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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

 

 

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City MP backs call to halt exports of riot control equipment to US amid Black Lives Matter protests

Stephen Morgan MP has demanded the urgent suspension of exports of riot equipment to the United States amid protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd by police.

According to the government’s latest Strategic Export Controls: Country Pivot report, the UK has recently issued licences for the export of a variety of riot control projectiles and equipment to the United States, including anti-riot/ballistic shields, anti-riot guns, components for anti-riot guns, portable riot control electric shock devices, and tear gas/riot control agents.

Mr Morgan has joined calls for making a stand following Donald Trump’s statement yesterday and hearing from constituents concerned over the escalation of issues in the US.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“In cities across America we have seen law enforcement authorities using excessive force in response to these protests, including against children and members of the media. I know that this has shocked many not just here in Portsmouth, but across the world.  

It has been the policy of successive governments over the past two decades to refuse licences for the export of arms and equipment that might be used for internal repression. It is vital that licences are refused in this instance to preserve the safety of Black Lives Matter protestors.

The fact we have an alliance with the United States only enhances the need for us to take urgent action. The Anglo-American relationship is built on the values we share.

The British public deserves to know what is exported by this country and how they are being used across the world. The American people deserve the right to protest peacefully without the threat of violent repression.

The UK government must now act immediately if there is any chance that this riot equipment could be used against peaceful, unarmed civilians.”

In a letter demanding the suspension of exports of riot control equipment to the United States, Emily Thornberry, Shadow International Trade Secretary, added:

“At a time when Donald Trump is gearing up to use the US military to crush the legitimate protests taking place across America over the murder of Black civilians, it would be a disgrace for the UK to supply him with the arms and equipment he will use to do so.

If there is a risk that any of these riot control projectiles and equipment are being used in the United States against peaceful, unarmed civilians, then the government must act immediately to stop their export.”

The Portsmouth South MP has backed calls to take two urgent actions.

Firstly, to publish a comprehensive list of all current export licences to the USA of riot control equipment, along with all available end-user data, to clarify who has purchased items and for purpose within the last five years. Secondly, to suspend all existing licences and halt the issue of any new licences for the export of riot control projectiles and equipment to the United States until you have determined whether any of these items are being used in response to the ongoing protests.

 

 

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Immigration Bill

Some constituents have been in touch with me about the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill which was debated in the House of Commons today – Monday 18 May 2020.

I deeply concerned by the Bill in its current form. This is because I believe it harms our NHS and social care sector, risking creating a shortage of nurses, carers and other key health workers in the middle of a global pandemic.

Labour believe rushing this Bill through Parliament during the current coronavirus crisis when many of those workers are saving lives and keeping the country running is unnecessary.  This legislation, which will hand over sweeping powers to the Government to create a new immigration system, without proper parliamentary scrutiny, that labels so many of the workers who are keeping our country running day by day as unskilled and unwelcome. That is unfair.

The new immigration system proposed by the Government contains a salary threshold of £25,600 that will exclude health and social care workers we desperately need from our country and will have a devastating impact on the health and social care sector. It values workers by what they earn and not what they contribute to our society.

In Portsmouth we rightly show our appreciation and gratitude for NHS staff and carers not just on Thursday evenings, but all year round. Yet this Bill will mean that care workers we need to fill vacancies would no longer be able to come to this country under the Government’s proposed immigration system – I don’t believe that is in the national interest.

For these reasons tonight I voted against the Bill at its Second Reading stage in Parliament.

Stephen Morgan MP

 

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Government now need a ‘comprehensive plan’ to return home stranded Britons

Responding to the Government announcement tonight on Britain’s trapped abroad due to the coronavirus crisis, Stephen Morgan MP has said the government now needs to produce a comprehensive plan to help return home desperate British nationals.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The Foreign Secretary’s statement tonight was welcome, but long overdue. Hundreds of thousands of Britons are stranded abroad. They are in desperate need of urgent action by Government.

We were promised a detailed plan today. Instead we got more of the same.

My constituents stuck abroad are telling me they feel abandoned by Government. Worried families are at their wit’s end. I am hearing from vulnerable people needing to get back to loved ones, and other travellers running out of essential medical supplies.

Earlier today I wrote to the Foreign Secretary, continuing to take action for Portsmouth families affected, offering practical ideas to help address the issues British nationals are facing abroad.

Rather than vague promises, we now need Government to set out a comprehensive, fully funded plan to bring our British nationals home. That’s what Britons stuck abroad deserve, and their loved ones back home expect”.

 

 

 

 

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Government ‘must do better’ to bring home Britons says City MP

Portsmouth South’s MP Stephen Morgan is piling on the pressure calling for the Foreign Office to do better to bring home British travellers stuck abroad.

The call comes after the MP has been liaising daily with the Government about constituents unable to return home due to the coronavirus crisis.

Stephen Morgan MP shares people’s frustrations about the lack of information and advice that they have received from the Foreign Office, especially problems getting through to speak to people on the phone.

The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has admitted the Government has been struggling to manage the level of calls that they were receiving and have now  doubled their call centre capacity.

As well as lobbying the Foreign Secretary to take urgent action, the city MP has been in daily contact with the Foreign Office about individual cases of Portsmouth people who have had difficulties getting back to the UK from around the world, liaising with the families affected, as well as sharing information with the Shadow Foreign Secretary to push for further action by Government.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“It is clear from the daily correspondence I am getting from constituents stuck abroad and cases I am hearing about from other parliamentarians, that the Foreign Office’s current efforts to support people to return to the UK have not been adequate.

This is causing a huge amount of distress to those affected from our city and their families.

I will continue to prioritise helping Portsmouth people who are encountering serious problems abroad and have not received adequate assistance from the Foreign Office.

The Government must do better and now prioritise the resources needed to bring Britons back safely and swiftly”.

Despite calls, the Government has not been able to give an exact figure for the number of British nationals currently stranded abroad, only estimating numbers between 500,000 and 700,000 people.

Labour has called for more comprehensive information on the scale of the problem and for Government to work with airlines to get data on how many people have been able to get home so far, so that resources can help secure the return of all British travellers.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry MP added:

“While I appreciate that the FCO staff are all working very hard, the direction from those at the top hasn’t been good enough and it is clear from the emails that I have received and the cases MPs have sent my way that they need to take further steps to provide a more comprehensive repatriation offer to Brits stuck overseas.

I have made it very clear that the government should not be leaving people to the mercy of exploitative private airlines who are ripping vulnerable people off, without helping them to get home”.

The Portsmouth South MP believes that leaving people to rely solely on commercial options to return to the UK is not acceptable and is calling on the Government to work more closely with the airline companies to find a solution.