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Stephen Morgan MP calls on the Government to support families during lockdown

Today, Stephen Morgan MP, has demanded the government give families the support they need while schools and colleges are closed to most pupils.

This follows news that the government will not be providing Free School Meals funding during February half-term, leaving 6,580 children in Portsmouth at risk of going hungry.

Labour is calling on the government to guarantee that all eligible children receive the full value of free school meals during this school year, including during all holidays.

To enable this, the government should set-up cash payments so parents can choose the spend the £15 free school meal funding on the food and supplies that are right for their children.

Children’s education is being further put at risk by the government’s failure to provide the laptops and digital access needed for remote learning. Two weeks into lockdown, 97,800 of the government’s promised laptops still have not been delivered to children across the south east.

Labour will call a vote in Parliament on Monday to ask the government to guarantee that all eligible children are getting the full value of free school meals support, including during school holidays, and have the digital access they need to learn remotely.

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“The government has had no plan to support children’s education, wellbeing or futures during this pandemic.

“Cutting free school meals support and leaving children without the equipment to learn remotely in our city is simply unacceptable.

 “I will not stand by and let families be the victims of the government’s incompetence. Boris Johnson and his MPs must now do the right thing and vote to support Labour’s proposals on Monday.”

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Shadow Minister demands ‘clear and credible’ plan to protect and vaccinate armed forces

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan has called on the government to set out how and when armed forces personnel will receive the Coronavirus vaccine.

It comes as the number of troops deployed to support the Covid-19 response hit 5,000 and new analysis of Ministry of Defence Statistics revealed that the average weekly number of Coronavirus tests administered to defence staff per week is just 1,901.

The Opposition has called for a ‘clear and credible plan’ to protect troops on the ground, who are providing practical support to roll out the vaccine and community testing.

Government figures suggest that the number of confirmed cases in defence personnel jumped to an all-time high of 3,291 in December, up by more than 1,000 on the previous month.

Earlier this week, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace raised hopes when he appeared to suggest that troops helping with Coronavirus response would be prioritised in some way.

But no further clarity has been forthcoming, prompting concerns over the welfare of troops on the ground.

Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP and Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces, said:

“The armed forces are doing vital work to support frontline staff at this critical juncture in our work to vaccinate Britain. Our world-renowned troops should be utilised as much as possible to speed up vaccinations.

“In the immediacy, government must rapidly ramp up testing for our armed forces, who are putting themselves at greater risk of contracting the virus.

“The Defence Secretary must also set out a clear and credible plan to vaccinate our troops, particularly for those who are to be deployed for longer periods of time.

“We must protect those who are protecting us.”

 

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Government must do the decent thing and ‘Cancel the Cut’ says City MP after hearing from local Citizens Advice

Stephen Morgan MP has today renewed his call for the Government’s plans to cut Universal Credit (UC) by £20 per week to be scrapped and called on others to get Ministers to ‘Cancel the Cut’

The latest intervention comes after hearing from Portsmouth Citizens Advice on the importance of the campaign and ahead of a debate on Monday in Parliament where the official opposition will force a vote by Government to justify its decision.

Contacting the city MP this week, Portsmouth Citizens Advice said:

“Every day our advisers speak to people whose lives have been turned upside down by the pandemic. Our local office is proud to have support 1207 people with Universal Credit during the crisis.  

However, the new national lockdown will further impact local people’s lives, and many will struggle if the uplift expires.

The uplift has been a vital lifeline for local people, safeguarding quality of life and helping to prevent permanent economic scarring. Citizens Advice and organisations across the country will be working together to encourage the Chancellor to keep the lifeline, as well as extend the uplift to legacy benefits”.

The total Universal Credit caseload in Portsmouth South, Morgan’s constituency, has risen to 11693 – a 108% increase since March. The changes to Universal Credit could take around £10,900,000 out of the local economy, or more if the caseload increases. 

The Portsmouth South MP has taken a range of actions in recent months to urge the Government to cancel the cut to universal credit including writing to the Chancellor in November to urge him to reconsider the policy decision, submitting parliamentary questions to Ministers, and arranging for a motion at Portsmouth City Council to lobby Government to cancel the cut, but was not supported by local Tories.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Universal Credit is a lifeline to many people in Portsmouth and across the country. Right now people are relying on it more than ever.

“Cuts to Universal Credit, especially during this time of crisis, is not only morally bankrupt, but would cause serious economic damage to our economy and its and our city’s ability to recover from this crisis.

“That’s why I am calling on the government to cancel the cut and will continue to push Ministers to make sure claimants get the support they so desperately need”.

Mr Morgan has called on the Chancellor last week to set out his wider strategy on economic support for Portsmouth as he prepares to announce his budget in March.

On Monday, during an opposition day debate, Labour will force a vote on the proposed cut to universal credit to urge the Government to think again over their plans.

On this, the city MP added:

“The Government must do the right thing on Monday, and stop the planned £20 a week, or £1000 a year, cut to Universal Credit due for April 2021, which will hit Britain’s poorest households.

“I’ll be doing the decent thing on Monday when MPs come to vote. I hope the Government do too”.

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Portsmouth MP backs The News’ campaign to vaccinate city’s communities with support of pharmacies

Stephen Morgan MP has welcomed the campaign by The News calling on the government to utilise pharmacies as part of its Covid-19 vaccine rollout programme, and has today taken action by calling on the Minister to make it happen

Lobbying the Minister for the COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment, Nadhim Zahawi MP, the Portsmouth South MP has highlighted that approximately 90% of the population are within a 20-minute walk of a pharmacy, whilst nearly 70% of people have been to a community pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“We will beat this virus by getting our city and Britain vaccinated as quickly possible. That requires us to use every resource we have, including pharmacies. We need to ensure that it is possible to get vaccinated round the clock, and round the corner.

“By Government adding community pharmacies to the programme it would add thousands of new settings across the country in which vaccinations can be safely administered, dramatically cut the time it takes to vaccinate everyone who needs it and allow the lifting of the national lockdown faster.

“I’ll continue to do all I can to urge the Government to deliver on this not only for the people of Portsmouth, but for our country.

“The first step in that process was to write to the Minister responsible today calling on him to make it happen”.

Leader of the Opposition and party leader, Keir Starmer added:

“Every high street has a pharmacy and I want to see every possible pharmacy deployed to help.

“Across those communities, pharmacists stand ready to play their part too. Let’s use them, and let’s vaccinate Britain.”

Earlier this week, Stephen Morgan MP used the opportunity during Health questions to ask Government when the new vaccination centre at St James’ hospital will receive the doses and equipment to hit the ground running on the vaccine roll-out. The city MP awaits a reply from Government.

 

 

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Inaction risks ‘generational damage to patient care’ if issues over NHS dentistry not addressed warns Portsmouth MP

Stephen Morgan MP stood up for Portsmouth people struggling to access NHS dentistry or get the care they need in a debate in Parliament today on the impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on dental services

Speaking in a debate in order for the relevant Government Minister to respond and take action, the Portsmouth South MP underlined he is ‘particularly concerned about the recently imposed NHS activity targets’ and the impact this is having on local dental services.

The latest intervention in the House of Commons follows Mr Morgan’s long-running efforts on concerns from constituents and came after hosting a summit earlier this week with representatives from Healthwatch Portsmouth, the British Dental Association (BDA), and the local dental committee.

New targets set by Government could lead to some practices facing steep financial penalties if they fail to hit 45% of their pre-pandemic NHS activity during the current quarter.

According to figures from the BDA, only 43% of adults in Portsmouth have seen an NHS dentist in the 2 years up to June 2020, compared to 48% across England.

During his speech, the Portsmouth South representative spoke of one of his constituents that attempted a DIY tooth extraction, using pliers to relieve their pain, joining the 7.6% of English households who have done similar.

Stephen Morgan MP, commented:

“Dental services in our city were already under huge pressure even before the impacts of Covid-19, but the government is exacerbating the situation.

The recently imposed NHS activity targets are particularly illogical. The targets effectively force practices to prioritise volume over need – leaving them with little choice but to conduct routine check-ups instead of clearing the backlog of more time-consuming treatments.

This creates the unsustainable situation where patients in our city are unable to access the treatment they need, while practitioners are in a race against time to maintain their financial viability”.

Mr Morgan has previously raised concerns on the impacts the pandemic has had on dentistry and called on Government to act. The MP is now calling on Ministers to intervene to reach agreement with the profession and alleviate concerns being raised.

The Portsmouth South MP added:

“Though Ministers have committed to reforming the system we have seen no action and little appetite to do so.

It is essential we fundamentally reform the way NHS dentistry is commissioned and incentivised. 

Without urgent change, NHS dentistry in Portsmouth and across the country could be decimated, permanently damaging patient care for decades to come”.

In support of the call to action, Ian Mills, Dean of the Faculty of General Dental Practice UK, added:

“Many patients have been unable to access dental care for over a year, with their dental problems getting steadily worse, and oral health inequalities exacerbated by coronavirus restrictions. The dental profession is acutely aware of the present backlog of unmet dental need, which requires treatment as soon as possible.

However, the recent imposition of UDA (Units of Dental Activity)-based targets in England to remedy this, just as the pandemic becomes worse than it has ever been, is at odds with the Government’s message to ‘stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives’.

The dental profession has worked assiduously to create a safe environment for dental treatment to be delivered, but there are justifiable concerns that significant increases in patient throughput, in order to meet UDA targets, could potentially compromise staff and patient safety. 

The UDA was an ineffective measure of activity before the COVID pandemic, and we consider it even less appropriate now. Circumstances will vary by practice and by patient, but the priority should be on safety, the treatment of those with acute needs, and essential maintenance of oral health.”

 

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Revealed: The striking similarities between shameful meal parcels and Government guidance

Labour today reveals that the Government’s own guidance on what should be in food parcels is strikingly similar to images circulating on social media in recent days – with less than a 50p daily difference.

It comes as Stephen Morgan MP has stepped up pressure for the Government to ensure families are getting the full value of Free School Meals support here in Portsmouth.

Ministers have described images circulating in recent days as “completely unacceptable.” The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, told the Education Select Committee that “it will not be tolerated we will not live with that.” But research from Labour suggests that the packages aren’t as far removed from Government guidance as ministers are suggesting.

Guidance written by the Department for Education and pointed to from gov.uk suggests “general principles for putting together” parcels. And the similarities between them and the images circulating are striking.

The key items missing are two ‘tins of meat’, a litre of milk and a tin of sweetcorn. A leading UK supermarket prices this at about 47p of food a day. This doesn’t include items that are not in the guidance but in the picture, such as Soreen and pasta.

Widely shared image on social media Government guidance
1 x loaf of bread 1 x loaf of bread
2 x potatoes 2 x potatoes
1 x tomato 3 x tomatoes
5 x portions of fruit 5 x portions of fruit
? x cheese portions 3 x cheese portions
1 x tin of baked beans 1 x tin of baked beans
3 x yoghurts 3 x individual serving yoghurt pots
1 x bag of pasta 1 x cucumber
2 x packets Soreen 1 x tin sweetcorn
2 x carrots 1 x bottle milk
2 x tin of meat

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

“The images that have been circulating on social media are shameful and have shocked many constituents.

“But these revelations about the Government’s own guidance as we have learnt today means that ministers’ newfound concern rings hollow. A couple of tins and a bottle of milk isn’t the difference between acceptable or unacceptable.

“I will continue to put pressure on Government to act. Many in our city were already struggling to make ends meet before this pandemic. This crisis has made life for them even harder. Portsmouth families deserve better from Ministers”.

Tulip Siddiq MP, Labour’s Shadow Children and Early Years Minister, added:

“The Government’s response has yet again been far too slow, with national food vouchers only becoming available from next week – two weeks after schools moved to remote learning.

“Children are going hungry now – this cannot wait.”

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Stephen Morgan MP calls for the Government to reverse lifting ban on bee-killing pesticides

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has today called for the Government to reverse its decision to lift the ban on bee-killing pesticides, known as neonicotinoids. This pesticide is seriously harmful to Britain’s dwindling bee populations and will further damage biodiversity.

Stephen Morgan MP also accuses the Government of rolling back on commitments made to uphold the ban by previous Environment Secretary, Michael Gove. He pledged to uphold the ban on neonicotinoids in 2017.

At the time Michael Gove, said: “The weight of evidence now shows the risks neonicotinoids pose to our environment, particularly to the bees and other pollinators which play such a key part in our £100bn food industry, is greater than previously understood … We cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk.”

He also said: “Unless the evidence base changes again, the Government will keep these restrictions in place after we have left the EU.”

The city MP is concerned that this is a worrying indication of the Government rolling back other hard-won environmental gains after Britain has left the EU, which would be a breaking their manifesto commitment on environmental protections which states that during trade negotiations they will “not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”

Furthermore, just only yesterday there were reports that Britain will continue to allow plastic waste to be exported to developing countries. This would be breaking another Conservative manifesto commitment on banning the practice.

Luke Pollard, the Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has written to the government to urge him to reverse lifting the ban and for this to be scrutinised by MPs with a vote in Parliament.

Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“I’m concerned about bee populations in our community. I know from constituents that protecting biodiversity is a top priority for people in Portsmouth.

“We have lost too many bees and if bee-killing chemicals are allowed to be used again I worry that we will lose even more.

“I was elected on a manifesto to protect bees that is why I am calling for a vote on the Government’s plans to permit bee-killing chemicals to be used.

“I will be strongly opposing this plan to protect our local bee population.”

Luke Pollard MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary added:

“Bee health is non-negotiable. The ban on bee-killing pesticides must remain in place to protect our natural environment. Labour is demanding a vote in Parliament on the Government’s plan to allow bee-killing pesticides.

“Labour supports our farmers but ending this ban is not the solution to tackle crop blight.”

 

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City MP demands answers from Health Secretary on local vaccination centre

Stephen Morgan MP questioned the Health Secretary this morning on when the local vaccination centre in Portsmouth will get the equipment it needs from central government to become fully operational.

The parliamentary representative for the city demanded further clarity from Matt Hancock MP in the House of Commons today, following the recent announcement that St James’ Hospital has been selected as a vaccination centre for the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine.

This comes following a significant local uptake in applications for voluntary roles to support the vaccine rollout programme, with Mr Morgan also signing up to volunteer with local organisation HIVE Portsmouth.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, said,

“We all want to see the St James’ hospital vaccination centre in our city open as soon as possible.

“It’s frustrating that the Health Secretary wasn’t able to provide the clarity hard-working staff and volunteers on the ground need at this crucial juncture in our efforts to vaccinate Britain.

“I will continue to hold the Secretary of State to his promise to write to me to provide this information as soon as possible.

“Our local NHS is ready. The government must now deliver”.

The Portsmouth South MP last week underlined the importance of the government scaling up its Covid-19 Vaccination Programme as fast as possible.

 

 

 

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‘Back local councils with proper funding to prevent the planned council tax rise’ urges Portsmouth MP  

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has called out the Government’s hike to council tax – a £1.9bn planned bombshell costing the average family £90 each.

Today in a major speech by the Leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer, Labour pointed out that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are hitting workers in their pockets by “permitting” councils and Mayors to increase council tax by up to 5% next year.

The government’s finance settlement assumes that councils will do this in how it calculates spending power will change. The settlement indicates that core spending on local services has the potential to increase by £2.2 billion in 2021/22, an increase of 4.5 per cent.

However, more than 85 per cent of the potential core funding increase next year is dependent on councils increasing council tax by up to 5 per cent next year.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Councils up and down our country, including our own here in Portsmouth, are facing the tough choice about whether to increase bills to bring in desperately needed funding to protect services.

“This comes at a time when we are acutely aware of the significant burden that could place on some households and many across our communities are struggling to make ends meet”.

Government proposals mean this would be a £2bn bombshell to households in England. For the average Band D property in England, where the average council tax for 2020-21 was £1,818, a 5% increase would be £91. 

Labour is calling on the Government to put families first during this latest lockdown by backing local councils with funding to prevent the planned council tax rise; stopping the planned cut to universal credit; extending the ban on evictions and repossessions; and giving key workers the pay rise they deserve.

On this, the city MP added:

“The Prime Minister and Chancellor should stand by their pledge to do whatever is necessary to help councils get their communities through the crisis by funding the shortfall that they are trying to pass onto families, rather than force councils to raise taxes. Otherwise we risk Portsmouth people paying more and getting less, yet again.

“This crisis has exposed the insecurity felt by many families over the last ten years. Insecurity of work, insecurity at home and insecurity of health.

“Government must now put families first during this lockdown, supporting parents and protecting household incomes and properly fund councils”.

 

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City MP lobbies Health Secretary on concerns over NHS dentistry

Stephen Morgan MP is lobbying Government on the recently introduced NHS activity targets for dental practices, raising concerns they may present a clear and unnecessary risk to patient safety and the viability of already stretched dental practices in Portsmouth.

The parliamentary representative has urged Matt Hancock MP to abandon the targets and work with NHS practices and the British Dental Association to find a sustainable solution to benefit patients in Portsmouth struggling to be seen by a dentist.

In addition to a letter to Government, the Portsmouth MP has committed to:

  • Take part in a debate in Parliament next Thursday on the effect of Covid-19 on dental services, to raise concerns of dentists and patients.
  • Call a summit discuss these issues further, inviting local dentists, the Chair of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Dental Committee and Portsmouth Healthwatch.

Stephen Morgan MP commented:

“I am hearing targets set by Government are risking dental care across the country, not just here in Portsmouth.

“Due to the pandemic, there has understandably been an extensive backlog created, but prioritising routine check-ups over clearing it poses an unacceptable danger to ongoing patient care.

I will continue to take further action in the coming months to hold ministers to account on this and to push for greater access to local NHS dentistry for local people.”

Mr Morgan backed Labour’s pledge last year to offer free dental check-ups for all, following long running action over patient access in Portsmouth and has fought the closure of local dentistry practices.