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City MP calls on government to keep ban on asbestos post Brexit transition period and to protect Health and Safety Executive resources

Stephen Morgan MP is calling on the government to make a firm commitment to maintaining the ban on asbestos  after the Brexit transition period comes to an end on 31 December 2020 and as the UK negotiates trade deals with other countries.

The MP for Portsmouth South is also asking the government to rule out any further cuts to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which is responsible for enforcing compliance with asbestos-related health and safety legislation. The agency received around £100 million less from the DWP in 2019-20 than it did in 2009-10 and saw its number of inspectors reduced by 25% between 2010 and 2016.

In October 2019, the HSE, which sits under the Department for Work and Pensions, reported that there are currently over 5,000 asbestos-related disease deaths per year in the UK, although this is expected to decline over the next decade and beyond.

While the government has committed in recent weeks to maintaining a “high level of protection of human health and the environment” post-Brexit, there has been widespread concern among campaign groups that this may change in the future, particularly when the UK comes to negotiate trade deals with other countries including the USA where regulations allow use of products containing asbestos – such as certain car parts like clutches and brakes, building materials like roofing felt, tiles and cement products, heat-resistant fabrics, packaging, gaskets and coatings.

It was also reported earlier month that, in 2019 the US Food and Drug Administration confirmed that asbestos had been found in several cosmetic products, including make-up marketed at children, prompting campaigners to warn that a UK trade deal with the US could see the relaxation of stringent laws prohibiting the use of dangerous ingredients in imported cosmetics.    

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The significant damage that asbestos-related diseases can do and the devastation they can cause to individuals and families is all too clear.

We should not be lowering standards once we come to do trade deals with other countries that don’t have the same restrictions on asbestos that we do in the UK.

It is vital that the ban on the manufacture and supply of all asbestos products in the UK is kept in place.”

Margaret Greenwood MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said:

“I am concerned that any reduction in standards as a result of trade deals could put more lives at risk from asbestos-related conditions and increase cost to the DWP in social security payments and also through the work of the HSE.

Promises the government has made with regard to asbestos have to be kept firmly in mind when it is negotiating trade deals with countries whose asbestos regulations are not as stringent as the UK’s.

Labour is calling on the government to maintain the ban on asbestos.”

 

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Portsmouth MP writes to PM urging urgent action to protect the ‘frontline’

Listening to concerns over the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the need for regular testing for NHS and social care staff, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has tonight called on the Prime Minister to take urgent action.

The latest lobbying follows raising parliamentary questions to Ministers, writing to the Health Secretary last week and liaising with local care providers.

The escalation of the action comes after the MP has increasingly heard from social care workers, some of the city’s doctors and nurses, and growing numbers of worried constituents. 

Across the country the inadequate provision of PPE equipment has been hitting the headlines following deliveries this week, and the need for clear guidance around Covid-19 testing for staff to avoid high levels of staff in self-isolation.

Writing to the Prime Minister ahead of tonight’s clap for carers, Stephen Morgan MP wrote:

“NHS staff, social care workers, health associations, trade unions, media outlets and my own constituents, have all raised concerns over the lack of personal protection equipment (PPE). From supermarket workers to doctors, those delivering for our nation on the frontline are being forced to work without adequate protective equipment amidst this pandemic.

Across our country people are stepping up and putting themselves at risk for the good of the nation.  Yet as my city and our country pause to clap for our carers again tonight, government continues to fail to address these injustices affecting those working tirelessly to save lives.

I therefore urge you to take urgent action to protect all frontline workers across social care, the NHS, local government, supermarkets and all other relevant sectors.

If we are all in this together, I urge you Prime Minister, to act and urgently protect frontline workers. It is what the people of Portsmouth, and across our nation, expect of you”.

The latest action has been taken alongside launching an online petition for people to show their support for protecting frontline workers.

Launching the Portsmouth petition the city MP said:

“Ministers have talked for weeks of ‘ramping up testing’ and delivering personal protective equipment across the UK, particularly for those working on the frontline in the NHS and social care, but there is little evidence that this is happening in practice.

A distressing number of staff in our NHS and care sector are still being forced to self-isolate because they cannot access testing. We need an urgent and co-ordinated plan for the sector now.

No more promises, no more excuses. It is time for the Government to protect the frontline with more testing needed now”.

The Portsmouth South representative is backing efforts by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire Service calling for donations of personal protection equipment, and efforts locally by organisations creating supplies for the NHS and social care.

The MP is calling on the government to have a clear and co-ordinated plan to deal with supply and testing issues urgently.

You can show your support for this call by signing the petition at: www.stephenmorgan.org.uk/covid-19/protecting-the-frontline/

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Covid-19: City MP lobbies accommodation providers to release students from contracts amid pandemic

Stephen Morgan MP has today welcomed news that the University of Portsmouth will release third term accommodation contracts due to the Covid-19 outbreak and urged others to follow suit.

The city MP consulted with the University of Portsmouth, the Students Union and individual constituents on the issue before writing directly to 6 providers in the city.

Increasingly the university’s tutorials and lessons will be completed online due to Covid-19. Accommodation provided by the university itself has therefore offered a release from third term contracts, but some private accommodation providers have so far failed to match this.

Mr Morgan said:

“With face to face lectures cancelled and new measures to help reduce the spread of coronavirus, you can understand why students would want to be with their families and at home wherever possible.

The close proximity of students to each other while in accommodation also presents a health risk to those enrolled at the university and the general public in Portsmouth.

With large numbers leaving the city, the university and some accommodation providers have shown leadership in removing additional financial strain from the students. Now it is time for other providers to follow suit.

That is why I have written out to 6 providers in the city urging them to act in the interest of the community during these trying times and offer a release to students.”

The university has acknowledged that a great deal of financial hardship may stem from the Covid-19 pandemic and has released all students from their accommodation contracts for the final university term.

However, the choice to remain has been offered to students due to the number of people who live overseas and cannot return home due to travel restrictions. This is the stance that Mr Morgan has urged all other accommodation providers to adopt.

Mr Morgan added:

“If we are all in this together then student accommodation providers have a responsibility to put public health, student safety and financial stability first.

I will continue to lobby all major student accommodation providers, that have failed to offer this release so far, to take steps to support students and act in the interest of our community.”

Stephen Morgan MP continues to work closely with the University and Students’ Union on this issue. He is also advocating on behalf of a number of individual students who have contacted him regarding non university provided accommodation providers refusing to follow suit.

 

 

 

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City MP keeps pressure on to suspend removal of free TV licence for over 75s amid Covid-19

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has made renewed calls on government to halt the withdrawal of the TV licence for the over 75s, joining a cross party group in sending a targeted letter to the Culture Secretary.

The action follows the city MP’s successful campaign urging government to delay the removal of the benefit on the 16 March.

The group is seeking an indefinite suspension of the benefit roll back, citing the fact elderly people are currently confined to their homes due to the pandemic as the driving force.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“While I welcome government taking heed of our action and postponing the roll back of this vital social benefit for the over 75s, this does not go far enough in solving the issue.

Current projections suggest that the Covid-19 pandemic could go on for some time. We cannot have a situation where government is confining over 75s to their homes but taking away, what is for some, their only source of information and contact with the outside world.

Government must accept that removing a benefit from the group most at risk during a pandemic is unacceptable. I will continue to work with others, from across the House, to be a voice for our older community members.”

In 2017, the Conservatives stood on a manifesto that pledged not to touch benefits for the elderly. In November 2019, they went back on this promise and Government forced through policy that saw the free TV licence snatched away from over 75s.

The results are 1.3 million of the poorest over 75s left with another big bill to contend with. 3 million households worse off, and 500,000 people living with dementia facing a new difficult bill.

Mr Morgan added:

“Prior to Covid-19 I listened to organisations such as Age UK and Portsmouth Pensioners Association, as well as wrote out to 10,000 people locally affected.

The reports then suggested that taking away this vital benefit would plunge more older people into social isolation and cause financial difficulty for those forced to choose between food and company.

These factors are now even more relevant as people are confined to their homes, community meetings suspended and loved ones prohibited from visiting relatives who are not in their household.

I will continue to fight for the continuation of the universally free TV licence for the over 75s on the grounds that it is a vital lifeline for many valued older community members.”

Stephen Morgan MP has been taking action on this issue since government first suggested the removal in 2019. Since then Mr Morgan has written out to constituents, hosted meetings with local organisations and Age UK, written to three separate government Culture Secretaries, raised the issue in parliament, conducted survey research in Portsmouth and joined cross party lobbying.

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Covid-19: City MP continues stand up for Portsmouth’s self-employed

As a direct response to the Chancellor’s statement made on 26 March, Stephen Morgan MP has lobbied the Government again over protections for all of Portsmouth’s self-employed as gaps in the proposals announced last night emerge.

While the Portsmouth South representative has welcomed steps made by government to provide support to this group, he has vowed to scrutinise the detail to help the self-employed in the city.

Listening to further concerns expressed by constituents he has this evening lobbied the Chancellor for further improvements to the package of support being proposed.

Self-employed people in the city have already shared issues over the impact that lengthy waiting times for financial aid will have, the lack of coverage for the newly self-employed and overall lack of detail of the proposals.

In relation to when payments will be made, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The Chancellor’s statement announced yesterday was a step in the right direction and did cover some of the requests that I put to him last week. However, there are measures that still need to be taken.

News that self-employed people will have to wait until June before seeing any financial respite is deeply concerning. Frankly, it will be too little too late for many and could force some into continuing to work, which could have dangerous implications for the spread of Covid-19.

I have asked the Government to urgently reconsider this decision and pay these hard-working people promptly. They are a crucial part of Portsmouth’s economy; if we are all in this together we cannot afford for some to go under.”

The Chancellor yesterday announced that tax returns from the 2019 financial year would be used to project earnings covered under the scheme. This means that those who recently transitioned to self-employed status will miss out and have to claim Universal Credit.

On more encompassing support, Mr Morgan said:

“Constituents are increasingly contacting me to exemplify the gaps in the Chancellor’s proposals. One constituent has made me aware that he became a sole trader during the 2018-2019 tax year. He transitioned from a PAYE employee to self-employed towards the end of that tax year, and therefore the 2019 tax assessment is not an accurate indication of his earnings.

He will be left heavily out of pocket under the government’s current proposals. I have therefore requested that the potential option of using April 2020 tax returns is explored so that a fairer, more accurate package of support can be offered.

Comprehensive support must be offered to all, not a select few. We cannot leave people behind at this time of emergency.”

The city MP has vowed to continue relaying constituents concerns to the highest level in a bid to ensure ‘nobody is left behind’ and assist  the Government in securing comparable support for the self-employed.

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“The devil will be in the detail” says City MP over proposed support for self-employed

Responding to the Chancellor’s much-anticipated support package for the self-employed announced tonight, Portsmouth South’s MP Stephen Morgan has vowed to keep a ‘close eye on the details’ of the proposals as concerns are raised by constituents.

The MP has previously said it would be ‘perverse’ to leave out the self-employed from Government support being put in place to help those whose livelihoods are increasingly disrupted by the events of recent weeks. Hundreds have shared views with the Portsmouth South MP who has been taking their case to HM Treasury.

With as many as 7,100 self-employed people in the constituency facing uncertainty, progress in finding a solution was cautiously welcomed this evening by the city MP who has vowed to continue to scrutinise the detail.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Research by the IFS has shown that the pockets of the self-employed have been hit hard as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s why I’ve been calling for proper protection for Portsmouth’s self-employed. Taking action, I’ve been listening to local concerns and lobbying the Government, joining calls from the Federation of Small Business for action, and writing an urgent letter to the Chancellor directly.

After days of delay and uncertainty, the Government’s new measures announced tonight can be cautiously welcomed”.

Specifically, on the proposals announced by the Government this evening, the Portsmouth South representative added:

“While I am relieved that the Chancellor is listening, as always with big announcements by this Government, the devil will be in the detail.

Asking people to rely on Universal Credit when more than 130,000 people are queuing online will be worrying to many people. There is a real risk that without support until a few months’ time, the self-employed will feel they have to keep working, putting their own and others’ health at risk.

My concern is that if people cannot get access to the protection scheme until June, it will simply be too late for millions. People need support in the coming days and over the next fortnight. Our city’s self-employed need security now, it is not feasible to wait until June.

Tonight’s announcement deserves robust scrutiny to ensure they are up to the mark. I will continue to keep a close eye on the detail of these proposals from HM Treasury to make sure the self-employed in Portsmouth have comparable protections during this economic crisis”.

The MP has vowed to continue to work constructively with Government, and lobbying Ministers for action, to protect Portsmouth people and to ensure the best possible response to the coronavirus crisis.

If any self-employed people or small business requires help, support is available from the FSB at www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/covid19

Information about the government’s support can be found at www.businesssupport.gov.uk

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City MP says ‘government must do more’ to protect front line health and social care workers

Stephen Morgan MP, also Shadow Local Government Minister, has today lobbied government over their failure to provide Covid-19 tests and protective equipment to frontline health and social care staff, writing an urgent letter to the Health Secretary calling for action

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has vehemently stated the best way to ‘attack’ Covid-19 is increase the rate of testing. Mounting evidence also suggests that ensuring healthcare professionals are tested, and removed where results are positive, can greatly impact the spread of the virus.

On testing frontline staff, the city MP said:

“Despite 4 months warning from other countries and global bodies, government is not testing frontline health and social care staff for Covid-19. Why is this important? Because evidence suggests you can get Covid-19 twice meaning health and social care staff, vulnerable patients and their families are at even greater risk.

Government is not only failing to test relevant workers; they have not yet even provided a date for when they will. I have today put pressure on the Health Secretary to provide clarity to this situation and made the case for an immediate strategy for boosting tests for these brave men and women.”

Mr Morgan also applied pressure to the Health Secretary over the apparent lack of equipment for the health and social care workforce.

This joins calls from the head of NHS Providers, the Chief Executive of Women’s Resource Centre and trade unions who have expressed ‘deep’ concern over the Health Secretary’s lack of action to provide masks, aprons, gloves and hand sanitizer to at-risk front-line staff.

On equipment issues, Mr Morgan said:

“Evidenced reports of frontline healthcare providers being told to spend £100 of their own money on safety equipment and further reports of incorrect, ineffective masks being issued is not what these heroes and heroines deserve. It also puts their often-vulnerable patients at risk.

Why don’t these vital workers have the equipment they need? When will they get this equipment? Why are they being forced to fork out fortunes on their own protective get up?

Today I have demanded answers to these questions directly from the Health Secretary. These are unacceptable conditions for healthcare workers and the British public.”

The city MP also hit home the fact that the social care system was under considerable strain prior to this pandemic and that current conditions could push it beyond breaking point.

On social care, Mr Morgan added:

It is important to look at the state of social care before the Covid-19 outbreak. It was already massively underfunded and understaffed with 120,000 vacancies across the country. With additional pressures now placed on services, this could exceed 200,000 vacancies if 20% of the workforce have to self-isolate.

This means it is a life or death situation for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable care receivers. I therefore urge you to take action to protect these life-saving workers.

This crisis follows a decade of social care cuts that have left a system on its knees. Urgent and drastic action is needed to both protect staff and vulnerable care receivers.”

Mr Morgan’s parliamentary action echoes the concerns of many who work in health social care and have contacted him since the crisis began.

He has vowed to continue working constructively with Ministers and scrutinising the government’s decision making around the Covid-19 outbreak to ensure care givers and receivers are not put at risk.

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Chancellor must go further and protect self-employed

Responding to new measures announced by the Chancellor to deal with the coronavirus and economic crisis, Stephen Morgan MP, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, is calling on the Government to go further as 7,100 self-employed people in the constituency face uncertainty, and protect councils and charities on the frontline.

Following the statement made by the Chancellor last night, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“After much lobbying, the Government has finally shifted direction. I welcome a number of the measures the Chancellor is now making to help protect people during this public health emergency and economic crisis.

The Chancellor keeps saying he would ‘do whatever it takes’. To show these aren’t just empty words, he can and should go further.

That means giving security for people who are self-employed and it means easing the strain on councils and charities who are on the front line of defence in combating the coronavirus pandemic.

It would be perverse to leave the self-employed out of the new support being put in place to help those whose livelihoods are increasing disrupted by the events of recent weeks.

I will continue to work constructively with Government, and lobbying Ministers for action, to protect Portsmouth people and to ensure the best possible response to the coronavirus crisis”.

The self-employed already lack all of the legal protections of redundancy and other rights already in place to help protect employees, including those they employ themselves, from a sudden lack of income.

The self-employed are also the most likely section of the workforce to suffer from a disability or health condition.

If any self-employed or small businesses in the constituency is looking for help, support is available from the FSB at www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/covid19.

 

 

 

 

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Portsmouth MP urges Government to support charities at time of crisis

Taking action after hearing concerns from Portsmouth’s voluntary and community sector, city MP Stephen Morgan is calling on the Government to support charities as they help the most vulnerable through the public health emergency and economic crisis

The Portsmouth South representative, formerly a charity chief executive himself, has already this week written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer raising concerns from the city’s voluntary and community sector.

A number of local groups and charities across Portsmouth have been reaching out to older people, vulnerable and high risk groups, whilst residents have been setting up online support groups to share advice and information.

Now working with NCVO, an umbrella group for the charities, he is calling on the government to do more to support.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“We are in unprecedented times, but history has shown us what the charitable sector is capable of. I see for myself day in, day out, the difference voluntary and community groups make to people’s lives in Portsmouth.

They are already stepping up to protect the most vulnerable during this national crisis, and with Government support, they can do even more”.

A number of charities help alleviate the pressure on our NHS and social care services and provide support to people suffering from the economic and social impact of the pandemic, as well as helping with everything from mental health impacts to support for vulnerable families.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), and the Charity Finance Group have issued their own urgent calls to protect the charity sector.

Joining other MPs and these national associations calling on the Government to act Stephen Morgan MP added:

“Without an immediate injection of money, many charities of all sizes will soon close. Charity funds are running out, and some are already considering redundancies.

The NCVO predicts that charities will miss out on a minimum of £4.3bn of income over the coming 12 weeks. The figure could be far higher”.

The NCVO are requesting Government to:

  • Provide immediate emergency funding for frontline charities and volunteers supporting the response to the coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis
  • Provide a ‘stabilisation fund’ for all charities to help them stay afloat, pay staff and continue operating during the course of the pandemic
  • Establish an emergency grant fund
  • Confirm that charities are eligible for similar business interruption measures announced for business.
  • Urgently clarify the situation for the differing governance models of charities
  • Work with the UK’s largest philanthropic organisations and foundations, the National Lottery and others to identify grant funding which can be drawn down early over the coming days, or in addition from their reserves and existing grant programmes to help fill the growing gaps in the sector.

As well as this national lobbying the Portsmouth South MP is working with HIVE Portsmouth to ensure local voluntary and community efforts to help residents during this difficult time, are co-ordinated and helping the most vulnerable.

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Covid-19: City MP teams up with Hive Portsmouth to protect access to vital goods for vulnerable people 

In response to supermarket shelves being laid bare of essential goods due to unnecessary stockpiling and panic buying, Stephen Morgan MP has taken steps to protect access for city’s most vulnerable working alongside Hive Portsmouth.

Mr Morgan has written out to over 50 supermarkets and food stores across the Portsmouth South constituency, thanking retail staff for their efforts at this time of crisis and asking store managers to take two simple steps which could help save lives.

The Portsmouth South MP said:

“I firstly want to convey my heartfelt thanks to the store workers working for the good of our community. They are playing a crucial role in keeping the nation fed and supplied at this time of uncertainty and emergency. While many are at home, they are on the frontline making a difference where it matters. We all owe them a debt.

I have had reports of older community members left crying in the aisles because they can’t access essential goods. We’re all in this together and cannot leave anyone behind, let alone our most vulnerable.

I urge all Portsmouth people to think before panic buying or stockpiling. People should only buy what goods they and their family need. There is plenty to go around, but people need to be mindful of their behaviour.

In writing out to every supermarket and food store in the constituency, I hope to both inform supermarkets of the problem and connect them with Hive volunteers – local people giving up their time for free and working relentlessly for the good of the community.”

Mr Morgan’s action firstly asks supermarkets to allow time for Hive volunteers to access priority goods for older people before shelves can be stripped. This is so ‘care bundles’ of essential goods can be assembled for vulnerable people across Portsmouth.

Secondly, the city MP is urging supermarkets to allow Hive volunteers access to food and essentials at priority times to ensure that foodbank shelves do not become too depleted.

Mr Morgan added:

“While Hive and the shop workers are doing outstanding work in our community, we also need to see leadership from government on the issue of panic buying.

Bare supermarket shelves could cost lives. That is why I have also been taking action in parliament, asking Ministers questions and putting pressure on government to find a solution.

I will continue to take joined up action locally and nationally to protect vulnerable people in Portsmouth. Portsmouth has got through tough times before through team work. Everyone has a part to play.”

Stephen Morgan MP has also lobbied the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ask for urgent support to the voluntary sector, issued information locally warning about the dangers of panic buying and is running a campaign to encourage community action. 

The MP has praised the work of food banks and community initiatives across the city collecting food for those in need. In this photo: St George’s Food bank organised by Harbour Church. Food collection organised by local families and the fantastic Portsea Events Group.

A dedicated FAQs page at here is helping constituents with finding out the detail of government announcements.