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“Still work to do in tackling discrimination in armed forces” says Shadow Armed Forces Minister

Today – Sunday 17 May – on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP praises progress made since the ban on serving was lifted but says there’s no room for complacency until all LGBT personnel can ‘thrive without fear of who they are’.

Since discriminatory rules were struck down by the European Court of Human Rights, the nation’s armed forces have launched major reforms to become LGBT inclusive, with all four branches of the British military – the Army, Navy, Air Force and Royal Marines all marching together at Pride in London, dedicated recruitment campaigns launched, and efforts to challenge fears of homophobic attitudes.

These efforts have praised all services for their diversity and inclusion work in recent years, with all three making it into the Stonewall Top 100 Employers list.

Recognising the progress made, Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“IDAHOBIT gives us the opportunity to reflect on progress made in tackling hatred and discrimination affecting the LGBT community, and also take stock the challenges still to overcome.

20 years ago, Labour lifted the ban on LGBT people serving in the armed forces.

Since then, from dedicated staff networks to all services marching at Pride, from senior army officers being the face of Stonewall campaigns to our military services being recognised as amongst the best places to work, our armed forces have been on a long journey from a ban to being a beacon of best practice for the LGBT workforce”.

In a report commissioned last year by the armed forces, Air Chief Marshall Wigston found that a third of LGBT service people had faced negative comments or behaviour from colleagues because of their sexual orientation while at work, whilst the continuous attitude survey reports that 12 per cent of those surveyed were the victims of bullying, harassment or discrimination in the past year, but only six per cent made a formal complaint.

Evidence reflected in this report indicates a significant number of people in the military have experienced discrimination but have not felt able or been able to come forward to report it. The Armed Forces Ombudsman also found this week that the armed forces service complaints system is not ‘effective, efficient or fair’.

The challenges ahead, Shadow Armed Forces Minister added:

“While significant progress has been made, there’s still some way to go to ensure no individual faces hatred or discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and all LGBT personnel feel safe and free to be themselves.

That means continued efforts on education, leadership development and creating a culture in the forces where everyone can thrive without fear of who they are.

There’s no room for complacency. Today acts as a call to action for everyone who supports equality in our armed forces, and in wider society.”

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister calls on MoD to review armed forces complaint system after annual assessment reveals more failings

For the fourth year running, the Ombudsman has found the armed forces service complaints system to be not ‘effective, efficient or fair’.

This has prompted Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP to call on government to take measures to sort the system for serving personnel.

The Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces provides independent and impartial oversight of the Service complaints system – the internal workplace grievance system for members of the UK Armed Forces.

In their annual assessment, the Ombudsman finds that the time taken to resolve complaints; the negative impact on an individual’s wellbeing; and the continued lack of confidence in the system was affecting personnel across the armed forces.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Our armed forces are exposed to pressure and conditions that would be unimaginable in other jobs. The demands of the role mean that if something is not quite right, it can affect every aspect of a person’s life.

 There must be an effective, clear and just grievance system that personnel can have faith in.

The fact the Ombudsman has ruled the complaints system is still not meeting acceptable standards for the fourth consecutive year means service people are at risk.

We must see leadership from Ministers in addressing this issue.”

Key findings within the report show in 2019:

  • 766 Service complaints were deemed admissible across the Armed Forces
  • The 3 largest areas of complaint concerned: career management (37%), bullying, harassment and discrimination (25%), and, pay, pensions and allowances (15%)
  • SCOAF (Service Complaints Ombudsmen Armed Forces) logged 754 contacts, made 144 referrals on behalf of current or former Service personnel and received 322 applications requesting an investigation
  • 82% of applications requesting an investigation were accepted by SCOAF
  • 50% of all SCOAF investigations found in favour of the complainant: review of admissibility decisions 42%; undue delay 53%; substance 68%; and, maladministration 51%

The Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces, Nicola Williams, said:

“The reformed Service Complaints system still needs fundamental structural changes to ensure that Armed Forces personnel have the confidence to raise a formal complaint, in a system that operates efficiently, effectively and fairly as possible.

Currently, I am concerned that personnel are dissatisfied with the length of time taken to resolve a complaint; causing undue delay, including my office; which is having a significant impact on complainants’ wellbeing and mental health. 

Further work in this area is needed to address these issues, and with the support of the Ministry of Defence and the single Services, I am confident that we can build a better system for all Service personnel.”

Stephen Morgan MP also expressed concern that with the additional pressure on military personnel amid the coronavirus crisis, efforts need to be undertaken to ensure the system is fit for purpose.

On Covid-19 and the complaints system, Stephen Morgan MP added:

“13,000 service personnel are absent from duty due to Covid-19 and troops are being asked to go above and beyond their traditional spheres to assist with this pandemic.

The additional pressures endured this early into 2020 could mean that the complaints system is put under even greater strain. The system is not performing adequately now.

Immediate measures must be taken by Ministers to see to it service personnel have the opportunity to confidentially raise grievances as we emerge from this crisis.”

The Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces can full annual report can be found here.

 

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Shadow Defence team pile pressure on Government over coronavirus protections for our armed forces  

The Shadow Defence team are piling on the pressure calling on the Government to ensure protections from coronavirus and testing for armed forces personnel.

The lobbying of Ministers continued today during departmental questions in the House of Commons and follows a letter from the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, John Healey MP to the Defence Secretary calling for new measures to protect armed forces personnel from coronavirus, and a string of parliamentary questions by Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP.

The Portsmouth MP said:

“Our armed forces are increasingly playing a major role in the UK’s response to coronavirus.

Be it working closely with the NHS, being drafted in to support Local Resilience Forums and performing coronavirus testing, or the COVID Support Force on hand to take action, our armed forces are on the frontline supporting our communities in settings such as hospitals and prisons.

At the end of April only 1,222 personnel had been tested for coronavirus – less than 1% of the UK forces service personnel. That begs the question, why have Ministers been so slow to test our troops?

The armed forces are delivering for us. Government must deliver for them too with regular testing and proper protections”.

Shadow Minister Stephen Morgan MP has been probing the Government over its support to service personnel with a series of questions to the MoD over testing and social distancing to access to ventilators.

Labour is calling for measures to protect personnel, including:

  • testing armed forces personnel and publishing the results as other countries are doing, with priority given to the COVID Support Force
  • postponing large-scale training exercises where these cannot be done safely, to prevent outbreaks that other country’s armed forces have experienced
  • ensuring support for deployed personnel including full PPE for frontline staff in the UK, withdrawal from non-essential overseas postings to places where it is easier to protect personnel and urgent provision of adequate medical supplies to deal with any coronavirus outbreak.

The interventions come amidst concern over the risk to armed forces personnel around the world. US and French navy ships have recently experienced coronavirus outbreaks, with the first US death on active duty reported on Monday.

On this Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The United States is amongst the countries publishing aggregate data on testing of military personnel, but the Ministry of Defence does not currently provide this information. We must and should learn from our allies in protecting all personnel”.

Thanks to the pressure put on Government by the Shadow Defence team, the safety of crew onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth was prioritised when sailing was delayed allowing time for personnel to be tested before a training exercise.

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

“Coronavirus is showing again how our armed forces help keep us safe. It is vital the Government does everything it can to keep them safe too.

Ministers should step up measures to protect military personnel from coronavirus, including making testing available and publishing the results, postponing large-scale training events wherever needed and supporting personnel deployed overseas.”

 

 

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Portsmouth MP urges people to “pocket memories” of VE Day in call for photos and stories

Stephen Morgan MP is encouraging Portsmouth residents to share their family members’ short stories and photos of celebration marking the end of the Second World War.

The call has also been put out to share memories of Portsmouth at the time, as part of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day later this week.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister has already called on residents to get creative and celebrate safely. Now he has urged fellow city residents to mark the occasion by gathering photos, stories and memories from those who lived through the war as a legacy of the commemorations.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“During the D-Day 75 commemorations last year, my family and I enjoyed looking through my late grandfather’s collection of photos from his time in the Royal Army Service Corp, and the images of him as a veteran with my grandmother enjoying life together in Southsea after the war.

Reflecting on these memories not only acts as window into the world as seen by our loved ones, it also paints a picture of the war that shaped everything as we know it.

The more we can do to understand the sacrifice and experiences of that generation, the better equipped we will be to take on the challenges we face today”.

Initially memories provided to the Portsmouth MP will be shared online and depending on the volume received, may be used for archive purposes to help record the city’s commemorations.

On the ask for memories from Portsmouth residents, the MP added:

“At this time of crisis for our country, I want to make sure everyone in Portsmouth has a way to pay tribute to the contributions generations before us made for the peace and freedoms we enjoy today.

Our city played a crucial part in the allied victory, a price we paid for heavily in the bombing campaigns. Sharing memories and photos of this time helps us to understand the significant damage done to our city and how much has been done to rebuild it. Portsmouth featured heavily in Britain’s post war planning and reconstruction.

Despite today’s challenging circumstances, we as a city must be proud of our past and ensure that these men and women are always remembered.

To help mark the 75th anniversary in our city, I am asking constituents to share with me just a couple of sentences of a story or memory, or a photo if you have one, to remember a loved one and give thanks for everyone who fought for our country.

I hope as many people as possible will help me pocket our city’s past memories of VE Day and find a way to take part”.

Contributions of all kinds should be emailed to stephen@stephenmorgan.org.uk for collation by volunteers between now and Saturday 9 May 2020.

The Royal British Legion Industries are also encouraging members of the public to mark the anniversary by placing 25cm tall ‘Tommy in the window’ figures at www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/remembrance/teaching-remembrance

 

 

 

 

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“In looking to the past, we will find the strength to deal with the present” says city MP on VE celebrations

Shadow Armed Forces Minister and city MP Stephen Morgan has urged Portsmouth people to celebrate safely on Friday 8 May for Victory in Europe (VE) Day.

This year is particularly significant as it marks the 75th anniversary since the Allies’ formal acceptance of the unconditional surrender of Nazi forces in 1945. After the success of D-Day 75, Portsmouth was set for widespread street parties and public events.

While the major celebratory events have had to be cancelled due to social distancing measures amid Covid-19, the Portsmouth South MP has urged people across the city to celebrate and pay tribute in alternative ways.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Many of the hard fought for freedoms secured by the brave people 75 years ago are the ones we find ourselves without today due to Covid-19. That makes the recognition and celebration of their actions even more important.

In looking to the past, we will find the strength to deal with the present. The continuation of celebrations is vital. This country has overcome hardship before, and we can do it again.

The efforts we can expect this coming week will be about celebrating victory over the most tyrannical regime the world has seen and spending time thinking about those who sacrificed so much for us.

I will be spending time paying tribute to my own grandfather, who set sail from Portsmouth on D-Day and spent time fighting in the European theatre.”

While social distancing requirements have scuppered some major celebration plans, which had included a veterans’ procession and street parties, across the country people have been showing ingenuity and coming up with alternative ideas.

On this, Stephen Morgan MP added:

“In true Portsmouth fashion, people are coming together to find safe, creative ways of celebrating. Some are placing a specially designed image of a Second World War soldier in their windows, while others are planning to cut out and put up homemade bunting.

I urge people from across our city to celebrate this important landmark in not just our nation’s, but the world’s history, by getting involved in their own way.

Understanding our shared heritage of remembrance helps bring communities together. We can’t let anything get in way of recognising the sacrifice of service people.”

Official commemorations will begin at 11am on Friday with a national moment of remembrance and a two-minute silence, according to government guidelines.

A pack with ideas for homemade VE Day bunting, original recipes, games, and educational and creative activities for children has been produced by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, so families under lockdown can create their own experiences at home. This can be found here

The Royal British Legion has also launched its “Tommy in the window” campaign, producing specially designed figures of soldiers. More information and educational material can be found here

 

 

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Portsmouth MP promoted in Starmer’s new top team

The official leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer MP has today named Stephen Morgan MP as Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces.

The city MP Stephen Morgan has secured the key role in the shadow defence team following the election of Keir Starmer as the new Labour Leader last week.

The promotion comes after the Portsmouth South MP served on Labour’s frontbench as Shadow Local Government Minister for Communities, and temporarily as Shadow Defence Procurement Minister.

Responding to the appointment, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The protection of its people is the first priority of any Government. Our armed forces work hard to keep us safe and secure so that we can live our lives to the full without fear.

I am hugely proud of our nation’s armed forces and the role Britain’s highly skilled workforce play in supporting them.

It is a privilege to be asked, and accept, an opportunity to serve in Keir Starmer’s top team.

I look forward to working alongside the newly appointed Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey, and colleagues, being a strong national voice for our armed forces and challenging hard on the opposition frontbench on behalf of service personnel and the British public when the Government falls short”.

Since being elected an MP in 2017 in the heart and home of the Royal Navy, the Portsmouth South representative has been taking action to support Britain’s armed forces. Mr Morgan has taken particular interest in the pay and conditions of personnel, campaigning for bespoke mental health support for those who serve, and lobbying government to take measures to tackle veteran suicide.

Mr Morgan’s new responsibilities include operations, operational legal matters, force recruitment and retention, and international defence engagement among a number of other areas.

Shadow Defence Secretary, John Healey MP, said:

“I’m delighted Stephen is part of Labour’s new shadow defence team. He’s a proven national voice on defence matters with a track record of holding the Government to account on behalf of our armed forces. He’ll be a major asset to our front bench team.

Stephen has parliamentary experience raising defence matters and has spent time engaging with our troops and the defence industry. I am confident he will serve the opposition and our country well as the new Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces.”

Recognising the challenges ahead, the new Shadow Minister added:

“My Portsmouth-born grandfather, who played such an active part in the Royal Army Service Corp for the D-Day landings, was one of the main reasons I was inspired to get into politics. I want to make sure that those who bravely serve our nation are recognised and valued by society.

Today amidst the coronavirus crisis at home, and a global pandemic not respecting any border, our armed forces are already stepping up and are ready and responding to the challenges Covid-19 bring.

Our armed forces are well disposed to support the nation in its time of need. We are already seeing our troops helping on the ground and in our communities by supporting our NHS and other emergency and frontline services in keeping us safe.

For that, and for the tasks they are set to do for our nation as times get tough, I am hugely grateful”.

Now, more than ever, during this time of crisis, with 2,680 armed forces personnel helping combat Covid-19, checks and balances to government decision-making will be essential.

As well as being an active member of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, the MP specialised in defence and military capabilities when sitting on the Public Accounts Committee and served as the Shadow Defence Procurement Minister (January 2020 – April 2020) constructively engaging with the country’s defence and aerospace industries.

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Shadow Defence Minister hits home importance of cyber security from dispatch box

During departmental questions for the Ministry of Defence, Stephen Morgan MP today sought answers from the Government on the strength of the UK’s cybersecurity; and what role it would play in the upcoming Integrated Strategic Review.

The Integrated Strategic Defence and Security Review will look at Britain’s position and international policy requirements.

Mr Morgan warned government today that cybersecurity must play a central role in the review considering recent Artificial Intelligence developments.

Shadow Defence Procurement Minister, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The ever-changing landscape of threats this nation faces means that government must be thinking beyond the traditional frontiers of warfare.

With evidence suggesting that other nations are pulling away from the UK and its allies when it comes to cyber and AI capability, it is vital that precautions to protect our own cyber security and MoD equipment are taken.

The upcoming strategic review is an opportunity for the government to lay the groundwork for robust cybersecurity for years to come. It is vital this chance is seized.”

Mr Morgan’s line of questioning follows concerns that artificial intelligence (AI) will revolutionise the cyber domain, making attacks faster and more disruptive.

Mr Morgan added:

“Cybersecurity is vital to national security and in the interests of all British people; none more so than our armed forces working overseas in areas like Poland and Estonia.

I will continue to apply scrutiny and keep a close eye on the government to make sure they are doing all they can to safeguard British people from all forms of security threats.”

Stephen Morgan MP stated that it is important to ensure concerns over Covid-19 do not impact national security.

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City MP speaks up for Portsmouth rail users in Parliament

Speaking from the green benches in parliament, Stephen Morgan MP held the Transport Minister to account over the poor performance of South Western Railway.

In a bid to signal to government the effect of soaring prices and increasingly delayed running times, the Portsmouth South MP relayed rail concerns that many constituents contacted him about directly. 

In a rare display, the Minster praised Mr Morgan’s relentless efforts in speaking up for Portsmouth but offered no robust plans on how he would be improving the service.

Mr Morgan said:

“Portsmouth people rely on our rail network to get to work, for business and for important social occasions. I am told every week how plans have been scuppered by delays to the network all the while fares have soared.

Put simply, Portsmouth people are paying more but getting less. Government has a responsibility to ensure the smooth running of the nation’s rail network, as it stands, they are failing.

I have been listening to constituent’s transport concerns and today put these directly to the Government representative responsible. It is essential that we see improvements.”

According to South Western Railway’s own performance indicating website, over 50% of their trains failed to run at the right time. Despite this, customers saw an average of 2.7% rail fair surge in 2020.

Mr Morgan added:

“Effective running of our railways is not just an important local issue; it is vital in the battle against climate change.

Railways are in crisis across the nation. Regulated rail fares have risen by 40% since 2010, more than two and a half times the rate of median wages. At the same time, overcrowding on trains has increased and reliability has declined.

Government should be making it more attractive for people to use greener travel, not harder and more expensive.”

Since Mr Morgan was elected, he has been relentless in his calls for better rail services. Meeting with rail providers, attending cross-party parliamentary rail groups, asking questions in the chamber, submitting written questions and speaking to commuters in his patch. He has vowed to continue this important work.

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“Veterans must play the lead role in commemorations”- City MP issues callout to WW2 ex-service personnel

Shadow Defence Minister, Stephen Morgan MP has issued a callout to all WW2 veterans in a bid to ensure due recognition of their feats.

Mr Morgan has joined up with The British Legion in encouraging veterans to register their attendance to events marking the 75th anniversaries of VE and VJ Day, on the 8th May and 15th August.

Mr Morgan said:

“Victory in Europe Day and Victory over Japan Day will forever be milestones in the history of this nation.

As we approach the 75th anniversaries for these most significant days, it is essential that we reflect and remember the unfathomable achievements of those who sacrificed so much.

Central to that remembrance and commemoration process must be the veterans themselves. That is why I have joined the British Legion in calling on all WW2 veterans to take part in the events planned.”

Veterans can be of British, Commonwealth or Allied origin and all costs for their attendance will be met by The Royal British Legion and its partners. Registration closes for VE Day veterans on 17 February and for VJ Day veterans on 31 March.

Mr Morgan added:

“With the recent success of D-Day 75, that I am proud to say took place in Portsmouth, it has been made clear that veterans must play the lead role.

I commend The British Legion in working towards ensuring VE and VJ Day commemorations follow suit and look forward to joining others on the 8th May and 15th August in reflecting and remembering. “

Veterans can be of British, Commonwealth or Allied origin and all costs for their attendance will be met by The Royal British Legion and its partners.

Further information can be found here https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/remembrance/remembrance-events

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Portsmouth MP joins Shadow Defence team

Photo credit: permission given from TruffShots https://truffshots.com

 

Ahead of the election of a new Labour Leader and Leader of the Opposition it has been announced today that Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP will be stepping into a front-bench role as Shadow Minister for Defence Procurement. The appointment puts the city MP at the heart of Labour’s defence team headed up by Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith MP.

The announcement follows Mr Morgan’s record as a strong voice on defence matters in the House of Commons and previously the Public Accounts Committee specialising in concerns related to the nation’s armed forces and military capabilities. The MP has also been running a campaign in Westminster for better support for armed forces personnel past and present, including working with local organisation All Call Signs to urge the government to record veteran suicide levels.

Responding to the appointment, the new Shadow Defence Procurement Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I have always been clear the Government has no higher duty than the protection of our citizens and the maintenance of national security. Yet since 2010, we have seen 5,000 Royal Navy jobs cut, 12 ships axed, 91 defence sites sold off and the lowest defence spending for 20 years.

It is only right that these brave men and women have equipment to match their capabilities. Through my work on the Public Accounts Committee, I have seen the equipment and infrastructure black hole resulting from a decade of Tory corner cutting and indifference.

I welcome the opportunity to join the Shadow Defence Team to speak up for our nation’s armed forces and to hold Government to account over their poor defence record”.

Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, Nia Griffith said:

“From work on veterans’ welfare to grilling government over low quality military housing, Stephen Morgan has been a steady hand on defence since he came to parliament.

I have no doubt he will be a capable and diligent addition to an already effective Shadow Defence team and look forward to working alongside him in highlighting the litany of defence errors made by this Government”.

In covering this role, Mr Morgan has added to his portfolio as Shadow Communities Minister working with Labour’s Communities and Local Government team headed by Andrew Gwynne MP. Mr Morgan replaces Wayne David MP who has stood down to focus on defence priorities in other ways in Parliament.