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City MP calls on Government to reverse aid cuts

Stephen Morgan MP has today called on the Government to ‘do the right thing’ and reverse cuts to the aid budget.  

Despite being announced as a key manifesto pledge, the Conservative Government announced last year that it would cut aid spending from 0.7% of the national income to 0.5% – a reduction of more than £4bn.

Britain is the only G7 nation to cut aid during this global crisis and now its allies are taking note.

Cutting the aid budget means:

  • Cutting funding by more than 70% to a research programme that tracked Covid variants, including the Indian variant.
  • Cuts to education programmes by 40% will result in 700,000 fewer girls receiving an education.
  • Researchers on a cutting-edge £15m programme aimed at advancing gender justice and security in 22 countries were told that they would only receive a third of their promised funding this year with less than four months’ notice, placing women and girls in low income countries “under the threat of violence”.

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

This Government is stubbornly refusing to reverse its decision over cuts that are callous, short-sighted and counter-productive.

“The aid budget is in place to support the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. In cutting this budget during a global crisis, the Conservative Government is retreating from our moral duty.

“Simply put, cutting access to clean water, quality education, and basic healthcare will lead thousands of people to die who would otherwise have lived. Government must think again.”

Preet Kaur Gill MP, Labour’s shadow international development secretary, also said: 

“The strength and depth of support for protecting the aid we send to help the world’s poorest is clear. 

“The Conservative Government is leaving the UK isolated by being the only country in the G7 to cut this budget while most are increasing. A failure to reverse the cuts would entirely undermine our ability to solve global challenges, from the pandemic to the climate crisis. 

“Rather than trying to evade another vote, the Government must end its retreat and reaffirm its commitment to spending 0.7% of national income with a clear timeline.”

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“I will continue to oppose the decision to reduce the UK’s aid budget”

A number of constituents have been in touch with me about the Government’s reduction in the UK’s aid budget, concerns I also share, which is why I write this update as the issue is live in the national press at the moment. Thank you to those who have gone to the trouble of writing directly to me about this matter or posting comments on my social media.

I am deeply concerned by the UK Government’s decision to reduce aid spending from the legally binding target of 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5% in 2021. This is despite the Conservative manifesto pledge to maintain the 0.7% commitment.

I am very concerned that this decision will make it harder for the UK to tackle global poverty and injustice, and create a safer, healthier and better world for us all. Indeed, in March 2021, the International Rescue Committee said it had already seen the impact of cuts to its programmes that provide vital services to vulnerable women and girls.

The UK has a proud history of stepping up and supporting those in need. We must not abandon our responsibilities to the world’s most vulnerable. Ahead of hosting the G7 summit and COP26 (the United Nations Climate Change Conference) this year, we must lead by example. However, the UK is the only G7 nation to cut its aid budget this year. The UK Government must reverse this decision.

I firmly believe the 0.7% commitment is a vital way to achieve future shared prosperity and peace around the world. COVID-19 has shown us how interconnected the world is, and how vulnerable we are to global challenges. Aid is vital for overcoming these global challenges, saving lives, and building resilience overseas, which protects us at home too.

Worryingly, the UK Government has recently announced a reduction in vital support to Yemen. It pledged to provide at least £87 million in aid to Yemen over the course of the financial year 2021-22, which is a significant decrease from the £160 million it pledged last year. This is a time when Yemeni people need help the most, as the United Nations has estimated that over 16 million people in Yemen will be facing crisis levels of food insecurity by mid-2021. We must do more to support them.

Following the UK Government’s decision to reduce aid to Yemen, I am very concerned about the other priorities where aid spending will be reduced this year.

I am proud of Britain’s reputation as a global leader on aid. That is why constituents can be rest assured, I will continue to oppose the decision to reduce the UK’s aid budget, making views known in Parliament.

Stephen Morgan MP

 

 

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East Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah: your views

A high number of constituents have been in touch with me deeply concerned about the situation in East Jerusalem. Thank you to all those who have written to me about this matter.

The forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah must stop. I condemn attempts by Israeli settlers to take control of Palestinian homes.

Labour are clear that East Jerusalem has been illegally annexed. Israel is the occupying power which creates obligations that the Israeli government is not meeting. Israel must comply with international law.

It is totally unacceptable to see violence used against worshippers gathering during Ramadan at the al-Aqsa mosque. It is essential that holy sites are respected. The Israeli authorities must take steps to defuse the situation in the city. Labour is therefore calling on the UK government to make the strongest representations to the government of Israel to reduce tensions.

The Shadow Foreign Office team have also rightly strongly condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas, which threaten Israeli civilians.

The decision by the government of Israel to advance with the construction of settlement buildings in Givat HaMatos and the Har Homa E area of the occupied West Bank is deeply regrettable and should be challenged by the international community. These settlements are a violation of international law, entrench divisions, and seriously undermine the prospects for a viable Palestinian state.

I believe that the UK government should make urgent representations to the Israeli Government to halt all evictions in East Jerusalem, change planning laws which discriminate against Palestinians and suspend the construction of all other settlements in East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank immediately.

Labour believes that there must be a negotiated two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which ensures a safe and secure Israel, alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.

This is something I will continue to work with others to help make a reality.

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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.