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Portsmouth MP calls on government to reassess plans to scrap the vast majority of BTEC qualifications

Stephen Morgan MP has joined calls urging the Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi to make an “early reassessment” of the Department for Education’s plan to remove funding for the vast majority of applied general qualifications such as BTECs.

It comes as the #ProtectStudentChoice campaign continues to grow, a coalition of 21 organisations that represent and support students and staff in schools, colleges and universities.

In July, the Department confirmed plans to introduce a twin-track system of A levels and T levels (a new suite of technical qualifications), where most young people pursue one of these qualifications at the age of 16. As a result, funding for most BTEC qualifications will be removed.

Under current proposals, larger BTEC qualifications (equivalent in size to 2 or 3 A levels) will be scrapped if the government deems they “overlap” with A levels or T levels. But the MPs and peers call for the option to study BTECs to be retained as they “are a different type of qualification that provide a different type of educational experience – one that combines the development of skills with academic learning”.

Recent data for participation in education, training and employment in England (end of 2019) shows that 864,304 16 to 18 year olds are studying at Level 3. The majority (55%) are studying A levels only, 19% are studying applied general qualifications such as BTECs (in some cases alongside A levels) and 4% are studying technical qualifications. Because of recent changes to Department for Education performance tables, 22% of students are categorised as studying an ‘Other Level 3’ course

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

“The removal of BTECs represents a hammer blow for social mobility, the skills gap and the economy. BTECs serve a different purpose and should co-exist in the qualifications landscape.”

During Love our Colleges Week, it’s really important we underline the importance of and value BTECs bring to education.

“Speaking to constituents, I know how critical these qualifications can be to ensure students have the knowledge and skills they need for the future.

Government must look again and Protect Student Choice.”

 

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Fire and rehire: Portsmouth MP votes to end ‘cruel and unacceptable’ practice

Stephen Morgan MP has backed legislation to stop employers being able to sack staff and rehire them on worse pay and conditions.

Despite it not being possible in UK law to outright ban fire and rehire, the Bill will enshrine good practice into law and will penalise bad practice.

The new legislation will require employers to provide all relevant information to workforce representatives or a recognised union and consult with them at the very earliest stage, with the intention of reaching agreement on the least disagreeable way forward.

The Bill also gives a right to claim automatic unfair dismissal if the steps are not taken or if a worker is dismissed for refusing a reduction in terms and conditions.

Fire and rehire is not a new phenomenon. However, it has gained prominence because of the high-profile controversy generated by its use by major employers such as British Airways, Heathrow Airport and British Gas in circumstances they claim to be justified by the COVID pandemic to force their staff onto lower wages and longer hours and cut benefits such as pensions.

A poll published by the TUC revealed that nearly one in 10 (9%) workers have been told to re-apply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions since the first lockdown in March.

In the same poll nearly a fifth of 18-24 year-olds say their employer has tried to rehire them on inferior terms during the pandemic. And twice as many black and minority ethnic (BME) workers (15%) have been faced with fire and rehire as white workers (8%).

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

Fire and rehire is a backward and unacceptable practice that must end. No one in Portsmouth should be subjected to this cowardly negotiation tactic.

“It is not just bad for working people, it’s bad for our economy too, with the loss of productivity meaning less public money to support our vital local services.

“We have an opportunity to emerge from this crisis and move on to something better, not go back to the broken measures we had before. Government must do the right thing and vote with Labour to end fire and rehire.”

Earlier this year, the Portsmouth MP met with local British Gas engineers, and members of the GMB union, whose members were striking, due to a dispute with Centrica on pay and conditions.

Mr Morgan also wrote a letter to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng MP back in March, calling for Government action and demanded that ‘real negotiations’ be conducted. He disclosed in the letter that he had met with engineers in Portsmouth who have been affected by the renegotiation tactics.

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Portsmouth MP will vote to cut business rates, as new figures show over 300,000 businesses at risk across the country

Stephen Morgan MP will today urge the government to cut business rates, and support struggling high street businesses in Portsmouth.

 

It comes as the Portsmouth MP’s office revealed new figures, based on a breakdown of data from the Office for National Statistics, that up to 174 of businesses are at risk in the local representative’s constituency of Portsmouth South alone.

 

With business organisations including the CBI, FSB, British Chamber of Commerce and over 40 trade associations calling for an urgent reform of the tax, the cost to businesses from rising inflation and increasing shortages is making the change more urgent.

 

Labour committed at their party conference to cutting and eventually entirely scrapping business rates and replace them with a new form of business taxation fit for the 21st Century. 

 

Labour has proposed freezing Business Rates until the next revaluation, and then increasing the threshold for small business rates relief (from the current threshold of £15,000 to £25,000), to give SMEs a discount on their business rates bill for 2022/23, ahead of more fundamental reform, where the party say they will scrap business rates entirely and replace them with a new form of business taxation.

 

Labour would pay for easing this burden on businesses by raising the UK Digital Services Tax to 12 per cent for 2022/23, raising £2.1bn which would be spent on cutting business rates for small businesses and the high street. In the long term, Labour would fund the replacement for business rates by shifting the burden of business taxation away from the high street towards large online tech giants.

 

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

“Our high street businesses do so much to enrich our lives and our communities, facing huge adversity in the past year.

 

“But I know that many local businesses, particularly those in the city centre, are struggling right now, with a cliff-edge in rates relief coming up in March, and increasing shortages and supply chain issues increasing pressure and costs.

 

“I want Portsmouth’s high streets to thrive, and that’s why Labour will scrap business rates. We will carry out the biggest overhaul of business taxation in a generation, so our businesses can lead the pack, not watch opportunities go elsewhere.”

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Portsmouth MP welcomes World Bookshop Day and urges constituents to ‘support local’

Stephen Morgan MP has urged city residents to support their local bookshops, as he underlined their importance in education and development whilst shopping at his local bookstore for World Bookshop Day.

As one of the busiest times for the book trade, the coming weeks are when publishers launch their biggest books ahead of the festive shopping period. Booksellers, publishers, authors, illustrators and poets work collaboratively on the campaign to encourage consumers to shop in their local bookshop and ensure their high street is thriving.

Recent data from the Institute of Place Management demonstrated that UK and Irish booksellers play a crucial role in the recovery and regeneration of our high streets, with over 80% of bookshops surveyed contributing to at least 20 of the 25 factors for a thriving town centre.

Growth of websites such as Bookshop.org and Hive over the past few years has allowed online retailers to support independent bookshops offering an alternative to online multinationals.

Purchasing a book from Pigeon Books, a stone’s throw from the city MP’s constituency office on Albert Road, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan MP, commented:

“It’s so important that we recognise and support the role independent bookshops play in our community, both as contributors to our local economy and as route of access to learning.

“I was really pleased to be able to support local by purchasing a book from Pigeon Books that have gone above and beyond during the pandemic to serve our city. I thank them and all local stores for the crucial part they play in getting Portsmouth reading.

“If you’re out and about this weekend, stop by at a bookstore and support our city’s local businesses.”

You can find your local bookshops at www.booksaremybag.com/HomeSearch.

The city MP hosted an event to promote the work of independent bookstores before Pigeon Books found their home on Albert Road, and regularly showcases the work of local authors.

He settled on Stuart Maconie’s ‘The Nanny State Made Me’ as his Bookshop Day purchase!

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Pubs ‘vital’ to local economy, but being chronically let down by government – City MP

Stephen Morgan MP has underlined that the pub and brewing sector has been chronically let down by government, despite its considerable contribution to the economy and the challenges it’s faced this year.

According to the latest research by the British Beer and Pub Association, in the Portsmouth MP’s constituency alone, brewing companies and pubs contribute 2,478 jobs and £60m to the local economy.

Nationally, before the pandemic, the sector was supporting 900,000 jobs, generating £23 billion in economic value and providing £13 billion in tax revenues.

However, even before Covid-19 took hold, pubs were under severe threat, with a 15% fall in their number from 2010 to 2020.

A review of business rates has been delayed by the government until the autumn, leaving many businesses working in the hospitality and related sectors feeling uncertain.

Meanwhile, the city MP has backed a call to scrap business rates and reforming business taxation, so it is fairer, more efficient and shifts the burden of business tax.

It comes as a number of industry bodies have got behind this year’s ‘Long Live Local’ campaign, calling on the Government to invest in pubs and breweries through the reform of the unfair tax burden – specifically lower VAT & Business Rates for pubs and lower Beer Duty.

After listening to concerns of constituents and the local hospitality sector, the city MP will be meeting industry in Parliament later this month to continue his efforts in lobbying Government for support to the sector.

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

“Pubs are at the heart of the UK’s communities and play an important role not only in our in our local and national economy but also in our social lives and neighbourhoods.

“But with inflation on the rise, gas prices up and an acute HGV driver shortage, many pub and brewing businesses will be worrying how long they can keep on going and need to be given assurances by government.

“That’s why I believe the business rate review must not be delayed any longer and must lead to wholesale reform. An overhaul of business rates is long overdue, and Labour’s alternative will offer a real plan to help our hospitality industry to thrive.”

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‘New data shows Portsmouth South needs levelling up’ says City MP

A new survey has revealed that the Portsmouth South constituency is officially in need of levelling up.

The research, conducted by consultants WPI Strategy, ranked 573 parliamentary constituencies in England and Wales based on key indicators of wealth, health and deprivation, with Portsmouth coming in at 160.

Spending power, gauging employment and wage data, and financial dependency, including those on jobseekers and Universal Credit, were roughly in line with national averages, but Portsmouth South was 30% higher than the England and Wales average on crime and deprivation.

Perhaps most concerningly, Portsmouth South ranked in the bottom 20 constituencies in all of England and Wales on health, based on the number of GPs and the average life expectancy for the area.

Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said:

“That our community needs levelling up is a surprise only to government ministers. These figures are exactly why I have made crime, deprivation, and health my priorities as the city’s MP.

“I’ve consistently raised concerns about access to GPs and dentists, called for fairer funding for our police service and continue to point out that Tory tax rises are clobbering working people in Portsmouth.

“It’s clear that the government’s approach to levelling up is based only on their political ambitions, not a genuine desire to support our city.

“In the coming weeks Ministers will have the chance to put their money where their mouths are. Government should back Portsmouth’s Levelling Up bid and invest in our city if they want to start making a real difference in people’s day-to-day lives.”

The city MP has been lobbying Government not to forget Portsmouth and invest in the city’s infrastructure as communities recover from the pandemic.

This has included writing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer about a range of regeneration projects in the constituency needing government support, and has recently put pressure on Ministers to finally announce future funding for local communities.

 

 

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Emergency action must be taken by the Prime Minister to tackle ongoing food and fuel shortages say Labour

The Government must take “emergency action” to get a grip on the HGV driver shortage that is causing chaos for families across the UK, Labour has warned.

Keir Starmer has challenged the Prime Minister to:

  • Get petrol to stations in areas of the country most in need now by using the military they’ve got on standby as an emergency measure
  • Ask stations where there is supply to extend opening hours to help NHS shift workers and other key workers
  • Recall parliament so we can issue the visas we need now for short-term capacity and make sure there is a plan to secure supply chains for the Winter
  • Hold an emergency summit of the road haulage industry, training providers, affected business groups, Government ministers and transport unions to focus on the immediate crisis and on finally addressing the pay, terms, training, licensing and conditions of drivers which has led to such serious labour shortages.

The Government has been criticised by many sectors for failing to plan for, and deal with, supply chain issues.

Ministers announced on 26 September a policy to provide 5,000 new visas for HGV drivers through the Temporary Workers’ Scheme. But nothing has happened.

Advice received from parliamentary clerks on the Government’s suggested legislative solution that would give themselves the legal powers needed – via a “statement of change” to the Immigration Rules – are only able to be issued whilst the House is sitting.

Keir Starmer MP, said:

“We’re going to see this driver shortage problem coming back again in different sectors. And I don’t want people in this country to have another Christmas ruined by this Prime Minister’s lack of planning.

“By the Government’s own admission, their scheme won’t be up and running for weeks with the first HGV drivers not on the roads until November. This simply isn’t good enough.

“Every day wasted is prolonging this crisis. The Government has been talking about issuing visas but still hasn’t done anything. Meanwhile our essential workers are struggling to get to work and families face a cost of living crisis.

“The Prime Minister should be taking emergency action today but yet again he’s failed to grasp the seriousness of the crisis. If it needs legislation, then let’s recall Parliament to get these emergency measures through urgently.

“The Prime Minister promised to save Christmas last year and we all know that went disastrously wrong. Now he’s making the same empty promises again. Boris Johnson was warned about this crisis and he did nothing about it. He had the chance to make a plan but ignored it. The Prime Minister needs to get a grip.”

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

“The country is in desperate need of leadership to contain this chaos, yet it is Tory complacency that has led to the fuel crisis, energy costs crisis, and supply chain crisis.

 “Ministers have been ignoring warnings from businesses and failing to plan ahead and government  decision-making is now making the situation worse for our city.

“The Prime Minister must get a grip and address the huge shortfall of HGV drivers that is causing mayhem in our supply chains.”

The Portsmouth MP is calling for government to urgently address the HGV driver shortfall, including referring the issue of adding HGV drivers to the Shortage Occupation List to the Migration Advisory Committee to provide advice to government to help address the crisis in the short-term, and to set up a taskforce to work sector by sector to identify gaps and recruit into key roles.

This should include rapidly expanding testing for HGV drivers, and part or wholly funding HGV training drawing on available funding for targeted sectors and recruiting. The Government should also support 100,000 new apprentices this financial year to help boost employment in key sectors. 

 

 

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‘Britain will be remade’ – Portsmouth MP reacts to Labour leader’s vision for the country

Stephen Morgan MP has thrown his weight behind the vision for the country outlined in Keir Starmer’s leader’s speech at Labour Party conference today.

The Labour leader underlined that a government led by him as Prime Minister will be focused on “Work. Care. Equality. Security.”

During his speech, Mr Starmer set out what he sees are the major challenges Britain faces for the future, including “how we emerge from the biggest pandemic in a century. How we make our living in a competitive world. The climate crisis. Our relationship with Europe. The future of our union.”

He also announced that with Labour in power, his government would deliver Labour’s ‘National Excellence Programme,’ an ambitious school improvement plan, putting state education at the heart of his vision for Britain.

It marks Labour’s shift to focus on improving the prospects of the 40 per cent of young people who leave compulsory education without essential qualifications.

The National Excellence Programme will include:

  • recruiting thousands of new teachers to address vacancies and skills gaps across the profession;
  • reforming Ofsted to focus on supporting struggling schools;
  • providing teachers and headteachers with continuing professional development and leadership skills training.

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

“Keir’s speech marks a radical departure from what people have heard from Labour in recent years. A Labour government, under his leadership, will retool Britain for the future and make this nation anew.

“The Conservatives are responsible for short-term failures and long-term neglect. Their political response of the moment has been lamentable failure to meet the scale of the challenge.

“Keir’s principles of security, work, care and equality will be the guiding light for a Labour government to deliver a better future for Portsmouth and a Britain that will be remade.”

In addition, Keir Starmer announced in his speech that:

  • Labour will undertake a national mission for greener homes and lower bills. Labour will upgrade the 19 million homes that fall below energy efficiency standards (EPC C).
  • Provide grants to low-income households and low interest loans to those able to pay to cover the cost of retrofitting. Households will pay no upfront costs, and see their bills fall immediately. Support up to 500,000 good, unionised jobs in a range of industries by the mid-decade.
  • Work with local and combined authorities, and the private sector, to recruit and train staff to coordinate and deliver a decade-long upgrade to Britain’s housing stock.

During 2021 Labour Party conference, it was also announced that Labour will:

  • Guarantee mental health treatment within a month for all who need it, setting a new NHS target, ensuring that patients start receiving appropriate treatment – not simply an initial assessment of needs – within a month of referral.
  • Recruit 8,500 new staff so that one million additional people can  every year by the end of Labour’s first term in office.
  • Put an open access mental health hub for children and young people in every community, providing early intervention, drop-in services.

A number of other announcements were also made at this conference previously reported on Stephen’s website.

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Shadow Defence Minister visits Leonardo Southampton to view world leading thermal imaging technology

Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan was able to view world leading sensor technology created at Leonardo’s Southampton site at close range during a recent visit.

Leonardo in Southampton builds a compact sensor system that can provide minute detections of fractional changes in temperature, while being highly portable, meaning it can be used in a wide variety of environments. It is thought that the sensor system has world leading levels of sensitivity and is used in observatories around the world.

Peter Dillon VP Sensors for the Southampton site said: “It was great to be able to demonstrate this exciting technology, drawing on the skills of our research team, our production team and our partners across the Solent region. Stephen took real interest in the innovation and learned about its many applications including detecting the signatures of planetary objects.”

Leonardo in Southampton creates communicationsoptronics and air traffic management products for the defence and security sector. The company’s thermal imaging cameras have many uses including being used by the BBC around the globe for high profile wildlife series such as Springwatch, Planet Earth and Big Cats.

Across the UK Leonardo employs more than 7,500 staff, of whom 500 are on their apprenticeship and graduate schemes, offering them degree-level qualifications alongside practical training.

In October 2018, the Southampton office was renamed Nicolson House, after the actions of Flight Lieutenant Nicolson VC who achieved one of the Second World War’s most extraordinary heroic feats, fighting off German planes above the skies of where the Southampton office now stands.

Mr Morgan toured the site with staff before sitting down with senior representatives of the company.

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

“Leonardo are pioneers in British-built aerospace, defence and security technology.

“The next era of defence technology is not just about our national defence but also about the creation and maintenance of high-skilled, well-paid jobs. Leonardo know this and their enthusiasm for local apprenticeship schemes is commendable and infectious.

“Ministers must do more to support Leonardo’s world-leading operations, which has clear benefits for investment and jobs in Southampton and the wider Solent region.”

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ENERGY PRICE CRISIS: City MP slams Government’s cost of living ‘triple whammy’ for local families

Stephen Morgan MP has slammed the government’s triple whammy on millions of families who are set to be squeezed by rising energy prices, an increase in national insurance and the cut to Universal Credit. 

Four in ten households on Universal Credit are facing a 13 per cent rise in their energy bills in the same month as their benefit is cut by £20 a week.

In the Portsmouth representative’s constituency alone, 5,550 families will be affected by the cut, including 6,907 children.

According to Citizens Advice, the £20 a week uplift would cover near a whole week of energy costs for a below average income household.

It is also estimated that the rise in the energy price cap means half a million more families will be plunged into fuel poverty.

In addition, according to analysis by the New Economics Foundation, 2.5 million families will be hit by both the cut to Universal Credit and the increase in national insurance. On average, they will lose out by £1,290 in 2022/​23.

The Portsmouth MP has backed a call for the Government to protect family finances before it’s too late – by cancelling the cut, dropping the tax rises on working people and businesses, and urgently exploring further measures to help households alleviate the cost of rising bills, including the option of making automatic and extending the Warm Homes Discount.

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

“Portsmouth families are facing a cruel triple whammy that will hit them in their pockets: rising energy prices, rising taxes, and a £1,000 cut to universal credit.  

“This Government says it is on the side of working people and families, yet it is doubling down on decisions that will impact thousands of local families and plunge half a million more households into fuel poverty. It’s completely indefensible.

“I will continue to take action and stand up for those most at risk in our city as we head towards winter.”

Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband added: 

“It is a fundamental failure of long-term Government planning over the last decade that we are so exposed and vulnerable as a country to soaring gas prices and it is families that are now paying the price.” 

In his latest intervention in a series of actions on this issue, Mr Morgan has written to the Work and Pensions Secretary urging her to cancel the cut to Universal Credit and protect vulnerable families in Portsmouth.