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Portsmouth MP welcomes new commission to rebuild Britain’s high streets and revitalise town centres

Stephen Morgan MP has thrown his support behind Labour’s new independent Commission ‘Rebuilding Our High Streets’, launched by the Shadow Chancellor today. The commission will seek to bring together experts from businesses in retail, leisure and hospitality, as well as representatives of the trade union, local government cooperative and social enterprise sectors.

The announcement comes as new figures reveal that over the last decade high streets across the UK have lost:

  • 9,775 shops
  • 5,785 pubs
  • 7,400 bank branches
  • 1,195 libraries

Meanwhile, the South East has lost 1080 shops, 945 pubs and 120 libraries over the same period.

The Commission will meet regularly over the course of the next six months to offer independent advice to the Party on issues such as:

  • How the high streets of the 2020s and beyond can be supported to thrive, as great places where people can shop, socialise, meet, work and live.
  • Bringing empty commercial properties back into use for existing and new businesses.
  • Levelling the playing field between bricks and mortar businesses and online firms.
  • Promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in our high streets, reflecting the needs of local communities.

The UK’s high streets have been hit by unprecedented challenges throughout the pandemic and face more threats in the coming year. These include government changes to planning rules in August, which will allow shops to be converted into low quality flats over the heads of local communities, and the staged return of business rates, with firms liable to pay full rates again in April next year.

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

“This year has brought unprecedented challenges to businesses and organisations across the country that depend on the local high street, none more so than here in Portsmouth.

“Labour is determined to deliver a brighter future for our high streets as part of our mission to make Britain the best place to grow up and grow old in, which is why I’m proud to support the Rebuilding Our High Streets Commission.

“Our vision is not one harking back to one of the past, but finding ways to make our town centres places we can be proud of and where communities can come together. This Commission will offer independent advice to Labour on how we achieve that.”

Mr Morgan has had regular meetings with local businesses and organisations linked to Portsmouth’s high streets throughout the pandemic, working on their behalf to get the support they need.

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Labour calls on the government to invest in and secure British jobs ​for the defence sector

The Official Opposition is demanding greater protection of jobs in the defence sector by calling on the government to adopt a ‘British-built by default’ approach, intended to boost manufacturing within the UK supply chain, a move welcomed by Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP.

Labour says a new threshold is needed for equipment to be sourced outside of the UK, requiring proof that defence projects cannot be built under similar terms in Britain.

In addition, the Party is calling on ministers to report annually on the proportion of defence spending going through British companies, and to improve procurement rules to promote prosperity in supply chain businesses throughout the UK’s towns, regions, and industries such as steel.

The Party accuse the Conservative government of br​eaking promises ​made to the Armed Forces and wasting taxpayer money through its decade-long policy of ‘open competition by default’ that has seen the UK buying off-the–shelf defence equipment from overseas.

New analysis by Labour shows:  

  • Over £6 billion of allocated spending in government’s Integrated Review and Defence Command Paper is going on off-the-shelf purchases of surveillance aircraft from overseas.
  • A naval contract worth £1.5 billion for Fleet Support Ships has been unfulfilled since 2018, due to Ministerial indecision ​about making the contract British-led.
  • 30,000 defence industry jobs lost since 2010 under the Conservatives

Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Labour Party said:

“Prioritising British businesses through defence spending is not only investment in jobs, but in our communities, and a more secure economy.  

“Under this Prime Minister, we have seen broken promises and dither and delay, at the expense of UK supply chain businesses and taxpayer’s money.  

“We cannot go back to business as usual. Labour will protect jobs in the defence sector, harness the skills and talents of our workers, and will deliver value for money for British people, to ensure a prosperous recovery out of the pandemic.” 

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

“The Prime Minister has already broken promises made to military personnel by cutting 10,000 posts in the Army.

“On the Tories’ watch, we have also lost tens of thousands of jobs across the industry and wasted time on key contracts.  

“Of course, there will be essential equipment or systems which makes strategic sense for Britain to develop with allies or to buy direct from overseas, but we want to see a much higher bar for this”.

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

“We know only too well here in Portsmouth that when done well, defence spending has a multiplier effect, strengthening our UK economy. That’s why I have been calling on the Government for some time to build more Naval ships in Britain.

“Covid has exposed the risks of relying on foreign supply chains.

“I welcome Keir Starmer’s contribution to this debate. Labour’s ‘British by default’ policy would help secure vital jobs in Portsmouth as our city recovers from the pandemic as well as strengthen the UK’s sovereignty and security.” 

 

 

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Vaccine passports: Portsmouth MP responds

In recent days, many constituents have got in touch with Stephen Morgan MP with their views on the Government considering ‘vaccine passports’.

Responding to concerns, the Portsmouth South representative said:

I do not support domestic vaccine passports. It is not clear so far what the benefits are compared to the risks and costs.

“The British public have already seen what has happened with the Government’s handing out of Covid contracts with the cronyism, as well as poor delivery and value. Ministers mustn’t make these mistakes again.

“What’s more, asking people to produce a vaccine certificate or passport to access pubs or shops is discriminatory and it will add a huge burden to businesses and come at huge cost to the taxpayer.

“Labour wants the Government to get the basics right. That means making sure the vaccine rollout includes young people and there is a focus on vaccine take-up where it is slower so we don’t risk pockets of people exposed to the virus, self-isolation, and contact tracing”.

The Official Opposition have stated that if there was a vote in the House of Commons on vaccine and test certification, based on what has been seen so far, the party would oppose domestic vaccine passports.

Labour has not ruled out testing certification (for example, for large events) but have the same questions around focus, efficacy and value.

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City MP backs Community Energy plan

Today campaign group, Power for People, thanked local Portsmouth MP, Stephen Morgan, for supporting a new Bill in Parliament that would help rebuild local economies whilst increasing clean energy generation.

The proposed new law, known as the Local Electricity Bill, is supported by a cross-party group of 259 MPs. If made law, it would create a new ‘Right to Local Supply’ of energy that would empower communities to sell locally generated electricity directly to local households and businesses.

Currently customers can only purchase electricity from nationally licensed utilities. The Bill’s supporters say this means money people use to pay their energy bills is not helping to rebuild local economies and local clean energy infrastructure.

Campaigning group, Power for People, are calling for MPs and the government to make the Bill law and are leading a supportive coalition of organisations including Community Energy England, Community Energy Wales, Community Energy Scotland, Good Energy, WWF, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the RSPB. 67 local authorities have also pledged their support.

Stephen Morgan, MP for Portsmouth South said,

“I am pleased to support the Local Electricity Bill which will empower and enable new community energy companies to sell energy that they generate directly to local people, helping to strengthen local economies.

“This is urgently needed given the economic shock of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Bill will also help accelerate our transition to clean energy, which is critical in avoiding the potential economic and ecological devastation of climate change. I will do all I can to ensure it becomes law.”

Power for People’s Director, Steve Shaw, said,

“We thank Stephen Morgan for supporting the Local Electricity Bill. If made law, the Bill would unleash the huge potential for new community-owned clean energy infrastructure and for this to boost local economies, jobs, services, and facilities in communities across the country.”

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Portsmouth MP calls Government out for delay in funding for Portsmouth Port

Stephen Morgan MP questioned Ministers in the House of Commons today on why the government has still not afforded the alternative funding Portsmouth International Port was promised.

Back in December Michael Gove MP said the government was exploring alternative funding for Portsmouth’s Port, but so far, no such funding has been provided from central government.

Portsmouth International Port applied for £32m of funding in October from the government’s Port Infrastructure Fund, to prepare for new customs arrangements that were originally set to come in this July, allowing it to adapt to the government’s own new Border Operating Model.

However, the city port was only handed £17.1m of what it asked for – leaving a very large of shortfall of almost £15m.

Meanwhile, the government has also so far ignored the port’s further request for funding for the new Border Control Points, and without it, they will have no facility to use to check the 30,000 breeding animals that are expected to come through each year.

Portsmouth’s local authority owned port contributes around £135m to Portsmouth’s local economy, over 1420 local jobs as well as close to £390m to the national economy each year.

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

Whilst it is welcome the government has finally listened to local concerns on the deadline for facilities to be fully ready for the new Border Operating Model, it now needs to make good on its promise for alternative funding.

“Government cannot continue to chronically underfund our local council, but meanwhile expect it to cough up the cash for this huge infrastructure project. It just is not realistic.

“We still have no further clarity from the Minister for EU negotiations, who has the power and influence to resolve this, neither from other government Ministers.

“I will continue to push the government to put its money where its mouth is and back our city’s port as promised.”

Mr Morgan has been working closely with the city port to support its funding needs, writing to Ministers in December demanding further funding for the port to prepare for post-Brexit trade.

 

 

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City MP welcomes vision to reverse ten years of city centre decline under the Conservatives

Labour has set out a “bright future for Britain’s high streets” and launched a five-point plan to “put communities first” in support of our community’s high streets.

The party’s plan, set out by the Shadow Chancellor includes:

  1. Stopping the Conservatives selling off Britain’s high streets for low-quality housing, by scrapping new planning rules.
  2. Empowering councils to fill empty shops with new businesses to breathe life into town centres.
  3. Challenging the government to use Tax Day on 23 March to level the tax playing field for high street businesses and online firms.
  4. Establishing a High Streets Fightback Fund to help businesses hit hard by the pandemic get back on their feet.
  5. Protecting family finances by reversing Rishi Sunak’s economically illiterate hammer blows to people’s pockets.

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

“I’ve long argued that the Government must do more, and our council do better, in tackling the decline of our city’s high streets.

That is why I have been pushing Ministers to invest in Portsmouth and pleased to have helped secure funding for the future of high streets as our city recovers from this pandemic. But in order to reverse the decline we see in Portsmouth’s shopping areas we must put communities first.

The Conservatives have completely failed to protect Britain’s high streets over the last decade with over 7,000 shops closed across the country on their watch.

I welcome this five-point plan to deliver a bright future for our high streets. We need urgent action to reverse a decade of decline in our shopping centres, and I know constituents will know how vital this now is”.

Arguing that high street businesses are competing with online retailers with “one hand tied behind their backs”, Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds, MP, has demanded urgent action to level the playing field:

“We can’t continue with a situation where five US tech firms account for £1.3bn in lost corporation tax every year, while high street shops pay business rates under a system that hasn’t been reformed for years.

“The Government should set out what it plans to do about this. On so-called ‘Tax Day’, the Conservatives must level the playing field between high street businesses and giant online firms.”

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Portsmouth MP calls government out on ‘withheld funds’ for city port

Stephen Morgan MP called for the government to provide answers in the House of Commons today on why Portsmouth International Port was not afforded the funding it needs to complete post-Brexit preparations.

Portsmouth International Port applied for £32m of funding in October from the government’s Port Infrastructure Fund, to prepare for new customs arrangements that are set to come in this July, allowing it to adapt to the government’s own new Border Operating Model.

However, the city port was only handed £17.1m of what it asked for – leaving a very large of shortfall of almost £15m.

Meanwhile, the government has also so far ignored the port’s further request for funding for the new Border Control Points, and without it, they will have no facility to use to check the 30,000 breeding animals that are expected to come through each year.

Portsmouth’s local authority owned port contributes around £135m to Portsmouth’s local economy, over 1420 local jobs as well as close to £390m to the national economy each year.

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

“Our port contributes around £390m to the national economy each year, so it is frankly absurd that government continues to slow the port’s progress to adapt to its own new Border Operating Model.

“Government cannot continue to chronically underfund our local council, but meanwhile expect it to cough up the cash for this huge infrastructure project. It just is not realistic.

“The Minister for EU negotiations has the power and influence to resolve this, so I expect to hear how they plan to fix this problem very shortly, with no answers forthcoming from the Transport Minister today.”

Mr Morgan has been working closely with the city port to support its funding needs, writing to Ministers in December demanding further funding for the port to prepare for post-Brexit trade.

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Portsmouth MP blasts Chancellor for pay cut to over 23,000 local NHS heroes and key workers

Stephen Morgan MP has condemned the Chancellor’s decision to NHS heroes with a real-terms pay cut this year, as well as other key workers who have kept the country going throughout the pandemic, following new analysis from the Official Opposition.

The new analysis reveals the cut would hit over 23,000 key workers in Portsmouth – the nurses, teachers, police officers and Armed Forces personnel on the front line of the battle against COVID-19.

On Thursday, the Government revealed that they intend to cut the pay of all NHS staff relative to inflation this year.

This comes after the Chancellor announced a ‘pay freeze’ for all other public sector workers earning above £24,000 in 2021-22. 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 also get a real-terms pay cut.

In Portsmouth, this means 1615 teachers will see their pay cut, as well as over 15,000 police officers in the wider region and over 90% of the 38,000 Armed Forces personnel also based in the South East.

Stephen Morgan, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said

“Our key workers and NHS heroes have kept our city going through this crisis, but instead of rewarding them, the Chancellor has hidden in the detail of his Budget a real-terms cut to their pay.

“It is both a morally and economically irresponsible decision: if families have less money to spend, then our local businesses will suffer and only prolong Portsmouth’s recovery from this crisis.

“The Chancellor must think again, and cancel plans to cut Universal Credit, hike council tax and cut pay for nurses, police officers, teachers and our Armed Forces personnel.”

Last week Mr Morgan also criticised the Chancellor for the late extension of furlough and business support schemes, as well the rise in council tax bills for many across Portsmouth.

 

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‘March Budget fails Portsmouth families and the Excluded’, says city MP

Stephen Morgan MP has criticised the government’s recently announced budget during a parliamentary debate today for failing to deliver for local families, those in the creative sectors and the Excluded.

During the debate, Mr Morgan argued the budget was a ‘missed opportunity’ to support local businesses, particularly those in the cultural and creative industries, highlighting Victorious festival as just one example for Portsmouth.

It comes as in February it was estimated that over 15,000 people in Portsmouth were still furloughed by their employer in late January.

Meanwhile, the number of local people under 25 needing to claim out-of-work support has more than doubled in the last year, rising by 135%, according to the latest figures.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented:

“Local families and those in the creative sectors have been let down by this government and left forgotten – a running theme of successive Tory governments for our city.

“This budget was a chance to correct the mistakes of past and inequalities that exist in our community that this pandemic has both exposed and sadly made even worse. Instead, we got a budget of more of the same.”

“I will continue to speak up for our city and ensure the local fears of the damages this economic plan will cause are heard up in Westminster.”

Ahead last week’s budget announcement, Mr Morgan backed the Official Opposition’s ‘Jobs Promise’ call for young people in Portsmouth and across the country.

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Budget 2021: City MP calls for ‘jobs promise’ as out of work support for under 25s more than doubles in Portsmouth

Stephen Morgan MP has called for a ‘jobs promise’ for young people in Portsmouth after new figures show that, without immediate action to secure the economy, the crisis threatens to create a lost generation of young people scarred by the effects of long-term unemployment.

In Portsmouth alone, the number of people under 25 needing to claim out-of-work support has more than doubled in the last year, rocketing from 780 at the start of 2020 to now 1830 (an increase of 135%), according to the latest figures.

It comes as the Official Opposition has outlined its plans for a ‘Jobs Promise’ that any young person away from work for six months will be offered a quality education, training, or employment opportunity.

Under the plans, Labour will also support job creation across the country including 400,000 green jobs, filling the 127,000 vacancies currently in health and social care and 43,000 vacancies in education through improved training offers.

Labour continues to challenge the Government on a range of its job schemes. Currently 300 young people are losing their jobs every day – but the Government’s flagship Kickstart scheme has created just 2,000 jobs in six months.

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

“For too long young people in Portsmouth have been let down and left forgotten by this government. The Chancellor talks about ‘levelling up’, but it is clear these issues have only been exacerbated by this crisis with his Kickstart scheme clearly too slow and not matching the scale of challenge many young people in Portsmouth face.

“Labour’s Jobs Promise would deliver the urgent action needed to prevent a lost generation and to build a secure economy that spreads prosperity across the country. 

“Successive Conservative governments have weakened Britain’s foundations and robbed too many people of the opportunity to achieve their potential. Going back to business as usual is not an option for our city on the road to recovery from this pandemic.”