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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.

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Stephen Morgan MP calls to set aside party politics to get Overseas Operations Bill right

Stephen Morgan MP has called for the government to forge a constructive consensus on legislation to protect our Armed Forces from vexatious claims. 

The purpose of the Overseas Operations Bill is to provide greater legal protections to Armed Forces personnel and veterans serving on military operations overseas.

The Shadow Defence team has vowed to fight for serving troops and veterans for their right to justice from the government, arguing the bill protects the government, not armed forces personnel.

However, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister has argued the bill does not in fact offer the legal protections that it is said to provide, and risks damaging Britain’s international reputation.

Speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon, Stephen Morgan MP said,

“Unfortunately, the government has got important parts of this Bill badly wrong.

“In its current form it risks damaging our reputation and failing to protect of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

“If I have one message for the Minister it is this: As this bill continues its passage through Parliament, commit to improving it alongside us.

“Let’s work together to protect our troops, their reputation and our international standing.”

The Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, John Healey MP, added,

“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 to 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.”

You can read the full text of the Member for Portsmouth South’s speech via his website, or see a clip here.

 

 

 

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP – Overseas Operations Bill – Full Speech

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

I would like to start by paying tribute to our armed forces – and join colleagues from across this House – in expressing gratitude to those who serve.

They truly give us a reason to be patriotic.

Mr Speaker, there is consensus across the House here today.

Labour, the Government, and the Armed Forces all want the same thing.

We all agree that we must protect our troops from vexatious claims.

And, we all agree that we must defend those that serve our country overseas with courage and distinction.

Government promised to bring forward legislation to do just that in their first 100 days of government.

Now, 284 days later, they have disappointingly got crucial elements of this Bill badly wrong.

The question we must be asking is: what does this mean for our troops?

It risks breaching the armed forces covenant and rolls back on their employment rights.

It fails to properly protect against vexatious claims.

And, it undermines Britain’s proud adherence to the international laws like the Geneva Convention that we helped create.

But it is not too late.

There is still time for Ministers to work with us to get this right.

The Government’s introduction of a 6-year limit for bringing civil claims will prevent troops who suffer injury from taking cases to court.

Over the last 15 years, there have been 25 cases brought by injured British troops against the MoD – for every 1 case brought by alleged victims against our forces.

That means the main beneficiary of this Bill is the MoD. Not our personnel.

This Bill should be designed to protect troops, not the purse strings of Government.

So, I put it to the Minister, if this Bill is for our armed forces community, why does it deny them the same employment rights as civilians?

Mr Speaker, Labour is also deeply concerned this Bill does not meet its primary objective – it does not do enough to protect our troops from vexatious claims.

In letters sent to the Defence Secretary by the Defence Committee, the point is made that this Bill does nothing to prevent arduous investigations processes.

It just protects from prosecutions.

It does nothing to deal with the serious failings in the system for investigating allegations against British troops.

Something that the defence minister himself admits –

“Had they been done properly – and self-regulation had occurred – we probably wouldn’t be here today”.

This means that perhaps the toughest, most intrusive aspect of the vexatious claims process is not dealt with in this Bill.

And this is not the only way in which it leaves our troops open to ’lawfare’.

By going back on our commitments to the Geneva convention, it risks dragging our people in front of the International Criminal Court.

I put it to the Minister, does he really want to make it more likely that the ICC could open investigations against British troops?

Mr Speaker, there are also a set of wider issues here.

Vexatious claims are not the only major problem our forces face.

Action on this issue is not a licence to neglect others.

Low pay.

Ten years of falling morale.

A decade of falling numbers.

And a housing crisis across the tri-services.

If the Minister is serious about tackling its poor track record on Defence, we need to see action on all these issues.

This presents an opportunity to turn the tide, break the mould, and work with Labour to get this right.

Mr Speaker, in this country we are proudly patriotic.

And, reinforcing that patriotism, that love for our country, is the high regard in which our armed forces are held.

When you see Union Flags on the shoulder patches of service personnel overseas, that means something.

It means honesty. It means respect for the rule of law. It means justice.

From Sandhurst to Britannia Naval College, there is a reason is why countries from around the world send their officers to be trained in our military institutions.

But, Mr Speaker, this Bill puts all that at risk.

It is at odds with the rules based international order we helped create.

In its current form, this Bill would make Great Britain the only nation among our major allies to offer a statutory presumption against prosecution.

As the previous-chief of the defence staff, the ex-attorney general, and the former-defence secretary have said:

“it undermines Britain’s proud long-standing adherence to the Geneva convention.”

Great Britain has proudly stood, and must stand, against the use of torture – and against the use of rendition.

Mr Speaker, I urge the Minister:

Do not undo the work of Churchill.

Do not undo the work of Attlee.

Do not chip away at our nation’s proud reputation.

I put it to the Minister, how can we expect Great Britain to speak with authority on international law to China, Russia and Iran if we go back on our own commitments?

In years gone by, a commitment made by this proud nation meant something.

Last week this government tarnished that reputation by breaking international law with the Internal Markets Bill.

I urge the Minister to commit to working with us to make sure this Bill does not do the same.

So, Mr Speaker, unfortunately, the government has got important parts of this Bill badly wrong.

In its current form it risks damaging our reputation and failing to protect Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

But it is not too late. As I said, there is consensus across this House today.

There is still time for Ministers to work with the opposition to get this right.

Protecting troops from vexatious claims does not need to be at odds with our commitments to international law.

It does not need to be a trade-off between safeguarding our armed forces and eroding the reasons why we are patriotic.

As many Members of this House have said today, this should not be a matter of party politics or point-scoring.

Labour stand foursquare behind our troops.

We want to work with Government to build the broadest consensus possible around a Bill tailored to supporting our forces and safeguarding human rights.

If I have one message for the Minister it is this:

As this bill continues its passage through Parliament, commit to improving it alongside us.

Let’s work together to protect our troops, their reputation, and our country’s international standing.

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister calls out Government over declining recruitment figures

Today during Defence Questions, Stephen Morgan MP called out Ministers over a decade of dwindling armed forces personnel numbers. Sitting on the opposition frontbench, the Portsmouth South MP called on the Minister from the Despatch Box to outline how the Government will put an end to the current crisis.

The action comes against the backdrop of figures painting a damning picture of Tory’s defence record. The latest quarterly figures show that our armed forces have declined in size for 10 years in a row. Meanwhile, a major national survey of our armed forces found that morale has fallen from 52%, expressing high morale in 2010 to 41% in 2020, whilst satisfaction with basic pay has fallen from 52% in 2010 to 39% in 2020.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Ten years of falling personnel numbers running parallel to a decline in satisfaction and morale points to the government’s failure to act as a cause for the recruitment and retention crisis we face.

Data shows that not only is Government failing to meet its recruitment targets with record numbers withdrawing from the process, the number of people leaving the armed forces is increasing as well.

The minister’s failure to get recruitment and retention figures in check lets down our troops and weakens our national security. That is why today at the Despatch Box I demanded the government makes personnel a key priority of the upcoming Integrated Review.”

Mr Morgan’s action in the chamber follows a written question he tabled exposing nearly 50,000 people have withdrawn from the armed forces recruitment process between January and June, reportedly up 7,000 from the year before. 

Mr Morgan added:

“The Defence Secretary recently said that the MoD’s greatest asset was “not tanks or our aeroplanes, but it’s people”.

Yet, the private contractor the government has entrusted to deliver more troops has faced heavy criticism for being inefficient and presiding over a system that puts off potential recruits – an idea supported by the withdrawal statistics.

The government must improve the ‘offer’ to our troops and urgently iron out the issues dissuading swathes of young people interested in joining from doing so.”

The concerns over personnel numbers are not the only reason that the Conservatives have drawn fire on defence. The government announced plans to axe 20,500 jobs in the armed forces by 2020, imposed pay freezes that have led to a real-terms pay cut for troops since 2010, meanwhile the Ministry of Defence has a funding black hole of at least £13bn in its 10-year plan to equip the UK’s armed forces.

 

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City MP praises ‘inspiring team effort’ that delivered D-Day landing craft to Portsmouth

Shadow Armed Forces Minister and city MP Stephen Morgan today spent time with those responsible for delivering the LCT 7074 to Portsmouth’s shores, thanking them for their efforts.

The city MP was given a guided tour by those responsible for the project including the Head of Collections, the Project Site Manager and the Director of the National Museum of the Royal Navy to observe first-hand the efforts required to deliver the major project

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The LCT 7074 has been in service from Europe to the Pacific, taking part in major operations such as D-Day. It is a major cultural and historical asset that must be preserved to immortalise the bravery and sacrifice of our forces during World War Two.

Without the relentless work of the National Museum for the Royal Navy, city council, and countless contractors the story of the landing craft would not be being told.

The truly inspiring teamwork that was required to bring the landing craft to our city does justice to those that served on the vessel and will help keep their stories of heroism alive.”

Mr Morgan, who has been closely following the landing craft project, was one of the first to set foot on the vessel and today’s tour follows a behind the fence look at the vessel’s arrival on Monday. The city MP has stressed the importance of the landing craft to Portsmouth and issued thanks to all those who have played a role in its arrival in the community.

Mr Morgan added:

“Portsmouth boasts unrivalled historic naval assets and already it is clear that LCT 7074 will form a major part of that.

Bringing visitors to the city, inspiring young people to learn more about our naval history and promoting our armed forces, it is an asset to both our city and our nation.

I would like to convey my gratitude to all those that made this happen and for working around the clock to deliver this major project.”

The Portsmouth born Shadow Armed Forces Minister, whose grandfather was a D-Day veteran from the city, has vowed to help secure remaining funds for the project.