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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Stephen Morgan MP responds

Many of you have contacted me in the last few days regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I know that, like me, you will have been deeply moved by the suffering caused by this unprovoked and unjustifiable attack.

I wanted to set out Labour’s views on this important issue and answer some of the specific questions constituents have asked me in the last few days.

Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine is an unprovoked and unjustifiable outrage that is having tragic consequences for Ukraine and its people. It is a heinous violation of international law that breaks multiple treaties and commitments, including the fundamental principles of the UN Charter. It should be utterly condemned by all nations.

We must now ensure that our Government stands up to dictators and tyrants and stands in solidarity with Ukrainians as they defend their homeland. There can be no space for equivocation when faced with the evil that Putin has unleashed. His actions pose a grave threat to the international order on which we all depend.

NATO and military assistance

The Labour Party’s commitment to NATO is unshakeable – and the alliance has strongly condemned Putin’s actions. We must move in lockstep with our NATO allies, and take steps to reinforce NATO members on the Eastern flank. The Government has Labour’s full support to do this. It is right that Britain has provided support to Ukraine to defend itself – and this should continue.

It is clear that Ukranians intend to defend their country and we must continue to support them in this endeavour.

The UK has already sent defensive assistance to the country – and this has included anti-tank weapons systems, body armour, helmets and boots. We should respond to specific requests from the Ukrainian Government for assistance – which has been the basis for our previous support, as well as coordinate support with our allies.

Sanctions

The sanctions package announced by the government contains measures that are good in principle, but the rhetoric must match the reality as we scrutinise the details, and Labour believes there is more that could be done.

The influence of corrupt Russian money must be extricated from the UK.  Despite warning after warning, the Government has been asleep at the wheel and failed to act, leaving Britain as the destination of choice for kleptocrats who hide their wealth under our noses. It should not have taken an invasion of Ukraine for the government to take action. This must mark a turning point.

The government must now bring forward the urgent measures that Labour have repeatedly called for, ending the impunity that oligarchs have enjoyed, reforming Companies House to crack down on the shell companies that hide suspect wealth, introducing an Overseas Entities Bill to lift the veil on property ownership, and finally bringing forward the Economic Crime Bill that has been delayed.

Refuge

The sad reality is millions have already been displaced and this is likely to worsen in the weeks and months ahead. The Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary must coordinate urgently with our allies, with the UN and with neighbouring countries to offer urgent humanitarian assistance, and support for those crossing the border, to ensure they can leave as safely as possible.

Alongside countries across Europe and across the world we need to make all the necessary preparations to ensure that those who are fleeing conflict can find safety and sanctuary. It is unacceptable that the Home Office is continuing to impose stringent visa requirements on those fleeing war, including the families of British citizens. A safe sanctuary route should be established immediately.

Portsmouth has a well-established reputation as a place of sanctuary. Last year, I was pleased to meet some of the families that were evacuated from Afghanistan as part of Operation Pitting. I have written to the Immigration Minister to reinforce Labour’s calls for the introduction of a safe and legal sanctuary route without further delay.

Frequently asked questions:

How would Labour go further on sanctions?

There is more we can do to cut Putin’s rogue regime out of our financial system.

We are urging the government to widen export controls to include luxury goods, widen the number of banks prevented from accessing sterling, sanction an expanded list of oligarchs and cronies and increase the pace at which individuals and entities are designated, expand sectoral sanctions to cover insurance and further limit the supply of goods, services and technology to the energy sector and other strategic sectors of the Russian economy, apply sanctions to wealth held under the name of family members.

Will this end with UK or NATO troops being sent to Ukraine?

UK or NATO troops will not be deployed to Ukraine. NATO’s Secretary General has been clear about that and said there are no NATO forces in Ukraine. Ukraine is not a NATO member and is not covered by Article 5’s mutual security guarantee.

But we should be absolutely clear about our commitment to the security of NATO allies, many of whom feel threatened by Russia, and we should bolster and reinforce our NATO allies, especially on the Eastern Flank. The Government has our full support to do that. It is also right that Britain continues to provide assistance to help Ukraine defend itself.

What is Labour saying needs to happen to assist in the humanitarian crisis?

The government must urgently prepare humanitarian support for Ukraine, and for neighbours and partners on its borders.

Estimates suggest there are already 2.9 million people in need and this number is likely to rise fast as more areas are targeted. There is a risk of large-scale displacement of people and flows of refugees out of the country fleeing the conflict.

We need the government to urgently provide details on the scale of aid it is providing to support the Ukrainian people at their hour of need.

Russia must grant full and unfettered humanitarian access to the International Red Cross, as it is required to under the Geneva Conventions and abide by the laws of armed conflict.

Does Labour support the government’s new sanctions?

Labour wants to see the strongest possible sanctions as fast as possible to effectively freeze the Russian regime out of our economic system. It’s important that there is unity across our allies and partners in hitting Putin incredibly hard.

A lot of the new sanctions measures that the government announced are good in principle, but the rhetoric must match the reality as we scrutinise the detail and we think the government can go further. Labour strongly welcomes the ban on trading sovereign debts and limiting access to financial markets, which we had been calling for. But the asset freeze designations seem incredibly slow. We would like the government to be moving faster than this and we hope they will in the coming days.

Hasn’t the west been weak in allowing this to happen in the first place?

These are the actions of an unhinged tyrant who has a total disregard for the health and wealth of the people of Russia and Ukraine.

We’re all saddened by this act of war, but we aren’t shocked. Putin has been responsible for conflict in regions of Ukraine since 2014, and he has been propping up authoritarians in the region for longer. Clearly it is a huge tragedy that he diplomatic process of the Minsk agreements have failed. Putin has reached the conclusion that the benefits of invasion have outweighed the costs.

We must work with our Allies across Europe, Nato and beyond to reach new security arrangements that ensure he will never make that calculation in the future.

With energy prices already up, will sanctions against Russia hurt the pockets of us at home?

Thankfully Britain is less exposed to this problem than our European neighbours.

Energy security is vital. We must work with our European allies to handle any disruption in the supply of energy and raw materials.

It is true that we are uniquely exposed to the global gas crisis because of a decade of Tory mismanagement. Gas storage has been cut and we’re reliant on imports. Homes are not insulated; and they’ve been slow on renewables and nuclear.

Is Labour committed to fundamental reform of our energy system?

Yes. That means reducing Britain’s reliance on imported gas by accelerating home-grown renewables and new nuclear.

Making sure 19 million homes are warm and well-insulated, saving households an average of £400 a year on their bills.

And regulating the market better, with a pledge to never again let energy companies play fast and loose with the rules.

Is this a breach of international law?

As NATO and the UN has said, this attack is a grave violation of international law, including the UN Charter, and is wholly contradictory to Russia’s commitments in the Helsinki Final Act, the Charter of Paris, the Budapest Memorandum and the NATO-Russia Founding Act.

It constitutes an act of aggression against an independent peaceful country.

 

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£13bn of MoD waste revealed in recent report labelled ‘unacceptable’ by Portsmouth MP

Stephen Morgan MP has labelled the £13bn of waste revealed in Labour’s ‘Dossier of Waste in the Ministry of Defence’ as ‘unacceptable’.

The report found that the Government has wasted at least £13bn of taxpayers’ money on 67 officially confirmed cases of MoD waste since 2010.

The new revelations of billions of pounds of Ministry of Defence waste comes at the same time as government cutting Army numbers and freezing forces pay.

Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey says that Labour’s audit of waste shows that “the MoD is a uniquely failing department” and that “Ministers are failing British troops and British taxpayers”.

Labour’s audit examines the extent of waste within the MoD, the cost of which could have been avoided or reduced by better MoD judgement or management.

Labour’s analysis found that Ministers’ mismanagement at the Ministry of Defence has led to £4.8bn of taxpayers’ money being handed out for cancelled contracts and £5.6bn on overspent projects.

If this wasted public money had been reduced, funding could have been available to strengthen the UK’s Armed Forces and avoid cuts forced by budget pressures to troops, planes, ships and vital equipment.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has declared the defence equipment plan “unaffordable” for the last four years in a row, and the Public Accounts Committee said that the Ministry of Defence’s procurement system is “broken and is repeatedly wasting taxpayers’ money”.

Labour has said it would make the Ministry of Defence the first department subject to its new Office for Value for Money’s tough spending regime and commission the NAO to conduct an audit of Ministry of Defence waste to get to grips with these problems.

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

“The Ministry of Defence has blown billions of pounds at the same time as cutting Army numbers and freezing forces pay.

“Labour’s Dossier confirms the scale of waste in MoD budgets and Ministers have got no grip on the problems. Tory waste is failing forces families and taxpayers in Portsmouth and others right across the country.

“This is unacceptable, but Government has no serious intent to get a grip of these deep-seated problems. Only Labour has a plan to tackle them and will continue to hold Ministers to account on this mess.”

Commenting on Labour’s “Dossier of Waste in the Ministry of Defence”, Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey, also said:

“The Ministry of Defence is a uniquely failing department. Labour’s audit confirms at least £13bn in taxpayers’ money has been wasted since 2010, with £4bn wasted while the present Defence Secretary has been in post.

“Ministers are failing British troops and British taxpayers, and this audit is Labour’s first step in fixing the failing system. We would ensure the Ministry of Defence is the first department subject to our new Office for Value for Money’s new tough spending regime and commission the NAO to get to the bottom of these problems.”

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Portsmouth MP welcomes local Afghan families with ‘open arms’

Stephen Morgan MP welcomed local ARAP Afghan families evacuated during August’s Operation Pitting with ‘open arms’ today, during a welcome event held in the city.
The Portsmouth MP met with eight Afghan national families that fled Afghanistan in the summer under the government’s resettlement scheme and was able to thank them for their efforts in working with British personnel in Afghanistan.
Earlier this week in Parliament, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister met with 120 of the soldiers who served in Operation Pitting and thanked them for their efforts to the secure the safety of the 15,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan, including those now based in Portsmouth.
The city MP has been helping with the evacuation programme in responding to over 300 individual cases of those hoping to flee Afghanistan with the Home Office and other government departments.
He has also been working alongside veteran community organisation Ems4Afghans that is providing support to those families in bridging hotels across the country with clothes, toiletries, and other essential items.
The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“I know from my engagement with our city’s existing Afghan community the challenges many families have faced being evacuated from Afghanistan and the harrowing stories of those loved ones left at home under Taliban control.
“It was a pleasure to finally be able to welcome families seeking sanctuary in Portsmouth, to thank them for their work in supporting the British armed forces and understand their hopes for the future as new constituents.
“Whilst this is a real demonstration of the strength of our community coming together to support each other, this may not be the same elsewhere.
“Many ARAP evacuees and their families now find themselves at the mercy of a postcode lottery of support and constrained by a cliff edge on their immigration status.   
“It’s vital now that Ministers deliver clear and consistent pathways for the support offered through Operation Warm Welcome if they are to keep the promises they have made to those who bravely supported our forces.”

Mr Morgan has been asking questions of Ministers over the handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and has vowed to continue to lobby government on the delivery of Operation Warm Welcome and support those seeking sanctuary in Portsmouth.
In recent weeks, Portsmouth Labour launched a ‘Hug in the Bag’ project to give practical support to Afghan families settling in the city. To find out more about how to get involved, contact Portsmouth Labour via hello@portsmouthlabourparty.org.uk or sign up to updates through its website: https://www.portsmouthlabourparty.org.uk/meetings/
 
 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister: Army cuts are ‘huge gamble’ with our national security

Stephen Morgan has said that the Defence Secretary’s manifesto breaking cuts to the armed forces represent a ‘huge gamble’ with our national security.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister’s warning came in response to the Defence Secretary’s statement to the House of Commons today, which confirmed the largest reorganisation of the army in a generation.

The army will be cut by 9,000 to 73,000 by 2025, its smallest since the Napoleonic era. The infantry will be reorganised into four divisions, meaning some existing brigades will be merged or deleted.

There will also be 33 site closures, including Alanbrooke Barracks at Topcliffe in North Yorkshire, severing historic and prosperous ties the Army has with communities up and down the UK.

A new elite unit of Rangers will be created to operate in complex, high threat environments as part of an Army Special Operations brigade.

The Defence Secretary claims the changes would “transform the Army into a more agile, integrated, lethal, expeditionary force”.

However, concerns have been raised by Labour and others that the changes are short-sighted against the backdrop of growing threats to the UK and its allies, not least on the Ukrainian border.

Responding to the Defence Secretary’s statement in the Commons, Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey raised fears the Government’s plan to reorganise the British Army leaves it too small, too thinly stretched and too poorly equipped to deal with the burgeoning state threats to the UK, and our allies.

Jack Watling of the influential defence and security think tank RUSI said ‘the British Army has essentially admitted that it cannot field a force for high-intensity combat for the best part of a decade’.

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

“The Government’s decision to cut the size of the British Army to its smallest since the Napoleonic era is a huge gamble with our national security.

“At a time when the threats faced by the UK and its allies are growing it is vital that we maintain the ability to reinforce Europe against Russia and be an effective warfighting partner to NATO allies. This demands high-end warfighting capabilities, not just light forces and cyber operations.

“Labour has committed to pausing, reviewing and reversing the cuts if necessary.”

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Gurkha pensions: Government cannot continue to ‘sweep issue under the carpet’ – Portsmouth MP

Stephen Morgan MP has accused the government of sweeping the contentious issue of Gurkha pension equality under the carpet during a debate in Westminster this evening.

The issue of Gurkha pension equality is a longstanding and complex issue, but the Portsmouth MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister urged the government to set out a way forward to address the problem.

In August, a group of Gurkha veterans were forced to go on hunger strike outside Downing Street following the government’s lack of engagement with their concerns.

The Shadow Minister visited campaigners during their 13-day hunger strike, having lobbied the Defence Secretary the previous day about the issue.

Leading a debate in Westminster Hall on behalf of the Official Opposition tonight, the Portsmouth representative demanded government set out its approach to the forthcoming bilateral committee meeting convened with Nepal to discuss Gurkha welfare issues.

He also called for the government to commit to publishing its response to its own consultation on the Gurkha Pension Scheme, which closed eight months ago, before the talks begin.

The MP has met with Gurkhas and campaigners on several occasions, including on Saturday with Labour councillors in Reading, which has a particularly high Gurkha population.

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

“This is a complex and longstanding issue, but that’s no excuse for the government’s lack of engagement in tackling the inequalities experienced by those who have fought to keep us safe.

“It cannot be right that those who have served our country have to live in such difficult circumstances, with the cost-of-living crisis set to make things only go from bad, to worse, this winter.

“At the very least Ministers must consider measures that ensure all Gurkha veterans have the opportunity to live securely in retirement. Labour will work cross-party to get this right, but Government needs to finally show long overdue leadership.

Ministers cannot continue to sweep this growing problem under the carpet.”

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City MP warns ministers ARAP evacuees face a ‘cliff edge’ to remain in UK

Stephen Morgan MP warned ministers in the House of Commons today that ARAP evacuees face a ‘cliff edge’ on their UK immigration status.

ARAP evacuees were given six months leave to remain when they left Afghanistan, but many now face uncertainty on their Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Without confirmation of this promise by government, ARAP evacuees face difficulties in accessing work, housing and essential services.

Last week, Mr Morgan visited a bridging hotel, where Afghans who supported British forces are being housed temporarily, to give out ‘winter packs’ of coats, scarves, hats and gloves as the weather turns colder.
As well as basic needs like winter clothes, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister also raised concerns that the Home Office was yet to process their immigration paperwork.

The separate Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme has still not yet been launched.

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

“Unfortunately, ARAP evacuees and their families – who have already suffered immense hardship – now find themselves at the mercy of a postcode lottery of support and constrained by a cliff edge on their immigration status. 

“Councils, charities and voluntary organisations are doing their best on the ground. But Ministers must deliver clear and consistent pathways for the support offered through Operation Warm Welcome, if they are to keep the promises they have made to those who bravely supported our forces.

“The Secretary of State’s response today will offer little comfort to those on the ARAP scheme worrying for their family’s safety. His department should be proactively working to end the uncertainty, not waiting for colleagues to come to him. They deserve far better.”

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City MP: Marking Remembrance this year

After last year’s remembrance services were scaled back due to Covid restrictions, Stephen Morgan MP was able to join communities across Portsmouth, on the centenary of the Royal British Legion, to honour and remember those who have sacrificed so much to keep others safe.

As he marked Remembrance Sunday at events across the city, Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan said:

“I am delighted that our city can come together once again to mark the service and sacrifice of our Armed Forces during this important time of Remembrance.

“Over the last year our Armed Forces have shown that they are indispensable to our nation’s security at home and abroad. From airlifting British Nationals out of Afghanistan to driving NHS ambulances in Wales, and deploying as part of the Carrier Strike Group’s maiden voyage from here in Portsmouth. 

“As we honour our service personnel in the heart and home of the Royal Navy, we renew our commitment to remember the fallen and do everything we can to support serving personnel, veterans and their families.”  
This year, Stephen visited the following groups and services:

November 10

Armistice Day – November 11

  • Guildhall Square Service – Guildhall Square
  • Visit to NMRN on Remembrance – Historic Dockyard

Remembrance Sunday – November 14

  • Royal Naval Association – Remembrance Service – Portsmouth Naval Memorial
  • Remembrance Sunday Service and Parade – Guildhall Square
  • Royal British Legion Remembrance Service – St Marys Church, Fratton

 

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City MP joins ‘inspirational’ veteran’s community effort for Afghan evacuees

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan paid a visit to veteran community organisation Ems4Afghans ahead of Remembrance Sunday.

The volunteer-led organisation, founded by Emsworth RAF veteran Matt Simmons, was set up in the wake of the Afghanistan crisis to support those being evacuated with clothes, toiletries and other essential items.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister joined the sorting of incoming donations at the group’s hub in Fareham with volunteers.

Earlier this week, Mr Morgan visited a bridging hotel where Afghans who supported British forces are being housed temporarily to give out ‘winter packs’ of coats, scarves, hats and gloves as the weather turns colder.

As well as basic needs like winter clothes, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister also raised concerns that the Home Office was yet to process their immigration paperwork.

Without confirmation of the Indefinite Leave to Remain promised by the government, ARAP evacuees face difficulties in accessing work, housing and essential services.

The separate Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme has still not yet been launched.

On Tuesday, Ems4Afghans volunteer and RAF veteran Melanie Clark helped deliver an Afghan refugee’s baby in one of the bridging hotels.

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

“Matt has led an inspirational group of local veterans to support those Afghan nationals who bravely backed British forces during their deployment.

“Their sense of duty to those who served alongside them represents the best of our forces, and I want to pay tribute to them as we mark Remembrance.

“Unfortunately, ARAP evacuees and their families – who have already suffered immense hardship – now find themselves at the mercy of a postcode lottery of support and constrained by a cliff edge on their immigration status.

“Councils, charities like Ems4Afghans and voluntary organisations are doing their best on the ground. But Ministers must deliver clear and consistent pathways for the support offered through Operation Warm Welcome if they are to keep the promises they have made to those who bravely supported our forces.”

Ems4Afghans founder Matt Simmons said:

“The initial crisis support we offered was so important, with those fleeing for their lives coming to the UK with nothing but the clothes they were wearing.

“It’s more than that though. For me starting Ems4Afghans was about building relationships and being a bridge between communities where we can do great work in the future in resettlement – education, jobs.

“I wanted to make them feel welcome. We have a sense of duty as they worked alongside British forces.”

To donate to the indicative and help Afghan families click here

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City MP discusses mental health with All Call Signs ahead of Remembrance Sunday

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan visited award-winning forces mental health initiative ‘All Call Signs’ to discuss their work and highlight Labour’s pledge to veterans ahead of Remembrance Sunday.   

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister highlighted the importance of improving ongoing mental health support for personnel and veterans, particularly given events in Afghanistan this year.

It comes as Labour announced £35 million fund to support British veterans and Afghan interpreters.

The funding, recovered from cancelled MoD interpreter contracts, will be used for grants to charities and Local Authorities in England to provide mental health support services and support for those Afghan nationals who have relocated to the UK through the ARAP scheme.

Calls to veteran’s mental health charity Combat Stress have doubled since the Taliban swept to power. At the same time, its income has fallen by 37% in the last financial year partly due to cuts in NHS funding support.

Research last year found only 26% of charities thought that the government supports the mental health of veterans, and 79% of charities believe that the responsibility to support veterans should lie more with the government and armed forces.

All Calls Signs, based on Albert Road in Southsea, provide peer support organisation for veterans and serving military personnel.

Their chat app is staffed by over 700 volunteer listeners with experience of life in uniform with digital caseworkers bridging the gaps in veteran’s mental health services for hundreds of users seeking help.

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

“I’ve long been a proud supporter of All Call Signs’ innovative work to support serving personnel and veterans across our country, and am really proud this organisation is based in Portsmouth.

“This year our armed forces have stepped up once again to protect us at home and abroad. Events in Afghanistan have taken an understandable toll on both serving personnel and veterans, so Remembrance is a timely reminder that we must keep our promise to support those who have fought for our country.

“Recent government announcements on mental health are a drop in the ocean whilst the uncertainty surrounding future funding for the Office of Veterans Affairs threatens to pull the rug from under our personnel when they need it most.

“Labour’s new support fund of £35 million will make sure we protect those who protect our country and keep us all safe.”

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Portsmouth MP calls for nominations for his Parliamentary Remembrance tribute

Stephen Morgan MP has called for constituents to get in touch and offer their suggestions for his Remembrance tribute in Parliament.

Marking its 100th year, the Royal British Legion (RBL) has teamed up with the House of Commons to install a House of Commons Constituency Garden of Remembrance.

All 650 Members of Parliament have been invited by the Speaker to plant their Remembrance tributes in New Palace Yard, ensuring every constituency in the country can be represented and remembered in a single place.

Suggestions for the remembrance tribute can be to an individual, regiment or community that has a connection with Mr Morgan’s constituency of Portsmouth South. Nominations can be sent either via email or post.

The Portsmouth MP will be planting his tribute on behalf of constituents in the run up to Armistice Day next week.

The Portsmouth South MP, said:

“Remembrance is an important time for communities right across the country, none more so than in Portsmouth, so I’m delighted to be taking part in this thoughtful initiative by the Legion and the Speaker of the House of Commons.

“Every village, town or city in Britain has a unique story to tell about the service and sacrifices made to keep us safe. Being able to recognise and remember this in a single place and at the heart of the UK’s democracy is the perfect way to mark the Royal British Legion’s centenary.

“I look forward to receiving many suggestions from constituents for who they think Portsmouth should honour and remember this year.”

Suggestions for consideration by the city MP should be emailed to stephen.morgan.mp@parliament.uk by no later than 5pm on Monday 8.