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Integrated Review: Shadow Defence Minister says government ‘cannot continue to neglect’ Service Personnel

Shadow Armed Forces Minister and Portsmouth MP Stephen Morgan has said the Armed Forces cannot continue to be neglected by the government, after it published its major defence and security policy review today.

The Prime Minister announced in Parliament this afternoon his conclusions of the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, which has been conducted by the government over the past year.

However, amongst other broader priorities set out in the quinquennial government defence and foreign policy review, it has announced in the paper plans to ‘reshape’ the Armed Forces and ‘develop more capabilities – people, skills and equipment – that can be used across a range of scenarios.’

The Portsmouth South MP has recognised in principle the need to modernise the UK Armed Forces to equip them to respond to present and future threats, but has cast serious doubts over the government’s ability to deliver, pointing to its track record on full-time UK personnel numbers and defence spending plans announced in last year’s Spending Review.

As of January 2021, the UK full-time Armed Forces strength fell short of its 2015 SDSR targets across as all services, with the full-time trained strength of the UK Armed Forces 135,444, a shortfall of 8,756 (6%) against the government’s own target of 144,200.

In last year’s Spending Review, the government also revealed that it plans to cut day-to-day spending by 2.7% in real terms over the next 4 years, despite plans to invest £16.5bn in projects, but with no clear resource to support and maintain them.

In addition, the National Audit Office has also reported there could be as high as a £17.4bn funding shortfall in the government’s equipment plan for 2020 to 2030.

The Shadow Defence Minister and Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, commented:

“This government and its Tory predecessors have continually allowed for our Armed forces to be neglected – numbers down, pay down and morale down.

“The government talks of ‘reshaping’ our Armed Forces in this review, but this cannot be code for continuing to repeat the mistakes of the past and not meeting its targets for full-time UK Armed Forces numbers, as well as failing to provide them with the support and equipment they need.

“Service personnel have shown this year that they continue to be one of our greatest assets when it comes to dealing with serious threats posed to our country, but a cut to many of our troops’ pay and the continued neglect they have faced raises serious questions whether the government will be true to its word.”

Earlier this month, Mr Morgan criticised the real terms pay cut to Armed Forces personnel earning over £18,000.

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With no option of renegotiating left, Labour votes in the national interest to reject a no-deal

Labour votes today (30 December) “in the national interest” to implement the legislation on the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU, therefore avoiding a disastrous no-deal Brexit.

While the deal struck with the European Commission and 27 Member States has many shortcomings, Labour made it clear in the House of Commons that it was still preferable to the severe damage of a no deal scenario and that it brought stability and some certainty for businesses already under huge strain from the pandemic.

In the debate today, MPs were not given an opportunity to vote on the deal itself, but merely the implementation legislation, just hours before the transition period comes to an end tomorrow night.

Opening the debate for the official opposition, Labour Leader Keir Starmer also criticised the late delivery of the deal, and how it falls far short of the government’s promises on services, security and cutting red tape for British businesses and producers.

Labour have made clear they will build on the foundations of the deal to make the UK the best place to grow up in and grow old in.

Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster who closed the debate said:

“For some stability, in the national interest, and up against the only other choice of a disastrous no deal scenario, Labour has voted for the trade deal agreed between the UK government and the 27 member states of the EU.

“But not only does this unambitious deal fall far short of what this government promised – months of dither, delay and theatrics mean it has come far too late for many businesses and caused unnecessary damage to the economy.

“This government must now deliver on its promises, and plug the gaps in their preparations for our businesses and borders – and fast. A Labour government will build on the foundations of this deal to change the UK for better.”

Stephen Morgan MP has a strong record of proudly speaking out in support of Britain’s relationship with the EU.

He has called in Parliament for a public vote on any deal. He has worked across the House and across party to prevent a no-deal Brexit and to protect workers’ rights and safeguard our environment. He has fought hard to secure investment in Portsmouth Port at risk of disruption and traffic chaos under a no-deal scenario.

Stephen Morgan MP commenting on the debate today said:

“Whilst it is a relief that a deal has been secured it falls vastly short of what the Prime Minister promised was oven-ready back in December last year, and it allows the country to avoid a disastrous no-deal Brexit.

“This is a thin deal and I have huge misgivings about it. Voting for or against it wasn’t an option before MPs today. The tough, but necessary decision to accept the implementation legislation is one that reflects a long-term effort to avoid a disastrous no-deal Brexit. It also allows the country to focus once again on the day-to-day priorities that matter to people: fighting the pandemic and rebuilding the economy.

“Portsmouth people will know only too well that after all the dither and delay the consequences of this deal and its weaknesses are this government’s to own”.

Commenting on Keir Starmer’s remarks that Labour will build on the deal, the Portsmouth South MP added:

 “A Labour government will hold Ministers to account on this deal, and will forge a new future for our country, leading the way globally, but working with our neighbours and those with shared values on crucial issues like tax justice, tackling climate change and workers’ rights.

“The deal falls far short of what the government promised. It neglects services which makes up 80% of our economy and weakens our security measures. I will hold Ministers to account on the promises they make and break to the British people.

“That’s why in the coming days I will be setting out a series of demands on what government must deliver for Portsmouth. I will be listening to constituents, local businesses and trade unions in the coming days to shape these priorities for our city.”

 

 

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UK-EU trade deal: Have your say

The Government has now published the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement following news on Christmas Eve that a deal had been struck. The deal sets out the relationship the UK will have at the end of the Brexit transition period. 

Since being elected MP, Stephen Morgan has had thousands of letters, messages and conversations with constituents to hear views on Brexit and the UK’s future relationship with the EU. He has also been meeting with local businesses to understand and address the uncertainty of a no-deal and liaising with the area’s branch of the European Movement.

In this latest survey, in order for Stephen to continue to represent your views in Parliament, he is keen to hear your ideas.

 Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Let me be clear: I campaigned to remain in the EU, and wanted people to have a final say. Sadly after the result of the General Election last year that is no longer possible.

There are two paths for the country now. A no-deal or a deal.

I want to hear from you with your views on what should happen next as I continue to hold the Government to account”.

To complete the short survey and tell Stephen what you think click here.

 

 

 

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“There are two paths for our country right now” Portsmouth MP responds to UK-EU deal

Responding to news the UK Government has finally struck a trade deal with the EU, Stephen Morgan MP has said that whilst a better deal could have been negotiated, there are just two paths now left for our country: to move forward with this negotiated deal, or without one and the trading on WTO terms.

Following the Government’s press conference this afternoon and initial briefings on the deal, the Portsmouth South MP said:

The Prime Minister said he would deliver the British people an ‘oven ready deal’ but what he has announced today is not what his Government promised the country.

It is appalling that we got so close to the end of the transition period causing huge uncertainty for our economy and for British business with little over a week to prepare.

This deal is the bare minimum that Portsmouth people and our local businesses could have expected from this unnecessarily fraught process. What’s worse, it comes with a backdrop of the worst recession in three centuries and in the middle of a global pandemic. 

There are two paths for our country right now. A no-deal, which I’ve long argued would cause unimaginable damage for our city, or this thin agreement, with responsibility for it squarely at the steps of Number 10. I will therefore be looking very closely at the detail of the deal in the coming days ahead of Parliament’s return.

Whilst Labour accepts this deal is better for the national interest than a no-deal, the consequences are well and truly this government’s to own.

For the sake of the future of our city and Portsmouth people’s prosperity, I will continue to hold Ministers to account over their promises every step of the way”.

This is the deal Labour would inherit if elected in 2024 and it will be the job of the party in Government to build on it to make it succeed. That is why Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer MP has confirmed Labour will accept this deal and vote for its implementation in the national interest when it comes to Parliament next week.

MPs will be recalled to Parliament on 30 December following the Prime Minister’s press conference today. It is expected MPs will have a vote on the implementation of legislation for the deal.

 

 

 

 

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Stephen Morgan MP calls to set aside party politics to get Overseas Operations Bill right

Stephen Morgan MP has called for the government to forge a constructive consensus on legislation to protect our Armed Forces from vexatious claims. 

The purpose of the Overseas Operations Bill is to provide greater legal protections to Armed Forces personnel and veterans serving on military operations overseas.

The Shadow Defence team has vowed to fight for serving troops and veterans for their right to justice from the government, arguing the bill protects the government, not armed forces personnel.

However, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister has argued the bill does not in fact offer the legal protections that it is said to provide, and risks damaging Britain’s international reputation.

Speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon, Stephen Morgan MP said,

“Unfortunately, the government has got important parts of this Bill badly wrong.

“In its current form it risks damaging our reputation and failing to protect of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

“If I have one message for the Minister it is this: As this bill continues its passage through Parliament, commit to improving it alongside us.

“Let’s work together to protect our troops, their reputation and our international standing.”

The Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, John Healey MP, added,

“We all want the same thing. We want to protect British troops and we want to protect British values. And this should not mean a matter of party politics.

“We will seek time to overhaul investigations, set up safeguards against vexatious claims consistent with our international obligations and guarantee troops retain their right to compensation claims when MoD failures lead to injury or death of our forces overseas.”

You can read the full text of the Member for Portsmouth South’s speech via his website, or see a clip here.

 

 

 

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP – Overseas Operations Bill – Full Speech

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

I would like to start by paying tribute to our armed forces – and join colleagues from across this House – in expressing gratitude to those who serve.

They truly give us a reason to be patriotic.

Mr Speaker, there is consensus across the House here today.

Labour, the Government, and the Armed Forces all want the same thing.

We all agree that we must protect our troops from vexatious claims.

And, we all agree that we must defend those that serve our country overseas with courage and distinction.

Government promised to bring forward legislation to do just that in their first 100 days of government.

Now, 284 days later, they have disappointingly got crucial elements of this Bill badly wrong.

The question we must be asking is: what does this mean for our troops?

It risks breaching the armed forces covenant and rolls back on their employment rights.

It fails to properly protect against vexatious claims.

And, it undermines Britain’s proud adherence to the international laws like the Geneva Convention that we helped create.

But it is not too late.

There is still time for Ministers to work with us to get this right.

The Government’s introduction of a 6-year limit for bringing civil claims will prevent troops who suffer injury from taking cases to court.

Over the last 15 years, there have been 25 cases brought by injured British troops against the MoD – for every 1 case brought by alleged victims against our forces.

That means the main beneficiary of this Bill is the MoD. Not our personnel.

This Bill should be designed to protect troops, not the purse strings of Government.

So, I put it to the Minister, if this Bill is for our armed forces community, why does it deny them the same employment rights as civilians?

Mr Speaker, Labour is also deeply concerned this Bill does not meet its primary objective – it does not do enough to protect our troops from vexatious claims.

In letters sent to the Defence Secretary by the Defence Committee, the point is made that this Bill does nothing to prevent arduous investigations processes.

It just protects from prosecutions.

It does nothing to deal with the serious failings in the system for investigating allegations against British troops.

Something that the defence minister himself admits –

“Had they been done properly – and self-regulation had occurred – we probably wouldn’t be here today”.

This means that perhaps the toughest, most intrusive aspect of the vexatious claims process is not dealt with in this Bill.

And this is not the only way in which it leaves our troops open to ’lawfare’.

By going back on our commitments to the Geneva convention, it risks dragging our people in front of the International Criminal Court.

I put it to the Minister, does he really want to make it more likely that the ICC could open investigations against British troops?

Mr Speaker, there are also a set of wider issues here.

Vexatious claims are not the only major problem our forces face.

Action on this issue is not a licence to neglect others.

Low pay.

Ten years of falling morale.

A decade of falling numbers.

And a housing crisis across the tri-services.

If the Minister is serious about tackling its poor track record on Defence, we need to see action on all these issues.

This presents an opportunity to turn the tide, break the mould, and work with Labour to get this right.

Mr Speaker, in this country we are proudly patriotic.

And, reinforcing that patriotism, that love for our country, is the high regard in which our armed forces are held.

When you see Union Flags on the shoulder patches of service personnel overseas, that means something.

It means honesty. It means respect for the rule of law. It means justice.

From Sandhurst to Britannia Naval College, there is a reason is why countries from around the world send their officers to be trained in our military institutions.

But, Mr Speaker, this Bill puts all that at risk.

It is at odds with the rules based international order we helped create.

In its current form, this Bill would make Great Britain the only nation among our major allies to offer a statutory presumption against prosecution.

As the previous-chief of the defence staff, the ex-attorney general, and the former-defence secretary have said:

“it undermines Britain’s proud long-standing adherence to the Geneva convention.”

Great Britain has proudly stood, and must stand, against the use of torture – and against the use of rendition.

Mr Speaker, I urge the Minister:

Do not undo the work of Churchill.

Do not undo the work of Attlee.

Do not chip away at our nation’s proud reputation.

I put it to the Minister, how can we expect Great Britain to speak with authority on international law to China, Russia and Iran if we go back on our own commitments?

In years gone by, a commitment made by this proud nation meant something.

Last week this government tarnished that reputation by breaking international law with the Internal Markets Bill.

I urge the Minister to commit to working with us to make sure this Bill does not do the same.

So, Mr Speaker, unfortunately, the government has got important parts of this Bill badly wrong.

In its current form it risks damaging our reputation and failing to protect Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

But it is not too late. As I said, there is consensus across this House today.

There is still time for Ministers to work with the opposition to get this right.

Protecting troops from vexatious claims does not need to be at odds with our commitments to international law.

It does not need to be a trade-off between safeguarding our armed forces and eroding the reasons why we are patriotic.

As many Members of this House have said today, this should not be a matter of party politics or point-scoring.

Labour stand foursquare behind our troops.

We want to work with Government to build the broadest consensus possible around a Bill tailored to supporting our forces and safeguarding human rights.

If I have one message for the Minister it is this:

As this bill continues its passage through Parliament, commit to improving it alongside us.

Let’s work together to protect our troops, their reputation, and our country’s international standing.

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister calls out Government over declining recruitment figures

Today during Defence Questions, Stephen Morgan MP called out Ministers over a decade of dwindling armed forces personnel numbers. Sitting on the opposition frontbench, the Portsmouth South MP called on the Minister from the Despatch Box to outline how the Government will put an end to the current crisis.

The action comes against the backdrop of figures painting a damning picture of Tory’s defence record. The latest quarterly figures show that our armed forces have declined in size for 10 years in a row. Meanwhile, a major national survey of our armed forces found that morale has fallen from 52%, expressing high morale in 2010 to 41% in 2020, whilst satisfaction with basic pay has fallen from 52% in 2010 to 39% in 2020.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Ten years of falling personnel numbers running parallel to a decline in satisfaction and morale points to the government’s failure to act as a cause for the recruitment and retention crisis we face.

Data shows that not only is Government failing to meet its recruitment targets with record numbers withdrawing from the process, the number of people leaving the armed forces is increasing as well.

The minister’s failure to get recruitment and retention figures in check lets down our troops and weakens our national security. That is why today at the Despatch Box I demanded the government makes personnel a key priority of the upcoming Integrated Review.”

Mr Morgan’s action in the chamber follows a written question he tabled exposing nearly 50,000 people have withdrawn from the armed forces recruitment process between January and June, reportedly up 7,000 from the year before. 

Mr Morgan added:

“The Defence Secretary recently said that the MoD’s greatest asset was “not tanks or our aeroplanes, but it’s people”.

Yet, the private contractor the government has entrusted to deliver more troops has faced heavy criticism for being inefficient and presiding over a system that puts off potential recruits – an idea supported by the withdrawal statistics.

The government must improve the ‘offer’ to our troops and urgently iron out the issues dissuading swathes of young people interested in joining from doing so.”

The concerns over personnel numbers are not the only reason that the Conservatives have drawn fire on defence. The government announced plans to axe 20,500 jobs in the armed forces by 2020, imposed pay freezes that have led to a real-terms pay cut for troops since 2010, meanwhile the Ministry of Defence has a funding black hole of at least £13bn in its 10-year plan to equip the UK’s armed forces.

 

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“Government cannot play fast and loose with our national security” says city MP

Today, during Cabinet Office questions in the House of Commons, Stephen Morgan MP joined others, including the former Prime Minister Theresa May and security experts, in holding the Government to account over parachuting their own appointees into positions key to maintaining national security.

The Portsmouth South MP’s question demanded answers to why the Prime Minister decided to replace Sir Mark Sedwill as National Security Adviser (NSA) with a political appointee, whose task is to provide impartial advice to Government on difficult, and at times life-threatening, issues.

The action comes at a time when Tory MP Julian Lewis has had the whip removed for standing against fellow Conservative MP Chris Grayling for the important position of Intelligence and Security Committee chair.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“When it comes to appointing people to positions vital to national security, the basis must be merit and experience not political gain.

Widespread concern has been raised by former national security advisers and other public figures following Mr Johnson’s appointment for this important role, including strong criticism from former Prime Minister Theresa May.

We cannot allow this Government to erode Civil Service impartiality to promote its own self-interests. This sets a dangerous precedent and doesn’t serve the interests of British people”.

A former cabinet secretary warned that political appointees were “more likely to be yes men” while leading military, security and diplomatic figures have condemned the decision as “appalling and unnecessary”. General Sir Richard Barrons, former chief of Joint Forces Command in Afghanistan suggested “it is a move for ‘chumocracy’” and “when it comes to matters of security, his knowledge is zero, and that is a matter of concern.”

The city MP’s action today comes in the wake of another breaking news story that has drawn fire on government, this time for eroding the impartiality of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Government had tried to promote the ex-Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP, but had plans scuppered at the last moment by committee members working together to stop the Downing Street nominee.

Mr Morgan added:

The Prime Minister’s strategy of parachuting an inexperienced and ill-equipped candidate into the role of Intelligence Committee Chair was thwarted by his own veteran MPs. The Government simply cannot play fast and loose with our national security.

Transparency, meritocracy and effectiveness are what the public deserve from their representatives especially when considering our nation’s safety. I will continue to stand up for these values, which I know the British people hold close.”

 

 

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister demands Government’s plans for overseas troop safety

New Shadow Armed Forces Minister speaks up for troops and their families over Covid-19 cases from despatch box during defence questions today

Probing Ministers over any support offered to overseas troops and the figures relating to personnel infection rates, Stephen Morgan MP today demanded contingency planning from Ministers setting out how they would support personnel and their families stationed in areas likely to see outbreaks of Covid-19.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister said:

Our troops have rightly continued their duties overseas for the duration of this pandemic, keeping our citizens safe and helping to maintain international peace.

With personnel operating in countries such as Iraq, where there has been a spike in Covid-19 deaths and where there is a lack of infrastructure capable of effectively managing the pandemic, we need to see firm contingency plans that prioritise troop safety.

That is why today I put pressure on Ministers to outline their plans to protect troops along with their families while they serve our nation abroad. They are continuing to deliver for the nation. It is important government delivers for them.”

The city MP’s action over overseas troop Covid-19 data comes on the same day that government has abandoned its commitment to a daily figure for the number of people in the UK who have been tested for the virus.

Today’s action holding Minister to account over troop welfare is part of a wider piece of work being conducted by the Shadow Armed Forces Minister, and the Shadow Defence team.

Already Labour’s Defence teams’ efforts helped lead to the testing of all 800 crew on board HMS Queen Elizabeth following 2 confirmed Covid cases, lobbying efforts have been carried out to allow families of service people more comprehensive support networks, and work is being conducted to shine a light on dwindling morale and satisfaction.

Stephen Morgan MP added:

“Whether considering the efforts of our forces community at home helping combat Covid-19 or personnel continuing to protect national security overseas, the fact remains that our troops are of great value to our society.

With the Tories downgrading defence over the last 10 years with shrinking numbers, reduced capability and offering unfair pay, it is vital that opposition ask the tough questions that have our troops interests in mind.

The Shadow Defence team will continue to take action on the concerns of our forces community and work as the checks and balances to government decision making that for too long has neglected our troops interests.”

 

 

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Statement from Stephen Morgan MP on the killing of George Floyd

The shocking and tragic murder of George Floyd by US police has shaken the world. Stephen Morgan MP has expressed deep concern over the way President Trump has reacted to events.

The Portsmouth South representative has expressed solidarity with those carrying out peaceful and safe protests across the globe.

Mr Morgan has also raised the importance of reflection and real action on racism in our own communities and stressed that this is a ‘heinous reminder’ that hatred is alive in the world.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The harrowing footage of the murder of George Floyd has quite rightly shaken the world. Tragically this is not a one-off event. It is endemic of a deep-set rot of racism that has infiltrated every aspect of society.

If an innocent man can be killed in broad daylight by US police, then racism at every part of society must be present.

I support the peaceful protests across the United States, organised by the Black Lives Matter group. George Floyd must not become just another name. His shocking death should be the catalyst for change around the world”.

The Portsmouth South MP has stressed the responsibility on those in all communities, including Portsmouth, to take action to drum out racism wherever it is encountered. Mr Morgan added:

While the Black Lives Matter protestors in America are on the frontier of the battle for civil rights and their peaceful resilience is an inspiration, there are things that we can do here in Portsmouth to stamp the racist rot.

Although George Floyd’s tragic murder was across the Atlantic, it is a chilling reminder that racism is alive in the world. Voices must be heard otherwise complacency and failure to address racism in our own country will remain a grave injustice.

There remains considerable violence, prejudice and inequality against BAME communities happening across the UK. Down to the marrow of our society, there are economic, social and political injustices that stem from a lack of governmental support and action. I therefore renew my commitment to call out repression, fight injustice and work with others to create a fairer more equal city not just for today’s generation, but for tomorrow’s.

To build a better society we must start here in Portsmouth and we must stand in solidarity together against racism and injustice around the world”.

Following concerns raised by constituents, to see city MP’s statement on the export of riot control equipment to the US, click here