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Portsmouth MP welcomes local Afghan families with ‘open arms’

Stephen Morgan MP welcomed local ARAP Afghan families evacuated during August’s Operation Pitting with ‘open arms’ today, during a welcome event held in the city.
The Portsmouth MP met with eight Afghan national families that fled Afghanistan in the summer under the government’s resettlement scheme and was able to thank them for their efforts in working with British personnel in Afghanistan.
Earlier this week in Parliament, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister met with 120 of the soldiers who served in Operation Pitting and thanked them for their efforts to the secure the safety of the 15,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan, including those now based in Portsmouth.
The city MP has been helping with the evacuation programme in responding to over 300 individual cases of those hoping to flee Afghanistan with the Home Office and other government departments.
He has also been working alongside veteran community organisation Ems4Afghans that is providing support to those families in bridging hotels across the country with clothes, toiletries, and other essential items.
The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“I know from my engagement with our city’s existing Afghan community the challenges many families have faced being evacuated from Afghanistan and the harrowing stories of those loved ones left at home under Taliban control.
“It was a pleasure to finally be able to welcome families seeking sanctuary in Portsmouth, to thank them for their work in supporting the British armed forces and understand their hopes for the future as new constituents.
“Whilst this is a real demonstration of the strength of our community coming together to support each other, this may not be the same elsewhere.
“Many ARAP evacuees and their families now find themselves at the mercy of a postcode lottery of support and constrained by a cliff edge on their immigration status.   
“It’s vital now that Ministers deliver clear and consistent pathways for the support offered through Operation Warm Welcome if they are to keep the promises they have made to those who bravely supported our forces.”

Mr Morgan has been asking questions of Ministers over the handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and has vowed to continue to lobby government on the delivery of Operation Warm Welcome and support those seeking sanctuary in Portsmouth.
In recent weeks, Portsmouth Labour launched a ‘Hug in the Bag’ project to give practical support to Afghan families settling in the city. To find out more about how to get involved, contact Portsmouth Labour via hello@portsmouthlabourparty.org.uk or sign up to updates through its website: https://www.portsmouthlabourparty.org.uk/meetings/
 
 

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Gurkha pensions: Government cannot continue to ‘sweep issue under the carpet’ – Portsmouth MP

Stephen Morgan MP has accused the government of sweeping the contentious issue of Gurkha pension equality under the carpet during a debate in Westminster this evening.

The issue of Gurkha pension equality is a longstanding and complex issue, but the Portsmouth MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister urged the government to set out a way forward to address the problem.

In August, a group of Gurkha veterans were forced to go on hunger strike outside Downing Street following the government’s lack of engagement with their concerns.

The Shadow Minister visited campaigners during their 13-day hunger strike, having lobbied the Defence Secretary the previous day about the issue.

Leading a debate in Westminster Hall on behalf of the Official Opposition tonight, the Portsmouth representative demanded government set out its approach to the forthcoming bilateral committee meeting convened with Nepal to discuss Gurkha welfare issues.

He also called for the government to commit to publishing its response to its own consultation on the Gurkha Pension Scheme, which closed eight months ago, before the talks begin.

The MP has met with Gurkhas and campaigners on several occasions, including on Saturday with Labour councillors in Reading, which has a particularly high Gurkha population.

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

“This is a complex and longstanding issue, but that’s no excuse for the government’s lack of engagement in tackling the inequalities experienced by those who have fought to keep us safe.

“It cannot be right that those who have served our country have to live in such difficult circumstances, with the cost-of-living crisis set to make things only go from bad, to worse, this winter.

“At the very least Ministers must consider measures that ensure all Gurkha veterans have the opportunity to live securely in retirement. Labour will work cross-party to get this right, but Government needs to finally show long overdue leadership.

Ministers cannot continue to sweep this growing problem under the carpet.”

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City MP: Marking Remembrance this year

After last year’s remembrance services were scaled back due to Covid restrictions, Stephen Morgan MP was able to join communities across Portsmouth, on the centenary of the Royal British Legion, to honour and remember those who have sacrificed so much to keep others safe.

As he marked Remembrance Sunday at events across the city, Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan said:

“I am delighted that our city can come together once again to mark the service and sacrifice of our Armed Forces during this important time of Remembrance.

“Over the last year our Armed Forces have shown that they are indispensable to our nation’s security at home and abroad. From airlifting British Nationals out of Afghanistan to driving NHS ambulances in Wales, and deploying as part of the Carrier Strike Group’s maiden voyage from here in Portsmouth. 

“As we honour our service personnel in the heart and home of the Royal Navy, we renew our commitment to remember the fallen and do everything we can to support serving personnel, veterans and their families.”  
This year, Stephen visited the following groups and services:

November 10

Armistice Day – November 11

  • Guildhall Square Service – Guildhall Square
  • Visit to NMRN on Remembrance – Historic Dockyard

Remembrance Sunday – November 14

  • Royal Naval Association – Remembrance Service – Portsmouth Naval Memorial
  • Remembrance Sunday Service and Parade – Guildhall Square
  • Royal British Legion Remembrance Service – St Marys Church, Fratton

 

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City MP joins ‘inspirational’ veteran’s community effort for Afghan evacuees

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan paid a visit to veteran community organisation Ems4Afghans ahead of Remembrance Sunday.

The volunteer-led organisation, founded by Emsworth RAF veteran Matt Simmons, was set up in the wake of the Afghanistan crisis to support those being evacuated with clothes, toiletries and other essential items.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister joined the sorting of incoming donations at the group’s hub in Fareham with volunteers.

Earlier this week, Mr Morgan visited a bridging hotel where Afghans who supported British forces are being housed temporarily to give out ‘winter packs’ of coats, scarves, hats and gloves as the weather turns colder.

As well as basic needs like winter clothes, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister also raised concerns that the Home Office was yet to process their immigration paperwork.

Without confirmation of the Indefinite Leave to Remain promised by the government, ARAP evacuees face difficulties in accessing work, housing and essential services.

The separate Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme has still not yet been launched.

On Tuesday, Ems4Afghans volunteer and RAF veteran Melanie Clark helped deliver an Afghan refugee’s baby in one of the bridging hotels.

Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan said:

“Matt has led an inspirational group of local veterans to support those Afghan nationals who bravely backed British forces during their deployment.

“Their sense of duty to those who served alongside them represents the best of our forces, and I want to pay tribute to them as we mark Remembrance.

“Unfortunately, ARAP evacuees and their families – who have already suffered immense hardship – now find themselves at the mercy of a postcode lottery of support and constrained by a cliff edge on their immigration status.

“Councils, charities like Ems4Afghans and voluntary organisations are doing their best on the ground. But Ministers must deliver clear and consistent pathways for the support offered through Operation Warm Welcome if they are to keep the promises they have made to those who bravely supported our forces.”

Ems4Afghans founder Matt Simmons said:

“The initial crisis support we offered was so important, with those fleeing for their lives coming to the UK with nothing but the clothes they were wearing.

“It’s more than that though. For me starting Ems4Afghans was about building relationships and being a bridge between communities where we can do great work in the future in resettlement – education, jobs.

“I wanted to make them feel welcome. We have a sense of duty as they worked alongside British forces.”

To donate to the indicative and help Afghan families click here

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City MP discusses mental health with All Call Signs ahead of Remembrance Sunday

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan visited award-winning forces mental health initiative ‘All Call Signs’ to discuss their work and highlight Labour’s pledge to veterans ahead of Remembrance Sunday.   

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister highlighted the importance of improving ongoing mental health support for personnel and veterans, particularly given events in Afghanistan this year.

It comes as Labour announced £35 million fund to support British veterans and Afghan interpreters.

The funding, recovered from cancelled MoD interpreter contracts, will be used for grants to charities and Local Authorities in England to provide mental health support services and support for those Afghan nationals who have relocated to the UK through the ARAP scheme.

Calls to veteran’s mental health charity Combat Stress have doubled since the Taliban swept to power. At the same time, its income has fallen by 37% in the last financial year partly due to cuts in NHS funding support.

Research last year found only 26% of charities thought that the government supports the mental health of veterans, and 79% of charities believe that the responsibility to support veterans should lie more with the government and armed forces.

All Calls Signs, based on Albert Road in Southsea, provide peer support organisation for veterans and serving military personnel.

Their chat app is staffed by over 700 volunteer listeners with experience of life in uniform with digital caseworkers bridging the gaps in veteran’s mental health services for hundreds of users seeking help.

Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I’ve long been a proud supporter of All Call Signs’ innovative work to support serving personnel and veterans across our country, and am really proud this organisation is based in Portsmouth.

“This year our armed forces have stepped up once again to protect us at home and abroad. Events in Afghanistan have taken an understandable toll on both serving personnel and veterans, so Remembrance is a timely reminder that we must keep our promise to support those who have fought for our country.

“Recent government announcements on mental health are a drop in the ocean whilst the uncertainty surrounding future funding for the Office of Veterans Affairs threatens to pull the rug from under our personnel when they need it most.

“Labour’s new support fund of £35 million will make sure we protect those who protect our country and keep us all safe.”

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Statement from Stephen Morgan MP – Government denies pay rise for 8,200 service personnel

Reacting to reports of a government decision not to award service personnel a £250 boost to their annual pay, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and Shadow Armed Forces Minister, said:

“The government has short-changed our service personnel once again. As if a decade of real terms pay cuts wasn’t bad enough, this report reveals Ministers have deliberately conned 8,200 of the lowest earning service personnel out of their insultingly low £250 bonus.

“Over the last year Her Majesty’s Armed Forces have shown just how indispensable they are to the nation’s security, from airlifting British Nationals out of Afghanistan to driving NHS ambulances in Wales.

“Yet Ministers still don’t think it’s worth giving the lowest earners taking the highest risks to protect our country a pay rise that’s worth just £200 after tax. To add insult to injury, they will also be paying more for food and service accommodation.

“This continues a decade of Tory decline for our armed forces who’ve seen forces pay, numbers and morale all down since 2010.”

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Shadow Defence Minister visits Leonardo Southampton to view world leading thermal imaging technology

Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan was able to view world leading sensor technology created at Leonardo’s Southampton site at close range during a recent visit.

Leonardo in Southampton builds a compact sensor system that can provide minute detections of fractional changes in temperature, while being highly portable, meaning it can be used in a wide variety of environments. It is thought that the sensor system has world leading levels of sensitivity and is used in observatories around the world.

Peter Dillon VP Sensors for the Southampton site said: “It was great to be able to demonstrate this exciting technology, drawing on the skills of our research team, our production team and our partners across the Solent region. Stephen took real interest in the innovation and learned about its many applications including detecting the signatures of planetary objects.”

Leonardo in Southampton creates communicationsoptronics and air traffic management products for the defence and security sector. The company’s thermal imaging cameras have many uses including being used by the BBC around the globe for high profile wildlife series such as Springwatch, Planet Earth and Big Cats.

Across the UK Leonardo employs more than 7,500 staff, of whom 500 are on their apprenticeship and graduate schemes, offering them degree-level qualifications alongside practical training.

In October 2018, the Southampton office was renamed Nicolson House, after the actions of Flight Lieutenant Nicolson VC who achieved one of the Second World War’s most extraordinary heroic feats, fighting off German planes above the skies of where the Southampton office now stands.

Mr Morgan toured the site with staff before sitting down with senior representatives of the company.

Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan said:

“Leonardo are pioneers in British-built aerospace, defence and security technology.

“The next era of defence technology is not just about our national defence but also about the creation and maintenance of high-skilled, well-paid jobs. Leonardo know this and their enthusiasm for local apprenticeship schemes is commendable and infectious.

“Ministers must do more to support Leonardo’s world-leading operations, which has clear benefits for investment and jobs in Southampton and the wider Solent region.”

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ARAP Chaos: Portsmouth MP blasts government with just 1% of applications accepted and almost 7,000 still outstanding

  • Government figures reveal just 850 applications have been accepted since April
  • Almost 7,000 applications remain outstanding
  • Just 213 evacuated in 18 months between the Doha Agreement and Operation Pitting

Stephen Morgan MP has blasted the government after new figures have revealed that just 850 applications to the government’s ARAP scheme have been accepted since the beginning of April, with 6,800 still outstanding.

The revelations contradict Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s claim on 6 September that just 311 of those Afghans who supported UK forces were left in the country, and cast fresh doubt on the government’s chaotic withdrawal from the country.1

Data from the Ministry of Defence shows that 60,000 applications to the scheme were received between April and August 2021, with 52,350 being rejected and 6,800 still being processed, meaning just 850 (1.41%) applications were accepted during the period.2

Ministers have also been forced to admit that just 213 ARAP-eligible Afghans were evacuated in the 18 months between the Doha Agreement and the beginning of Operation Pitting on 13 August, illustrating a further lack of planning.3

Labour’s Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan said the revelations showed the government was “out of touch and on the beach” during the immediate crisis. He called on the Defence Secretary to set out a “credible” plan to help those left behind.

Mr Morgan called on Armed Forces Minister James Heappey to clarify the figures in the House of Commons today, but the minister failed to answer, suggesting he would write to respond instead.

The government has confirmed that no further evacuation flights have been conducted since the conclusion of Operation Pitting on 28 August, yet claim the scheme remains open.4

Earlier this month, the Portsmouth representative also met with members of the local Afghan community to listen to views and concerns about family and friends in Afghanistan.

Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan, said:

“Despite the very best efforts from our armed forces, this government has woefully mishandled the crisis in Afghanistan.

“These figures reveal the government’ systemic failure to plan for the withdrawal in the 18 months following the Doha agreement and prioritise the safety of British nationals and brave Afghans who supported our forces.

“While Ministers claim the ARAP scheme is still open, this will be cold comfort to those still on the ground, now living in fear under Taliban rule. The Defence Secretary is yet to set out a credible plan to secure the safety of those the government has left behind.

“This crisis was a fundamental test of the government and its leadership. Once again, Conservative Ministers were found to be out of touch and on the beach.”

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Afghanistan: Portsmouth MP delivers scathing attack on government during key debate in Parliament

Stephen Morgan MP accused the government of ‘damaging the UK’s international reputation’ due to the way it has handled its exit from Afghanistan during a key debate in Parliament today.

Representing the Official Opposition in his role as Shadow Armed Forces Minister, the Portsmouth MP blasted the government’s “complacency, mismanagement and diplomatic ineptitude”.

He added that Minister’s handling of the crisis had damaged the country’s international reputation, weakened UK national security, and jeopardised two decades of hard work and humanitarian progress in the country.

The Portsmouth MP also called for a cross-party joint committee to investigate the withdrawal from Afghanistan – from the Doha Agreement to the conclusion of Operation Pitting.

Armed forces personnel and civil servants involved in Operation Pitting were praised by the Shadow Minister during his speech. The evacuation airlifted over 15,000 people in 14 days and was the largest operation of its kind since the Second World War.

But Mr Morgan said they had been “lions led by donkeys” and further criticised the government for its failure to prepare for the end of the drawdown in the 18 months following the Doha agreement.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, commented:

“The events in Afghanistan were a fundamental test of this government and its leadership.

“The character of our country is defined by how we respond to these moments.

“Once again, Conservative ministers were found to be out of touch and on the beach.

“That’s why I’ve called for a cross-party joint committee to investigate the withdrawal from Afghanistan so we can learn the lessons of the government’s failures to ensure they never happen again.”

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‘Stop Aquind’ campaign reaches critical moment as Portsmouth MP submits 6,200 signature petition to Parliament

Stephen Morgan MP has submitted a 6,200 signature petition to Parliament today, calling on the Business Secretary to scrap the damaging infrastructure project. 

The campaign, supported by the local ‘Stop AQUIND’ group, has been the leading local voice of opposition to the proposed interconnector project. The Portsmouth representative’s petition cites the huge damage it would cause to the local infrastructure and environment, as well as ongoing concerns surrounding the project company and its directors.

Local activists met the city MP on Tuesday morning outside the House of Commons, ahead of the petition’s submission.

The Portsmouth MP, who strongly opposed AQUIND from the earliest stages, has written a string of letters to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng MP on the issue, regularly attended local demonstrations against the project and held Ministers accountable through written and oral questions in the House of Commons.

Kwarteng has until October 21 to make a decision.

The original deadline was September 8, but this was postponed earlier this month after Mr Kwarteng queried why an alternative plan without commercial telecoms aspects still included rights for the associated land.

The company has until September 16 to respond.

Commenting on his latest intervention, the member of parliament for Portsmouth South, said,

“The people of Portsmouth have spoken: the Aquind Interconnector Project must be stopped.

“I’ve been clear from the outset that this project would bring untold disruption to our daily lives and natural environment, with no clear benefits. Meanwhile, the company directors’ cosy relationships with government ministers continue to raise suspicions.

“The Secretary of State needs to provide certainty to the thousands of city residents whose daily lives will be affected.

“Over 6,200 of you have spoken. It’s time the government finally listened.”

Responding to the news in a joint-statement, the co-chairs of the ‘Stop Aquind’ campaign, Viola Langley and Paula Ann-Savage, also said:

“Today was a critical moment in our campaign with Portsmouth voices being heard loud and clear In Parliament through Stephen’s petition, and we’re grateful for his support and being alongside us every step of the way.

“It cannot be right that decisions impacting residents here in Portsmouth are made hundreds of miles away behind a desk in Whitehall.

“It’s time the Business Secretary listened to our concerns, end the uncertainty and scrap Aquind.”