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Portsmouth MP meets city’s trial e-scooter operator, Voi

Stephen Morgan MP has met with the operator for Portsmouth’s e-scooter trial scheme, Voi, as he toured its warehouse and to meet staff to learn more about its work and feedback local views on the scheme.

Voi is the operator of the e-scooter trial currently operating in the Solent, covering both Southampton and Portsmouth.

The original government deadline for the end of the trial was 30 November 2021, but trials have since been extended to 30 November 2022.

Voi has been operating in Europe since 2018 and the UK since September 2020, as part of the Department for Transport’s fast-tracked trials to support local authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are currently the largest operator in the UK, with services live in 18 cities.

The City MP last year wrote to the Home Secretary to seek assurances on the safety of e-scooters for pedestrians and vulnerable people, and has been taking a range of actions to ensure their safe use in Portsmouth.

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

“It’s been really useful to meet with Voi today and learn more about the work it’s doing to support greener forms of travel in Portsmouth, as well as share views and concerns I’ve received in my postbag about the e-scooter trial scheme in our city.

“More sustainable forms of transport are crucial to tackling the climate emergency, but it’s important too we ensure they are also as safe and reliable as possible.

“As a potential long-term partner to our city providing these services, I am grateful for the opportunity to meet with Voi and learn more about its plans for the future in Portsmouth.

“I will continue to work with others to ensure the scheme supports people get round our city in a safe and green way”.

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Portsmouth MP tours CityFibre’s Full Fibre works in Portsmouth

Stephen Morgan MP has toured CityFibre’s ongoing works in the city for its ‘Full Fibre’ £32m project.

During the visit, Mr Morgan and representatives from CityFibre were introduced to full fibre digital infrastructure and provided with demonstrations of the typical build process, including excavation and reinstatement.

Work is underway across the constituency and beyond to build a citywide full fibre network that will reach almost every home and business in Portsmouth.

The project forms part of CityFibre’s up to £4 billion Gigabit City Investment Programme, which will bring full fibre networks within reach of up to 8 million homes and businesses across the UK.

Unlike the majority of the digital infrastructure accessible to households today, full fibre networks use 100% fibre optic cables to carry data at light speed all the way from the home to the point of connection. This gives users consistently faster speeds for upload and download (up to 1,000 Mbps), near limitless bandwidth and connectivity for users.

During the tour, the city MP helped ‘splice’ some fibre cable for an install in Portsea alongside an engineer.

Commenting on the progress of CityFibre’s £32m project, Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan, said:

“It was really useful to meet with CityFibre to get an update on the works it’s been doing to improve broadband connectivity in Portsmouth.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, boosting local gigabit broadband availability will be crucial to bridging the digital divide in our city to support catch-up learning and tackling loneliness. I raised this with Ministers in the House of Commons a few weeks ago.

“Full fibre connectivity will support our economic, social and smart city ambitions.”

In Portsmouth, services will be available from an increasing range of broadband providers. Across the UK, CityFibre is already working with launch partner Vodafone to supply full fibre infrastructure for customers on selected Vodafone Pro Broadband plans, while TalkTalk and other providers are expected to join the network soon.

Residents can find out more about the build and register their interest at cityfibre.com/homes

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Government must bridge the digital divide in Portsmouth – City MP

Stephen Morgan MP called on government to tackle the affordability of internet access in the House of Commons today and for Ministers to take action to bridge the digital divide in Portsmouth.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned digital exclusion is more likely to be faced by those on low incomes, people over 65 and disabled people.

The organisation has also said that when the pandemic hit in March 2020, only 51 per cent of households earning between £6,000 to £10,000 had home internet access.

Meanwhile, according to the House of Commons Library, Portsmouth South only has 38.4% gigabit broadband availability, 7.3% lower than the UK average of 45.7%.

It comes as the Portsmouth MP continues to tackle loneliness in the city, after many vulnerable people with no affordable digital tools or skills were cut-off from the outside world over the last two years.

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

Portsmouth has been left behind by this government when it comes to bridging the digital divide and providing affordable access to the digital tools and skills people need.

“Our city is well behind the rest of the country in getting decent internet access, and a far cry from the government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda.

“I will continue to push Ministers to secure the affordable digital access and skills vulnerable people in our city need to help tackle loneliness, and a route to the opportunities they deserve.”

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Shadow Schools Minister and City MP visit Portsmouth Academy to launch digital education drive

Shadow Schools Minister Peter Kyle and City MP Stephen Morgan have visited The Portsmouth Academy as the secondary school launched an innovative digital education initiative.

The one:one device scheme will give children access to safe, affordable, state of the art laptops for use at home and school. All 250 Year 7 students at the academy now have their own devices to support and enrich their learning across the curriculum.

The MPs saw how the scheme gives teachers more flexibility in the classroom, freeing them from ‘the front’ and increasing the amount of individual support they can provide to students, particularly those who need additional support.

The scheme is part of a city-wide commitment to make Portsmouth a ‘digital city’ over the coming years, improving student attainment by shattering the digital divide and engaging parents in their child’s learning.

The Thinking Schools Academy Trust, of which Portsmouth Academy is part, is working with the City Council to produce a similar digital strategy for all 62 schools and colleges in Portsmouth.

The Portsmouth MP is keen to make sure the scheme is accessible to all local families and will be watching its development with interest.

The pair also met with local Nature Premium campaigners to hear about improving access to wildlife for young people in Portsmouth.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said:

“I want every young person in Portsmouth to succeed at school wherever they are from, and whatever their background. Key to unlocking that potential is making sure all pupils have access to good quality and affordable technology.

“The pandemic shone a spotlight on the inequality and unfairness we see in today’s society, with many young people falling through the gaps and victims of the digital divide.

“It was a pleasure to visit Portsmouth Academy to hear how they are addressing this, see first-hand how young people are benefiting as a result, and showcase this to the Shadow Schools Minister in his first visit since taking up the post.

Portsmouth has the opportunity to lead a digital learning revolution. As online learning is becoming a daily reality for children across our city, I will watch with interest to make sure this scheme delivers both for the pupils who need it and struggling local families.”

Natalie Sheppard, Director of Education at the Portsmouth Hub, Thinking Schools Academy Trust, said:

“In Portsmouth, we are passionate about improving life chances for young people and know that technology is key to helping students gain the skills to thrive in a modern world. Schools across the city are working together to bring our collective vision of making Portsmouth an Edtech city to life. By collaborating and sharing our expertise and learning, we can use technology to enhance teaching and learning for all our young people across the city.

“It was fantastic to showcase to our MP and the Shadow Schools Minister how these concepts are working in practice and highlight some of the great work taking place at schools across Portsmouth. To be one of the key parties involved in leading such a ground-breaking project for the city is an honour and our team are driven to future-proof students for their careers by teaching them essential tech skills. With the programme gaining real momentum, we are greatly appreciative of the support of Mr Morgan and Mr Kyle.”

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Portsmouth MP gets behind new COVID debt plan to boost business recovery

Stephen Morgan MP has backed the Official Opposition’s new plans to back British businesses, as it calls on the Government to help ease the Covid-debt burden faced by firms across the country.

Calling for the establishment of a British Business Recovery Agency, Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds says Labour’s priority is to “help businesses get back on their feet, secure our economy and get Britain on the road to recovery.”

British business is currently weighed down by £71 billion of Covid debt through Government-backed loans during the crisis – with the Chancellor encouraging banks to begin asking for repayments in March.

New analysis by Labour reveals that 850,000 business are at risk of closure in the next three months, putting 2.4 million jobs at risk.

Labour’s plan would ease the debt burden on business, secure the economy and help British business to rebuild by:

  • Converting the Bounce Back Loans (BBLs) scheme into a ‘student-loan style’ arrangement, so that businesses only have to start repayments when they are making money.
  • Creating a new British Business Recovery Agency that would manage the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme (CBILs) and Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILs) in order to create terms that secure the future of businesses, including employee ownership, preference shares and subordinated debt

It comes following the Portsmouth representative’s warning last week that 15,000 jobs could be at risk in Portsmouth unless the Chancellor acts.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

Businesses across our city have worked incredibly hard to keep going during this crisis and I know how much many have sacrificed to just adapt.

“That’s why many businesses in Portsmouth will need the breathing room when we exit lockdown to be allowed to be able to grow again before they are asked to repay their debts.

“It is economically illiterate to demand Covid loan repayments next month when it would risk crushing businesses and our recovery, which is why I fully support these plans to allow businesses to start repayments when they are able to.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) warned in December that the debt overhang could lead to tens if not hundreds of thousands of corporate failures in the first quarter of this year, with 40 per cent of businesses reporting their debt as unmanageable.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has also said that as much as £30 billion of public money will have to be written off if the Chancellor presses ahead with his current plans.

Anneliese Dodds MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said:

“Labour would rebuild Britain by backing businesses and supporting families through the crisis and then putting Britain on the path to growth.

“Instead of pushing business to the brink, Labour’s plans would protect small firms and give larger ones flexible options to manage debt. We would help businesses get back on their feet, secure our economy and get Britain on the road to recovery.”

 

 

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City MP calls on Home Secretary to give assurances after 400,000 criminal records ‘lost’

Stephen Morgan MP has written to the Home Secretary seeking urgent clarification of the impact of the reported loss of 400,000 police records has had on Portsmouth.

The letter sets out a number of key questions for the Conservative Home Secretary, including, how many people have been affected in Portsmouth what work is being done with police to identify gaps in the system and what the impact will be on vital safeguarding issues, such as domestic abuse and stalking.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said:

“This fiasco is incredibly serious and the Conservative Government’s incompetence is putting the safety of people at risk in Portsmouth.

“Unfortunately, it seems inevitable that as a result of this mess criminals will escape punishment, victims will miss out on justice and our community will be less safe.

“I’ve raised this as an urgent matter with the Home Secretary demanding information of the full impact on Portsmouth and vitally how we can fix this very serious problem.”

Mr Morgan will be submitting a series of parliamentary questions to understand the local impact of the data loss.

 

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‘More powers are needed to intervene in foreign acquisitions that could damage UK economy’ says Portsmouth MP

  • Labour calls on Ministers to strengthen powers to intervene in foreign acquisitions that would damage the UK’s economy, such as the takeover of ARM
  • Ministers are supposedly ripping up and publishing a new industrial strategy this autumn but transparency data reveals Ministers have only spoken about the industrial strategy at three in 1,375 meetings – and never with tech companies
  • Shadow Business Secretary warns foreign takeovers are hollowing out the UK’s tech sector as it’s revealed Ministers have not met with ARM, Softbank or Nvidia in 2019 or 2020

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan is today calling on Ministers to keep high-growth and strategically important companies in the UK, as it reveals the Government has not spoken to key companies about a tech-focused industrial strategy.

Labour is supporting the National Security and Investment Bill, which strengthens powers for the Government to intervene when foreign acquisitions threaten national security. But the Official Opposition is calling for the Government to strengthen its powers to intervene when acquisitions could see vital companies stripped for parts or moved overseas, damaging the UK economy.

The Shadow Business Secretary has argued Ministers should have intervened in the takeover of the UK tech company ARM by the US company Nvidia on public interest grounds. 

During the debate on the Bill, Labour called on Ministers to come clean about whether they have obtained legal assurances about the company’s future in the UK.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The Government’s proposal brings the UK in line with other countries on national security but leaves us with significantly weaker powers on takeovers.

France has powers to block takeovers of companies deemed strategic, and the US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is able to block acquisitions that might have major implications for national interests. Britain should have the same.

Every month that goes by when ministers don’t legislate on these issues leaves us more vulnerable to losing vital economic interests. That just isn’t good enough for constituents in Portsmouth”.

The call comes as it is revealed that, despite Ministers’ plans to rip up the existing industrial strategy white paper and publish a new one this autumn, they have only held three meetings out of 1,375 to discuss industrial strategy with stakeholders in 2020 so far, including only once before the Covid-19 crisis took hold.

Crucially, none of these meetings were with tech companies, despite a BEIS spokesperson saying the new industrial strategy aims to put the UK “at the forefront of global technological opportunities”.

Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband MP added:  

“It’s right that the Government is bringing the UK into line with other countries to give itself powers to protect national security, but this Bill is a missed opportunity to do so on wider industrial strategy.  

Time and again in recent years, the existing powers have proved inadequate to protect vital economic interests – from Pfizer’s attempted takeover of Astrazeneca to the recent takeover of ARM.  

If the Government is serious about industrial strategy, we need an ability to intervene in takeovers to protect our vital interests, particularly in our tech sector.” 

 

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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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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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Ahead of pubs and restaurants reopening Portsmouth MP offers practical support to sector

Bringing together local businesses today, Stephen Morgan MP teamed up with Google with an online event to help our city’s pubs, restaurants and hospitality sector plan for reopening after challenging few months

Opening the meeting, Mr Morgan explained what he’s been doing to safeguard the sector before listening to issues and concerns.

The meeting closed with an Digital Marketing Course run by Google’s experts to help Portsmouth’s small businesses with their reopening.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The hospitality sector, particularly our pubs and restaurants, are an essential cog in the success of our city. Listening to concerns from those directly at the coalface is essential if we are to effectively plan our city’s recovery from this pandemic and economic crisis.

Findings from today’s event confirm that uncertainty remains around government’s guidance on PPE and protective measures.

I will continue to raise these concerns in parliament and push for clearer guidance and more comprehensive support for our hospitality sector here in Portsmouth.”

Once the roundtable concluded, Google Digital Garage staff led a bespoke training session on Digital Marketing designed to help Portsmouth’s hospitality sector keep up to date on the best business strategies amid Covid-19.

Google’s Open for Business programme is a new initiative which was launched last week to help one million small businesses by 2021. It has been designed with a specific focus on helping businesses who rely on in-person interaction – such as pubs, restaurants, shops and hairdressers.

Open for Business will provide support in a number of ways:

  • Through Google’s partnership with Digital Boost, they will connect small businesses and charities with Google Digital Garage coaches and Google employees, who are offering 10,000 hours of free 1:1 support and mentoring.
  • Support small businesses to update their online profiles to help them be found by customers. A recent IPSOS study showed 90% of customers are more likely to interact with a business if they have a phone number listed online, or if the business has shared images.
  • Sharing £25 million in advertising credits delivered to UK businesses, government agencies and NGOs.
  • Hosting free, live, 60-minute webinars to help local businesses adapt to the ‘new normal’. The content of these webinars varies from ‘Get Started with Live streaming’ to ‘Understanding Analytics’

Stephen’s constituents can access this package of support here.

The Portsmouth South MP added:

“Keeping informed on digital business skills will be an effective tool in combatting the reduced face-to-face interaction between companies and customers amid Covid-19.

While I welcome Google’s leadership in providing this free service to our city’s businesses, I am aware that there are many local organisations who are also there to help.

I encourage all of our city’s small businesses to take advantage of the support and guidance available to them at this challenging time.”

Stephen Morgan MP continues to raise the concerns of the hospitality sector amid Covid-19 in Parliament. He has submitted questions around PPE, put pressure on Ministers over social distancing guidelines and continues to hold listening exercises with local businesses.