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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister helps force vote on government’s ‘broken promise’ to Armed Forces

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP challenged the government in the House of Commons today for breaking its promise to not cut troop numbers, which was confirmed in the Defence Command Paper published last month.

The Portsmouth MP was speaking at the despatch box in the opposition day debate in Parliament today before a vote on the government’s decision to renege on its commitment to the Armed Forces.

The Integrated Review and Defence Command Paper confirmed that the Army will be further reduced to just 72,500 by 2025, smaller than at any time since the 1700s.

It has also been reported in The Times, but omitted in the Defence Command Paper, that the Royal Marines are set to lose 400 posts, from 6,500 to 6,100.

Meanwhile, the RAF is also expected to lose 300 personnel by 2025, with full-time personnel currently at 1,850.

It comes as 45,000 personnel have been cut since 2010.

The Shadow Defence Minister and Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, commented:

“The government’s track record speaks for itself: a decade of decline for personnel numbers and investment in defence; a strategic defence plan that does not clearly match capabilities to current and future threats; broken promises to our Armed Forces.

“The defence of the realm is the first priority of any government, but this one is playing fast and loose with our country’s strategic security plans and its commitments on defence spending.

“Labour is determined to ensure our country can protect itself properly, now and in the future, which is why the Official Opposition is forcing a vote in Parliament today on this important issue.”

Mr Morgan last month labelled the plans to cut personnel numbers by 10,000 a ‘mistake’, following the Defence Command Paper’s publication.

He also suggested government was taking a ‘significant gamble’ on defence capabilities, after the publication of the government’s Integrated Review, which was also published in March.

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Labour calls on the government to invest in and secure British jobs ​for the defence sector

The Official Opposition is demanding greater protection of jobs in the defence sector by calling on the government to adopt a ‘British-built by default’ approach, intended to boost manufacturing within the UK supply chain, a move welcomed by Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP.

Labour says a new threshold is needed for equipment to be sourced outside of the UK, requiring proof that defence projects cannot be built under similar terms in Britain.

In addition, the Party is calling on ministers to report annually on the proportion of defence spending going through British companies, and to improve procurement rules to promote prosperity in supply chain businesses throughout the UK’s towns, regions, and industries such as steel.

The Party accuse the Conservative government of br​eaking promises ​made to the Armed Forces and wasting taxpayer money through its decade-long policy of ‘open competition by default’ that has seen the UK buying off-the–shelf defence equipment from overseas.

New analysis by Labour shows:  

  • Over £6 billion of allocated spending in government’s Integrated Review and Defence Command Paper is going on off-the-shelf purchases of surveillance aircraft from overseas.
  • A naval contract worth £1.5 billion for Fleet Support Ships has been unfulfilled since 2018, due to Ministerial indecision ​about making the contract British-led.
  • 30,000 defence industry jobs lost since 2010 under the Conservatives

Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Labour Party said:

“Prioritising British businesses through defence spending is not only investment in jobs, but in our communities, and a more secure economy.  

“Under this Prime Minister, we have seen broken promises and dither and delay, at the expense of UK supply chain businesses and taxpayer’s money.  

“We cannot go back to business as usual. Labour will protect jobs in the defence sector, harness the skills and talents of our workers, and will deliver value for money for British people, to ensure a prosperous recovery out of the pandemic.” 

John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, added:

“The Prime Minister has already broken promises made to military personnel by cutting 10,000 posts in the Army.

“On the Tories’ watch, we have also lost tens of thousands of jobs across the industry and wasted time on key contracts.  

“Of course, there will be essential equipment or systems which makes strategic sense for Britain to develop with allies or to buy direct from overseas, but we want to see a much higher bar for this”.

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

“We know only too well here in Portsmouth that when done well, defence spending has a multiplier effect, strengthening our UK economy. That’s why I have been calling on the Government for some time to build more Naval ships in Britain.

“Covid has exposed the risks of relying on foreign supply chains.

“I welcome Keir Starmer’s contribution to this debate. Labour’s ‘British by default’ policy would help secure vital jobs in Portsmouth as our city recovers from the pandemic as well as strengthen the UK’s sovereignty and security.” 

 

 

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‘Defence jobs are vital to Luton’s recovery’ – MPs meet with defence firm 

Labour’s Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP, visited Luton to meet with bosses at defence firm, Leonardo. The international company employs 1000 people at their Luton site, contributing 8% share local jobs in Luton’s manufacturing sector. 

Accompanied by Council Leader, Hazel Simmons, and Luton South MP, Rachel Hopkins, the Shadow Minister sat down with the electronic aerospace, defence and security developers to discuss the £123 million contribution the firm makes to the area.

Stephen Morgan MP, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister, said:

“It was fantastic to visit Leonardo to hear more about its work to support Luton during the pandemic and its wider contribution to the local economy. 

“Hazel and Rachel have done a tremendous job working with local business to ensure the jobs-based recovery Luton needs and is an excellent example of Labour working constructively with industry to achieve that wider national objective.”

Council Leader, Hazel Simmons MBE, said:

“I am really proud of the positive relationship that Luton Council has built with Leonardo.   

“Their well-developed apprenticeship scheme attracts young people from across the Borough, and it was great to meet with executives to learn more about how we can boost highly skilled, well paid jobs here in Luton. These are the jobs that will help Luton bounce back after Covid.”  

Luton South MP, Rachel Hopkins, added

“Leonardo is an important part of Luton’s manufacturing sector, and it was positive to hear about their apprenticeship schemes, support for women in STEM, and how they moved into making PPE to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic. 

Luton’s recovery must have good, well-paid jobs at its heart. Labour is committed to working with Trade Unions and businesses to help rebuild our economy.” 

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Shadow Defence Minister calls for views of service personnel, veterans and their families on Armed Forces Bill

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has called for service personnel, veterans and their families, as well as civilians subject to service law, to share their views on the Armed Forces Bill currently working its way through Parliament.

A cross-party Select Committee has issued a survey seeking views on the proposed Bill to inform the Committee’s inquiry, and help improve life for the armed forces community.

Among other things, the Bill proposes a legal responsibility for public bodies to give ‘due regard’ to the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant when accessing public services such as housing, healthcare and education.

Labour has criticised the Bill for being too weak, and that proposals would do little to correct the many ways in which service personnel are disadvantaged.

The Official Opposition is also pushing the government to clarify why it has not adopted Lyons’ recommendation that civilian courts should have jurisdiction in matters of murder, rape and serious sexual offences committed in the UK.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister, who is leading Labour’s response to the Bill, Stephen Morgan MP, said,

“With this Bill the government risks creating a two-tier covenant and a race to the bottom on services for our forces communities across the country.

“But it also fails to deliver urgent service justice reforms to improve the number of cases tried related to the most serious of crimes, such as murder, rape and sexual offences.

“It’s critical that the Armed Forces Bill Select Committee get the clearest understanding of what people connected to Armed Services see as a priority and the best way to do that is by responding to this survey.

“I encourage Portsmouth people to speak loud and clearly to Government in how life can be improved for service personnel, veterans and their families by completing this important survey.”

To complete the survey click here. The deadline for responses is Monday 5 April 5 PM and takes roughly five minutes to complete. 

 

 

 

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Shadow Defence Minister raises concerns on future security of carriers in Portsmouth

Portsmouth MP and Shadow Defence Minister Stephen Morgan has raised concerns about the security of carriers based in Portsmouth, after it was confirmed in the Defence Command Paper earlier this week that UK frigates could be down to just nine vessels during the next decade.

The new Type 31 frigates confirmed in the command paper are set to be delayed by four years, meaning they will now arrive mid-2027.

However, the current Type 23 frigates that they will replace are set to be decommissioned at the beginning in 2023.

This will create a ‘capability holiday’ of three years and cut the number of UK frigates down to nine vessels, prompting concerns about the level of security for the aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, based at HMNB Portsmouth.

Meanwhile, with the addition of six Type 45 destroyers and the Royal Navy’s warship force, excluding auxiliaries, minesweepers, submarines and carriers, the Royal Navy’s surface combatant fleet will stand at just 15 hulls.

This would be a smaller surface navy than both Italy and France.

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

“The delay in the new type 31 frigates being delivered raises serious concerns about how the Navy will be properly resourced to maintain security of our carriers.

“The modernisation of our Royal Navy is necessary, but it should not be coming at the expense of operational capabilities.

“Better procurement planning is needed in this transition period for our surface combat fleet, and the government must provide assurances that this will not limit our ability to defend Portsmouth’s carriers.

“Portsmouth has historic ties to the Royal Navy and it is important that it and HMNB Portsmouth gets the support they need over the coming years.”

Responding to the reported plans last year, Labour Peer and former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West told The Sun newspaper,

“Just 15 major service ships will put us into the second tier of the world’s navies”, and that “for a great nation like ours, just five [warships] on task is a national embarrassment and disgrace.” 

Mr Morgan criticised the government on Monday in response to its publication of the Defence Command Paper for cutting personnel numbers for budgetary purposes, not for strategic need.

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Shadow Defence Minister says to cut Armed Services is ‘significant gamble’ on national security

Portsmouth MP and shadow defence minister Stephen Morgan has said cuts to the Armed Forces is a ‘significant gamble’, after it was reported RAF and Royal Marines numbers will be cut.

According to plans proposed by the military reported in The Times, the Royal Marines are set to lose 400 posts, from 6,500 to 6,100. Meanwhile, the RAF is also expected to lose 300 personnel by 2025, with full-time personnel currently at 1,850.

In comes after it was confirmed in the Defence Command Paper published on Monday that the Army would be cut by 10,000, including cuts to the number of tanks, the number of planes for the RAF and the number of ships for the Royal Navy.

At the last election the Conservatives promised they would “not be cutting our armed services in any form”. But this week they have done just that: cutting the British Army by 10,000.

During Prime Minister’s Questions today Labour made clear it won’t support any further cuts to our Armed Forces; and has today called on the Government to put their plans for any further cuts to a vote in Parliament.

Stephen Morgan MP, Shadow Armed Forces Minister, said:

“These cuts represent a significant gamble with our national security, threatening to undermine our capacity to deploy overseas, support allies and maintain domestic resilience.

“There’s a pattern with this government: they promised our NHS would have whatever they need – now nurses are getting a pay cut. They promised a tax guarantee – now they’re putting taxes up for families. They promised they wouldn’t cut the Armed Forces – now they have.

“I know these reports will be particularly concerning to those in Portsmouth and Labour will endeavour to stop the cuts by calling for a vote in Parliament on the Government’s plans.”

Mr Morgan called the decision to cut the Army by 10,000 a ‘mistake’, after it was confirmed on Monday in Parliament.

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Integrated Review: Shadow Defence Minister says government ‘cannot continue to neglect’ Service Personnel

Shadow Armed Forces Minister and Portsmouth MP Stephen Morgan has said the Armed Forces cannot continue to be neglected by the government, after it published its major defence and security policy review today.

The Prime Minister announced in Parliament this afternoon his conclusions of the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, which has been conducted by the government over the past year.

However, amongst other broader priorities set out in the quinquennial government defence and foreign policy review, it has announced in the paper plans to ‘reshape’ the Armed Forces and ‘develop more capabilities – people, skills and equipment – that can be used across a range of scenarios.’

The Portsmouth South MP has recognised in principle the need to modernise the UK Armed Forces to equip them to respond to present and future threats, but has cast serious doubts over the government’s ability to deliver, pointing to its track record on full-time UK personnel numbers and defence spending plans announced in last year’s Spending Review.

As of January 2021, the UK full-time Armed Forces strength fell short of its 2015 SDSR targets across as all services, with the full-time trained strength of the UK Armed Forces 135,444, a shortfall of 8,756 (6%) against the government’s own target of 144,200.

In last year’s Spending Review, the government also revealed that it plans to cut day-to-day spending by 2.7% in real terms over the next 4 years, despite plans to invest £16.5bn in projects, but with no clear resource to support and maintain them.

In addition, the National Audit Office has also reported there could be as high as a £17.4bn funding shortfall in the government’s equipment plan for 2020 to 2030.

The Shadow Defence Minister and Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, commented:

“This government and its Tory predecessors have continually allowed for our Armed forces to be neglected – numbers down, pay down and morale down.

“The government talks of ‘reshaping’ our Armed Forces in this review, but this cannot be code for continuing to repeat the mistakes of the past and not meeting its targets for full-time UK Armed Forces numbers, as well as failing to provide them with the support and equipment they need.

“Service personnel have shown this year that they continue to be one of our greatest assets when it comes to dealing with serious threats posed to our country, but a cut to many of our troops’ pay and the continued neglect they have faced raises serious questions whether the government will be true to its word.”

Earlier this month, Mr Morgan criticised the real terms pay cut to Armed Forces personnel earning over £18,000.

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Portsmouth MP demands government give veterans access to ‘state-of-the-art’ care facility

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP has pushed the government in the House of Commons today to face-up to its commitment to give veterans access to a world-class treatment centre for those with serious injuries.

The Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre has reportedly seen only twenty-two people in the last three years, despite the government’s commitment to give access to veterans who need it.

However, government has faced criticism from veterans’ charities such as Help for Heroes that “it is not an efficient process” and wants ex-servicemen and women with other issues to be given access.

It comes as the Portsmouth MP is leading the Official Opposition’s response to Armed Forces Bill as it passes through Bill select committee, with its aims to enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant into law and improve veterans’ welfare.

Stephen Morgan, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Defence Minister, said:

“This state-of-the-art facility has tremendous potential to afford seriously injured personnel and veterans the healthcare they need, but just 22 veterans being treated at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre in the last three years is just not good enough.

“If the government is serious about improving veterans’ welfare, giving proper access to treatment facilities that were designed to help them would be the common sense thing to do.

“I will continue to push the Minister on this, and I look forward to an update on the government’s progress.”

Mr Morgan recently criticised the Chancellor for handing a real-terms pay cut to many currently serving Armed Forces personnel in the government Budget announced earlier this month and is pushing for a range of measures to support service personnel, veterans and their families.