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Afghanistan: Portsmouth MP delivers scathing attack on government during key debate in Parliament

Stephen Morgan MP accused the government of ‘damaging the UK’s international reputation’ due to the way it has handled its exit from Afghanistan during a key debate in Parliament today.

Representing the Official Opposition in his role as Shadow Armed Forces Minister, the Portsmouth MP blasted the government’s “complacency, mismanagement and diplomatic ineptitude”.

He added that Minister’s handling of the crisis had damaged the country’s international reputation, weakened UK national security, and jeopardised two decades of hard work and humanitarian progress in the country.

The Portsmouth MP also called for a cross-party joint committee to investigate the withdrawal from Afghanistan – from the Doha Agreement to the conclusion of Operation Pitting.

Armed forces personnel and civil servants involved in Operation Pitting were praised by the Shadow Minister during his speech. The evacuation airlifted over 15,000 people in 14 days and was the largest operation of its kind since the Second World War.

But Mr Morgan said they had been “lions led by donkeys” and further criticised the government for its failure to prepare for the end of the drawdown in the 18 months following the Doha agreement.

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

“The events in Afghanistan were a fundamental test of this government and its leadership.

“The character of our country is defined by how we respond to these moments.

“Once again, Conservative ministers were found to be out of touch and on the beach.

“That’s why I’ve called for a cross-party joint committee to investigate the withdrawal from Afghanistan so we can learn the lessons of the government’s failures to ensure they never happen again.”

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‘The character of our country is defined by how we respond to these moments’ says City MP on Afghanistan debate

Today (Wednesday 18 August 2021) Parliament was recalled to allow MPs to receive an update from the Government on the shocking and worsening situation in Afghanistan.

Speaking in the debate, Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Opposition, said:

“20 years ago, the Taliban were largely in control of Afghanistan. Al Qaida were using the country as a training ground and a base for terror – including plotting the horrific 9/11 attack.

“There were widespread human rights abuses. Girls were denied an education, women could not work. Being gay was punishable by death. All imposed without democracy.

“Since then, a fragile democracy emerged.

“It was by no means perfect, but no international terrorist attacks have been mounted from Afghanistan in that period; women have gained liberty and won office; schools and clinics have been built. And Afghans have allowed themselves to dream of a better future.

“Those achievements were born of sacrifice. Sacrifice by the Afghan people who fought bravely alongside their NATO allies. And British sacrifice.

“Over 150,000 UK personnel have served in Afghanistan including Members across this House.”

Responding to the Prime Minister’s statement during the emergency debate, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister and Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said:

I know many members of the Armed Forces Community in Portsmouth and further afield will be deeply distressed by the reports of the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

“The sacrifices of British personnel, alongside the Afghan people and NATO allies, allowed for something that for many Afghans was not previously possible – to dream of a better future.

“Today the Prime Minister had the opportunity to reassure UK personnel who served in Afghanistan and worked to secure that future that their work will not be undone – but his statement offered little.

“The government’s failure is a dereliction of duty to the Afghan people, the 150,000 British personnel who served and the 457 who did not return home.

“What is happening in Afghanistan will have a profound impact on the mental health of many veterans, which we have known for some time is already in desperate need of addressing.

“This must be a wake-up call by Government to better understand, and better invest, in mental health support for our armed forces personnel and veterans.

“Keir Starmer was right today to say that mental health services for veterans must improve. The Prime Minister had little to say on the matter.

“I will be doing all I can to demand answers on what the government will be doing to address what I fear is an impending spike in mental health cases within the Armed Forces Community.

“I encourage any member of the Armed Forces Community who has been struggling with their mental health in recent days to contact Help for Heroes, the Royal British Legion or All Call Signs, who will be on hand to provide the support that’s needed.

”You are not alone.”

In recent days the city MP has heard from many constituents with regards to the risks faced by UK nationals in Afghanistan, the implications of recent events on human rights and the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

The MP has already spoken with a number of local groups and the city council with regards to resettling Afghan families in the city and continues to help support this.

On the recently announced new resettlement scheme for Afghan refugees, the Portsmouth MP added:

“The latest resettlement scheme proposal by Government does not meet the scale of the challenge or complexities being faced, with the separate scheme for Afghan interpreters already far behind schedule.

“Not only does this risk leaving people in Afghanistan in deadly danger, it will also undermine the leadership role Britain must play in persuading international partners to live up to their responsibilities.

“In recent days, many of my constituents have shared with me their concerns for those fleeing the country in fear of persecution – or even death – seeking sanctuary in the UK. I will continue to help on these matters with the urgency they deserve.

“Soldiers and diplomats must be given the resources that they need and clear routes to safety must be established and expedited, both for Afghan refugees and those who have worked with Britain.”

Commenting on the Government’s lack of a plan to address the unfolding crisis, Stephen Morgan MP also said:

“The character of our country is defined by how we respond to these moments. We must now ensure our city and our country plays its part in providing a safe haven for families in need of safety. We all have a role to play and must be held to account – including the government.

“The scale of the refugee crisis will require an international response. 18.4 million people in Afghanistan already require humanitarian assistance and there is a real risk that this humanitarian disaster will get worse, particularly for women and girls.

“That response starts by the UK urgently ramping up humanitarian and development support for those who need it most and working with trusted partners who are already embedded in the country to deliver that vital support, so it reaches Afghans in need.

“With Portsmouth a proud city of sanctuary I know our communities will want to go above and beyond to help those needing support at this desperate time.”

 

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Afghanistan: Statement from Stephen Morgan MP

A number of constituents have contacted me with regards to recent events in Afghanistan which, as news reports show, are very distressing and of real concern.

The situation in Afghanistan is shocking and worsening by the hour. It is clear to me that there has been a catastrophic miscalculation of the capacity and legitimacy of the Afghan government and the resilience of Afghan forces which has led to this disaster. 

We now face the tragic rollback of those gains that UK troops, diplomats and charity workers, and their coalition and Afghan partners, have worked so hard for.  Whilst my thoughts are with the Afghan people, ahead of Parliament being recalled I believe there are very serious questions about the failed political and development strategy of the last ten years. 

In the House of Commons on Wednesday we can expect a statement from the Prime Minister, and a response from the Leader of the Opposition. I will be attending Parliament for this important debate.

The priority of the Government must now must be for the Ministers to accelerate efforts to get UK nationals and eligible Afghans out of the country. Labour strongly support the deployment of troops to Kabul to provide security and capacity to do this, and as shadow armed forces minister, I will do what I can to assist with this.

Portsmouth is making preparations to support those who helped UK Forces, and their families, settle here. This is very welcome, and I have spoken with the city council to offer my support with this and ensure our city goes above and beyond to support families in need.

However, I believe government has so far been far too slow to provide sanctuary to those Afghans who have served alongside and supported the British presence in Afghanistan. This is a shameful dereliction of duty. Even now, there are reports of Afghans facing unacceptable bureaucratic hurdles, which I have been raising with Ministers and in the media, and the Foreign Office suspending scholarships for young Afghans.

That’s why I am calling for our resettlement scheme to urgently be expanded to ensure people to whom we owe a huge debt are not abandoned. The Taliban’s return is also likely to lead to a refugee crisis. The UK Government must put in place specific safe and legal asylum routes and help support Afghans who are fleeing to neighbouring states. 

Keir Starmer has also said the government must immediately consult with our allies in NATO and key countries in the region about the implications of the collapse of the Afghan government. I agree with this approach. There needs to be a coordinated strategy from the international community to the changing situation on the ground, and a plan to try to protect the gains made in the last 20 years on human rights. 

Some constituents have raised with me the real risk of a humanitarian disaster, particularly for women and girls. It is utterly shameful that the government has slashed development support to the country by 45% just as it faces a grave crisis. The UK must show it is taking immediate steps to ensure aid can reach those in need and prevent a humanitarian crisis. Given the advance of the Taliban and the evacuation of NGO, UN and British staff this is a complex and difficult task, and one which will require a coordinated international effort to achieve. 

The government has been silent as Afghanistan collapses, and this cannot continue which is why I welcome the call to recall Parliament and with urgency.

The government must use this important opportunity to explain to all MPs how it plans to work with allies to avoid a humanitarian crisis and lay out a strategy to prevent Afghanistan becoming once again a safe haven and operational hub for international terrorism that threatens our national security.

Stephen Morgan MP

 

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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.