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Aquind Stopped: Portsmouth MP responds

Responding to the Secretary of State’s decision to stop the Aquind interconnector project going ahead, Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan, said: 

“The government have finally seen sense and stopped the disastrous Aquind project.

“This is a victory for the people of Portsmouth over years of uncertainty and Tory cronyism.

“I pay tribute to local campaigners who have helped me lead our City’s united opposition.

“I will continue to raise questions about how Conservative ministers came so close to allowing party donors facing corruption allegations to control a national infrastructure project.

“Without our efforts, this would not have been possible. Together, we have stopped Aquind.”

The Portsmouth South MP has long opposed the Aquind interconnector project, working alongside the Let’s Stop Aquind grassroots group.

Since his election he has grilled Ministers in Parliament, secured a dedicated debate on the issue, attended protests alongside local campaigners and met the project company to discuss concerns.

In September, Mr Morgan submitted a 6,200 signature petition to Parliament calling on the Business Secretary to scrap the project.

Mr Morgan has also consistently raised concerns about the project company’s concerningly opaque structure and finances.

Media reports from the BBC and Guardian revealed that Aquind owner Viktor Fedotov benefited from a $4bn alleged fraud in Russia. This seems to have been achieved through a complex scheme that funnelled government cash through layers of shell companies that were ultimately owned by Mr Fedotov.

Similar concerns have been raised about Aquind’s finances, with little information available about where its money is coming from, who is providing it, or whether similar complex financial structures are being used to hide this.

Mr Fedotov had been able to remain completely anonymous as the company’s owner using a rare exemption in corporate transparency rules, until his identity was revealed following an investigation by The Times in August 2020. Why this anonymity was necessary is not clear.

Aquind’s public face, Alexander Temerko, has also conducted a coordinated and concerted effort to influence British political figures.

Since the project started, Temerko has donated £700,000 to the Conservative Party. In addition to this, research done by the BBC has revealed that Mr Fedotov’s businesses have donated a further £700,000 to 34 MPs and their local parties. This includes a string of current and former Ministers in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The Secretary of State was asked directly on Andrew Marr on 10 October if he was in favour of the project. He replied, “I have never commented on this specific project”.

However, letters obtained by The Times through a Freedom of Information request show the Mr Kwarteng indicated both his and the government’s support for the project when he was Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth.

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Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill – reaction from Stephen Morgan MP

Today the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill is due its second reading in the House of Commons, which I support. A high number of people have got in touch with me about the Bill hence why I am posting my views on my website.

I welcome its focus on recognising animals as sentient beings, replacing the protections lost through the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.

I also agree that the Government has been dragging its heels on protecting our animals for years. We’ve seen lots of press releases, yet little action from Ministers.

Many of the Animal Welfare measures in the last Queen’s Speech were lifted directly from Labour’s Animal Welfare Manifesto, but I believe the Government has failed to grasp the full detail.

We can have little confidence in this Government’s commitment to animal welfare: their manifesto promised not to compromise on Britain’s high standards in trade deals, but the Australian trade deal, and the precedent it sets, risks outsourcing animal cruelty in the supply chain to other countries.

The Government is also turning a blind eye to the abuse of loopholes in the Hunting Act leading to wild animal cruelty, while they continue to allow trail hunting on land owned by Government Departments.

I also believe that the definition of an animal should be expanded beyond its current stipulations to include crustaceans and cephalopods, as a number of constituents have raised with me.

However, I agree with the broad principle of the Bill and Labour will be raising amendments to it at the next stage of its passage through Parliament.

Stephen Morgan MP

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Portsmouth MP questions Ministers on national support for ‘vital services’ like Fratton’s MAKE

Stephen Morgan MP questioned Ministers in the House of Commons today on how the government is supporting social enterprises like Fratton’s MAKE, that have supported vulnerable people during the pandemic.

During Men’s Health Week last year, the Portsmouth MP paid a visit to ‘Breakfast OK’, held at Fratton-based social enterprise MAKE, which offers a chance for men to meet up and have a chat, rant or simply share their experiences with others in a relaxed environment over breakfast.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, in England, around one in eight men has a common mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

But social enterprises across the country are demonstrating their resilience in helping to tackle social issues. In spite of acute challenges, including difficulties accessing support, Social Enterprise UK says 65% are now expecting to retain their position or grow (compared to all SMEs who experienced around 50% turnover growth in the last 12 months), and only 1% expect to close (compared to 11% of business as a whole).

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

“Social Enterprises like MAKE are doing vital work to support communities through the pandemic and are showing they have an important role to play in providing services that many vulnerable people depend on.

“Government is failing to recognise this, and these organisations are being held back by the lack of support from Ministers.

“I will continue to push for the support MAKE and others deserve in Westminster to ensure those who need help get the support they require as we recover from Covid-19.”

Breakfast OK runs every Saturday from 10am-12pm at MAKE, 1 Cornwall Rd, Fratton, PO1 5AA.

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Comment: Stephen Morgan MP’s reaction to Prime Minister’s Questions

Reacting to Prime Minister’s Questions today, Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said:

“It is utterly ridiculous that the Prime Minister seems to suggest he had no idea he was at a Party. It’s a slap in the face for people in Portsmouth and across the country that diligently followed the rules.

“People suffered unimaginable loneliness, hurt and grief during the pandemic. The Prime Minister’s partying is beyond offensive to all of them. But to now try and hide behind an investigation, spokespeople or civil servants is frankly shameless. We should not need to wait for what should be the inevitable outcome of the investigation into what happened.

“It is time for him to finally take responsibility for what he has done. The party is over. Boris Johnson must resign.”

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Shadow Schools Minister: Government has failed to provide pupils with ‘proper access’ to careers advice

Stephen Morgan MP has accused the government during a debate in Westminster today of failing to provide “proper access” for pupils to careers advice.

Speaking in the debate, the Portsmouth MP said, “little action has actually been taken to address the postcode lottery our children face in accessing the skills and opportunities they need in school to navigate the world of work.”

The Shadow Schools Minister also said that Labour is backing pupils, parents, businesses, and educators with its pledge to give every child access to quality careers advice in their school.

Labour announced during its 2021 conference its plan to allow children to access a professional careers advisor 1 day a week.

A 2019 Careers England survey found that three quarters of schools have insufficient, limited or no funding for careers advice.

In addition, roughly a third of secondary schools say they receive the equivalent of £5 per student, with 5% receiving just £2.

In 2019, a CBI report also said 44% of employers felt that young people leaving education were not work ready.

The organisation also highlighted the geographic variation in engagement with employers and educational settings.

The City MP visited Portsmouth’s St Edmunds Catholic School last week, which he believes has a “very good offer”, but is concerned that more broadly, students in rural and coastal areas face a postcode lottery on access to joined up support.

The Shadow Schools Minister and Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

“Students across the country are being let down by government as they continue to face a postcode lottery in accessing the support they need to secure jobs for the future.

“As the economy recovers, it’s vital students are prepared to move into the world of work and have access to the support and advice they need.

“Labour would ensure every child has the best chance to succeed, which includes access to professional careers advice. Ministers are risking the futures of the next generation and our economy. It is morally and economically backward and I will continue to hold them to account on this.”

 

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Comment: Stephen Morgan MP responds to recent reports of Downing Street party

Responding to recent reports of a Downing Street party held while many in Portsmouth were following Covid-19 rules, Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said:

“Recent reports of yet another Downing Street party, at a time when those in Portsmouth were unable to see many of their loved ones, is a disgrace.

“The Prime Minister had the opportunity in parliament today to come clean. Instead, he didn’t even bother to show up.

“Whilst we were all following the rules, he was lounging in the No10 garden and holding the people of Portsmouth in contempt. It’s the same old, tired story from this government –  one rule for them, and another for the rest of us.”

 

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Cost of living crisis: City MP votes to save Portsmouth families £200 on their energy bills

Stephen Morgan MP voted for Labour’s plan in the House of Commons today that would save families in Portsmouth at least £200 on their energy bills.

Funded by a one-off windfall tax on North Sea Oil and Gas and higher than expected tax receipts, Labour would bring in fully costed plans now to reduce the expected price rise in April – saving most households around £200 or more, but targeted extra support to squeezed middle, pensioners and the lowest earners, receiving up to £600 off bills and preventing the increase in energy bills currently expected.

It comes following the Portsmouth MP’s campaign launch last week, calling on the government to immediately remove VAT from domestic energy bills to help protect working people, as the cost-of-living crisis deepens across Portsmouth and the country.

Labour say a VAT cut on domestic energy bills – which would change the charge from 5% to zero – could have come into place as early 1st November. The tax break would be designed to support struggling families through the winter months and would be automatically deducted from their bills.

The Official Opposition also proposed in its plan that was presented to Parliament today to increase the Warm Homes Discount budget to £4bn, an additional £3.5bn, sufficient to provide a £400 Warm Home Discount to the 9.3m households who would be eligible to receive it (around a third of all households in Great Britain), as well as covering the extra administration costs (estimated at £19 per household).

The Portsmouth MP has underlined that over 10,000 working age families in his constituency of Portsmouth South – nearly half of which with children – will be affected by the government’s cut to Universal Credit, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

According to analysis from Citizens Advice, 10 per cent of families in the UK – equivalent to 3.2 million households – could be facing a financial crisis this winter.

National polling by the charity has also shown that one in five people have already cut back on their food shop (19%), or used less heating (20%) to save money, demonstrating how recent changes have left many households in a vulnerable position.

Labour has said the VAT cut would offer a helping hand when people need it most, and alongside not cancelling the Universal Credit uplift, and not hitting working people and businesses with a new jobs tax, this VAT reduction is part of the party’s plan to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

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

“Energy bills, the weekly shop and taxes on the lowest earners are all up, but government is failing to support for Portsmouth families and keep them secure this winter.

“That’s why Labour would give families in Portsmouth security by taking fully funded measures to save most households around £200 or more, targeting extra support on top of that for the squeezed middle, pensioners and lowest earners.

“I will continue to take action in Parliament and hold Ministers to account to provide those most at risk this winter with the help they need.”

Anyone can sign up to support Stephen’s campaign and his call on Government to scrap VAT on energy bills. To do so, visit: https://www.stephenmorgan.org.uk/sign-up-scrapping-vat-on-energy-bills/

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Stephen Morgan MP backed unanimously to stand for Labour again at next General Election

City MP Stephen Morgan will stand unopposed as the Labour candidate for the Portsmouth South constituency when the nation next goes to the polls at the next General Election, it has been confirmed today (Saturday 8 January 2022).

As with all sitting Labour MPs, Mr Morgan has had to take part in the party’s trigger ballot to determine whether other candidates could challenge him for the right to contest the seat for the party

MPs need to gain the support of local branches and affiliated organisations, such as trade unions, within their constituency to secure re-selection.

Portsmouth Labour confirmed today that the sitting MP had stormed the selection process, receiving the support of all branches and all affiliates and therefore unanimously re-selected by the party for the next national poll, whenever that may be.

Welcoming the announcement from the party, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I am delighted that party members and the wider Labour movement have put their trust in me once again to be their representative for our constituency.

Being the MP for Portsmouth South, where I grew up, has been the greatest honour of my life. Since being elected I have prioritised the issues that matter to local people, be that supporting our city’s frontline pandemic response; tackling crime and getting our 1,000 bobbies back following Tory policing cuts; fighting for investment in our city schools and making sure our NHS gets the support it needs.

“But there is so much more for me to do for communities across our city. I will continue to work tirelessly to represent the interests of everyone, and look forward to contesting the next General Election now confirmed as Labour’s candidate”.

Alongside being a voice for the constituency in Parliament, a key part of an MP’s job is to support constituents with everyday issues and problems.

Last year alone, with the help of a small team, Mr Morgan closed over 8,341 cases helping hundreds of local people and responded to 14,440 emails from residents with ideas and views. His visible office in the heart of the constituency provides a hub for this important work to assist all constituents.

Mr Morgan won the seat for Labour for the first time in the constituency’s history in the snap General Election of 2017. In the December 2019 election he more than trebled his majority, securing one of the highest swings to Labour in the country.

Last month Mr Morgan was promoted in Keir Starmer’s top team as Shadow Schools Minister.

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Cost of living crisis: Portsmouth MP launches local campaign for urgent VAT cut on energy bills to protect working families  

Stephen Morgan MP has launched a campaign today calling on the government to immediately remove VAT from domestic energy bills to help protect working people, as the cost-of-living crisis deepens across Portsmouth and the country.

Labour say a VAT cut on domestic energy bills – which would change the charge from 5% to zero – could have come into place as early 1st November. The tax break would be designed to support struggling families through the winter months and would be automatically deducted from their bills.

The cut would be funded for by the higher-than-expected VAT receipts accrued since the start of the financial year.

It comes as energy bills continue to soar, prices for everyday items are still rising steeply and national insurance and council tax hikes are set to impact working people in the months ahead.

The Portsmouth MP has underlined that over 10,000 working age families in his constituency of Portsmouth South – nearly half of which with children – will be affected by the government’s cut to Universal Credit, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

According to analysis from Citizens Advice, 10 per cent of families in the UK – equivalent to 3.2 million households – could be facing a financial crisis this winter.

National polling by the charity has also shown that one in five people have already cut back on their food shop (19%), or used less heating (20%) to save money, demonstrating how recent changes have left many households in a vulnerable position.

Labour has said the VAT cut would offer a helping hand when people need it most, and alongside not cancelling the Universal Credit uplift, and not hitting working people and businesses with a new jobs tax, this VAT reduction is part of the party’s plan to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

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

“This government is lurching from one crisis to the next, leaving Portsmouth families by the wayside and offering little support to help them get through this winter as everyone feels the pinch.

“Energy bills, inflation and taxes on the lowest earners are all up, but support for working families is far below what is required to keep them secure this winter.

“That’s why I’m launching this local campaign, calling on the government to urgently cut VAT on energy bills to protect working families in Portsmouth, which Labour has been calling for some time now.

“I will continue to hold Ministers to account to provide those most at risk this winter with the help they need, as Ministers continue to struggle with getting to grips with the cost-of-living crisis.”

Anyone can sign up to support this campaign and Stephen’s call on Government to scrap VAT on energy bills. To do so, visit: https://www.stephenmorgan.org.uk/sign-up-scrapping-vat-on-energy-bills/

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£13bn of MoD waste revealed in recent report labelled ‘unacceptable’ by Portsmouth MP

Stephen Morgan MP has labelled the £13bn of waste revealed in Labour’s ‘Dossier of Waste in the Ministry of Defence’ as ‘unacceptable’.

The report found that the Government has wasted at least £13bn of taxpayers’ money on 67 officially confirmed cases of MoD waste since 2010.

The new revelations of billions of pounds of Ministry of Defence waste comes at the same time as government cutting Army numbers and freezing forces pay.

Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey says that Labour’s audit of waste shows that “the MoD is a uniquely failing department” and that “Ministers are failing British troops and British taxpayers”.

Labour’s audit examines the extent of waste within the MoD, the cost of which could have been avoided or reduced by better MoD judgement or management.

Labour’s analysis found that Ministers’ mismanagement at the Ministry of Defence has led to £4.8bn of taxpayers’ money being handed out for cancelled contracts and £5.6bn on overspent projects.

If this wasted public money had been reduced, funding could have been available to strengthen the UK’s Armed Forces and avoid cuts forced by budget pressures to troops, planes, ships and vital equipment.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has declared the defence equipment plan “unaffordable” for the last four years in a row, and the Public Accounts Committee said that the Ministry of Defence’s procurement system is “broken and is repeatedly wasting taxpayers’ money”.

Labour has said it would make the Ministry of Defence the first department subject to its new Office for Value for Money’s tough spending regime and commission the NAO to conduct an audit of Ministry of Defence waste to get to grips with these problems.

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

“The Ministry of Defence has blown billions of pounds at the same time as cutting Army numbers and freezing forces pay.

“Labour’s Dossier confirms the scale of waste in MoD budgets and Ministers have got no grip on the problems. Tory waste is failing forces families and taxpayers in Portsmouth and others right across the country.

“This is unacceptable, but Government has no serious intent to get a grip of these deep-seated problems. Only Labour has a plan to tackle them and will continue to hold Ministers to account on this mess.”

Commenting on Labour’s “Dossier of Waste in the Ministry of Defence”, Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey, also said:

“The Ministry of Defence is a uniquely failing department. Labour’s audit confirms at least £13bn in taxpayers’ money has been wasted since 2010, with £4bn wasted while the present Defence Secretary has been in post.

“Ministers are failing British troops and British taxpayers, and this audit is Labour’s first step in fixing the failing system. We would ensure the Ministry of Defence is the first department subject to our new Office for Value for Money’s new tough spending regime and commission the NAO to get to the bottom of these problems.”