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Shadow Armed Forces Minster warns Government ‘must not repeat the mistakes of previous defence reviews’

Stephen Morgan MP has warned the government to not repeat the mistakes of previous defence review and keep Armed Forces personnel at the heart of its forthcoming Integrated Review.

This comes following the announcement made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who today in the House of Commons announced a £16.5bn injection over four years.

Government defence spending has seen a real terms fall in overall defence spending by over £7bn over the last 10 years. This includes a ‘blackhole’ in the 10-year Equipment Plan budget that widened to £13bn this year, from £7bn from the year before.

As of 1 April 2020, the full-time trained strength of the UK Armed Forces was 132K, a shortfall of just under 12K (8%) below the government’s target.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented:

National Security is Labour’s first priority and today we welcome the PM’s statement on the long-overdue upgrade in defence spending. We were promised the most ambitious and comprehensive review in a generation and we expect the government to deliver it.

But this smacks of too little, too late, and a spending announcement without a strategy. The government has once again delayed the publication of the Integrated Review until at least the New Year and there’s still no clarity on its strategic goal.

Year on year we have seen a fall in defence spending and in our Armed Forces’ numbers. This decade of decline poses a risk to our security and our Forces personnel. It must end now and we await further details if the govt will provide the MoD with a fully-resourced spending plan that meets our capability needs for the future and keeps our Armed Forces at its heart.

I will continue to hold the government to account on this to ensure our armed forces get the very best.”

Mr Morgan has consistently raised concerns about Government defence spending and its impact on Armed Forces personnel, as well as its impact on the people of Portsmouth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Although apart, we will remember our fallen together this year”

On this year’s Remembrance Day, it is vital we continue to support all those who bravely serve our nation by keeping us safe and recognise the sacrifices they have made this year and throughout our country’s history, together.

This year has been an incredibly challenging year for us all. But thanks to the incredible work and sacrifice of our Armed Forces, we have continued to navigate our way through this crisis.

This year also marked the 75th anniversaries of the UN, VE Day, VJ Day.

Three quarters of a century on, our Armed Forces once again mobilised to support and protect us from a truly global threat in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic.

During this time of Remembrance, it is important we recognise and reflect on the sacrifices made by the Armed Forces community and their families, both this year and the years before.

The events of this year are a stark reminder that our safety and security must never be taken for granted.

But whilst Remembrance ceremonies across the country will take place differently this year, we can all still join together in paying our respects to those who have made incredible sacrifices to support and protect us.

This year, members from across the House and both front benches have offered their support for the campaign supported by the Royal British Legion, inviting people from around the country to stand on their doorstep for a two-minute silence on Remembrance Sunday.

This initiative will allow people to honour those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, while ensuring that everybody stays safe.

This way, people can join neighbours, local communities and millions from across the United Kingdom, and from across the world, to recognise those who have sacrificed so much to keep us safe throughout our country’s history.

This year our Armed Forces community have continued to inspire us all with incredible ingenuity.

No less so than the fantastic Captain Sir Tom Moore, raising nearly £33million for NHS Charities Together in April by walking laps of his garden, finishing on his 100th birthday.

It is this incredible conviction from Armed Services personnel, supporting our country even beyond their service which is so deeply inspiring.

Just as members of our Armed Forces community this year showed such an unwavering determination to support our country, whether that be veterans raising money for our much cherished NHS, our military personnel of today constructing the Nightingale Hospitals, or support of mass testing, it is now our turn to make sure we, the British public, show our support and recognition of the Armed Forces community through their service and beyond.

This year, Remembrance Day and its respective ceremonies will be different, but this year has also underlined the British public’s ability to adapt.

On this year’s Remembrance Day, it is vital we continue to support all those who bravely serve our nation by keeping us safe and recognise the sacrifices they have made this year and throughout our country’s history, together.

Although apart, we will remember our fallen together this year

On this year’s Remembrance Day, it is vital we continue to support all those who bravely serve our nation by keeping us safe and recognise the sacrifices they have made this year and throughout our country’s history, together.

This year has been an incredibly challenging year for us all. But thanks to the incredible work and sacrifice of our Armed Forces, we have continued to navigate our way through this crisis.

This year also marked the 75th anniversaries of the UN, VE Day, VJ Day.

Three quarters of a century on, our Armed Forces once again mobilised to support and protect us from a truly global threat in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic.

During this time of Remembrance, it is important we recognise and reflect on the sacrifices made by the Armed Forces community and their families, both this year and the years before.

The events of this year are a stark reminder that our safety and security must never be taken for granted.

But whilst Remembrance ceremonies across the country will take place differently this year, we can all still join together in paying our respects to those who have made incredible sacrifices to support and protect us.

This year, members from across the House and both front benches have offered their support for the campaign supported by the Royal British Legion, inviting people from around the country to stand on their doorstep for a two-minute silence on Remembrance Sunday.

This initiative will allow people to honour those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, while ensuring that everybody stays safe.

This way, people can join neighbours, local communities and millions from across the United Kingdom, and from across the world, to recognise those who have sacrificed so much to keep us safe throughout our country’s history.

This year our Armed Forces community have continued to inspire us all with incredible ingenuity.

No less so than the fantastic Captain Sir Tom Moore, raising nearly £33million for NHS Charities Together in April by walking laps of his garden, finishing on his 100th birthday.

It is this incredible conviction from Armed Services personnel, supporting our country even beyond their service which is so deeply inspiring.

Just as members of our Armed Forces community this year showed such an unwavering determination to support our country, whether that be veterans raising money for our much cherished NHS, our military personnel of today constructing the Nightingale Hospitals, or support of mass testing, it is now our turn to make sure we, the British public, show our support and recognition of the Armed Forces community through their service and beyond.

This year, Remembrance Day and its respective ceremonies will be different, but this year has also underlined the British public’s ability to adapt.

On this year’s Remembrance Day, it is vital we continue to support all those who bravely serve our nation by keeping us safe and recognise the sacrifices they have made this year and throughout our country’s history, together.

Stephen Morgan MP 

 

 

 

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Portsmouth MP votes to protect Armed Forces personnel

Stephen Morgan MP today voted to protect Armed Forces personnel by voting against the controversial Overseas Operations Bill, a proposed new law which has been widely criticised by military personnel, legal experts and respected charities.

The Bill has also been challenged by the Royal British Legion (RBL) in that government plans risk breaching the Armed Forces Covenant.

MPs debated the Bill in the House of Commons today (Tuesday 3 November) during report and third reading with Labour putting forward a series of amendments to protect Armed Forces personnel, after repeatedly requesting the government work across the House and the Shadow Defence team to get the bill right.

The Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces led the Official Opposition’s team through bill committee, raising concerns the Bill will harm military personnel and veterans’ rights, as well undermine the Armed Forces’ and Britain’s international reputation.

The Bill has faced criticisms from Members of Parliament on both sides of the House, as well as the Director-General of the Royal British Legion and the former Judge Advocate General, the most senior military judge in the country.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The opposition has tried at every stage to work with the government to get this Bill right and protect our service personnel and veterans.

“Unfortunately, this Bill does not do what it says on the tin: it does not effectively deal with the issue of vexatious claims and will afford more protections for the MoD, not our veterans and service personnel.

“In its current form, this Bill would give our Armed Forces fewer rights than prisoners. This is no way to treat our service personnel and Labour have argued this must be changed.”

The Royal British Legion Director General, Charles Byrne, was clear in his evidence that the Bill risks breaching the Armed Forces Covenant by preventing British Armed Forces personnel from holding the MoD to account when it fails to properly equip personnel, or when it makes serious errors that lead to death or injury of British forces overseas.

The RBL also agreed with Labour’s argument that this Bill does more to protect the MoD than it does the forces.

Critics have also pointed out that forces personnel and their families who have been put through the trauma of long-running investigations are offered little to no legal or welfare support from the MoD. There is no effective duty of care recognised by the MoD to British service personnel who are subject to legal action. But this Bill does not to address duty of care standards, or provide legal, pastoral and mental health support.

Responding to these concerns raised and as the Bill now heads to the House of Lords for further scrutiny, the city MP added:

“No party should ever play party politics with the Armed Forces. Labour want to ensure they receive the appropriate support, protection and access to justice. However, this is a dishonest Bill that is not fixing the problem.

“The Bill does more to protect the MoD and the government’s approach is inflexible and wrong. I will continue to hold the government to account on this Bill and stand up for the many service personnel and veterans in both Portsmouth and the wider country.”

 The Portsmouth South MP has consistently spoken up for the Armed Forces community and veterans of Portsmouth and the nation as a whole.

He recently called for greater support and pastoral care for service personnel who are subject to investigations or litigation after overseas operations.

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Shadow Minister calls for stronger protections for Armed Forces personnel ahead of winter deployment

Stephen Morgan MP has called for the government to provide greater measures to protect Armed Forces personnel during their deployment in the winter period in response to Covid-19.

This comes as the Shadow Armed Forces Minister urged the Secretary of State for Defence Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP at the despatch box today to give a regular update on how military personnel are being deployed during this winter period.

The Armed Forces are increasingly playing a major role in the UK’s response to coronavirus, including working closely with the NHS, being drafted in to support Local Resilience Forums and performing coronavirus testing. The Ministry of Defence has already this year created a 23,000-strong COVID Support Force, which could be used for further frontline support in settings such as hospitals and prisons.

Stephen Morgan MP commented,

“Our Armed Forces have gone above and beyond to keep us safe during this crisis.

“As we enter the second lockdown, the government must also do everything it can to keep our Armed Forces safe too.”

This follows the government’s announcement earlier this month of the 7,000 Armed Forces personnel who will be brought to readiness ahead of the Winter period.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, added,

“It is only right that we give the best protections we can to those who will be working to keeps us safe and secure through this winter period.                                                                                                                                                                                

“To do this, government must make sure there is regular and sufficient testing of our Armed Forces personnel, with regular publishing of results, as well as ensuring there is access to full PPE for frontline staff and urgent provision of adequate medical supplies to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.”

Mr Morgan has consistently argued for greater protections of Armed Forces personnel during the Covid-19 crisis. You can replay Mr Morgan’s question to the Secretary of State for Defence here.

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City MP calls for new MoD duty to support forces personnel

This week Stephen Morgan MP argued for a new MoD duty to support forces personnel who are subject to investigations or litigation after overseas operations.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Armed Forces Minister argued for the change in parliament this week, who wants to secure this change in the Overseas Operations Bill, to make the legislation better following widespread criticism.

Mr Morgan, commented,

“I’m proud to have led the opposition’s Bill committee team through this stage of the Overseas Operations Bill, and I am glad we have been able to raise this important issue at this stage.

“I believe it is vital that the MoD face up to its proper duty of care to our Armed Forces personnel and their families, and provide the support and guidance that they require when it is needed.

“Labour is working to build a constructive consensus on the changes needed so this Bill does more to protect British service personnel and less to protect the MoD.”

The Shadow Defence Secretary, John Healey MP, also added,

“Personnel tied up in long-running investigations or legal action have told me they felt cast adrift by the MoD. I want to make the MoD face up to its proper duty of care to our Armed Forces personnel and their families”.

Expert witnesses giving evidence to the Commons committee on the Bill last week confirmed that troops and veterans who are accused of misconduct are given next to no legal or welfare support from the MoD throughout the investigations, which in some cases have taken years.

Hilary Meredith [Director of Hilary Meredith Solicitors, a legal firm that represents the forces] told MPs:

Parliament had an inquiry into what support they were given. Basically, there was none.”

Others also criticised the Bill for doing more to protect the MoD than service personnel, by placing a hard six-year block on civil claims from troops against the Ministry if they are injured overseas.

Royal British Legion Director General Charles Byrne confirmed his view of the Bill to MPs:

“I think it is protecting the MOD, rather than the service personnel”

Labour proposed today at committee a new ‘duty of care’ clause in the Bill which forces the MoD to set a new standard for legal and wellbeing support given to personnel and veterans under investigation or litigation. The clause requires the Defence Secretary to publish, every year, any failures to meet this standard and the action required to improve shortcomings.

Stephen Morgan MP has consistently committed to protecting and improving the welfare of service personnel, and has pledged to continue to do so through the final stages of the Bill and beyond.

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Remembrance Sunday: City MP backs call for doorstep two-minute silence

Stephen Morgan MP has joined calls including by the Royal British Legion for a doorstep two-minute silence, giving people a new way to honour our fallen heroes on Remembrance Sunday 2020.

Remembrance Sunday will look very different this year, as social distancing means many parades and memorials have been called off.

At 11am on Remembrance Sunday (which is 8 November this year), people around the country will be encouraged to stand on their doorstep for a two-minute silence.

The aim of the initiative will allow people to honour those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, while ensuring that everybody stays safe.

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

“This year we will not be able to come together on Remembrance Sunday in the same way we would usually, to stand together to remember the millions of people from across the United Kingdom, and from across the world, who sacrificed so much to keep us safe.

I’m delighted to support this campaign, backed by the Royal British Legion, that will ensure that we can together honour those who have paid the price for our security, whilst also ensuring we can do so safely.

I urge all the people of Portsmouth to step forward and remember those who have served or made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Mr Morgan has continued to encourage the city council to do all it can to allow people to safely mark Remembrance in the city. He has been pushing the government to issue guidance to local bodies for Remembrance Sunday 2020.

The leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Starmer MP, has also joined the Royal British Legion and others in backing the initiative.

 

 

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister seeks views of reservists across Portsmouth

Recognising the crucial role that reservists play in the operational capability of the armed forces, Stephen Morgan MP is offering troops the opportunity to voice any concerns or ideas on how to improve life for reserves.

The MP’s action comes in the wake of the Reserves in the Future Force 2020 programme drawing to a close and government embarking on The Reserve Forces 2030 Review. These two government-led programmes seek to both grow the numbers and role of reserve troops.

Government has drawn fire as recent statistics have shown they have yet again failed to meet their recruitment targets. Concerns have been raised that the overall trained strength of personnel within the FR2020 programme on 1 April 2020 was 33,000, a deficit of 2,141 against the target.

In addition, Ministers have been criticised for refusing to classify reserves as veterans when it comes to National Insurance contributions, sparking outrage as many reserves saw action in major theatres of war such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Morgan’s event will give reserves a platform to discuss these matters and any others effecting the reserve community.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“With reservists playing integral roles in almost all modern theatres of war and harbouring a great deal of experience such as our cyber capability, it is vital that these troops are effectively integrated across our armed forces.

Government has a responsibility to make becoming an armed forces reserve both an attractive prospect and beneficial to maintaining national security.

That is why I am hosting a roundtable meeting, to ensure that as the reserve force grows, the views and concerns of our troops are at the forefront of discussion.”

The City MP is encouraging people to register their interest in taking part in an online event or by sharing views by emailing stephen.morgan.mp@parliament.uk

 

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Schools have crucial role to play in ensuring relevance of Remembrance for today

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has written to all headteachers in the constituency urging schools to mark Remembrance by taking advantage of new educational resources from The Royal British Legion.

As the national champions of Remembrance, the Legion is committed to ensuring that Remembrance is understood and available to every child and community in the UK.

Seeking the participation of schools for Remembrance in classrooms comes at a time when question have been raised over ceremonies across the country whilst local councils await guidance from Government on ensuring events are delivered safely.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“To highlight the importance of Remembrance the Legion has produced a suite of educational resources for children to enjoy in the classroom and at home.

These resources come in a variety of formats, from book clubs and lessons to assemblies and arts projects. Created in partnership with the National Literacy Trust and others, the resources will enable teachers, parents and families to bring Remembrance to life.

I urge schools in Portsmouth and across our country to use these helpful resources ahead of Remembrance later this year”.

The resources have been designed to support primary and secondary schools, at what has been a very challenging time, to deliver National Curriculum linked learning and support the wellbeing of children.

They are available to download for free from the Teaching Remembrance hub at: www.rbl.org.uk/teachingremembrance

 

 

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 Overseas Operations Bill must protect our troops

Labour’s Shadow Defence team is looking to forge a constructive consensus on legislation to protect our Armed Forces from vexatious claims following controversial Bill before Parliament.

Key provisions of the Overseas Operations Bill the Shadow Defence team will seek to change include:

  • The potential breach to the Armed Forces Covenant as the Bill, currently drafted, removes the court’s discretion to extend time for civil claims under s.7 of the Human Rights Act beyond six years, or twelve months from the date on which the key facts were known, whichever is the longer.
  • The risk of undermining our commitment to the Geneva Conventions, The Convention Against Torture and Rome Statue, as the Bill introduces a presumption not to prosecute crimes after 5 years from when the allegation took place, which includes torture and other war crimes. The treaties require states to investigate, and where appropriate, prosecute allegations of torture and war crimes. Any state that is unable or unwilling to so risks dragging their Armed Forces personnel in front of the International Criminal Court.
  • The Bill currently does nothing to propose reforms to the flawed investigations process. It is focussed on changes to prosecutions, when the Government’s own data shows that the 3,400 allegations made only led to seven prosecutions, of which all but one have been dropped, the rest would need to be addressed by changes to investigations practices.

The Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, John Healey said:

“We all want the same thing. We want to protect British troops and we want to protect British values. And this should not mean a matter of party politics.

“We will seek time overhaul investigations, set up safeguards against vexatious claims consistent with our international obligations and guarantee troops retain their right to compensation claims when MoD failures lead to injury or death of our forces overseas.”

Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces, Stephen Morgan MP, added:

“Labour will always defend the interests of our Armed Forces who serve our country with courage and distinction. Those British service personnel who have been subject to vexatious legal claims and years of judicial reviews have been let down by successive governments. There is a problem for British troops but this Bill gets the solutions badly wrong.

It undermines Britain’s proud long-standing adherence to the Geneva Conventions, by bringing in a presumption against prosecution after five years which covers torture and other war crimes.

The bill risks UK service personnel being dragged to the international criminal court in the Hague, instead of being dealt with in our own British justice system.”

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister conducts tour of HMS Prince of Wales

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan today visited HMS Prince of Wales, a Queen Elizabeth-Class aircraft carrier docked in Portsmouth, for an extensive tour of her capabilities and time with personnel.

Alongside HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Prince of Wales forms the largest, most powerful, and technologically advanced ships built for the Navy, capable of carrying up to 40 aircraft and a crew of up to 1,600. The flight deck is four acres and four fighter jets can be moved from the hangar to the flight deck in one minute. The MoD forecast that it will complete the carriers build project for £6.405 billion, an increase of £193 million (3%) from the £6.212 billion agreed in the re-baselined project in 2013.

Led by the vessels Commander of Logistics, Mr Morgan spent time in both main galleys, the operations room, the Hangar, and was given access to the ship’s Highly Mechanised Weapon Handling System.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“HMS Prince of Wales is a fine example of our nation’s Naval might and is a testament to the capabilities of our Great British shipyards.

I had the honour of visiting the vessel in Rosyth two years ago, while she was still preparing for active service, and the opportunity today to see her progression highlights the dedication of our Naval personnel.

As one of the most powerful surface warships ever constructed in the UK, HMS Prince of Wales is a reminder of what we can achieve when we have a Labour government at the helm.”

As well as observing the vessel’s equipment and capabilities, Mr Morgan spent time with the personnel onboard learning what life is like living on an aircraft carrier. The Shadow Armed Forces Minister reiterated that ‘It’s the people who make our armed forces the best in the world’. With time spent in the overflow accommodation, medical center, and flight deck the visit gave the Shadow Armed Forces Minister insight into all the elements needed to maintain the ship’s capability.

Mr Morgan was joined by Public Accounts Committee for the visit, who are carrying out an investigation into the cost-effectiveness of the carrier strike project entitled – Delivering Carrier Strike. The inquiry looks at exploiting commercial opportunities, delivering capability, and analysis of value for money.

Mr Morgan said:

“I was delighted to welcome and join the Public Accounts Committee, the oldest and most prestigious committee in Parliament, on a visit to HMS Prince of Wales today.

Showcasing our Naval capability and the skill of our shipbuilders, the Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers are a source of great pride for our city and our nation. A product of the last Labour government, they tell a story of a time before the recent decade of crude Tory defence cuts.

I will continue to follow closely the work of the PAC and advocate on behalf of building ships in Britain, which is best for our economy, jobs and shipyards.”

The construction of the Queen-Elizabeth Class carriers, which has supported over 10,000 British jobs and reinvigorated British shipyards, was commissioned by the last Labour government in 1997. Mr Morgan has continually called for greater commitments to British shipbuilding and the need to build in Britain.