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Ministers shirk responsibility to deliver for Armed Forces in once-in-a-Parliament legislation

A cross-party group of MPs has raised concerns that government Ministers are outsourcing their responsibility for serving personnel and veterans in a report published today.

The Armed Forces Bill is set to make local authorities and other public bodies legally responsible for delivering the promises in the Armed Forces Covenant. But services provided by central government functions – including the Ministry of Defence – are currently exempt.

Service charities have raised concerns that long-standing problems for service communities will not be covered by the legislation in practice, including service accommodation, social care and visa fees for commonwealth troops.

General Sir John McColl, Chief Executive of Cobseo, said: “There is a moral requirement for Government to comply with the Covenant. That is fine as long as it works, but in some cases it absolutely does not work.”

General Sir John raised the ongoing plight of commonwealth veterans, who are forced to pay eye-watering fees to remain in the country they have served. The Royal British Legion estimates that up to 300 people per year are affected.

The Royal British Legion’s Laura Pett said: “The fact that only certain aspects of housing, healthcare and education—namely, those that are not the responsibility of the Secretary of State—are also omitted is further cause for concern.”

The National Audit Office has found that thousands of armed forces personnel were living in sub-standard accommodation.

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation conceding that “too many” were affected by problems with heating and hot water in evidence to the Committee.

At present the Bill would do nothing to address this crucial issue, which 26% of tri-service personnel say increases their likelihood of leaving service.

The Defence Secretary mysteriously vetoed the Committee’s planned virtual visit to service accommodation at the last moment.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This government is missing a once-in-a-Parliament opportunity to make real improvements to the lives of service personnel, veterans and their families.

“The Armed Forces Covenant should represent a binding commitment to service communities. They will see straight through this government’s attempt to outsource responsibility for delivering it.

“In a year where our armed forces have stepped up to support frontline efforts to tackle the Coronavirus as well as their ongoing commitments abroad, it simply isn’t good enough.

“Ministers should listen to the concerns raised in this report and strengthen the Bill when it returns to the Commons and deliver on their repeated promises of support for our forces”.  

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Shadow Defence Minister: Armed Forces Bill risks reinforcing “postcode lottery” on services for veterans

Stephen Morgan MP urged Ministers to hear service charity concerns that the Armed Forces Bill will reinforce the “postcode lottery” veterans face when accessing services.

Speaking in the House of Commons following the publication of a cross-party report, Mr Morgan said the Bill’s narrow focus on housing, healthcare and education, risked creating a “two-tier” Covenant and a race to the bottom on standards in those areas left out.

In practice, this means many long-standing problems facing armed forces, veterans and their families will remain unaddressed. Social care, pensions, employment and immigration are among the long list of areas witnesses told the Committee will not be covered by this once-in-a-Parliament piece of legislation.

The Confederation of Service Charities Chair General Sir John McColl specifically highlighted the eyewatering visa fees that Commonwealth veterans face as an instance where the government’s current “moral requirement” to comply with the Covenant “absolutely does not work”.

The government has also not included the Lyons Review recommendation that civilian courts should have full jurisdiction over murder, rape and serious sexual offences committed in the UK. In evidence to the Committee, Judge Lyons said he was “surprised” to find the most serious cases being tried in the service justice system and argued that this had not been Parliament’s original intent.

Stephen Morgan MP, Shadow Armed Forces Minister and Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented:

“The government must listen to concerns raised by MPs of all parties and service charities that this Bill will not address long-standing issues for service communities.  

“Following input from across the sector and service communities themselves, government must now listen to the recommendations outlined in our report today.

“Labour will continue speaking up for our Armed Forces, veterans and their families, and ensure that the promises in the Covenant are delivered for all of the nation’s service personnel.”

Mr Morgan has been leading the Official Opposition’s response to the Armed Forces Bill during its passage through Parliament.

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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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Portsmouth MP urges young people to vote early to ‘ensure their voices are heard’

Stephen Morgan MP has urged the young people of Portsmouth to vote early to make sure they have their say in the forthcoming local elections on Thursday 6 May.

It comes as new analysis from Labour has shown that less than 10 percent of young people have registered for a postal vote, compared to more than a quarter of those over 65, with four days to left until the deadline to register to vote by post in England.

With less than half of 18-25-year-olds voting at the 2019 General Election, turnout among young people is expected to be historically low at the May elections amid the pandemic.

Mr Morgan has said that young people must be at the heart of Britain’s recovery from this crisis, with successive Conservative governments weakening Britain’s foundations and robbing too many young people of the opportunities they deserve.

Labour warns that Government inaction on postal voting threatens UK democracy and public health and is calling for councils to receive dedicated Government support for postal vote sign up efforts ahead of the deadline for postal vote registration in England on 20 April.

With those aged 18 and older due to be vaccinated by 31 July in England, many young people are unlikely to be vaccinated by election day.

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

“After the devastating year they’ve had, young people must have their voices heard in this election.

“Young people have played a central role in our city’s response to this crisis, with many volunteering to support the most vulnerable in our community and fighting as key workers on the front line to protect our families. The Tories continue to treat young people as an afterthought in this crisis – these are they key workers of the future.

“Young people are not expected to be vaccinated ahead of the May polls, which makes postal vote sign-up critical. “

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister helps force vote on government’s ‘broken promise’ to Armed Forces

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP challenged the government in the House of Commons today for breaking its promise to not cut troop numbers, which was confirmed in the Defence Command Paper published last month.

The Portsmouth MP was speaking at the despatch box in the opposition day debate in Parliament today before a vote on the government’s decision to renege on its commitment to the Armed Forces.

The Integrated Review and Defence Command Paper confirmed that the Army will be further reduced to just 72,500 by 2025, smaller than at any time since the 1700s.

It has also been reported in The Times, but omitted in the Defence Command Paper, that the Royal Marines are set to lose 400 posts, from 6,500 to 6,100.

Meanwhile, the RAF is also expected to lose 300 personnel by 2025, with full-time personnel currently at 1,850.

It comes as 45,000 personnel have been cut since 2010.

The Shadow Defence Minister and Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, commented:

“The government’s track record speaks for itself: a decade of decline for personnel numbers and investment in defence; a strategic defence plan that does not clearly match capabilities to current and future threats; broken promises to our Armed Forces.

“The defence of the realm is the first priority of any government, but this one is playing fast and loose with our country’s strategic security plans and its commitments on defence spending.

“Labour is determined to ensure our country can protect itself properly, now and in the future, which is why the Official Opposition is forcing a vote in Parliament today on this important issue.”

Mr Morgan last month labelled the plans to cut personnel numbers by 10,000 a ‘mistake’, following the Defence Command Paper’s publication.

He also suggested government was taking a ‘significant gamble’ on defence capabilities, after the publication of the government’s Integrated Review, which was also published in March.

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Stephen Morgan MP backs Southsea businessman Kevin Watkins’ sail across the Atlantic

City MP Stephen Morgan has thrown his weight behind local businessman Kevin Watkins’ efforts to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic to raise funds for Action Medical Research’s Born Too Soon campaign.

The charity aims to highlight the impact premature birth has on babies and their families and to help fund research that can save lives.

Kevin Watkins, who runs Southsea Cycles along Albert Road, has enlisted the support of Stephen Morgan MP and local campaigner Charlotte Gerada to promote the proposed gruelling event for charity and inspire the city’s communities to learn more.

Bringing the 28-foot boat to his neighbour on Albert Road, Southsea, Kevin showed the Portsmouth South MP the equipment which will get the team across the Atlantic, starting in the Canary Islands and finishing in the Caribbean.

After meeting the ‘Elijah Star’ crew and learning more about the adventure, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I am delighted to support Kevin and his crew as they raise money to power research to prevent premature birth.

“As a local businessman and former Royal Navy Marine Engineer, Kevin’s efforts are rooted in our Portsmouth community.

“With ten per cent of all births being premature, I would encourage everyone to consider donating so we can combat the biggest killer of children under five.

“I look forward to working together to inspire local communities, attract donations and raise awareness for this fantastic cause before the crew set off in December next year.”

To find out more visit https://elijahstar.com. The City MP has vowed to help the crew by taking the message to local schools.

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Portsmouth MP responds to the passing of Prince Philip

Responding to the death of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“I know the people of Portsmouth will join me in paying tribute to the dedication and devotion given to our country by Prince Philip, which is rightly admired at home and abroad.

“In the heart and home of the Royal Navy we are grateful for his distinguished service during the Second World War and we recognise his enduring commitment to Her Majesty The Queen and their royal duties, which embodied the spirit of British public service.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Her Majesty, the Royal Family and communities across our country as we pay our respects to the contribution Prince Philip made to Britain”.

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Stronger rights for victims of anti-social behaviour are needed says City MP as huge increase in number of people affected over past decade revealed

Stephen Morgan MP has welcomed demands for stronger rights for victims of anti-social behaviour as analysis reveals a huge increase in number of people affected over the past decade

New analysis by Labour reveals that two fifths of Crime Survey (CSEW) respondents said they had experienced anti-social behaviour (ASB) in their local area in the past year – the highest since questions on ASB were included in the CSEW.

This is equivalent to 19m people experiencing some form of ASB in 2019-20, up by 1m in a year and 5.5m more than 2011-12.

Every area in England and Wales has seen an increase in the number of people experiencing ASB over the past five years.

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

“We are living through a victims crisis. Over a quarter of all crimes aren’t being prosecuted because victims are dropping out of the process entirely. That means that 1 million victims every year are being failed by the very system designed to protect them. 

I know from my postbag the impact anti-social behaviour is having on our communities. That is why I continue to take action to tackle the issues we face in Portsmouth working alongside the police and other agencies. But it is vital that Government plays their part too and ensures fairer funding for Hampshire Constabulary and delivers investment in preventative services in our city.

 I welcome Labour’s Victims Law that’s ready to go to help those affected by anti-social behaviour.

It makes victims unignorable in a system that increasingly overlooks their needs. Now it’s up to the Government to put politics aside and implement it without delay.” 

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said:

“The shocking rise in the number of people experiencing anti-social behaviour is a huge cause of concern for families and communities across the country.

“People deserve to feel safe and secure in their neighbourhoods and town centres, but under the Conservatives police numbers have been slashed, violent crime has risen to record levels, and anti-social behaviour has been left unchecked.

“Labour will work to put more police on our streets and would act where the Conservatives have failed and introduce a new Victims’ Law that would give victims of anti-social behaviour the same rights as victims of crimes.”

 

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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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Vaccine passports: Portsmouth MP responds

In recent days, many constituents have got in touch with Stephen Morgan MP with their views on the Government considering ‘vaccine passports’.

Responding to concerns, the Portsmouth South representative said:

I do not support domestic vaccine passports. It is not clear so far what the benefits are compared to the risks and costs.

“The British public have already seen what has happened with the Government’s handing out of Covid contracts with the cronyism, as well as poor delivery and value. Ministers mustn’t make these mistakes again.

“What’s more, asking people to produce a vaccine certificate or passport to access pubs or shops is discriminatory and it will add a huge burden to businesses and come at huge cost to the taxpayer.

“Labour wants the Government to get the basics right. That means making sure the vaccine rollout includes young people and there is a focus on vaccine take-up where it is slower so we don’t risk pockets of people exposed to the virus, self-isolation, and contact tracing”.

The Official Opposition have stated that if there was a vote in the House of Commons on vaccine and test certification, based on what has been seen so far, the party would oppose domestic vaccine passports.

Labour has not ruled out testing certification (for example, for large events) but have the same questions around focus, efficacy and value.