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Universal Credit cut: Portsmouth MP lobbies Government again as he pledges to stand up for over 5,500 local families

Stephen Morgan MP has written to the Work and Pensions Secretary on behalf of local families to urge the government to reconsider its planned cut to Universal Credit in October.

At the start of the pandemic, the Government increased the standard allowance of Universal Credit by £20 per week which is set to be removed in five weeks’ time. This cut of over £1,000 a year to millions of families is the biggest overnight cut to the social security system since World War II.

In the Portsmouth representative’s constituency alone, 5,550 families will be affected, including 6,907 children.

The Government had originally planned to implement the cut in April 2021 but were forced to change course after the Official Opposition successfully won a vote in House of Commons in January.

Labour had planned to force a vote on the issue in the Commons yesterday (Wednesday 8 September) but this was cancelled by the government. The Portsmouth South representative has instead written to Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey urging her to cancel the cut.

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

“It is shameful that the very workers who got us through this crisis are now set to lose £1,000 from their income ever year.

The £20 that is due to be cut is currently enabling some local families to put food on the table at the end of the week. The government cannot pull the rug from under them during this precarious moment for families and the economy.

The government have cancelled Labour’s vote on this in Parliament, but I’ve written to the Work and Pensions Secretary today to press the government to cancel the cut.”

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Government response to ‘90,000’ HGV driver shortage is ‘kicking the can down the road’, says local MP

Stephen Morgan MP has labelled the Government’s response to tackle a shortage of HGV drivers as “kicking the can down the road”.

The driver shortage has been estimated to be between 76,000 to 90,000 drivers, according to Logistics UK. (1)

It comes after a range of senior Labour frontbenchers responded to an open Government letter to the road haulage industry, underlining that the new measures are not enough to address the scale of the shortage crisis. (2) (3)

This shortage existed before the Covid-19 pandemic but has been worsened by Brexit making the UK a less attractive location for overseas drivers, primarily due to increased bureaucracy at UK borders.

In a joint letter, the five frontbenchers said the Government have only offered “short-term solutions” which risk compromising the safety of already exhausted drivers, increasing their working hours, and putting road users in danger by diluting test requirements for new drivers.

The letter warns food shortages could last through to the end of the year and urges the Government not to “ruin yet another Christmas for British families, after the chaos of last year”.

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

“These government measures responding to the HGV driver shortage crisis will just kick the can down the road for another year.

The shortage is having a severe impact on businesses and consumers right now, locally and nationally, yet the Government is doing nothing to boost recruitment, particularly of women – which could make a crucial difference to the number of drivers.

“Government must take the steps needed to deal with the driving test backlog, invest in upskilling UK workers, and act swiftly to boost driver recruitment. This means not ignoring half of the population and taking steps to encourage more women into jobs in the industry.”

One of the frontbenchers who signed the joint-letter, Kerry McCarthy MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Roads and Future Transport, also said:

“This crisis is affecting businesses and consumers now, and the Government needs to understand that.

 “Labour would take the steps needed to deal with the driving test backlog, invest in upskilling UK workers, and act swiftly to boost driver recruitment. Crucially, we would do this all without compromising road safety.”

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NEW: Caseworker job opportunity

Want to help make a difference to peoples’ lives? Interested in working at the heart of politics to help bring about change?

Then an opportunity has arisen to join Stephen Morgan MP’s Portsmouth team:

Stephen Morgan is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Portsmouth South, the first-ever Labour MP for the constituency.

A small dedicated support team works out of the constituency office on Albert Road in Southsea to provide a public service to residents in Portsmouth South and assist with Stephen’s parliamentary duties.

Full time: Monday to Friday (occasional weekend work)

Salary: £21,529-£32,022 plus benefits

Initial fixed-term 12 month post (with option for extension/permanent contact)

What to do next…

If you have what it takes to join the team, please submit a covering letter and CV to julie.minal@parliament.uk by no later than Friday 27 August 2021, 12 noon.

Due to the high volume of applications expected please note we are only able to respond to those shortlisted for interview.

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City MP pays visit to ‘vital business for Portsmouth’s economy’, Brittany Ferries

Stephen Morgan MP has met with one of the key businesses of Portsmouth’s economy, Brittany Ferries, to understand its current challenges, including preparations for when restrictions ease and the uncertainty around green, amber and red list countries.

The company, which serves destinations in France and northern Spain, says international holidays by sea could be set for a big come-back.

In the UK, Brittany Ferries sails from Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth. It carries around 2.5 million passengers a year (pre-Covid average), 85 percent of whom are British.

The Portsmouth representative met with the travel firm’s UK Managing Director, John Napton, as well as other senior colleagues.

The visit is one of the many businesses and organisations the city MP has met with over the last month, as part of his ‘Pride in Portsmouth’ to support the city’s recovery from the pandemic, encourage visitors to the city’s attractions and keep the pound in Portsmouth.

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

“Brittany Ferries is a vital part of our city’s economy, employing many people across Portsmouth and generating income to our city’s port which sustains local public services.

“For businesses like these, the uncertainty around both the easing of restrictions and the confusing red, amber and green list countries, makes it incredibly difficult for them to plan ahead and ultimately ensure their business recovery.

“I will continue to speak up for businesses based in our city, encourage residents to show their ‘Pride in Portsmouth’ to support them, as well as push to get the certainty they need from government.”

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City MP: Levelling Up Fund must bring benefits to Portsmouth people’s doorsteps

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP HAS met with Portsmouth City Council’s Chief Executive and other council officials to help secure funding for the city post-pandemic and bring much-needed investment to Portsmouth.

Nationally the Government’s new flagship “Levelling Up Fund” has been criticised for prioritising the Chancellor’s own local authority, where houses are currently on sale for £2.5 million, for regeneration funding ahead of areas often neglected by Ministers for financial support, including here in Portsmouth.

The Chancellor’s own local authority of Richmondshire, as well as the constituencies of four other members of the Cabinet, are prioritised to bid for Levelling Up Funding.

Newark and Sherwood, Pembrokeshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Great Yarmouth local authorities, which include the constituencies of the Chancellor, the Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart, Scottish Secretary Allister Jack and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis respectively, were all included in the first tier of eligibility for priority funding, under plans announced by the Chancellor at the Budget.

Their areas were selected for funding ahead of authorities such as Barnsley, Flintshire, Coventry, Plymouth, Salford and the Wirral, all of which were included in the second tier for priority funding.

To ensure transparency by Ministers, Labour has previously demanded the Government publish the metrics used to determine areas for priority funding. Bids will be determined by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The news follows months of controversy after a town in the Communities Secretary’s own constituency, Newark, was selected for funding as part of the £3.6 billion Towns Fund by the then communities minister Jake Berry, while Jenrick selected Darwen, in Berry’s constituency.

Ministers at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, will determine bids under a number of criteria.

Following the meeting with the city council today, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“Labour supports funding for every region but it is crucial that it is done transparently, fairly and with a say for local communities. This Government cannot pit regions and nations against each other for money that should reach communities as a matter of course.

“Piecemeal pots of funding do not make up for a decade of cuts to local communities in Portsmouth: it just highlights this Government’s failure to bring prosperity to our city.

“Cosmetic projects that don’t fix major inequalities between our regions are not good enough: the real yardstick of success will be if this Government puts opportunities on everyone’s doorsteps and leaves every part of our country feeling like a good place to grow up and grow old in”.

The council will be working up ideas for the area based on priorities set by Government including transport, regeneration and town centre and cultural investment. Up to £20m is available to bid for.

On specific ideas for regeneration the MP added:

“We must ensure future funding from Government finally ends the two decades of decline to our city centre. This is a huge issue locally yet sadly successive council leaders in Portsmouth have promised the earth, but failed to deliver. Investment at the scale our city’s heart needs is long overdue.

“Today I made clear to officials again that we must ensure funding helps create and protect jobs, tackles the climate crisis and makes a difference to the lives of Portsmouth people.

“I will be working closely with others in the development of a bid from our city, and will take a watching interest in proposals on potential regeneration sites”.

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Local MP backs national campaign to ‘Shop Kind’ as Portsmouth Co-op signs up

Stephen Morgan MP has given his support to the national campaign to ‘Shop Kind’, as local co-operative stores sign up.

The campaign aims to build positivity and encourage kindness to both shopworkers and consumers in stores.

Southern Co-op, which operates The Co-operative Food stores, as well as funeral and coffee services across the south, is working with some of the UK’s biggest retailers, the Home Office and independent charity Crimestoppers who have launched a new and timely campaign urging the public to ShopKind after the reopening of more stores and shops across the country.

Abuse and violence towards shopworkers is a bigger problem than many people might think, with at least 400 shopworkers abused every day.

The campaign is backed by the Home Office and supported by major high street retailer as well as the nation’s independent shopkeepers, and the shopworkers Union Usdaw.

The Association of Convenience Stores’ 2021 Crime Report, published last month, shows that over the past year there have been over 1.2million incidents of verbal abuse, and around 40,000 incidents of violence against people working in convenience stores. Of these, more than a quarter involved a weapon, such as a knife, hammer, axe, or syringe.

Two-thirds of retailers (65%) had experienced Covid-related threats, with the most common causes of abuse being: reminding customers to wear face coverings, reminding customers of social distancing measures and queueing outside stores.

Backing the campaign city MP Stephen Morgan and Fratton resident Nikki Coles visited the Coop on New Road, Fratton.

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

“As restrictions slowly begin to ease and shops reopen, it is really important we are mindful of those key workers who have helped keep us going over the past year.

“The abuse they have received is completely unacceptable, particularly at a time when we should be thanking them for their sacrifices.

This behaviour cannot continue and as we gradually unpick the economy, we should use this as an opportunity to end such behaviour.

It is why I fully support the national ‘Shop Kind’ campaign.”

Nikki Coles, Labour’s candidate for Fratton, added:

“No one in Fratton or across our city should have to face violence and abuse just for doing their job, and nothing is more important to us than the safety and wellbeing of shopworkers who work tirelessly within communities – they deserve thanks, not abuse, threats and violence.

They also deserve for the law to better protect them as they go about their daily working lives”.

Portsmouth Labour representatives have previously backed Usdaw’s ‘Respect for Shopworkers Week’, last November, following a visit to a local Co-op supermarket in Portsmouth.

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Portsmouth MP welcomes new commission to rebuild Britain’s high streets and revitalise town centres

Stephen Morgan MP has thrown his support behind Labour’s new independent Commission ‘Rebuilding Our High Streets’, launched by the Shadow Chancellor today. The commission will seek to bring together experts from businesses in retail, leisure and hospitality, as well as representatives of the trade union, local government cooperative and social enterprise sectors.

The announcement comes as new figures reveal that over the last decade high streets across the UK have lost:

  • 9,775 shops
  • 5,785 pubs
  • 7,400 bank branches
  • 1,195 libraries

Meanwhile, the South East has lost 1080 shops, 945 pubs and 120 libraries over the same period.

The Commission will meet regularly over the course of the next six months to offer independent advice to the Party on issues such as:

  • How the high streets of the 2020s and beyond can be supported to thrive, as great places where people can shop, socialise, meet, work and live.
  • Bringing empty commercial properties back into use for existing and new businesses.
  • Levelling the playing field between bricks and mortar businesses and online firms.
  • Promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in our high streets, reflecting the needs of local communities.

The UK’s high streets have been hit by unprecedented challenges throughout the pandemic and face more threats in the coming year. These include government changes to planning rules in August, which will allow shops to be converted into low quality flats over the heads of local communities, and the staged return of business rates, with firms liable to pay full rates again in April next year.

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

“This year has brought unprecedented challenges to businesses and organisations across the country that depend on the local high street, none more so than here in Portsmouth.

“Labour is determined to deliver a brighter future for our high streets as part of our mission to make Britain the best place to grow up and grow old in, which is why I’m proud to support the Rebuilding Our High Streets Commission.

“Our vision is not one harking back to one of the past, but finding ways to make our town centres places we can be proud of and where communities can come together. This Commission will offer independent advice to Labour on how we achieve that.”

Mr Morgan has had regular meetings with local businesses and organisations linked to Portsmouth’s high streets throughout the pandemic, working on their behalf to get the support they need.

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Labour calls on the government to invest in and secure British jobs ​for the defence sector

The Official Opposition is demanding greater protection of jobs in the defence sector by calling on the government to adopt a ‘British-built by default’ approach, intended to boost manufacturing within the UK supply chain, a move welcomed by Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP.

Labour says a new threshold is needed for equipment to be sourced outside of the UK, requiring proof that defence projects cannot be built under similar terms in Britain.

In addition, the Party is calling on ministers to report annually on the proportion of defence spending going through British companies, and to improve procurement rules to promote prosperity in supply chain businesses throughout the UK’s towns, regions, and industries such as steel.

The Party accuse the Conservative government of br​eaking promises ​made to the Armed Forces and wasting taxpayer money through its decade-long policy of ‘open competition by default’ that has seen the UK buying off-the–shelf defence equipment from overseas.

New analysis by Labour shows:  

  • Over £6 billion of allocated spending in government’s Integrated Review and Defence Command Paper is going on off-the-shelf purchases of surveillance aircraft from overseas.
  • A naval contract worth £1.5 billion for Fleet Support Ships has been unfulfilled since 2018, due to Ministerial indecision ​about making the contract British-led.
  • 30,000 defence industry jobs lost since 2010 under the Conservatives

Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Labour Party said:

“Prioritising British businesses through defence spending is not only investment in jobs, but in our communities, and a more secure economy.  

“Under this Prime Minister, we have seen broken promises and dither and delay, at the expense of UK supply chain businesses and taxpayer’s money.  

“We cannot go back to business as usual. Labour will protect jobs in the defence sector, harness the skills and talents of our workers, and will deliver value for money for British people, to ensure a prosperous recovery out of the pandemic.” 

John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, added:

“The Prime Minister has already broken promises made to military personnel by cutting 10,000 posts in the Army.

“On the Tories’ watch, we have also lost tens of thousands of jobs across the industry and wasted time on key contracts.  

“Of course, there will be essential equipment or systems which makes strategic sense for Britain to develop with allies or to buy direct from overseas, but we want to see a much higher bar for this”.

Stephen Morgan, Shadow Armed Forces Minister and Portsmouth South MP, added:

“We know only too well here in Portsmouth that when done well, defence spending has a multiplier effect, strengthening our UK economy. That’s why I have been calling on the Government for some time to build more Naval ships in Britain.

“Covid has exposed the risks of relying on foreign supply chains.

“I welcome Keir Starmer’s contribution to this debate. Labour’s ‘British by default’ policy would help secure vital jobs in Portsmouth as our city recovers from the pandemic as well as strengthen the UK’s sovereignty and security.” 

 

 

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Portsmouth MP says lobbying for city’s arts and cultural sector ‘is paying off’ but Government must support those excluded

Stephen Morgan MP has today welcomed the latest round of grants to help the city’s arts and cultural sector recover from the pandemic but has called on Ministers to finally end the uncertainty for those in the creative sector who have missed out on financial support

In the Portsmouth South constituency, the Cultural Recovery Fund has today awarded grants totalling £1,066,493 to over six organisations from Concrete Music to The Mary Rose. Moreover, across Portsmouth, a total of £1,143,047 has been awarded to eight organisations.

Arts Council England has awarded over £261 million to more than 2,700 organisations as part of this round of the national programme.

The Portsmouth South MP has been tirelessly lobbying Government to support the city’s arts and cultural organisations and those who work in the sector in what has been an extremely challenging time for the industry.

This has included meeting with local representatives, submitting parliamentary questions, visiting organisations to hear concerns, supporting funding bids and lobbying Ministers directly.

Welcoming today’s latest grants round, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“I have long argued that when our country recovers from this pandemic culture must be front and centre. Yet so many of our city’s fantastic arts and cultural organisations have been under huge strain in the past year, with venues closed and ticket and secondary sales lost.

I am pleased that the lobbying of Government is finally paying off and these grants will go a long well to help many organisations get back on their feet and recover from a difficult year.

It was a pleasure to work alongside so many in the sector to secure much needed funding for Portsmouth, but we have more to do to get Ministers to listen, and ensure the strong foundations we need for the future”.

The Cultural Recovery Fund has been designed to support venues rather than individuals in the creative sector.  On this the city MP added:

“Our city’s recovery will not just be about making sure organisations have the resources they need to thrive, but also support is given to those amazing creatives who work within the sector.

Last month’s Budget made only a small adjustment to the support for the self-employed but there are still millions without support – many of whom work within the creative and events sector here in Portsmouth.

That’s why I will continue to lobby Government to make sure those excluded from financial support are not forgotten. They need certainty too and they need it now”.

Local beneficiaries of the Cultural Recovery Fund also include:

  • The Cathedral Church of St. Thomas of Canterbury in Portsmouth (£121,000 )
  • Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust (£222,300)
  • PRCDTC Portsmouth St Johns Cathedral (£102,200)
  • The Wedgewood Rooms (£73,686)
  • Groundlings Theatre (£32,582)
  • SSD Music limited (£299,002)
  • Portsmouth City Council – Museums (£160,640)
  • The Kings Theatre Trust (£172,931)

 

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‘Defence jobs are vital to Luton’s recovery’ – MPs meet with defence firm 

Labour’s Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP, visited Luton to meet with bosses at defence firm, Leonardo. The international company employs 1000 people at their Luton site, contributing 8% share local jobs in Luton’s manufacturing sector. 

Accompanied by Council Leader, Hazel Simmons, and Luton South MP, Rachel Hopkins, the Shadow Minister sat down with the electronic aerospace, defence and security developers to discuss the £123 million contribution the firm makes to the area.

Stephen Morgan MP, the Shadow Armed Forces Minister, said:

“It was fantastic to visit Leonardo to hear more about its work to support Luton during the pandemic and its wider contribution to the local economy. 

“Hazel and Rachel have done a tremendous job working with local business to ensure the jobs-based recovery Luton needs and is an excellent example of Labour working constructively with industry to achieve that wider national objective.”

Council Leader, Hazel Simmons MBE, said:

“I am really proud of the positive relationship that Luton Council has built with Leonardo.   

“Their well-developed apprenticeship scheme attracts young people from across the Borough, and it was great to meet with executives to learn more about how we can boost highly skilled, well paid jobs here in Luton. These are the jobs that will help Luton bounce back after Covid.”  

Luton South MP, Rachel Hopkins, added

“Leonardo is an important part of Luton’s manufacturing sector, and it was positive to hear about their apprenticeship schemes, support for women in STEM, and how they moved into making PPE to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic. 

Luton’s recovery must have good, well-paid jobs at its heart. Labour is committed to working with Trade Unions and businesses to help rebuild our economy.”