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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.

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister demands new naval support ships are built in British shipyards

Stephen Morgan MP has slammed defence ministers for ‘selling Britain short’ during five years of delay over vital new naval support ships. The Portsmouth South representative is pressing for a new ‘Built in Britain’ test for defence and security spending.

In the lead up to a major Defence and Security Review (Integrated Review), the Government is reportedly considering tendering the contract for The Fleet Solid Support Ship programme, worth up to £1.5 billion, to foreign companies. Placing the bid with UK yards would secure the future of shipbuilding in the UK. Research by Oxford Economics has found that for every £1 million spent in UK manufacturing there is a further £1.5 million benefit for the wider economy. For every job created in manufacturing a further 1.8 jobs are created in the wider economy – an argument that Mr Morgan has been making for some time as seen in the Defence Journal.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Building British not only helps us maintain our sovereign capability and strengthens national security, it sustains jobs and could be the winning ticket for safeguarding the future of our shipbuilders for years to come.

I know from speaking to British companies that they are ready and willing to build in the UK, the question is, why are Ministers selling Britain short and forcing two British bidders to pitch against foreign firms?

I will continue to work as Shadow Armed Forces Minister to put pressure on Ministers to back Britain and ensure their ill-thought out strategy does not hinder sovereign capability, national security and the future of British defence industry.”

For national security reasons, Royal Navy warships can only be built in the UK but because the supply ships will be part of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, they are not classed as warships. The fact Government has not committed to building these ships in Britain has caused concern in the Shadow Defence team, prompting the launch of the Built in Britain test – a set of criteria that seeks to develop the UK’s future capacity to build in Britain.

Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, John Healey MP said:

“For five years, Defence ministers have dithered over this decision when it’s a no-brainer to build these vital new ships in Britain. They are selling Britain short by not putting the work into UK shipyards. No other major military nation has ordered naval support ships from foreign yards.

“What can be built in Britain now, must be built in Britain. And long-term defence and security procurement, must also involve plans to develop the UK’s future capacity to build in Britain. This is one test by which we will judge the Government’s new Integrated Review of defence and security.”

Following the announcement, Labour have launched an online petition – Tell the Prime Minister: Royal Navy ships should be built in Britain.

Sign here: https://action.labour.org.uk/page/s/royalnavyships

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“The world must not forget their untold sacrifice” says Shadow Armed Forces Minister on 75th anniversary of VJ Day

Stephen Morgan MP calls for participation in commemorative events marking Victory over Japan Day (VJ Day), a national moment of remembrance that pays tribute to those that fought in the pacific conflict and brought WW2 to a close.

The city MP and defence frontbencher is urging Portsmouth people to get involved with the programme of activities being pioneered by The Royal British Legion and the social media campaign run by Labour Friends of Forces. A Two Minute Silence, an interactive story sharing map, and a special tribute for commonwealth troops are some ways people can get involved.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The significance of VJ Day must not be underestimated and the sacrifice of those who fought in the pacific theatre must not forgotten. In a city like ours, with such a close connection to our forces community, it is important we lead by example when it comes to commemorations.

The conflict led to the ultimate end of World War Two, can be traced as the source of much of the multiculturalism we are fortunate to have in this country and is a shining example of our tri-services immense bravery.

In years by-gone, VJ Day has not received the recognition it deserves. I urge people to get involved safely with the campaigns run by The Legion and Labour Friends of the Forces so we can all ensure this momentous event receives due remembrance.”

Activity on the day will begin with a national Two Minute Silence at 11am on 15th August which will be the focal point of the commemorative service at the National Memorial Arboretum and will be led by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. Public involvement has been stripped back due to the Covid-19 crisis which has driven up creative opportunities to get involved.

People can join in VJ Day commemorations by:

        Tweeting out their personal or family stories by using the hashtag: #VJDay75tributes set up by Labour Friends of the Forces

        Share their stories via The Royal British Legion website’s interactive story telling map

        Taking part in a two-minute silence

Mr Morgan has also joined calls for particular recognition to be given to Commonwealth veterans . Troops came from Europe, Africa, Asia, North America and Australasia to form one of the most multicultural forces in history, many of whom faced some of the harshest conditions of the Second World War.

On Commonwealth forces, Mr Morgan added:

“Those serving in the British Forces, and who helped secure Victory over Japan, came from a range of backgrounds and cultures.

This is nationally significant because we must celebrate this story of coming together but also because it helps us understand our nation’s current multi-cultural make up and complex past.

With division and hate crime a significant issue in our modern society, it is important we recognise and reflect on our nation’s proud and diverse history.”

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City MP responds to The Times report on Aquind and Russian interference

Following the publication of the intelligence and security committee’s report this week, concerns about the growth of Russian influence in British political and public life have increased.

Potential links between Aquind Interconnector, a large national infrastructure project running through Portsmouth, and a Russian tycoon have prompted further questions. Investigative reports carried out by The Times has revealed that large sums of money have been paid by Aquind to the Conservative party.

Responding to The Times story, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This week the ISC reminded us that the Government failed to properly investigate Russian interference in our democratic process, and then tried to hide it. Unless these threats are dealt with, aggression will rise.

Now, we learn that hefty sums of money have been paid to the Tories by a Russian linked firm delivering a major UK infrastructure project effecting my city.

Alarm bells have been ringing for some time over the Aquind proposals. With the company exempt from some corruption rules, links to the ex-Chief of Russia’s state-owned arms company and hefty donations, this smacks of impropriety.

There are questions that need to be answered by the Conservatives in the interest of transparency. I will not stand idly by while foreign interests attempt to erode our democracy and national security.”

The full Times article can be seen here: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/name-russian-tycoon-behind-power-company-say-top-tories-0vqb0vw8g

 

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister hosts ‘Labour Listens’ event for forces communities across region

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP this evening hosted the Shadow Defence Secretary for a virtual roundtable for communities across the south east.

Giving people with a forces interest a chance to relay their concerns to the senior frontbenchers, the event is part of a UK-wide programme of discussions led by Labour’s shadow defence team.

The purpose is to link those in the forces and forces communities along with their families directly with Labour’s decision-makers, reaffirming the party’s stance as four-square behind our troops.

Stephen Morgan, Shadow Armed Forces Minister said:

“In Portsmouth it is impossible to miss the immeasurable value of our troops, whether it’s helping set up test centres to combat Covid or patrolling our waters to keep us safe.

To ensure we are delivering for them, we’ve got to understand the hopes and aspirations of the Armed Forces community, as well as the problems they face after a decade of declining numbers, morale and pay.

“We also want to talk about the pride we share in the excellence and professionalism of Britain’s service men and women, feelings I know many Portsmouth people share.”

The event falls in line with announcements made by the Labour leader on (27 June) Armed Forces Day, that Labour is open and listening to the forces community and must take onboard their views and concerns to win back trust.

John Healey, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

“I want to open up Labour again to our Armed Forces, their families and veterans across our country.

“Today’s event is part of an exciting new dialogue with forces communities. We want to say thank you to our Armed Forces for the role they play both at home and abroad. We will make sure we listen and learn from them.

“As Britain faces a period of greater global risk and conflict, I want Labour to hear their voices and views, and I want them to play a bigger part in our Party.”

 

 

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“Government cannot play fast and loose with our national security” says city MP

Today, during Cabinet Office questions in the House of Commons, Stephen Morgan MP joined others, including the former Prime Minister Theresa May and security experts, in holding the Government to account over parachuting their own appointees into positions key to maintaining national security.

The Portsmouth South MP’s question demanded answers to why the Prime Minister decided to replace Sir Mark Sedwill as National Security Adviser (NSA) with a political appointee, whose task is to provide impartial advice to Government on difficult, and at times life-threatening, issues.

The action comes at a time when Tory MP Julian Lewis has had the whip removed for standing against fellow Conservative MP Chris Grayling for the important position of Intelligence and Security Committee chair.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“When it comes to appointing people to positions vital to national security, the basis must be merit and experience not political gain.

Widespread concern has been raised by former national security advisers and other public figures following Mr Johnson’s appointment for this important role, including strong criticism from former Prime Minister Theresa May.

We cannot allow this Government to erode Civil Service impartiality to promote its own self-interests. This sets a dangerous precedent and doesn’t serve the interests of British people”.

A former cabinet secretary warned that political appointees were “more likely to be yes men” while leading military, security and diplomatic figures have condemned the decision as “appalling and unnecessary”. General Sir Richard Barrons, former chief of Joint Forces Command in Afghanistan suggested “it is a move for ‘chumocracy’” and “when it comes to matters of security, his knowledge is zero, and that is a matter of concern.”

The city MP’s action today comes in the wake of another breaking news story that has drawn fire on government, this time for eroding the impartiality of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Government had tried to promote the ex-Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP, but had plans scuppered at the last moment by committee members working together to stop the Downing Street nominee.

Mr Morgan added:

The Prime Minister’s strategy of parachuting an inexperienced and ill-equipped candidate into the role of Intelligence Committee Chair was thwarted by his own veteran MPs. The Government simply cannot play fast and loose with our national security.

Transparency, meritocracy and effectiveness are what the public deserve from their representatives especially when considering our nation’s safety. I will continue to stand up for these values, which I know the British people hold close.”