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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 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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Shadow Defence Minister responds to Government’s military personnel cuts

Stephen Morgan MP has warned the Government’s decision to cut the Army numbers by 10,000 is a ‘mistake’, following the confirmation of the Army’s restructuring today.

It comes as the government published its Defence Command Paper this afternoon, alongside the Integrated Review that was disclosed last week, outlining the government’s defence and security plans for the next five years and beyond.

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 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.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister and Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented:

“This has been a decade of decline for our Armed Services and the government has confirmed today yet again further cuts to Army personnel numbers. Hi-tech equipment is essential, but highly trained personnel are indispensable.

“The pattern of the 2010 and 2015 reviews was to cut and restructure defence capabilities based on budgetary constraints, rather than meeting threats. Today it was confirmed to be more of the same.

“The PM said he was ending an “era of retreat” with his government’s vision of a ‘global Britain’ in the Integrated Review published last week, but any new cuts will only extend this era of retreat and significantly limit our Forces ability to deploy overseas, support allies and be a force for good in the world.”

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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.

 

 

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‘Unfolding Scandal’ of Military Accommodation ‘falls far short’ of Armed Forces Covenant

Labour has criticised the government’s ‘appalling record’ on military housing, as data reveals that just half of service personnel are satisfied with the standard of their accommodation, the lowest since 2009.

The Army’s 2020 Continuous Attitudes Survey shows that a third of tri-service personnel said accommodation provision increased their intention to leave the service.

New data has also revealed that more than 9,000 military homes in England and Wales are awaiting repairs.

Since 2017, £300,000 has been paid in compensation for 9,088 missed maintenance appointments, with compensation given in the form of high street shopping vouchers.

Last week the National Audit Office’s report into Single Living Accommodation, which more than half of the Armed Forces call home, told a similar story.

The report concluded that “the Ministry of Defence is not meeting its commitment to provide high-quality subsidised accommodation to all service personnel.”

Meanwhile, the government continues to arbitrate its dispute with Annington Homes on the rent for Service Family Accommodation, currently occupied by a third of tri-service personnel.

The previous 1996 deal, dubbed “disastrous” by the Public Accounts Committee, held rents down by 58%, meaning service families could face rent hikes under a new deal.

The revelations come as the government’s Armed Forces Bill is due for its second reading on Monday.

Labour has criticised the Bill – which the government claims will ensure ‘fair treatment’ for members of the Armed Forces – for being too narrow and not going far enough to guarantee the rights afforded to service personnel under the Armed Forces Covenant.

Speaking ahead of the Bill’s Second Reading, Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The unfolding scandal of dilapidated military accommodation is a far cry from the ‘homes fit for heroes’ our service personnel should expect.

“The Tories appalling record on this issue is evident in every home that has trouble with basics like heating, hot water, with endless waits for repairs. This falls far short of the promises in the Armed Forces Covenant and those who serve deserve better.

“Labour stands squarely behind our service communities, and will press the government to make sure the Armed Forces Bill delivers quality, affordable housing for all service personnel, families and veterans.”