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Portsmouth MP votes to protect workers’ employment protections

Stephen Morgan MP has voted to protect holiday pay entitlements and safe working limits following the Government’s admission that employment protections are being reviewed to see which to scrap and which to keep. 

Despite repeated promises from Ministers that they have no plans to rip up the rights of workers, it has now been revealed that the Government will consult on changes which could mean:

  • Ending the inclusion of overtime in how holiday pay is calculated,
  • A longer working week, with no legal cap on the number of hours employers can make their employees work
  • An end to the legal right to rest breaks at work

Analysis by the Labour Party has revealed that key workers including care workers, haulage drivers and police officers would lose out on hundreds of pounds a year under the plans being considered.

Under the current rules, workers are entitled to a week’s pay for each week of statutory leave that they take, and employers have to include regular overtime in how a week’s pay is calculated. For example, if your pay is set at £250 a week but in practice you usually earn £300 a week due to regular overtime hours, the higher figure should be used to calculate your holiday pay.

Scrapping these rules would mean the pay workers are entitled to while on holiday would be lower – calculated from a base hourly rate, without overtime. 

Analysis by Labour can reveal that removing overtime from calculations of holiday pay would mean:

  • The average full-time care worker would lose out on £239.60 a year
  • The average full-time police officer would lose out on £308 a year
  • The average full-time driver of large goods vehicles would lose out on £413.60 a year
  • The average full-time worker in food and drink processing would lose out on £500 a year

Labour’s motion on Monday (25 January 2021) called on the Government to specifically rule out any changes to the 48-hour working week, rest breaks at work, or holiday pay entitlements, and to outlaw fire and rehire tactics.

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“During this lockdown period, Ministers should be focused on securing our economy and protecting jobs and businesses, not removing the hard-won rights of working people.

“These changes would leave many workers in Portsmouth, including key workers, hundreds of pounds out of pocket and working longer hours in unsafe work.

That cannot be right and I will continue to call on Government to think again.”

Andy McDonald MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Protection, added:

“In the middle of a pandemic and an economic crisis, Ministers are considering ripping up workers’ rights. This could see people across the country worse off, losing out on holiday pay and working longer hours.

Scrapping the 48-hour working week cap could mean many key workers feel pressured to work excessive hours. The Government should be focused on securing our economy and rebuilding the country, not taking a wrecking ball to hard-won worker’s rights.  

“The Government’s true colours are on full display once again and it’s clear their priorities couldn’t be further from those of workers and their families.”

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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 welcomes free legal advice available to Portsmouth residents

Stephen Morgan MP has welcomed the University of Portsmouth’s law school continuing to offer free legal advice to anyone in the city on all areas of the law, except criminal and immigration matters.

The Legal Advice Clinic has been running since 2013, and is run by student legal advisers and supervised practising solicitors. Every year the team helps over 250 local people, staff and students with legal issues.

Typically, you’ll receive advice on the day, but the team may follow up by email, or write a letter where the matter is more complex.

The pandemic is highlighting a range of legal issues including with tenants such as university students and their rental properties, employees who are being made redundant, and more.

Common enquiries the team help with include:

  • Tenant issues – problems with the condition of your rental property, return of your deposit, and whether you can leave before the tenancy finishes
  • Family – breakdown of relationship/contact with children
  • Employment – issues with colleagues at work, an employer not paying wages, or unfair dismissal
  • Small claims – returning a defective product, paid for work to your property that was not completed, or received court proceedings due to a disagreement over payment of an item or service
  • Private client – how to make a lasting power of attorney, issues over a will, do you need to obtain probate and how to apply for it?

Appointments are available over phone and email, every Monday and Wednesday, for University students, staff and the public.

To book an appointment, call 07711 389 522 or email advice@port.ac.uk. These lines are staffed Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4pm.

 

 

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City MP reaffirms commitment to local WASPI women ‘Not Going Away’ campaign

Stephen Morgan MP has reaffirmed his commitment to ensure justice for local WASPI women following a meeting with local campaigners.

Mr Morgan heard from some of the local activists from Solent WASPI on this issue about the particular challenges they have been facing during the pandemic, with many struggling due to a delay to their pension.

The WASPI movement campaigns against the way the state pension age was equalised. Prior to the pandemic, millions of 1950s women had been made worse off, some losing up to £47,000. Reports are suggesting that these women are now being disproportionately hit by the impacts of Covid-19.

Evidence also suggests that many 1950s women work in the gig economy. The sector least supported by government Covid-19 schemes. This, coupled with low incomes undermining eligibility for universal credit, is resulting in severe loss of earnings for WASPI women.

Stephen Morgan MP, said,

“It is truly heart-breaking to still be hearing similar stories at this stage of the pandemic as we were at the beginning, but the government has still done little to support these women.”

“The situation for many WASPI women is continuing to deteriorate and it is clear they have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic. I want to reaffirm my commitment to securing justice for them and the ‘Not Going Away’ campaign.”

During the meeting, the local parliamentary representative committed to a range of actions, including penning letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Thérèse Coffey MP, and re-energising campaign efforts alongside Solent WASPI in early 2021.

The Portsmouth South MP, added,

“It is unacceptable that the government has still not provided additional support for our local WASPI women and I will be writing to the Minister to urge her to ensure they get what they need.

I will continue to do all I can working alongside Solent WASPI and their tireless efforts to end this injustice affecting over 9,000 women here in Portsmouth”.

Shelagh Simmons, Coordinator of the Solent WASPI Supporters’ Group, also said,

“We were delighted to meet with Stephen recently and update him on our campaign.  The Covid-19 crisis has badly hit women already suffering as a result of the poorly implemented State Pension age rises.  Some still forced to work have lost their jobs and it will be extremely difficult – if not impossible – to find further employment in an environment rife with ageism. 

“WASPI supports an equal State Pension age for men and women but this was done with little, or no, notice.  For a generation of women who have never had equality, and did not have the same opportunities as men to build up private pension provision, it has been devastating. 

“We’re not asking for special treatment but for fair treatment.  Solent WASPI and its Portsmouth members are extremely grateful to Stephen for steadfastly supporting our campaign for State Pension justice.  We very much look forward to continue working with him on this in 2021. We are ‘Not Going Away’.”

Earlier this year, Stephen Morgan MP took action on behalf of the WASPI to put pressure on the government in a bid to get the help they required.

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City MP criticises Government ‘pay more: get less’ approach to council funding

Stephen Morgan MP has today criticised the government for its funding settlement for local authorities which will mean city residents paying more, but getting less. He also said Portsmouth City Council has not been allocating enough resources for local  services and to continue Covid-19 support.

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, announced the annual government funding settlement for local authorities in the House of Commons today.

In his statement the Minister announced that Council Tax bills will rise by 5% next year – twice the rate of inflation. The announcement also means extra Covid-19 related cots will not be fully funded, suggesting inevitable cuts to public services in the new year.

This year, many local authorities are having to use reserves to balance their budgets this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, whilst concerns persist on whether the funding crisis faced by local authorities will undermine the recovery of town centre economies.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South reacted to the announcement, saying,

“Year after year the government has continued to expect our local council, like many others across the country, to pick up the bill where they fail to provide enough resources to run our community’s public services effectively.

“This year of all years, local councils desperately need the funding they need to ensure they can keep people safe and support business recoveries. The people of our city deserve far better and I will continue to push the government to ensure our council gets the support it needs.

“When so many are struggling, it cannot be right that Government is expecting Portsmouth people to pay more, but get less from our local council.”

Mr Morgan raised concerns on this in 2019 and has committed to push the government for further funding measures for Portsmouth.

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Stephen Morgan MP calls on Government for urgent transparency after crony contracts exposed

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has today urged the government to show urgent transparency on so-called “crony contracts” as increasing cases of contracts handed to government friends and donors are revealed.

Research by the official opposition has shown how over £1 billion of outsourced contracts have gone to Tory friends and donors since the pandemic began.

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock handing a contract for millions of COVID-19 test vials to a neighbour with no experience after a WhatsApp message is the most recent shocking example of this.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“It is unacceptable that friends and donors of the Conservative Party appear to be profiting from this pandemic.

“It is a great disrespect to taxpayers that their money is being flushed away on poorly checked contracts, poor preparation and incompetent management. This has to change – and change fast.” 

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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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Covid-19: Business support

It has been announced that further support for businesses and workers is available for the second national lockdown and beyond.

This includes increasing the contribution to wage costs under the Job Support Scheme, announcing expansion of business grants to cover businesses in particularly affected sectors in high-alert level areas, helping them stay afloat and protecting jobs and grants for the self-employed doubled to 40% of previous earnings.

Stephen continues to lobby Government to close gaps in support and to protect jobs and businesses in Portsmouth, liaising with Ministers, government departments and submitting parliamentary questions to address concerns.

Below are a list of organisations and resources to help our city’s businesses at this difficult time:

The city council’s business support including grants and advice:

https://www.portsmouth.gov.uk/services/coronavirus-covid-19/business-advice-and-grants-coronavirus-information/

The government’s advice and guidance:

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support?priority-taxon=774cee22-d896-44c1-a611-e3109cce8eae

National lockdown information:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november#businesses-and-venues

The LEP’s coronavirus support hub:

https://solentlep.org.uk/coronavirus-support-hub/

Information from the Federation of Small Businesses:

https://www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/covid19.html

Information from the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce:

https://www.hampshirechamber.co.uk/your-local-chamber/portsmouth-chamber/

British Chamber of Commerce:

https://www.britishchambers.org.uk/page/coronavirus?k=30cdfbcf8e205792be8adadf43630166035c27d5

 

 

 

 

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City MP reacts to ‘disappointing’ new court ruling stating pension age changes are not discriminatory

News has broken that the three senior judge’s ruling on the Court of Appeal challenge have found that despite feeling sympathy for WASPI campaigners, the state pension age did not amount to unlawful discrimination under EU or human rights law.

Committed WASPI supporter, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“It is highly disappointing that millions of women born in the 1950s have lost the Court of Appeal Challenge today, ruling that raising the state pension age did not amount to unlawful discrimination.

This is yet another kick in the teeth for a grassroots movement of inspiring women who have been fighting tooth and nail for justice.

The ruling is deeply disheartening, but we must not lose sight of who is responsible for the origins of this severe injustice. The way in which the Conservative Government has implemented the 1995 State Pension Act has caused turmoil for hundreds of thousands of people, hitting the most vulnerable hardest.

I have had the privilege of working with Portsmouth’s campaigners on this important issue for some time and will continue to support them in their fight for justice.”

Stephen Morgan MP has been a long-time supporter of the WASPI campaign. He has hosted local rallies, held meetings up in parliament, raised the issue through parliamentary questions, and regularly meets with local Solent WASPI organisers.

 

 

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City MP continues to fight for renters as government’s last minute U-turn on eviction ban causes confusion for tenants

Stephen Morgan MP has made renewed calls on government to protect renters from eviction as Ministers extend the ban on evictions by just one month

The Portsmouth South representative had originally called on Government back in March to ban evictions during the coronavirus crisis. Whilst Ministers caved following pressure, they are now threatening to take away this safety net in just one month.

In a cutting letter directly to the Housing Secretary, the city MP demanded an extension to the eviction ban along with a package of support for struggling tenants. This came as a survey by Generation Rent is released revealing that 45% of renters have lost income since March, and two thirds of renters who have lost income (68%) are struggling to pay their rent.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The Housing Secretary promised that no one would be forced to leave their homes amid this pandemic. Now, five months later, we see no package of support offered to tenants yet plans remain to reinstall evictions in one month.

We know that many hardworking Portsmouth families have been hit hard by the pandemic and, through no fault of their own, have found themselves in arrears. While I welcome government’s U-turn on the evictions ban extension today, the fact they have only extended it by a month just gives tenants longer to pack their bags.

The solution to this problem is more comprehensive support offered to struggling families at risk of homelessness and scrapping Section 21 Evictions.”

Mr Morgan’s demands, backed by frontbench colleagues, urge government to remove the benefits cap, administer Universal Credit more promptly and make more Local Housing Allowance available. The city MP has also raised with Ministers the impact on landlords after listening to concerns from the National Residential Landlords Association.