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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

 

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“Still work to do in tackling discrimination in armed forces” says Shadow Armed Forces Minister

Today – Sunday 17 May – on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP praises progress made since the ban on serving was lifted but says there’s no room for complacency until all LGBT personnel can ‘thrive without fear of who they are’.

Since discriminatory rules were struck down by the European Court of Human Rights, the nation’s armed forces have launched major reforms to become LGBT inclusive, with all four branches of the British military – the Army, Navy, Air Force and Royal Marines all marching together at Pride in London, dedicated recruitment campaigns launched, and efforts to challenge fears of homophobic attitudes.

These efforts have praised all services for their diversity and inclusion work in recent years, with all three making it into the Stonewall Top 100 Employers list.

Recognising the progress made, Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“IDAHOBIT gives us the opportunity to reflect on progress made in tackling hatred and discrimination affecting the LGBT community, and also take stock the challenges still to overcome.

20 years ago, Labour lifted the ban on LGBT people serving in the armed forces.

Since then, from dedicated staff networks to all services marching at Pride, from senior army officers being the face of Stonewall campaigns to our military services being recognised as amongst the best places to work, our armed forces have been on a long journey from a ban to being a beacon of best practice for the LGBT workforce”.

In a report commissioned last year by the armed forces, Air Chief Marshall Wigston found that a third of LGBT service people had faced negative comments or behaviour from colleagues because of their sexual orientation while at work, whilst the continuous attitude survey reports that 12 per cent of those surveyed were the victims of bullying, harassment or discrimination in the past year, but only six per cent made a formal complaint.

Evidence reflected in this report indicates a significant number of people in the military have experienced discrimination but have not felt able or been able to come forward to report it. The Armed Forces Ombudsman also found this week that the armed forces service complaints system is not ‘effective, efficient or fair’.

The challenges ahead, Shadow Armed Forces Minister added:

“While significant progress has been made, there’s still some way to go to ensure no individual faces hatred or discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and all LGBT personnel feel safe and free to be themselves.

That means continued efforts on education, leadership development and creating a culture in the forces where everyone can thrive without fear of who they are.

There’s no room for complacency. Today acts as a call to action for everyone who supports equality in our armed forces, and in wider society.”

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister calls on MoD to review armed forces complaint system after annual assessment reveals more failings

For the fourth year running, the Ombudsman has found the armed forces service complaints system to be not ‘effective, efficient or fair’.

This has prompted Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP to call on government to take measures to sort the system for serving personnel.

The Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces provides independent and impartial oversight of the Service complaints system – the internal workplace grievance system for members of the UK Armed Forces.

In their annual assessment, the Ombudsman finds that the time taken to resolve complaints; the negative impact on an individual’s wellbeing; and the continued lack of confidence in the system was affecting personnel across the armed forces.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Our armed forces are exposed to pressure and conditions that would be unimaginable in other jobs. The demands of the role mean that if something is not quite right, it can affect every aspect of a person’s life.

 There must be an effective, clear and just grievance system that personnel can have faith in.

The fact the Ombudsman has ruled the complaints system is still not meeting acceptable standards for the fourth consecutive year means service people are at risk.

We must see leadership from Ministers in addressing this issue.”

Key findings within the report show in 2019:

  • 766 Service complaints were deemed admissible across the Armed Forces
  • The 3 largest areas of complaint concerned: career management (37%), bullying, harassment and discrimination (25%), and, pay, pensions and allowances (15%)
  • SCOAF (Service Complaints Ombudsmen Armed Forces) logged 754 contacts, made 144 referrals on behalf of current or former Service personnel and received 322 applications requesting an investigation
  • 82% of applications requesting an investigation were accepted by SCOAF
  • 50% of all SCOAF investigations found in favour of the complainant: review of admissibility decisions 42%; undue delay 53%; substance 68%; and, maladministration 51%

The Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces, Nicola Williams, said:

“The reformed Service Complaints system still needs fundamental structural changes to ensure that Armed Forces personnel have the confidence to raise a formal complaint, in a system that operates efficiently, effectively and fairly as possible.

Currently, I am concerned that personnel are dissatisfied with the length of time taken to resolve a complaint; causing undue delay, including my office; which is having a significant impact on complainants’ wellbeing and mental health. 

Further work in this area is needed to address these issues, and with the support of the Ministry of Defence and the single Services, I am confident that we can build a better system for all Service personnel.”

Stephen Morgan MP also expressed concern that with the additional pressure on military personnel amid the coronavirus crisis, efforts need to be undertaken to ensure the system is fit for purpose.

On Covid-19 and the complaints system, Stephen Morgan MP added:

“13,000 service personnel are absent from duty due to Covid-19 and troops are being asked to go above and beyond their traditional spheres to assist with this pandemic.

The additional pressures endured this early into 2020 could mean that the complaints system is put under even greater strain. The system is not performing adequately now.

Immediate measures must be taken by Ministers to see to it service personnel have the opportunity to confidentially raise grievances as we emerge from this crisis.”

The Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces can full annual report can be found here.

 

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New report finds Government “not doing enough” for military charities to support veterans

Portsmouth MP welcomes report findings and new support for charities but says government must now ‘provide proof in the delivery’

Statistics collated by the solicitor’s firm Bolt Burdon Kemp and Veterans Lifeline have revealed the lack of mental health support military veterans receive from government amid the Covid-19 crisis.

The data comes as the government today announced some funding for veterans’ charities, but questions remain about what delivery looks like and whether government should be providing services for veterans rather than helping charities.

On the support announced by government today, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I welcome that government has taken notice of what I and others have been saying that we need an urgent plan to address the feeling of abandonment among some in the veteran community.

However, it does leave a number of questions unanswered. How long will it take for payments to be made to charities? Who is eligible for the grants? When will the difference be seen at the coalface?

Had these announcements come earlier these are questions we could have posed at today’s departmental questions. I will continue to work with colleagues in the Shadow Defence team to make sure government not only promises improvement, but delivers for our nation’s veterans.”

The research published today includes the lack of mental health support with only 26% of charities thinking that the government supports the mental health of veterans; not enough overall support – 74% of charities say that the government and armed forces are not doing enough to support veterans; and; government and armed Forces’ onus – 79% of charities believe that the responsibility to support veterans should lie more with the government and armed forces.

On the statistics Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Sadly, these statistics do not come as a surprise. They reflect what the Shadow Defence team are hearing after listening to veterans’ charities and groups as were raised in Defence Questions today.

Social isolation, financial turmoil and pressure on mental health resulting from this pandemic means that support for our veterans’ community is needed now more than ever. It is therefore deeply concerning that government has closed services such as the Veterans UK helpline and urged some ex forces personnel who may be older to instead get in touch by email on by using the app.

The fact this decision has been made against the backdrop of VE Day, Captain Tom making ground-breaking contributions to our NHS, and our service personnel playing a crucial role in combating Covid-19, sends out the wrong message to our armed forces who continue to go above and beyond for the nation.”

The Ministry of Defence has cut support to veteran services, including the telephone helpline leaving thousands of potentially vulnerable ex-forces personnel without anyone to talk to.

Officials admit that more than 2,000 veterans have been forced to email for help instead of calling the MoD. They have also stopped processing new applications for war pensions, war widow pensions and compensation, and appeals have been postponed.

Shadow Defence Secretary, John Healey MP added:

“Closing the Veterans UK helpline and asking older veterans who could be in their eighties or nineties to send an email instead is not good enough. Ministers should make it a priority to safely restart this service for those who need it”.