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Shadow Armed Forces Minister: Covenant must be delivered in full for every member of our Armed Forces

Stephen Morgan MP backed Service Personnel during the second reading of the Armed Forces Bill tonight at the House of Commons, but said the proposals were a ‘missed opportunity’ to make the Armed Forces Covenant a reality for all who serve.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister is leading Labour’s response to the Bill during its passage through the Commons.

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 criticised the Bill during the debate for being too weak, and that proposals would do little to correct the many ways in which service personnel are disadvantaged.

These include mental health, where the Covenant guarantees access mental health professionals who have an understanding of Armed Forces culture. Yet government statistics reveal that the average waiting time for veteran’s mental health treatment in England was 37 days in 2020, against a government target of 14.

On housing, the Covenant says service personnel are ‘entitled to publicly provided accommodation, it should be of good quality, affordable and suitably located’. Yet, just half (51%) of tri-service personnel say they are satisfied with the standard of their service accommodation.

In the Chamber, Morgan said the Bill ‘does little’ to tackle these issues head on and that the ‘complex legalese’ of ‘due regard’ would do little to make any real impact on the day-to-day lives of forces personnel.

Service charities including the Royal British Legion have also criticised the Bill for being too narrowly focused, containing nothing on pay or employment.

The latest Government statistics reveal forces personnel are seeing higher levels of unemployment after leaving service than the general UK population.

Speaking in the debate today, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Instead of lumping extra legal responsibilities on cash-strapped local authorities and other overstretched public bodies, the Bill should set measurable, enforceable, national standards, that central government is accountable for.

“Only then can we truly end the postcode lottery on the Armed Forces Covenant.”

Labour is also considering potential changes to made to the Bill that would compel ministers to report annually on the fighting strength of the military, following reports over the weekend that 32 of 33 infantry battalions are short of battle-ready personnel.

Commenting after the debate, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, added,

“By setting a legal standard that is below the existing voluntary offers in some areas, the government risks creating a two-tier covenant, and a race to the bottom on services for our forces communities.

“The threat poor conditions pose to our defence capability were made clear this weekend with leaked reports over the weekend suggesting 32 of 33 infantry battalions are dangerously short of battle-ready personnel.

“Labour will press the government to ensure the Covenant is delivered in full for every member of our armed forces, their families and veterans.”

The parliamentary representative has consistently referred to his Grandfather who was a D-Day veteran and founder of Portsmouth Normandy Veterans association, as his motivation for delivering justice for service personnel and their families in Portsmouth and across the country.

 

 

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Responding to the National Audit Office report on Improving Armed Forces’ Single Living Accommodation

After decades of under-investment, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is not meeting its commitment to provide all service personnel in the Armed Forces with high-quality subsidised accommodation, according to a new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on Single Living Accommodation.

Single Living Accommodation is normally accommodation blocks inside military bases. At 31 October 2020, 79,963 service personnel, around 52% of the total Armed Forces, occupied SLA, which can vary considerably by type and quality.

At this date, around half of SLA residents lived in ‘good’ SLA (Grade 1 and 2), but 36% lived in poorer grade accommodation (Grade 4 or below).

In addition, approximately two-fifths of SLA buildings are more than 40 years old, although MoD has confirmed that all SLA was built in compliance with the standards applicable at the time of construction.

Responding to the findings,  Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“This report shows that too often service accommodation is a far cry from the ‘homes fit for heroes’ our forces should expect.  

“With more than half of the Armed Forces housed in Single Living Accommodation, substandard conditions present a serious risk to recruitment and retention. The appalling prevalence of issues with basics like heating and hot water doesn’t live up to the promises made in the Armed Forces Covenant. Those who serve deserve better.

“The Armed Forces Bill presents an important opportunity to make meaningful improvements to the day-to-day lives of those who serve. Labour will challenge the government to deliver quality, affordable housing for forces and their families.”

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister responds to newly published details of Armed Forces Bill

Stephen Morgan MP has responded to new details published today of the provisions within the government’s Armed Forces Bill.

The Bill is set focus on ‘fairness’ of treatment for Service Personnel, veterans and their families.

This comes following reports last year of apparent substandard accommodation and food facilities for those service personnel on the frontline of UK COVID-19 efforts, as well as some veterans and their families being evicted from their homes after the government cancelled a private housing contract.

Responding to the news, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister said:

“Labour of course welcomes any legislation that seeks to enhance and protect the welfare of our service personnel and veterans – and we will look at the detail of this Bill as it emerges.

“The government’s focus of this Bill is that personnel, veterans and their families are treated with ‘fairness’, but the sad irony is the government would fall far short of its own tests in this Bill.

“With reports this year of apparent inadequate accommodation and food facilities for our service personnel on the frontline of the UK COVID-19 efforts, or the news of veterans’ families being evicted from their homes after a failed private housing contract, this must now change.

“We stand firmly behind our Armed Forces and will press the government to ensure that the Covenant delivers for every member of our service personnel and their families, regardless of their circumstances.”

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Shadow Minister criticises Chancellor for pay cut to Armed Forces personnel

Stephen Morgan MP has criticised the Chancellor for administering a real-terms pay cut to Armed Forces personnel earning over £18,000.

This comes as new analysis from Labour has revealed that Chancellor Rishi Sunak will hit every key worker earning over £18,000 in England with a real-terms pay cut this year.

It is estimated there are around 8,880 Armed Forces personnel in Portsmouth, many of whom are likely to face the cut.

In November’s Spending Review on 25 November, the Chancellor announced a ‘pay freeze’ for all public sector workers earning above £24,000 in 2021-22.

NHS workers weren’t included, while those earning less than £24,000 were promised “a fixed increase of £250”.

Taking into account inflation over the next fiscal year, that means every non-NHS public sector worker earning over £18,000 will actually get a real-terms pay cut.

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

“It cannot be right that just at this crucial stage when our Armed Services have stepped in to support the efforts to tackle the coronavirus, many in Portsmouth and across the country will receive a real-terms pay cut.

“Our Armed Forces deserve better and should be rewarded for their efforts, not be punished in having their pay cut, particularly at this moment.”

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds, added:

“Key workers have kept our country going throughout this crisis, but now Rishi Sunak wants to give over a million of them with a real-terms pay cut.

“Not only is that poor reward for their hard work, it’s economically irresponsible. If families have less money to spend, then businesses will suffer and the recovery will take longer.

“The Chancellor must think again, and cancel plans to cut Universal Credit, hike council tax and cut pay for our police officers, teachers and Armed Forces personnel. They shouldn’t have to carry the can for this Government’s mistakes.”

Mr Morgan has previously called on the Chancellor to reverse the public sector pay freeze.

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Shadow Minister demands ‘clear and credible’ plan to protect and vaccinate armed forces

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan has called on the government to set out how and when armed forces personnel will receive the Coronavirus vaccine.

It comes as the number of troops deployed to support the Covid-19 response hit 5,000 and new analysis of Ministry of Defence Statistics revealed that the average weekly number of Coronavirus tests administered to defence staff per week is just 1,901.

The Opposition has called for a ‘clear and credible plan’ to protect troops on the ground, who are providing practical support to roll out the vaccine and community testing.

Government figures suggest that the number of confirmed cases in defence personnel jumped to an all-time high of 3,291 in December, up by more than 1,000 on the previous month.

Earlier this week, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace raised hopes when he appeared to suggest that troops helping with Coronavirus response would be prioritised in some way.

But no further clarity has been forthcoming, prompting concerns over the welfare of troops on the ground.

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

“The armed forces are doing vital work to support frontline staff at this critical juncture in our work to vaccinate Britain. Our world-renowned troops should be utilised as much as possible to speed up vaccinations.

“In the immediacy, government must rapidly ramp up testing for our armed forces, who are putting themselves at greater risk of contracting the virus.

“The Defence Secretary must also set out a clear and credible plan to vaccinate our troops, particularly for those who are to be deployed for longer periods of time.

“We must protect those who are protecting us.”

 

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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.