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Shadow Defence Minister: Armed Forces Bill risks reinforcing “postcode lottery” on services for veterans

Stephen Morgan MP urged Ministers to hear service charity concerns that the Armed Forces Bill will reinforce the “postcode lottery” veterans face when accessing services.

Speaking in the House of Commons following the publication of a cross-party report, Mr Morgan said the Bill’s narrow focus on housing, healthcare and education, risked creating a “two-tier” Covenant and a race to the bottom on standards in those areas left out.

In practice, this means many long-standing problems facing armed forces, veterans and their families will remain unaddressed. Social care, pensions, employment and immigration are among the long list of areas witnesses told the Committee will not be covered by this once-in-a-Parliament piece of legislation.

The Confederation of Service Charities Chair General Sir John McColl specifically highlighted the eyewatering visa fees that Commonwealth veterans face as an instance where the government’s current “moral requirement” to comply with the Covenant “absolutely does not work”.

The government has also not included the Lyons Review recommendation that civilian courts should have full jurisdiction over murder, rape and serious sexual offences committed in the UK. In evidence to the Committee, Judge Lyons said he was “surprised” to find the most serious cases being tried in the service justice system and argued that this had not been Parliament’s original intent.

Stephen Morgan MP, Shadow Armed Forces Minister and Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented:

“The government must listen to concerns raised by MPs of all parties and service charities that this Bill will not address long-standing issues for service communities.  

“Following input from across the sector and service communities themselves, government must now listen to the recommendations outlined in our report today.

“Labour will continue speaking up for our Armed Forces, veterans and their families, and ensure that the promises in the Covenant are delivered for all of the nation’s service personnel.”

Mr Morgan has been leading the Official Opposition’s response to the Armed Forces Bill during its passage through Parliament.

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Stephen Morgan MP opens new community pop-up shop open in Landport

Stephen Morgan MP opened the Landport Larder today, where residents can now purchase food for a fraction of the cost of supermarkets thanks to a new community pop-up shop.

For just £3.50 a week, people can select 10 items from a selection of tins, chilled items, and fresh fruit and veg. This would cost an average of £15 from the supermarket.

The larder has been set up by Enable Ability at Landport Community Centre, with support from Abri, one of the south of England’s largest housing providers.

The Landport Larder will be open Tuesdays, from 10am – 1pm at Landport Community Centre.

Customers will need to bring a bag to take items home in and will need to wear a mask while in the centre.

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

“It’s great to see initiatives like the Landport Larder offer much needed support to our communities.

While we know that the pandemic has hit us all hard, it has also brought communities together, supporting each other and coming up with new, creative ways to help others.

I hope we see more initiatives like this to create a positive legacy for what has been a hard time for us all.”

Paula Windebank, Community Development Officer at Abri, added:

“We’re proud to support the Landport Larder and help our community access fresh, healthy, affordable food.

It’s part of our five-year £15m investment to create thriving communities and empower lives, making sure we’re delivering change where it’s needed most.”

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City MP welcomes launch of ‘Operation Nautical’ to ensure a safe summer

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has welcomed the launch of a dedicated policing response to keep communities safe along Southsea seafront and neighbouring areas in Portsmouth this summer.

‘Operation Nautical’ will see officers working alongside a number of other agencies across the city and increasing patrols in areas where there is the potential for higher rates of anti-social behaviour as the weather gets warmer and government restrictions begin to ease.

Welcoming the initiative ahead of warmer weather, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I know from my postbag the impact anti-social behaviour has on the lives of constituents and I am pleased the police and partners are listening to concerns I have raised on the need for a proactive, joined-up response.

In liaison with the District Commander, and other agencies, I am pleased this initiative is being launched now to help prevent the problems we have seen year on year at the Hotwalls, Southsea Commons and at other locations in our city’s green and open spaces.

I will be following this initiative closely and will continue to call on the police and council to do all they can to make sure our communities stay safe this summer”.

Police in Portsmouth will work alongside Hampshire’s Marine Unit, Motiv8, Active Communities Network, Portsmouth City Council wardens, Ministry of Defence police, Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service, street pastors in the city, local councillors, businesses and our local residents on a joined up response to a safe return to socialising outdoors.

Operation Nautical will cover the seafront from Old Portsmouth to Eastney, as well as parks within the city and Southsea Common. Neighbourhood policing teams will be upping patrols in these areas, engaging with members of the public to ensure everyone is staying safe over the summer period.

This weekend the Portsmouth South MP will be going out on patrol with Street Pastors as the new Operation comes into force to see how the initiative is working on the ground.

Portsmouth South Inspector, Louise Tester, added:

“With the weather warming up and the government’s current road map out of lockdown allowing for increased outdoor interaction, we know we will see higher footfall in our popular outdoor spaces, including Southsea seafront and the common.

“We want our communities to feel safe as they begin to venture out more often and we are pleased that Operation Nautical will help to give people that reassurance.

“We will have dedicated resources patrolling these summer hot spots each day, offering reassurance to our communities and deterring anti-social behaviour.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve all been able to meet with small groups of friends and family outdoors, and this will no doubt provide a welcome boost to many of us after what has been a very long and difficult winter.

“While we want people to enjoy being able to gather with friends and family again, we ask them to do it safely while abiding by the regulations and remembering the rule of six or the two household rule when meeting outdoors.

“Our officers will continue to engage, explain and encourage in the first instance, however enforcement action will be taken for blatant or repeated regulation breaches.”

“We urge the public to stay safe and continue treating each other with respect and patience as we move through the roadmap as laid out by the government.”

If you have any concerns regarding any crime in these areas over the summer, do speak to one of the patrolling officers or call 101.

 

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City MP hosts summit with Shadow Health Minister Liz Kendall MP on the future of social care

Stephen Morgan MP is set to host a social care public meeting with Shadow Minister for Health and Social Care Liz Kendall MP on Monday 22 March, 6.30pm-7.30pm.

The online event, which is open to all, will discuss the impact of the pandemic on social care and why social care is set to be this generation’s next challenge.

According to The Kings Fund, only around a quarter of people who have requested some of form of social care are actually assessed as eligible for formal short-term or long-term care.

Meanwhile according to Portsmouth CCG, there is a 69.5% estimated dementia prevalence rate in persons aged 65 and over of the Portsmouth population, underlining the importance of the local provision of social care with the continued trend of an aging general population.

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

This crisis has shone a spotlight on the already chronic issues we are experiencing as a country, no less so than the challenge of the provision of social care.

“It is clear social care is one of our generation’s next great challenges, which is why Labour’s mission is to transform care to make our city and the wider country the best place to grow up in and the best place to grow old in.

“Liz Kendall has done a phenomenal job in her role as Shadow Minister for Health and Social Care and I look forward to Portsmouth people hearing her insights on this important issue that impacts our city’s families.”

The event will take place on Zoom, is free, and open to all. You can sign up for the meeting here.

 

 

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Budget 2021: Chancellor must change course and not hit local families in March Budget

Stephen Morgan MP has urged the Chancellor to ‘change course’ and to not hit local families with an expected triple blow of council tax hikes, frozen pay and cuts to social security at his Budget this week.

As Britain begins its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Official Opposition is urging Sunak to change course to protect family finances and get Britain back on the road to recovery.

It is understood that Rishi Sunak MP plans to slash Universal Credit by £20 a week from April, which would mean at least 21,420 people in Portsmouth will take £1040 a year hit to their finances.

It is also expected that Sunak will ask families to pay for gaps in council budgets rather than fulfilling his pledge to back them. That could amount to as much as £89 extra on annual household council tax bills for the average Band D home in Portsmouth.

The Chancellor is also hitting every key worker earning over £18,000 in England with a real terms pay cut this year. This includes at least 13,900 key workers in Portsmouth – the teachers, police officers and Armed Forces personnel on the front line of the battle against Covid-19.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented:

Families, small businesses and key workers have been hit particularly hard by this crisis. This is an opportunity to give them the tools they need to find their feet and recover.

“This is not the time to implement both morally and economically illiterate plans that would take support away from some of those who need it most.

“With the Chancellor set to announce his plans for the Budget on Wednesday, he must recognise that this is a make or break moment for Britain. Rishi Sunak must do all he can to secure our economy and put the country on the road to recovery – and that means protecting family finances.”

Mr Morgan has previously called for support for workers and businesses to be extended and recently backed Labour’s proposed British Business Recovery Agency.

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City MP hosts event with Shadow Minister to tackle ‘mental health crisis’ triggered by the pandemic

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan will host a mental health discussion event with Labour’s Shadow Minister for mental health Rosena Allin-Khan MP this week.

The online event, which is open to all, will discuss the impact of the pandemic on mental health and the ongoing need for mental health conditions to be treated on a par with physical health.

The Centre for Mental Health in England has predicted that 10 million people – almost a fifth of the population – will need mental health support as a direct consequence of Covid-19, with 1.5 million of those expected to be under-18s.

Portsmouth City Council estimates that almost 53,000 people experience a mental problem each year, with half of all adult mental health problems present by the time the person is 14 years old.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“With millions of us staying at home, isolated from friends and family, Coronavirus has been a mental health crisis too.

“We know that patients, carers and staff have been heavily affected, with the impact being particularly acute among young people.

“As an A&E Doctor herself, Rosena knows only too well the challenges we face on the frontline. She will be setting out Labour’s vision on mental health and how we can improve care following the pandemic.”

The online event with Shadow Minister for Mental Health Rosena Allin-Khan will take place on Thursday 25 February 2021, 7-8pm. Full details and registration can be found at: https://events.labour.org.uk/event/326967

 

 

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Portsmouth MP backs National Apprenticeship Week 2021

Stephen Morgan MP has offered his support for National Apprenticeship Week, recognising the contribution made by apprentices and their employers in Portsmouth.

Apprenticeships provide people with the chance to learn a trade and earn a wage whilst they progress, with the Official Opposition arguing investing in training opportunities will be central to rebuilding our economy after the pandemic.

However, there continues to be a downward trend in apprentice numbers, with figures showing the number of apprenticeships in Portsmouth has fallen by nearly 50% since 2015/16.

In July, the Government announced a cash incentive of either £2,000 or £1,500 for employers to take on a new apprentice. The ‘Plan for Jobs’ budgeted for 100,000 incentive payments, but new data shows just 18,670 apprentices had been taken on under the scheme by 8 January 2021 which runs to March 2021.

Labour is calling upon the Government to act now to create more apprenticeship opportunities by creating a wage subsidy from the underspend in the apprenticeships levy.

Backed by the Association of Employers and Learning Providers (AELP), this would create 85,000 new apprenticeships for 16-24-year olds this year.

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

“I’m pleased to back National Apprenticeship Week, recognising the enormous contribution made by apprentices to our economy and wider society.

“The Government is failing to create the opportunities young people in Portsmouth need. I am calling on the Government to adopt Labour’s wage subsidy policy to boost opportunities for young people as we rebuild our country.”

Shadow Minister for Apprenticeships and Lifelong learning, Toby Perkins MP, said:

“Young people are being let down by the Government’s irresponsible handling of this crisis which has led to soaring unemployment rates and the worst recession of any major economy.

“The Government should adopt Labour’s proposal for a structured wage subsidy instead of their failing cash incentives and create the apprenticeship opportunities young people need to gain productive skills and long-term employment.”

Mr Morgan previously criticised the Chancellor for the government’s failure on apprentice numbers post-spending review and will now be looking to see how he may address the growing problem in his forthcoming budget.

 

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister demands assurances Service Families won’t face rent hike

Stephen Morgan MP called on the government today to provide assurances that those living in Service Family Accommodation will not have to pay more as a result of new rent prices set via arbitration with private providers.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister was questioning the government today on this issue at departmental defence questions in the House of Commons.

This comes following the first details of the forthcoming Armed Forces Bill were published last week. Among other things, the Bill seeks to introduce a legal duty on the relevant UK public bodies for health, education and housing to have due regard to the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant. (1)

However, after failed negotiations between the government and Service Family accommodation supplier Annington Homes, the matter is now subject to an arbitration process ahead of the first rent review later this year. (2) (3)

The previous deal provided a 58% downward adjustment on rent, but future rental costs are now subject to the arbitration process. (4)

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented,

“On the face of it, the Armed Forces Bill will enshrine in law a due regard to necessities for Armed Forces personnel and their families, including housing.

“However, many Service Personnel families are facing uncertainty over whether they will be able to afford their rent, after the government failed to agree a fair price with private accommodation suppliers that is now being resolved via arbitration.

“Service personnel and their families deserve far better, and Government must provide them with the assurances they need to keep a roof over their heads.”

People and Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer committed to his colleague Jeremy Quinn to following up with further details in writing.

The second reading of the Armed Forces Bill is due to take place on February 8th.

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‘Prime Minister must scrap council tax rise for families’ says Portsmouth MP

Labour has today urged Government to properly fund local authorities so that proposals for a planned 5% council tax rise can be scrapped. Under current plans drawn up by Ministers, Government would allow local authorities to increase council tax – meaning a £89 increase to annual household bills for the average Band D home in Portsmouth.

Current Government plans would make families pay for a £2 billion hole in council budgets.

The vote follows an appeal from Labour leader Keir Starmer to stop the council tax rise and provide certainty to millions of struggling families who face additional blows to their household incomes from frozen pay and a cut to Universal Credit.

Under the Government’s proposals, households living in Band D will face an average rise of over £90 next year under plans set out in the Comprehensive Spending Review. It means council tax will have risen by 33% under the Conservatives.

Portsmouth City Council faces a funding gap because of income lost during the pandemic and the additional costs of keeping communities safe from COVID-19.

Conservative Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said councils would be funded to do “whatever it takes” to support their communities but later backtracked and suggested councils should share the burden of their lost income.

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on council finances. According to the Local Government Association, the latest figures from the COVID monitoring survey put the financial impact of COVID-19 on local authorities at an estimated £9.7 billion for 2020/21, with a further £2.8 billion of lost income from council tax and business rates.

“At the outset of the pandemic the government promised to do whatever was necessary to support councils in their fight against Covid-19, but Ministers have failed to do so.

“This Government should not be making families pay for their mishandling of the pandemic and their broken promises to support councils”.

On the vote today and opposition day debate, the Portsmouth South MP added:

“Families across our city are facing serious pressures currently, but instead of supporting them, the government has decided to add to their hardships.

“These next few months are going to be incredibly tough for many families, which is why Labour is calling on the government today to stop the council tax rise and properly fund councils, otherwise local authorities will be left with little choice to protect the services we all rely on.

“Government must provide certainty to millions of struggling families, following the recently announced blows to their household incomes from frozen pay and cuts to Universal Credit.

“That’s why I’m urging the Prime Minister to scrap the council tax rise.”

Mr Morgan has recently called on the government to support families through this latest lockdown period, criticising the mid-January announcement that free school meals would not be provided by the government through February half-term.

 

 

 

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City MP backs calls for supermarkets to suspend delivery charges for most vulnerable

Stephen Morgan MP has backed charity Independent Age’s campaign supermarkets to suspend delivery charges and reduce minimum basket spends for people who are most at risk if they contract COVID-19 and have been advised to stay home.

The campaign focuses on protecting those are may be disable, people with long term health conditions, older people, unpaid carers and others.

The charity recently coordinated a joint letter signed by over 20 leading charities to the CEOs of seven large UK supermarkets who are involved in facilitating priority delivery slots for people at high risk of COVID-19.

Those who are most at risk are facing long periods of staying at home for their safety, including those who are once again shielding.

Many of these people now need to rely on online shopping. While supermarkets have expanded online deliveries for people at high risk, the extra costs to those consumers are putting many people under financial pressure.

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“Those most at risk need to be supported during this pandemic and charging them more for the safest way for them to get basic essentials like food should no be happening.

“We know UK supermarkets can more than afford to suspend delivery charges and reduce minimum basket spends for people who are most at risk if they contract COVID-19, so I completely support Independent Age’s campaign on this important issue.”

Last month, Mr Morgan also called for greater support for and to end discrimination against disabled people in Portsmouth.