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PM and Chancellor Lockdown Party fines: City MP responds

Commenting on the Prime Minister and Chancellor being fined by Police for breaching Covid rules, Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan, said:

“The Prime Minister and his Chancellor have broken the law, and both must now resign.

“While people in Portsmouth followed the rules, they partied in Downing Street.

“Their contempt for the rule of law and lack of respect for the British people underlines that it is one rule for them, and another for the rest of us.

“This Conservative government is utterly unfit to govern. The country deserves so much better.”

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Comment: Stephen Morgan MP responds to recent reports of Downing Street party

Responding to recent reports of a Downing Street party held while many in Portsmouth were following Covid-19 rules, Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said:

“Recent reports of yet another Downing Street party, at a time when those in Portsmouth were unable to see many of their loved ones, is a disgrace.

“The Prime Minister had the opportunity in parliament today to come clean. Instead, he didn’t even bother to show up.

“Whilst we were all following the rules, he was lounging in the No10 garden and holding the people of Portsmouth in contempt. It’s the same old, tired story from this government –  one rule for them, and another for the rest of us.”

 

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City MP calls for immediate support package as local businesses face perfect storm

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has called for the immediate introduction of a business support package as local firms face a perfect storm as the Omicron variant spreads.

With the public having been told to ‘de-prioritise social contact’, many businesses in Portsmouth and across the country face a perfect storm of cancelled bookings, rising costs and staff shortages.

Mr Morgan called on Government to “properly engage” with business leaders and major trade bodies, as many businesses feel left in the dark by Ministers on how additional restrictions and advice resulting from Omicron would affect them.

Many workers are also worried that their livelihoods have been put at risk by the government’s inaction at a challenging time of the year.

The intervention from the City MP came as it was revealed that the Chancellor is on a trip to California.

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

“More and more businesses in our city tell me they need certainty and a clear plan for what comes next.

“We have a serious health emergency, businesses are worried and employees are anxious. That is why I have always called for economic support to remain in step with public health measures.

“Business leaders and trade bodies weren’t consulted on Plan B and it’s essential that Ministers engage with the sector to protect our economy and secure jobs.

“Yet we find the Chancellor is hanging out in Hollywood. The government’s failure to plan has once again left businesses owners and employees in limbo.

“The government must announce an immediate package of support the culture, hospitality and leisure sectors that matches the situation Portsmouth’s businesses are now facing”.

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City MP blasts government mismanagement of NHS as waiting list nears 45,000 patients

The latest figures from the NHS show that at the end of October 2021, there were 44,834 people on the waiting list at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust. 1,533 people had been waiting for more than a year for an appointment.

In March 2020, at the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, there were 4,235,970 people on the NHS waiting list in England, a then record high. Nationally, the standard of 92% of people seen within 18 weeks of a referral has not been met since 2016. Now, over 1 in 10 people in England are on the NHS waiting list.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan criticised the government’s mismanagement of the health service.

Ministers have no plan to deal with the chronic shortage of GPs, doctors, nurses and social care staff, and has not set clear targets to reduce waiting lists and waiting times.

Hospitals around the country are reporting unsustainable pressure and an inability to provide high quality care.

In September, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust’s medical director Dr John Knighton told city councillors that demand was “outstripping capacity”. With bed occupancy at 99% he warned elective care would be “inevitably compromised”.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said: 

“People in Portsmouth are being forced to wait months and even years for treatment, often in pain and discomfort. It is unacceptable and will have appalling consequences for patients.

“Our local health care staff have been heroes in our community throughout the pandemic. But they are stretched like never before after a decade of Conservative mismanagement

“The Government must give us the staff and support our City needs to get through this winter and to get patients seen on time.”

 Wes Streeting MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said:

“One in every ten people in England are on NHS waiting lists today and the situation is set to get even worse, despite the Tories’ unfair tax rises on working people. Under the Tories we’re paying more and getting less.

“The NHS went into the pandemic with waiting lists at record levels, staff shortages of 100,000 in the health service and 112,000 social care vacancies thanks to a decade of Conservative mismanagement.

“We need a plan to address the staffing shortages in health and social care service, to ensure the timely and quality care that patients deserve.”

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Covid measures: Q&A

This week Parliament voted on a number of measures as it becomes increasingly clear that Omicron is a threat and that government must act swiftly to limit its spread.

Labour wants to ensure that everyone can enjoy Christmas safely this year, and also want to make sure we do all we can to protect the NHS – which has been suffering a staffing shortage and record waiting lists since before the pandemic hit.

In recent weeks Stephen has received lots of emails and letters from constituents who are angry about the revelations regarding Downing Street parties last Christmas. Stephen shares that anger, but would not want to let that get in the way of doing the right thing now in the national interest and to protect lives.

We set out here some of the key measures and a Q&A on Labour’s and Stephen’s views:

Covid passes

Many of the emails received in recent days refer to ‘vaccination passports’ as if we will all be required to show that we have been vaccinated. It is important to understand that this is not what was being proposed this week, nor something put to MPs to vote on.

The vote was on ‘Covid passes’ where we will have to show either vaccination status or proof of a negative lateral flow test in order to gain entry to large venues or mass gatherings where there is a greater risk because because of the number of people attending. This includes nightclubs, indoor events of more than 500 people, outdoor settings with more than 4,000 people, like music festivals, and all settings with more than 10,000 attendees, like football stadiums. A vaccination passport to access essential services is something very different and Stephen remains opposed to these.

During the summer not everyone had been offered a second jab, and with the local economy reopening it would have been wrong to create a two-tier society by imposing these checks. But Omicron is a new threat on top of the existing variants of the Covid, and we need to act swiftly to limit its spread. Throughout the pandemic, as the opposition, Labour has always put public health before party politics, and they will continue to do so. That’s why they supported the measures on their merits.

The ‘covid pass’ system is similar to one that has been operating in Wales for some time, people travelling abroad have long got used to showing a negative test result and many other venues have been asking for proof of a negative test result on a voluntary basis.

Stephen is aware that a vaccine status alone does not prove that an individual is not carrying the virus. That’s why Labour called on the Government to include the option of a negative lateral flow test as an alternative to proof of vaccination status and we are glad that Ministers have listened.

Vaccination passports

Stephen remains clear that vaccination passports should never be used to bar people from essential services. This would be discriminatory and Stephen opposes these. At the time of writing, the Government has not brought forward measures to introduce this, and Labour will not support any future attempt to do so.

Getting the vaccine

Stephen recognises that some people are very strongly opposed to getting vaccinated but it is not right to suggest that what was proposed this week in Parliament will somehow force people to do so.

He voted for measures because presenting evidence that you don’t have the virus is not unreasonable given the threat from the Omicron variant. These are sensible and measured steps to help reduce the spread of the virus, but must be used in conjunction with other public health measures like vaccines and testing.

More broadly, it remains really important that all of those who are eligible get their vaccines and booster jabs when possible. Vaccination remains the most important thing we have available to us in the fight against the pandemic. The evidence is now clear that it helps to reduce severe infection and death, and we have an obligation to each other to provide the maximum protection against the virus.

Getting the booster

With preliminary evidence suggesting that two vaccinations alone provide less protection against the new Omicron variant, it’s absolutely vital that the rollout of the booster is accelerated and we all take up our opportunities when we are called.

Now more than ever, the choices we make ourselves have an impact on the health of those in our community. Those who remain unvaccinated are at a much higher risk of serious illness and death, which in turn will mean more pressure on local hospital beds and on NHS staff, and an adverse effect on other patients waiting for tests or treatments for things like cancer.

Q&A

Do you support the call for everyone to work from home?

  • Labour has always said workers should flexibility to work from home should they choose to.
  • The scientific evidence suggests people should from home where they can and we support this.

Will you support requiring use of the Covid NHS app to enter certain settings?

  • Labour called on the government to include an option to present a negative test as an alternation to vaccination status, and to ensure the app isn’t required for access to essential services.
  • They have given us those assurances this week, so we don’t oppose this.

Will you vote for further restrictions if the Government introduce them?

  • Labour has always supported measures that have been necessary to keep people safe, and we won’t alter that approach.
  • But we urge the government to urgently boost the booster programme as this is the best way to ensure people can enjoy Christmas safely this year.

Is it time for mandatory vaccinations to be introduced, as they are being in Europe?

  • Labour think the best approach is to persuade the general public of the need and safety of vaccines. The arguments in favour of getting the vaccine are overwhelming strong.
  • So Stephen is urging everyone who hasn’t yet received their first, second or third dose if they’re eligible to get vaccinated, protect themselves and protect their loved ones this Christmas.

You’ve previously said Covid status certification (“vaccination passports”) are discriminatory. Is this still the case?

  • Labour has always said that that the use of Covid vaccination status alone would be costly and impractical, and discriminatory. Being double jabbed doesn’t prove you aren’t carrying the virus.
  • That’s why Labour called on the government to include an option to present a negative test as an alternative to vaccination status, which is what was used at Labour Party conference. The Government has listened to Labour’s call, so we don’t oppose this.
  • We remain opposed to the use of covid status certification (vaccination passports) for access to essential services.
  • There are other measures that can be used to keep people safe in these settings, such as mask wearing and ventilation, and Covid Passes described above, which Stephen has supported for mass gatherings (500+ people) and for nightclubs.

What would Labour do differently on economic support?

  • Labour wants a common-sense approach that helps get businesses through the next few months. No one wants to see businesses go under after they have worked so hard to get through the last year
  • Businesses are telling us they need clarity from the Government, the Government must not return to last minute decisions and vague guidance
  • The Government must get a grip of the situation to protect our health, our economy and our jobs. That means doubling down on vaccinations and ventilation, and improving sick pay.

Should there be further border restrictions?

  • The lesson from the first wave and the Delta wave is that the pandemic accelerates steeply when there are lots of separate new cases being seeded from abroad. That’s why it is so important to act fast by introducing tests and adding countries to the red list when needed.
  • The government should have listened to Labour when we called for pre-departure tests much sooner. It is vital the government acts much faster to stop the spread of dangerous variants from entering the UK. Unfortunately, the variant is now spreading within the UK.

What are you calling for on global vaccination?

  • The Government must release and ship any excess vaccines that aren’t needed for our vaccination programme. We will keep seeing new variants like Omicron developing until all the world is vaccinated.

 

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Portsmouth MP calls for Christmas jabs guarantee for schoolchildren as just over half in Portsmouth have had first dose

Stephen Morgan MP has challenged the government to offer ever 12 – 15-year-old a Covid vaccine by the end of the Christmas holidays, as it was revealed just 53% in Portsmouth have had a jab.

Nationally, less than half (45%) of children aged 12 – 15 have received their first vaccination and the weekly number of jabs given to schoolchildren has dropped 80% since half-term.

There is also a regional postcode lottery. In a class of 30 children, 16 will have received a jab in the south east.

The latest statistics reveal 235,000 state school pupils were absent from school due to Covid on 9 December, up 13% in the last fortnight.

There have been at least two confirmed Omicron variant outbreaks in primary schools in England.

With schools soon to close for the Christmas holiday, Labour is calling for children to have access to walk-in clinics, and a proactive campaign to promote the benefits of vaccinations to parents and discredit the anti-vax disinformation.

Labour has also urged Ministers to provide clarity for parents on the approval of the vaccine for those aged 12 and under.

Shadow Schools Minister Stephen Morgan said:

“The government’s complacency means we are now in a race against time to protect children’s health and education. The Omicron variant is spreading across Portsmouth and the country, yet the vaccine roll-out is slowing down when it should be speeding up.

“Ministers must turbocharge vaccine delivery so all 12-15 year olds can get vaccinated over the Christmas holidays, and offer practical help to improve ventilation as Sage recommended over a year ago.

“The Conservatives must stop treating children as an afterthought.”

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Downing Street Christmas party statement – Stephen Morgan MP

Reacting to reports about Downing Street holding a Christmas party on December 18 2020, which would have breached Covid rules at the time, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

“While Portsmouth people made huge personal sacrifices, the Prime Minister’s staff laughed about covering up their Christmas party and took the public for fools. 
“489 people died of COVID on the day of the Downing Street Party – the Prime Minister should be ashamed his staff couldn’t even follow the rules.
“No one wanted last Christmas over Zoom. Turkey dinners for one. Presents exchanged at service stations. Once again it’s one rule for the Prime Minister, and another for the rest of us. They partied, we paid the price.
“Number 10 must now hand over everything they know about parties they held to the Metropolitan Police and come clean on exactly what has happened. Trying to kick this into the long grass with an investigation led by the Cabinet Secretary is simply not going to wash with the people of Portsmouth and the country. They deserve far better than this.”

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Portsmouth MP promoted to Shadow Schools Minister in Starmer’s new top team

The Leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer MP has today named Stephen Morgan MP as the new Shadow Minister for Schools.

The city MP Stephen Morgan has secured the key role in the shadow education team following the Keir Starmer’s reshuffle of the Shadow Cabinet earlier this week.

The promotion comes after the Portsmouth South MP has served on the Labour’s frontbench as Shadow Armed Forces Minister (April 2020-December 2021) and previously as Shadow Local Government Minister for Communities and Shadow Defence Procurement Minister.

Responding to the appointment, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Nothing is more important to our future as a country than giving children the opportunities they need.

“That’s why I want schools to be the place where children aim high, work hard and achieve their dreams, regardless of where they are from.

“It is a huge privilege to be appointed Shadow Schools Minister today.”

The Portsmouth-born MP attended local state schools in his constituency. He was the first in his family to go to University and has served as a chair of governors at a local primary, and as a governor at secondary school in Portsmouth.

Mr Morgan will hold the government to account on school funding, recruitment and retention of teachers, qualifications, Coronavirus response for schools and pupil catch-up.

Recognising the challenges ahead, the new Shadow Minister added:

“The pandemic has caused huge disruption to children’s education, but this government’s last-minute decisions created further chaos and anxiety for students and staff.

“It’s vital that government learns the lessons of the past year and proactively prevents the new Omicron variant from interrupting schooling further. I’ll also be pushing the government on their total failure to bring forward a proper plan for our education recovery.

“I look forward to working with parents, teachers and children to give our children the best start in life, and with Keir Starmer and the new Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson on priorities of the country and returning Labour to power.”

The city MP hit the ground running on Friday with visits to two local schools following his appointment as Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister.

Visiting Manor Infant School and Nursery in Fratton for a tour of the new Year 1 outdoor area led by pupils, followed by a visit to Charter Academy in Southsea, the Shadow Minister met with the school council and student liaison team as well as the leadership of the academy over recent challenges in schools.

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Commons Covid Inquiry: City MP responds

Responding to the Commons inquiry into the handling of the pandemic, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Ministers were repeatedly warned that their dither and delay would cost lives and this report is a damning indictment that it tragically, did.

“It underlines a string of monumental errors and Government complacency, including a failure to set up an effective test and trace system that left many vulnerable people in Portsmouth care homes exposed to the virus.

“For a while now I have been calling on the government to provide our local public services with the support they need, but the government’s failure to step up when they needed it most cost lives.

“There must be a public inquiry now so that lessons can be learnt quickly, those responsible for these failures can be held to account and families from across our city can be given the answers they deserve.”

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Covid-19: City MP responds to Winter Plan

Responding to the Government’s Covid Winter Plan today, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The test of the government’s Plan A and Plan B will be whether they can keep infection levels down, protect care homes, keep schools running, maintain access to services and crucially avoid another winter lockdown.

“However, government has got to end the uncertainty for many consumers and businesses around vaccine passports. It was only on Sunday the Health Secretary said plans for vaccine passports have been ditched, so why is it included in the government’s plan B?

“His plan also offered little on plans for support for social care this winter. I know many people in Portsmouth will be concerned about how they will be provided with the care and support they need.

“Government has got to do better. I will be doing all I can to secure the certainty and support people in our city need.”