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STOP AQUIND: Portsmouth MP responds to second Aquind decision delay

Responding to the news that the Business Secretary has again delayed the final decision on the proposed Aquind interconnector project until 21 January 2022, Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said:

“The Business Secretary has once again ducked a decision on this disastrous project, which will cause daily disruption in Portsmouth and threatens our national security.

“With clear community opposition to the plans, and fresh fraud allegations against the company’s Conservative party donors, the case for stopping Aquind has never been clearer. 

“But the Secretary of State has chosen more dither and delay, raising further questions about what exactly the company’s owners received in return for their generous donations to his party.

“It’s high time the government stopped Aquind once and for all. Ministers must put an end to the uncertainty for Portsmouth and protect our national infrastructure.”

The Portsmouth South MP has long opposed the Aquind interconnector project, working alongside the Let’s Stop Aquind grassroots group.

Since his election he has grilled Ministers in Parliament, secured a dedicated debate on the issue, attended protests alongside local campaigners and met the project company to discuss concerns.

In September, Mr Morgan submitted a 6,200 signature petition to Parliament calling on the Business Secretary to scrap the project.

Mr Morgan has also consistently raised concerns about the project company’s concerningly opaque structure and finances.

Recent media reports from the BBC and Guardian revealed that Aquind owner Viktor Fedotov benefited from a $4bn alleged fraud in Russia. This seems to have been achieved through a complex scheme that funnelled government cash through layers of shell companies that were ultimately owned by Mr Fedotov.

Similar concerns have been raised about Aquind’s finances, with little information available about where its money is coming from, who is providing it, or whether similar complex financial structures are being used to hide this.

Mr Fedotov had been able to remain completely anonymous as the company’s owner using a rare exemption in corporate transparency rules, until his identity was revealed following an investigation by The Times in August 2020. Why this anonymity was necessary is not clear.

Aquind’s public face, Alexander Temerko, has also conducted a coordinated and concerted effort to influence British political figures.

Since the project started, Temerko has donated £700,000 to the Conservative Party. In addition to this, research done by the BBC has revealed that Mr Fedotov’s businesses have donated a further £700,000 to 34 MPs and their local parties. This includes a string of current and former Ministers in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The Secretary of State was asked directly on Andrew Marr on 10 October if he was in favour of the project. He replied, “I have never commented on this specific project”.

However, letters obtained by The Times through a Freedom of Information request show the Mr Kwarteng indicated both his and the government’s support for the project when he was Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth.

A Written Ministerial Statement confirming the Secretary of State is delaying the decision on Aquind can be found here



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City MP backs Guide Dogs campaign on the use of e-scooters

Stephen Morgan MP has backed a campaign led by the Guide Dogs charity to raise awareness of the danger that unsafe e-scooter use poses for people with sight loss.

Portsmouth is currently one of the cities in England trialling an e-scooter rental scheme to help the government to determine whether they can be used legally more widely across the country. However, there has been a boom in sales of privately-owned e-scooters which are not legal to use on public roads – yet their use is widespread.

YouGov polling produced for the charity Guide Dogs showed that 92% of people who had seen an e-scooter in the past 6 months, had seen one driven on the pavement. E-scooters driven unsafely on the pavement cause problems for many pedestrians, but people with sight loss who cannot see an e-scooter approach are particularly at risk.

The Portsmouth MP has written to the Home Secretary on the issue after his constituents raised similar concerns, as well as requesting further detail on government plans to protect and regulate against the continued illegal use and sale of e-scooters for use in public spaces and roads.

Mr Morgan will also be meeting the local provider of the e-scooter scheme to raise matters with them too.

Stephen Morgan MP is supporting Guide Dogs’ call for a public information campaign to stop the illegal use of e-scooters.

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

“It is clear from conversations with constituents that e-scooters pose a risk to some vulnerable people.

“The government has got to come forward with a clear strategy on how it plans to better protect those most at risk to e-scooters, whether that’s through local rental schemes or illegal use of ones that are privately owned.

“That’s why I’m supporting the Guide Dogs’ campaign and will continue to keep pressure on government, in addition to the range of actions I have taken already on this important issue.”

Chris Theobald, Senior Policy, Public Affairs and Campaigns Manager for Guide Dogs, said:

“We have seen alarming reports of unsafe and anti-social behaviour, pedestrians injured in collisions, and illegal private e-scooter use increasing. 68% of guide dog owners have told us that e-scooters reduce their confidence to leave the house.

“It’s essential that pavements are kept clear and safe. That’s why we’re asking for better enforcement, controls on sales, and safety features if they are to be legalised.”

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Stephen Morgan MP votes to make the Environment Bill fit for purpose

Stephen Morgan MP has voted to tackle the climate emergency, improve air quality, clean the country’s waters, protect its bees and pollinators and for a strong and powerful Office of Environmental Protection, as the Environment Bill returned to the House of Commons today.

A climate emergency has been declared in Portsmouth and more widely, wildlife in Britain is on a downward spiral with 44% of species in decline over the last ten years.

Labour has accused Ministers of ‘dither and delay’ in recent months and with COP26 approaching, the Environment Bill remains ‘unfit for purpose’. The Official Opposition argues the interim Office for Environmental Protection ‘lacks independence, an assurance of adequate resource, or the power to fine.’

The party has also said Ministers are doing all they can to resist concrete protections, leaving our environment as a bargaining chip for new trade agreements that would undercut Britain’s environmental standards.

The Portsmouth representative has vowed to vote for a range of amendments that would strengthen the Bill and take the steps necessary to preserve the planet and protect Portsmouth’s environment.

This includes a change to the Bill that has cross-party support which would ensure “world leading protection” for waterways across the country, according to charity Surfers Against Sewage, including those linked to Langstone Harbour.

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“We have waited many months for this Environment Bill, whilst our waters are ever more polluted, our air is ever dirtier, and our planet moves closer and closer to disaster.

The Conservatives have shown little energy or enthusiasm for making this Bill fit for purpose and that is why it has taken almost two years – and our departure from the European Union – to just get to this stage.

It is clear from the views of local people and campaign groups in Portsmouth that real leadership is required and the Conservatives in government have been found wanting.

Labour under Keir Starmer will take the bold, ambitious and long overdue steps necessary to preserve our planet and protect our environment”.

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Government Ministers must ‘match rhetoric with action’ and vote to protect Portsmouth’s environment – City MP

Stephen Morgan MP is calling for the government to back changes to the Environment Bill which would place a legal duty on water companies not to pollute Portsmouth’s waterways.

The change to the Bill, which has cross-party support, would ensure “world leading protection” for waterways across the country, according to charity Surfers Against Sewage.

Without the proposed change, water companies would not be required to take immediate action to tackle sewage pollution, meaning the state of local waterways could continue to decline indefinitely.

The charity has claimed the government would be at risk of undermining its own manifesto pledge to leave the environment in a better state than it found it.

It comes after recent reports from the Environment Agency of an ‘abnormal situation’ in Eastney on October 9.

The Portsmouth MP has written to the regulator demanding answers on what conversations it had with the local water provider Southern Water, in addition to a range of actions Mr Morgan has taken to clean up the city’s bathing waters.

In the local MP’s constituency alone, sewage was pumped into local rivers for at least 617 hours in 2020, according to data from The Rivers Trust.

In July, Southern Water was handed a record £90m fine by the water regulator for thousands of illegal discharges of sewage, which polluted rivers and coastal waters in Kent, Hampshire and Sussex.

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

“As we approach Cop26, the government has an opportunity to match its rhetoric on protecting our environment with action.

“Southern Water’s record shows that the current system in place to protect Portsmouth’s waterways, including Langstone Harbour, is not fit for purpose.

“Southern Water spent the equivalent of nearly a month last year pumping sewage into local waters, and it’s high time now something is done to address this chronic problem for our city.

“Proposed changes to government legislation would force industry to live up to their responsibilities and I hope all of our region’s parliamentary representatives will do the right thing and vote to properly protect our environment.”

The City MP is set vote for the amendment backed by Surfers Against Sewage and other environmental groups in the House of Commons tomorrow evening.

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Statement from Stephen Morgan MP – Stop the Sewage Protest

A statement from Stephen Morgan MP was provided today at a protest in Eastney, demonstrating against Southern Water’s continued discharges into the Solent.

“What we saw last weekend is deeply concerning and the quality of our bathing water is a severe concern for many of us.

“There seems to be a clear difference between what Southern Water is sayingand the water local people were witnessing, which is why I wrote to the Environment Agency earlier this week demanding answers over last weekend’s ‘abnormal situation’.

“The government and its regulator need to provide assurances to the people of Portsmouth that our local environment is being properly protected and that industry is living up to its responsibilities.

“It’s vital we get to the bottom of this ‘abnormal incident’ quickly to understand the cause, lessons can be learnt to prevent it from happening again and those responsible can be held to account. Any wrongdoing must be dealt with

“But the scenes from last weekend were just the tip of the iceberg.

“The evidence we have seen over recent months and years demonstrates we have a system that wilfully ignores the worst pollution events in our country.

“Water companies continue to legally pollute UK waters, exposing all-water users, as well as our delicate ocean ecosystems to harm.

“Consequently, our water quality remains at the same dire level as it was in the 1990s, placing the UK a pitiful 25th out of 30 EU countries for coastal water quality.

“Natural spaces such as Langstone Harbour and the Solent are crucial for the health and wellbeing of society and should be highly protected, not used as a dumping ground for big business.

“That is why I have been calling on the Government to end sewage pollution to protect UK waters, help restore our rivers and ocean, and working with others to hold Southern Water to account to ensure the health and wellbeing of the public.

“I’ve met with key bodies, raised concerns with the water company, asked questions of Ministers and called on Government to take urgent action to fix long-running local sewage pollution.

“I will be taking further action over the next few weeks, urging Government to do more, and do better”.

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Log your concerns over Solent sewage discharge

Evidence in recent months and years show that we have a system that wilfully ignores the worst pollution events in our country. Water companies continue to legally pollute UK waters, exposing all-water users, as well as our delicate ocean ecosystems to harm.

Consequently, our water quality remains at the same dire level as it was in the 1990s, placing the UK a pitiful 25th out of 30 EU countries for coastal water quality.

Natural spaces such as Langstone Harbour and the Solent are crucial for the health and wellbeing of society and should be highly protected, not used as a dumping ground for big business.

Stephen has been calling on the Government to end sewage pollution to protect UK waters, help restore our rivers and ocean, and working with others to hold Southern Water to account to ensure the health and wellbeing of the public.

He’s met with key bodies, raised concerns with the water company, asked questions of Ministers and called on Government to take urgent action.

Help Stephen continue to make the case in Parliament to ensure Government do more, and do better. Tell us your key concerns or issues here so he can build the case from Portsmouth to Ministers:

Thank you for signing our petition. Stephen Morgan MP will use the personal information you provided for the purpose of the Solent sewage discharge campaign. Where you have opted in, Stephen and the Labour Party may contact you via the communication channels you have chosen and for the purposes specified. We may also contact you by post using the electoral register, which Stephen is entitled to use as an MP and the Labour Party is entitled to use to further its objectives as a political party. You can opt out of communications from us or manage your preferences at any time. For more information about how we use personal data please visit here

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World Mental Health Day – message from Stephen Morgan MP

Today is World Mental Health Day and Mind, the mental health charity, is encouraging everyone to ‘Do One Thing’ to reduce mental health inequality.

The pandemic has had a profound effect on our nation’s mental health. Covid-19 has been just as much a mental health emergency as a physical one. Right now, there is a backlog of around 1.6 million people officially waiting for treatment from mental health services, with private estimates from the sector suggesting around 8 million more would benefit from treatment.

We also know that existing inequalities have been exacerbated by the pandemic, disproportionately impacting young people, people from ethnic minority communities and those in financial hardship.

People with pre-existing mental health problems have been amongst those most severely affected. Two thirds of people with mental health problems told Mind that their mental health has deteriorated since the start of the pandemic – facing increased complexity of needs, worsening physical health and disruption to support. But we can change this.

This World Mental Health Day, I’m encouraging everyone to ‘do one thing’. As Mind say ‘If we all do one thing, we can change everything’. Whether you use social media or speak with friend, family, or colleagues, do one thing.

I hope that you and your family find the information below useful and I urge all constituents to get involved this World Mental Health Day.

Stephen Morgan MP


Access information and support

One in four people will experience a mental health problem in any one year. There is a range of support available both locally and nationally to help.

  • A range of resources on our website specifically focussed on looking after your mental health in the workplace. Click here
  • Mind’s “how to manage stress guide” is for anyone who wants to learn how to manage stress. It explains what stress is, what might cause it and how it can affect you. It also includes information about ways you can help yourself and how to get support, as well as providing tips for those around you. Click here
  • Mind’s introduction to mental health problems explains what mental health problems are and the different kinds of help, treatment and support that are available. Click here
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Pubs ‘vital’ to local economy, but being chronically let down by government – City MP

Stephen Morgan MP has underlined that the pub and brewing sector has been chronically let down by government, despite its considerable contribution to the economy and the challenges it’s faced this year.

According to the latest research by the British Beer and Pub Association, in the Portsmouth MP’s constituency alone, brewing companies and pubs contribute 2,478 jobs and £60m to the local economy.

Nationally, before the pandemic, the sector was supporting 900,000 jobs, generating £23 billion in economic value and providing £13 billion in tax revenues.

However, even before Covid-19 took hold, pubs were under severe threat, with a 15% fall in their number from 2010 to 2020.

A review of business rates has been delayed by the government until the autumn, leaving many businesses working in the hospitality and related sectors feeling uncertain.

Meanwhile, the city MP has backed a call to scrap business rates and reforming business taxation, so it is fairer, more efficient and shifts the burden of business tax.

It comes as a number of industry bodies have got behind this year’s ‘Long Live Local’ campaign, calling on the Government to invest in pubs and breweries through the reform of the unfair tax burden – specifically lower VAT & Business Rates for pubs and lower Beer Duty.

After listening to concerns of constituents and the local hospitality sector, the city MP will be meeting industry in Parliament later this month to continue his efforts in lobbying Government for support to the sector.

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

“Pubs are at the heart of the UK’s communities and play an important role not only in our in our local and national economy but also in our social lives and neighbourhoods.

“But with inflation on the rise, gas prices up and an acute HGV driver shortage, many pub and brewing businesses will be worrying how long they can keep on going and need to be given assurances by government.

“That’s why I believe the business rate review must not be delayed any longer and must lead to wholesale reform. An overhaul of business rates is long overdue, and Labour’s alternative will offer a real plan to help our hospitality industry to thrive.”

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Portsmouth MP blasts government for cost-of-living crisis as £1,000 Universal Credit cut kicks in for over 10,000 local families

Stephen Morgan MP has blasted the government for the scale of the cost-of-living crisis impacting local families as the planned £1,000 cut to Universal Credit and working tax credits kicks in today.

In the Portsmouth representative’s constituency alone, 5,550 families will be affected, including 6,907 children. Across the city, there are over 10,000 families with children in receipt of Universal Credit or Working Tax Credits who could be impacted as result of the cut.

Meanwhile, working families across the country are dealing with a ‘triple whammy’ to their cost of living,

Four in ten households on Universal Credit are facing a 13 per cent rise in their energy bills in the same month as their benefit is cut by £20 a week.

But according to Citizens Advice, the £20 a week uplift would cover near a whole week of energy costs for a below average income household.

In another hit to working families and businesses across the country, the government is also continuing to push through a Bill that would raise National Insurance by 1.25%.

The Portsmouth MP has paid tribute to local campaigning efforts against the cut, including a petition to ‘Cancel the Cut’ organised by local Unite Community campaigner David Gorham, who has also staged a number of events in our city’s communities with the backing of Mr Morgan in opposition to the Government’s decision.

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

“The government is pulling out the rug for working families across Portsmouth just at the moment when Tory failure has led to their cost of living going up.

“Cutting £1,000 a year for six million families across Britain, and 10,000 in Portsmouth will have real consequences for daily lives.

“As the Prime Minister stands up to deliver his speech at the champagne bubble of Tory party conference, millions of working families across the country will be weighing up the choice between eating or heating this week.

“I will always stand up for the most vulnerable in our city. I will continue to push the government to provide answers on how they will support struggling families in Portsmouth this winter.”

Unite South East Community Coordinator, Kelly Tomlinson, added,

“Families in the South East are now facing a triple whammy. The £20 cut to Universal Credit; the increase in energy bills and the steep rise in the cost of food will force Families to make the terrible choice of feeding their children or keeping the heating on. This Christmas is going to be bleak as people go without life’s essentials.

 “Unite will continue to work with the Labour Party to make the Tory Government put families first and reverse the damaging cut to Universal Credit.”

Mr Morgan has tirelessly campaigned against the cut to universal credit. He has written to the Work and Pensions Secretary, lobbied the Chancellor ahead of the Budget, helped secure a motion against the cut at the city council and asked a number of questions to Ministers to keep up the pressure.

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Labour demands to know what Russian oligarch was getting in return for bankrolling one in ten Conservative MPs

Chair of the Labour Party Anneliese Dodds has today written to her Conservative opposite number asking him to explain why one in ten of his party’s MPs were getting cash from an oligarch accused of corruption at the heart of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The BBC has revealed that 34 Conservative MPs received some £700,000 from businesses owned by the Russian businessman Viktor Fedotov. The recent ‘Pandora Papers’ scandal suggested that Fedotov secretly benefitted from an alleged $4bn fraud in Putin’s Russia. The state-owned oil and gas company gave hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to a firm called VNIIST, but leaked audit reports in 2008 suggest the work was not carried out and instead the money was apparently siphoned off. The ‘Pandora Papers’ showed Fedotov to have held a stake in VNIIST, hidden behind a complex web of offshore structures.

In the UK, Fedotov jointly owns Aquind with fellow oligarch Alexander Temerko. Temerko is a Conservative Party activist and avowedly personal friend of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and he too has given £700,000 to the party in recent years. Aquind is in the process of bidding to build an undersea power connector between Portsmouth and Normandy, which the Government has deemed to be a “nationally significant infrastructure project”. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is due to decide whether to appoint Aquind to the project in just 16 days’ time. Three separate Conservative Ministers have already had to recuse themselves from making the decision because of personal links to Aquind.

In her letter to Oliver Dowden, Anneliese Dodds links the secrecy over Fedotov’s money to that over the Conservatives’ £50k-a-head Leader’s Group and its £250k-a-head Advisory Group, both of which offer donors access to senior ministers.

The Conservatives have refused to say who is on each group, when they meet and what they discuss. In her letter, Dodds asks Dowden: “Why can’t you level with the public and tell us just what it is that people get for handing over huge sums of money to your party?”

The letter comes after Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said that the disclosures were the ‘final nail in the coffin’ for AQUIND yesterday. The City MP recently submitted a 6,200 signature petition to Parliament as part of a string of actions to oppose the project.

Labour Party Chair Anneliese Dodds, said:

“It is extraordinary that a company co-owned by an oligarch allegedly linked to a huge corruption scandal in Putin’s Russia is bankrolling one in ten Tory MPs. And in two weeks’ time, the Conservative Government is going to decide whether to give this man’s company the right to build infrastructure vital to our national security.

“We have no idea what his money is buying. Just as we have no idea what the members of the so-called ‘Leader’s Group’ and ‘Advisory Board’ are getting for the tens of thousands they hand over in cash to the Conservative Party.

“If the accusations of corruption are correct, the Tories should hand this money back. And they should tell us who is giving the party money and what they’re getting in return. Otherwise it’s clear there’s one rule for senior Conservatives and another for everyone else.”

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said:

“The Panorama investigation has revealed the staggering alleged corruption of AQUIND owners and raises further suspicion about their cosy relationships with government.

“There are now serious questions to answer about how AQUIND owners have made their money and whether we can trust them to build nationally significant infrastructure. Perhaps most concerningly, we have no clarity on what Tory MPs promised them before lining their pockets and accepting their cash.

“One thing is clear: Ministers must immediately stop AQUIND, once and for all. Any pretence that this Tory Government is able to make an impartial decision is now laughable”.