coaker, to visit Airbus’ facility in Portsmouth, the city’s major space hub.

Airbus builds and operates the UK’s military satellite communications system, providing unjammable mobile voice, video, internet and broadcast services to the country’s armed forces.

Delivered through the Skynet 5 constellation of four satellites, these services are also used by other militaries and governments, including NATO and the US. A new Skynet 6A satellite will be built in Portsmouth and its sister site, Stevenage, over the coming years.

Portsmouth is home to the UK’s largest clean room complex and anechoic chamber, where payloads for space and satellites systems are assembled and tested.

Airbus has racked up an accumulated 1,400 years in orbit since 1965 and every TV and satellite broadcast in the UK is served by one of their satellites.

Airbus employs more than 1,100 people in Portsmouth and takes on around ten apprentices each year in the city, offering them degree level qualifications alongside practical training.

The two Labour representatives toured facilities before sitting down with senior representatives of the company and trade unions.

Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister, said:

“Airbus are pioneers of British-built success in space, defence and commercial aviation.

“The next era of space technology is not just about our national defence and research, it’s also about the creation and maintenance of high-skilled, well-paid jobs in Portsmouth and across the country.

“Ministers must prioritise investment in companies like Airbus if we are to truly level up all regions and nations of the UK, and that should start here in Portsmouth”.

Jo Sawford, Airbus Portsmouth Site Director, said:

“We are delighted to welcome Stephen and Lord Coaker to our site.

“We are incredibly proud of what we do in Portsmouth, contributing to hundreds of millions of pounds worth of UK exports, and supporting the UK’s armed forces through manufacturing the world-leading Skynet system.”

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Portsmouth MP urges Ministers to swiftly address ‘all time low’ mental health provision for troops

Stephen Morgan MP urged ministers at departmental defence questions in the House of Commons today to review the ‘all time low’ mental health services provision for forces personnel.

Government figures show that the number of service personnel being seen by the MoD’s Specialist Mental Health Services for an initial assessment has fallen by 36% since 2013 – the lowest it has ever been.

The figures raise questions as to why over fewer Forces personnel are being seen by the MOD’s Specialist Mental Health Services each year than there were nearly a decade ago.

The Government set out in its Defence People Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2017-2022 the aim that Forces personnel have “timely access to safe, effective and innovative mental healthcare services”.

Yet since the strategy was launched, the number of Forces personnel being assessed and treated by the Specialist Mental Health Services annually has fallen by 1900 from 5,083 in 2016/17 to just 3,156. Just 1 in 50 are now assessed by the MOD mental health service.

The news comes as the Armed Forces Bill, which Mr Morgan is leading the Official Opposition’s response on, returns to the Commons next week on Tuesday. The Bill contains provisions to try and improve mental health support for Forces personnel. Labour wants to force the Government to review all current mental health provisions for Forces personnel.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan, said:

“It cannot be right that just after the passing of Armed Forces Day, service personnel are still being failed by this government in providing effective mental health services.

“Service personnel are now more willing to seek help to support their mental health, but the government is once again letting them down. Labour’s commitment to support our Armed Forces is an enduring year-round promise, not just when it is politically convenient. This government is big on rhetoric, but short on delivery.

“I will continue to demand the services our troops deserve from Ministers and will urge them again next week at the final reading of the Armed Forces Bill in the Commons to review all current mental health provisions for Forces personnel.”

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Armed Forces Day event celebrates service past and present

Shadow Armed Forces and Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan was joined by Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey, veterans, and Navy cadets for a tour of Portsmouth’s historic dockyard on restored landing craft to celebrate Armed Forces Day.

Veterans from the Second World War, the Falklands and the first Gulf War were joined by 12 cadets and three adult volunteers from 6 Royal Naval and Royal Marines Volunteer Cadet Corps based in Whale Island, HMS Sultan in Gosport and HMS Collingwood in Fareham.

Politicians, veterans and cadets boarded the restored F8 landing craft, used in the Falklands, HSL102, which rescued airmen during the Battle of Britain, and MGB81, used at Normandy on D-Day.

They then toured around the harbour, taking in sights of Portsmouth’s historic dockyard, before landing on the slipway.

Joe Cattini was one of the veterans in attendance. Now 98, Mr Cattini served with the Royal Artillery during the Second World War, including D-Day and the liberation of France, Belgium and Holland.

Originally formed at Eastney Barracks in 1901, the Volunteer Cadet Corps celebrated its 120th birthday in February 2021.

Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan said:

“I am delighted to be honouring the service of personnel past and present in the home and heart of the Royal Navy this Armed Forces Day.

“We stand squarely behind our armed forces. The enduring example of service and duty set by those I have met today should be celebrated all year round, not just this week.

“That’s why we’ve launched our veteran’s survey and why Labour has put forward amendments to the Armed Forces Bill to make real improvements in the day-to-day lives of our forces.

“The Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust have been instrumental in bringing this event together. I’d like to thank their brilliant staff and pay tribute to their ongoing efforts to preserve our City’s strong naval and military history.”

Shadow Secretary of State for Defence John Healey said:

“Our Armed Forces work to protect the country and keep us all safe, theirs is the ultimate public service. They’ve played an essential part in helping the nation through the Covid crisis and Labour is proud that British Forces are respected worldwide for their all-round excellence – training allies, fighting terrorism, securing open seas, peacekeeping in conflicts.

“Armed Forces Week is a special week when we can all say a special ‘thank you’ for the service and sacrifice of our Forces, their families and veterans.”

Hannah Prowse, CEO of Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust, said:

“We are honoured to be the custodians of this part of Portsmouth’s naval heritage.  The civilian story of the support for our armed forces – exemplified by the Dockyard – can not be underestimated.  We are justly proud of the role played by the men and women of the armed forces – and by the families, businesses and communities that support them.”

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Armed Forces Week: Labour launches veterans survey ahead of key debate in Parliament

Labour has launched a veterans survey for members of the Armed Forces community in Portsmouth and across the country today, ahead of a key debate in Parliament when Stephen Morgan MP led the party’s efforts to secure improvements to the government’s Armed Forces Bill.

The survey will gather the views of veterans, veterans’ charities and support groups on the quality of support that is already in place and additional support that could be given to make sure that no veterans are left behind.

The consultation has been launched as the Commons today debates the Armed Forces Bill, where Labour will accuse the government of cutting help for veterans and failing on their pledge to Forces personnel to put the Armed Forces Covenant, a charter designed to ensure the Armed Forces and their families are treated fairly, fully into law.

Labour will also look to widen the scope of the Armed Forces Bill to deliver on the promises of the Covenant in areas like employment, pensions, compensation, social care, criminal justice and immigration; address the scandal of visa fees for Commonwealth veterans; and improve service justice by pushing for rape and serious offences to be tried in civilian courts.

Under current rules, Commonwealth personnel face a fee of £2,389 per person to continue to live in the UK after having served at least four years. It means that someone with a partner and two children could face a bill of almost £10,000 to stay in Britain.

Service charities are also concerned that the scope of the Bill is too narrow, containing nothing specific on issues like employment. Labour will be pushing to widen the scope of the legislation to ensure that all areas of potential disadvantage are addressed and end the ‘postcode lottery’ on veteran’s access to services.

During his speech in the House of Commons debate today, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan, is expected to say:

“The Bill piles new and vague legal responsibilities to deliver the Covenant on a wide range of public bodies, but mysteriously these do not apply to central government.

“In practice, this would create a farcical reality where the chair of school governors has a legal responsibility to have ‘due regard’ to the Armed Forces Covenant, but government departments – including the Ministry of Defence – would not.

“As the Legion themselves have pointed out: ‘many of the policy areas in which members of the Armed Forces community experience difficulty are the responsibility of national government or based on national guidance.’

“Ministers must not be allowed to outsource the delivery of the important promises of the Armed Forces Covenant.

“The Bill’s limited focus on housing, healthcare and education risks creating a ‘two-tier’ Covenant.

“This could start a race to the bottom on standards in other areas and will bake in the existing postcode lottery on access to services.

“Social care, pensions, employment and immigration are among the long list of areas we know will not be covered by this once-in-a-Parliament piece of legislation as it stands.

“The exclusion of the Ministry of Defence in the responsible public bodies also means the Bill offers little to actively serving personnel – who have gone above and beyond to support our frontline response to the pandemic in the past year.

“Labour’s amendments 1 – 4 would force Ministers to take the same legal responsibility for delivering the promises of the Covenant as they are placing on other public bodies.”

On issues relating to Commonwealth veterans, it is expected he will say:

“Labour’s amendment would see those who have served more than four years pay only the cost price for their application for ILR. That’s 234 pounds, down from 2,389 pounds.

“That’s a 90% reduction and a long-overdue step towards ensuring these veterans can live in the country they have fought for.

“The new Veterans Minister proudly supported similar proposals as a backbencher. In 2019 he signed a letter with more than 60 Conservative MPs urging the then Chancellor to drop the fees.

“Our amendment New Clause 7 gives the Minister the chance to deliver on his promise to these veterans.”

The Portsmouth MP, added:

“As a nation we have a responsibility to all of our citizens; particularly those who put their lives at risk to keep us safe. 

One veteran who doesn’t get the support they need is one too many. We cannot let anyone slip through the cracks.

“That’s why this Armed Forces Week I am launching Labour’s local veterans’ survey in Portsmouth to hear from local veterans and veterans’ charities about their experiences – as I continue today to work to secure the support they deserve from the government’s Armed Forces Bill.”

The debate for the Armed Forces Bill will be taking place this afternoon in the House of Commons.

To complete the survey visit: https://action.labour.org.uk/page/84779/data/1

 

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Portsmouth MP pays tribute to local Falklands war veterans on 39th anniversary of its end

Stephen Morgan MP has paid tribute to local Falklands war veterans in Portsmouth today on the 39th anniversary of its end.

A total of 255 British servicemen and three female civilians were killed liberating the Falklands. 649 Argentines were also killed.

Portsmouth played a key role in the war, with the Falklands war Task Force prepared by local dock workers at speed, prior to its launch from the Naval city on April 5th, 1982.

The Task Force was composed of 100 ships, carrying a reinforced 3 Commando Brigade with 2nd and 3rd Battalions, The Parachute Regiment attached, along with other units including a reinforced Troop from The Blues and Royals, under the command of Brigadier Julian Thompson.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister and member of parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, commented,

“Nearly forty years on from the end of the Falklands war, we reflect on the incredible efforts and sacrifices made by our city to protect British civilians overseas.”

“From the dock workers who prepared the task force ships at speed, to the service personnel who both risked and sadly gave their lives to defend Britons, we all owe them an incredible debt.”

“On the 39th anniversary of the war’s end, we pay tribute to them all and honour the memory of those who did not return home.”

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister marks D-Day anniversary with Portsmouth veterans at Historic Dockyard

Stephen Morgan MP has marked this year’s 77th D-Day anniversary with local Second World War veterans at the city’s Historic Dockyard, after paying his respects at the Portsmouth D-Day memorial.

The local war heroes arrived at the dockyard in the newly restored local landing craft, where the Portsmouth MP and others were set to greet them.

D-Day was the largest invasion ever assembled and landed 156,000 Allied troops by sea and air on five beachheads in Normandy, France.

It was the start of Allied operations which would ultimately liberate Western Europe, defeat Nazi Germany and end the Second World War.

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

“With a grandfather who was a D-Day veteran, it is particularly important for me to ensure we never forget the incredible bravery and sacrifice of our veterans, who risked so much to secure peace and the freedoms of many across Europe.

“77 years on, I was glad to be able to spend the day with some of Portsmouth’s second world war veterans and thank for them for their service to our country. We owe them a huge debt.”

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Government visa fee proposals for Commonwealth veterans to help just one in ten

Proposals to waive visa fees for non-UK service personnel would help just 10% of those who left the Army last year, statistics from the Ministry of Defence reveal.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel announced a public consultation this week (26 May) on proposals which would waive visa fees for those who had served 12 years or more.

But figures from the MoD suggest that this would apply to just 20 of the 200 non-UK personnel who left the Regulars in 2019/20, with the majority serving between 4 and 11 years.

The average length of service for all UK armed forces leavers has been about 10 years since 2015.

Under current rules, Commonwealth personnel face a fee of £2,389 per person to continue to live in the UK after having served at least four years. It means that someone with a partner and two children could face a bill of almost £10,000 to stay in Britain.

The proposed changes also do not apply to family members of those who have served or those who have been medically discharged, meaning they will only help a minority of those affected.

Labour has said the proposals are “frankly insulting” and called the government to extend the fee waiver to all of those who have served four years or more.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Commonwealth service personnel have contributed an enormous amount to our national defence and we owe them a debt of gratitude.

“Extortionate visa fees have left non-UK veterans facing financial ruin and feeling abandoned by the country they have served with courage and distinction.

“The government’s long-overdue proposals are frankly insulting, and will continue to prevent non-UK personnel from living in the country they have fought for.

“Commonwealth veterans have already paid for their citizenship once with their service to our country. This government shouldn’t be making them pay twice.”

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Portsmouth MP pays tribute to lost crew of HMS Hood on 80th anniversary

Stephen Morgan MP has paid tribute to the crew of HMS Hood who lost their lives 80 years ago after it was destroyed by German battleship Bismarck in the Denmark Strait on May 24, 1941.

Many of the ship’s crew came from Portsmouth, but their memory continues to be honoured by HMS Hood Association, which ran its #shinealight campaign to remember the local heroes who were killed 80 years ago.

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

“Today we remember the 1415 crew of HMS Hood who sadly lost their lives after it was destroyed by the German battleship Bismarck in the Denmark Strait on May 24, 1941.

“Many of these men came from Portsmouth, but never returned. 80 years on, we honour their memory.”

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HMS Queen Elizabeth deploys: City MP pays tribute

For centuries, our city has been a cornerstone of our country’s defence and security.

Our naval history is something we all look back on with immense pride. It is a rich tapestry of significant moments: from as early as 1670 when Portsmouth Dockyard was first established by Charles II in the early formation of the Royal Navy, all the way through to 1998, when the Labour government gave the green light to two new, bigger and more versatile carriers in a watershed moment for UK defence and security.

Soon, we will witness another important milestone in both our city’s and our country’s history, as the largest of these two carriers sets sail on her maiden voyage around the world from HMNB Portsmouth.

Covering over 26,000 nautical miles, alongside our friends from the US and Holland, on her voyage she will be working with Britain’s allies from all over the world, including, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, Japan, UAE, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Israel, India, Oman and South Korea.

Providing a cutting edge on the carrier’s flight deck will be eight state-of-the-art RAF F-35B Lightning II fast jets. Alongside will be four Wildcat maritime attack helicopters, seven Merlin Mk2 anti-submarine helicopters and three Merlin Mk4 commando helicopters – the greatest quantity of helicopters assigned to a single UK Task Group in a decade. A remarkable accomplishment.

Weighing in at 65,000 tonnes, HMS Queen Elizabeth is the most powerful surface vessel in the Royal Navy’s history and the Carrier strike Britain will be leading will be the largest concentration of maritime and air power in a generation.

Longer than parliament and taller than Nelson’s column, this is the best of British engineering. She was built across six dockyards – Appledore, Birkenhead, Govan, Rosyth, Tyne, and of course Portsmouth – bringing together a combined effort of over ten thousand British men and women to piece her together.

I want to thank them and the crew who will be joining the Carrier Strike Group on this historic voyage, and I know I speak for all of us in wishing them the best of luck and a safe journey.

Stephen Morgan MP

 

 

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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”.